during my second semester of college, i took a class called sexual identity and culture (LIT369, ironically) in order to fulfill my literature gen-ed credit. i honestly didn’t expect much of it, since i go to a business school with little emphasis on self-expression. our professor also told us on the first day that the class was originally called “gay and lesbian literature”, but the school made the change because “business students don’t want that on their transcript”. after that first day, many students dropped the class, but after seeing the syllabus, i was eager to start. at this point, i was questioning my own sexuality; i knew i wasn’t straight, but i also didn’t know what i was (later learned in the class that i could just identify as queer!). so, i hoped that this class would give me the space to learn about lgbtq history, which i have always wanted to learn, while also allowing me to figure myself out. this class was by far my favorite of my first year at school. we read countless books and poems, and watched mainstream and indie movies spanning the past 50 years of the lgbtq movement. we had eye-opening discussions among the class of queer and straight students that all saw a problem with our school’s lack of acceptance and resources for our lgbtq community. we reflected on how far the rights for lgbtq have advanced, while also talking about contrasting current events that show how far we still need to come. i would recommend anyone to take a lgbtq class of any kind, but if you can’t, here are some of my personal favorite books and movies from the class. if you are feeling confused about your sexuality like i was, these just scratch the surface of lqbtq content and resources. remember: if you ever feel alone or rejected because of your sexuality, the lgbtq community will always welcome you with open arms!
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown (1973)
this was the first book we read; it follows Molly from adolescence to adulthood and her experiences as a young lesbian. it is actually Brown’s autobiographical coming-of-age story, and although it was considered overly explicit in its day, it is now recognized as one of the most important works of lesbian literature. it’s a super easy read that will make you laugh and cry (especially at the end!); it’s a must read.
rita mae brown at the Lavender Menace Action, may 1970
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (2006)
this was my absolute favorite book from the class. it’s a graphic memoir (turned musical!) chronicling Bechdel’s struggle with her relationship with her father and with her own sexuality. the graphics in this book allow Bechdel to actually show her lesbian experiences, which is what set it apart from all the books that we read. it’s had a lasting impression on me, and i tell everyone i know to read it since it covers so many important topics (sexual orientation, suicide, family relationships, abuse) in such a contrasting format. also check out Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For (where she created the Bechdel test!).
// amazon // tony performance // dykes to watch out for //
comic strip from Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel (1985)
Pariah, dir. Dee Rees (2011)
this was the last movie we watched and my favorite by far; it follows a 17-year-old african-american girl named Alike who is growing into her own identity as a lesbian. we talked a lot about the conflicting struggles that young lgbtq poc have to face (racism + homophobia, hiding vs coming out, etc) and i learned the most from this movie. it was also directed by Dee Rees, a queer black woman!
// youtube // amazon video //
Adepero Oduye as Alike in Pariah (2011)
let us know if you have any more lgbtq recommendations or resources you would like us to share!
I’d also recommend Orlando by Virginia Woolf (super complicated, but super important in bi/trans literature) and recent film “Tangerine. x
Great article I will read your recommendations!!