LGBTQ+ Women Authors On The Queer Experience

March is a time for us women to empower and support each other. What better way to do that than to celebrate LGBTQ+ women authors and their stories.

Author's Corner Book Culture Diversity Female Authors Female Voices Fiction LGBTQ Voices LGBTQIA+ Reads Non-Fiction Recommendations

Women’s History Month is a time for readers to explore the vast array of novels written by women, for women, and about women. It is a time to strip away prejudices and barriers that keep women authors from expressing their raw and true selves. If you are looking to dive head first into novels of representation, reading the stories of queer women is a perfect start. Come celebrate and explore some phenomenal LGBTQ+ women authors and their queer novels.

Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay

Gay is a queer American writer, professor, editor, and social commentator of Haitian descent. Her writing has been featured in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. 

She is noted as having authored the introduction to Love and Resistance: Out of the Closet into the Stonewall Era. The book features over 100 vivid photographs of the LGBTQ revolution—and its public and intimate moments in the 1960s and 70s—that lit a fire still burning today.

As is a prominent figure in journalism and editorial, Gay writes opinion pieces for The New York Times, works as the co-editor of PANK, a nonprofit literary arts collective, and is the editor for Gay Mag. Gay’s books and collections include:

Roxane Gay novels

An Untamed State

In 2014, Gay published her debut novel, An Untamed State, which centers around a Haitian-American woman who is kidnapped for ransom. The novel explores the interconnected themes of race, privilege, sexual violence, family, and the immigrant experience. It is a breathless, artful, disturbing and original story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places.

Bad Feminist

Her collection of essays, Bad Feminist, was also released in 2014 to widespread acclaim. The essays address both cultural and political issues, and became a New York Times best-seller. Gay mixes her sense of feminism with the importance of humanity and empathy as these essays show the world through the female experience.

World of Wakana

This 2016 spin off of Marvel’s Black Panther is co-written with poet Yona Harvey. This made them the first black women to be lead writers for Marvel, and released 6 issues of the comic. There is a prominent representation of LGBTQ+ characters following the love story of two women, former members of the Dora Milaje. 

Difficult Women

This collection of short stories highlights women who have lives that differ from society’s spectrum of a normal life. Each story follows a different character and her journey through traumatic experiences and explanations of what makes her different from those around her. 

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

Gay released her memoir in June 2017 and was met with critical acclaim. Throughout, Gay discusses her experience with weight, body image, and building a positive relationship with food, particularly following her experience as a childhood victim of sexual violence. For this work she became a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Memoir and won the Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Literature. 

Zaina Arafat

Zaira Arafat - queer women author

Zaina Arafat is an LGBTQ Arab-American fiction and nonfiction writer. Her stories and essays have appeared in publications including The New York Times, Granta, The Believer, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and NPR. In recognition of her work, she was awarded the Arab Women/Migrants from the Middle East fellowship at Jack Jones Literary Arts and named a Champion of Pride by The Advocate.

As an editor, she has curated a portfolio of prose and poetry in response to the travel ban, as well as a Q & A series with Muslim writers for The Margins. Arafat is dedicated to giving voices to people who feel as though they don’t have one. 

You Exist Too Much

Zaina Arafat novel

Arafat’s debut novel was published in 2020. Told in vignettes that flash between the US and the Middle East, Zaina Arafat’s powerful narrative traces her protagonist’s progress from blushing teen to creative and confused adulthood. Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings—for love and a place to call home. For this work Arafat won the 2021 Lambda Literary Award and was named Roxane Gay’s favorite book of 2020.

