Feeling safe is a basic human right; let’s work to make this world physically and mentally safe for everyone. If you or someone you know feels unsafe or unsure about coming out, we urge you to be kind and hold space for them, and contact “The Trevor Project” (free 24/7 help):
- Call 1-866-488-7386
- Text 678-678
- Connect online at thetrevorproject.org
Realizing that you may be queer is such a deeply personal experience. And coming out is an ephemeral act, because as soon as you’ve told one person, there’s another who doesn’t know yet. And even when you are out to everyone in your life, what about the new people you meet at work? What about when you switch jobs after that and meet a whole bunch of new people? It can feel empowering, but also exhausting. After all, it is a process — rarely do we come out once, but over and over again throughout our lives. Reading books about this shared experience can therefore bring LGBTQ+ readers a lot of comfort.
Below are some fiction novels that touch on this personal experience.
Who I Was With Her by Nita Tyndall
There are two things that Corinne Parker knows to be true: that she is in love with Maggie Bailey, the captain of the rival high school’s cross-country team and her secret girlfriend of a year, and that she isn’t ready for anyone to know she’s bisexual. But when Maggie dies, Corinne quickly learns that the only thing worse than losing Maggie is being left heartbroken over a relationship no one knows existed. And to make things even more complicated, the only person she can turn to is Elissa—Maggie’s ex, and the single person who understands how Corinne is feeling.
As Corinne struggles to make sense of her grief and what she truly wants out of life, she begins to have feelings for the last person she should fall for. But to move forward after losing Maggie, Corinne will have to learn to be honest with the people in her life…starting with herself.
We Are Totally Normal by Naomi Kanakia
Nandan’s got a plan to make his junior year perfect, but hooking up with his friend Dave isn’t part of it—especially because Nandan has never been into guys.
Still, Nandan’s willing to give a relationship with him a shot. But the more his anxiety grows about what his sexuality means for himself, his friends, and his social life, the more he wonders whether he can just take it all back. Is breaking up with Dave—the only person who’s ever really gotten him—worth feeling “normal” again?
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life. This book is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.
Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan
Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother.
The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?
The (Un)popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez
Optics can make or break an election. Everything Mark knows about politics, he learned from his father, the Congressman who still pretends he has a daughter and not a son. Mark has promised to keep his past hidden and pretend to be the cis guy everyone assumes he is. But when he sees a manipulatively charming candidate for student body president inflame dangerous rhetoric, Mark risks his low profile to become a political challenger.
The problem? No one really knows Mark. He didn’t grow up in this town, and his few friends are all nerds. Still, thanks to Scandal and The West Wing, they know where to start: from campaign stops to voter polling to a fashion makeover. Soon Mark feels emboldened to engage with voters—and even start a new romance. But with an investigative journalist digging into his past, a father trying to silence him, and the bully frontrunner standing in his way, Mark will have to decide which matters most: perception or truth, when both are just as dangerous.
If We Were Us by K.L. Walther
Everyone at the prestigious Bexley School believes that Sage Morgan and Charlie Carmichael are meant to be. Even though Charlie seems to have a new girlfriend every month, and Sage has never had a real relationship, their friends and family all know it’s just a matter of time until they realize that they are actually in love. When Luke Morrissey shows up on the Bexley campus his presence immediately shakes things up. Charlie and Luke are drawn to each other the moment they meet, giving Sage