Jane Ward

Jane Ward - LGBTQ+ Women Authors

Ward is a queer American scholar, feminist, and author as well as a Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at UC Santa Barbara. The topics of Wards work range from feminist pornography and queer parenting to the racial politics of same-sex marriage and the social construction of heterosexuality. Rather than focusing on fiction writing, Ward explores homosexuality through research and social interactions, leading to non-fiction novels. Explore these below:

Jane Ward novels

Respectably Queer: Diversity Culture in LGBT Activist Organizations

This was her debut novel in which Ward closely observed three different queer organizations: the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, Bienestar, and Los Angeles-Christopher Street West. Ward documented the evolution of these organizations, including class and race conflicts within them, but especially focusing on the misuses of diversity culture.

Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men

Her second novel explores how homosexual contact has been a regular feature of heterosexual life ever since the concepts of homo- and heterosexuality were first created. Not just in prisons and frat houses and the military but in biker gangs and even conservative suburban neighborhoods. By examining same sex encounters between men who are considered to be heterosexual Ward posed the question: does having sexual encounters with men automatically mean that men are gay or bisexual? For this work she was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist. 

The Tragedy of Heterosexuality

In 2020, Ward published her third book, winner of the 2021 PROSE Award. Ward explores what is wrong with heterosexuality in the twenty-first century and what straight people can do to fix it for good. She shows how straight women, and to a lesser extent straight men, have tried to mend a fraught patriarchal system in which intimacy, sexual fulfillment, and mutual respect are expected to coexist alongside enduring forms of inequality, alienation, and violence in straight relationships.

Eliza Clark

Eliza Clark

Clark is an American actress, playwright, screenwriter, and author working in social media marketing for women’s creative writing magazine, Mslexia. In 2018, she received a grant from New Writing North’s ‘Young Writers’ Talent Fund’. She debuted her first novel in 2020 with plans to follow up in the near future. She also hosts a podcast called You Just Don’t Get It, Do You? with her partner, in which they discuss film and television which squanders its potential.

Boy Parts

Eliza Clark novel

Clark’s short horror fiction goes in on gender roles, sexuality, and straightness. Irina obsessively takes explicit photographs of the average-looking men she persuades to model for her, scouted from the streets of Newcastle. Placed on sabbatical from her dead-end bar job, she is offered an exhibition at a fashionable London gallery, promising to revive her career in the art world and offering an escape from her rut of drugs, alcohol and extreme cinema. It is all a bit American Psycho, if Patrick Bateman were a consistently underestimated pretty girl, as well as hilariously sardonic. This is truly a novel that will make most readers howl with laughter and/or shut their eyes in horror.

Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado

Machado is a queer American short story author, essayist, and critic. For her literary works she has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, and the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Nonfiction. Many of her works have been distributed through The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Tin House, Guernica, and many more publications.

The majority of her narratives deal with queer themes. Machado’s short story “Horror Story,” originally published in Granta in 2015, details a lesbian couple’s difficulty coping with a haunting in their new house. Machado’s fiction has been called strange and seductive, and has garnered her critical acclaim and many award nominations and honors. Machado’s books and collections include:

Carmen Maria Machado novels

Her Body and Other Parties

This 2017 short story collection features multiple narratives dealing with female desire. The opening story, “The Husband Stitch,” references a post-birth medical procedure to tighten the vagina and give the man additional pleasure during intercourse, despite the woman’s pain. It reveals the detrimental self-sacrifice women must make in a male dominated world.

In The Dream House

Machado published her memoir in 2019 and was awarded the 2021 Folio Prize as well as the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ+ Nonfiction. The book details Machado’s emotionally, mentally — and at times, physically — abusive relationship with another woman while earning her MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. It is predominantly a second-person narrative, with Machado referring to her victimized self as “you”, and employs a different narrative trope for each chapter. The author never directly names her abuser and only refers to her as the woman in the dream house. This is a truly heartbreaking but eventually empowering narrative for LGBTQ+ women. 

The Low, Low Woods

This is a DC Comic written by Machado in 2020. The story follows El and Vee as they search for answers to the questions everyone else forgot. As the two dive deeper into the mystery behind their lost memories, they realize the stories of their town hold more dark truth than they could’ve imagined. It’s up to El and Vee to keep their town from falling apart and to keep the world safe from monsters.

Emily M. Danforth

Emily Danforth

Danforth is a lesbian American author of young adult fiction. She was born and raised in Miles City, Montana, the setting of her debut novel about growing up gay in a very conservative environment. Her novels have already been translated into 7 languages and have won her great critical acclaim in the LGBTQ+ community. She is devoted to exposing the prejudices of conservative regimes against gay people and strives to tell the stories of young girls in search of love. 

Emily Danforth novels

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

This 2012 novel was Danforth’s authorial debut. The story follows Cameron Post, a 12-year-old Montana girl who is discovering her own homosexuality. After her parents die in a car crash, she lives with her conservative aunt and her grandmother. When the romantic relationship she develops with her best friend is discovered she is sent to a conversion camp. The novel was then made into a film in 2018 by bisexual director and actor Desiree Akhavan.

Plain Bad Heroines

Danforth’s second novel is a 2020 gothic story set at a girl’s boarding school in 1902 and present day. In 1902, Clara and Flo were students living at and attending Brookhants School for Girls. They are completely infatuated with each other. They create a secret club called The Plain Bad Heroine Society in honor of their favorite author, Mary MacLane. The two meet an untimely death in a nearby orchard, the site of their club meetings and trysts, stung to death by yellowjackets. In the modern day, the abandoned school is now the site of a film production based on a book detailing Brookhants’ history. It is there that they discover that the school might actually be cursed.

Juno Dawson

Juno Dawson

Dawson is a British author of young adult fiction and non-fiction. While working as a teacher, she began writing books aimed at young readers and became successful enough to leave her job. She wrote a number of young adult fiction books including Hollow Pike and Say Her Name. Her books often feature LGBTQ+ people, and Dawson has advocated for other books to feature more prominent LGBTQ+ characters. She is a regular contributor to Attitude Magazine, Glamour Magazine and The Guardian and has contributed to news items on BBC Women’s Hour, Front Row, ITV News, Channel 5 News, This Morning and Newsnight concerning sexuality, identity, literature and education.

Dawson has written many books about her experiences as a trans woman for both young and adult readers. Some of my favorites include:

Juno Dawson novels

This Book Is Gay

Published in 2014, this book became similar to a manual to all areas of life as an LGBT person. Several months after US publication, the book was challenged in Alaska when a petition was started to remove the book from a public library, with a number of residents objecting to the profanity and sexually explicit content. That same year, she received the Queen of Teen award by The Book People UK. 

Margot & Me

Fliss discovers a diary at the back of her bookcase. It is from the 1940s and is set in World War II, and Fliss realizes is actually Margot’s diary from when she was a young woman during the Blitz. Intrigued, Fliss begins to read. There she discovers a whole new side to Margot, a wartime romance and also Margot’s deepest, most buried secret. And it is then that Fliss discovers something terrible in her own life that she is going to have to come to terms with.

The Gender Games

This was her first book aimed at adults, discussing themes of gender as well as her own life experiences. The subtitle of the novel is: The Problem With Men and Women, From Someone Who Has Been Both, as the novel was released two years after Dawson came out as transgender. From little girls who think they can’t be doctors to teenagers who come to expect street harassment. From exclusionist feminists to ‘alt-right’ young men. From men who can’t cry to the women who think they shouldn’t. As her body gets in line with her mind, Dawson tells not only her own story, but the story of everyone who is shaped by society’s expectations of gender. 

Meat Market

This novel, published in 2019 follows Jana, an ordinary girl from a south London estate, as she is lifted to unimaginable social heights. But the further the rise, the more devastating the fall. Honest and raw, this is a timely exposé of the dark underbelly of the fashion industry in an era of #TimesUp and #MeToo. This narrative has garnered Dawson great acclaim and has been noted as possibly her best work. 

If you’re wanting to discover more queer authors, click here.

For more articles discussing women in literature, click here.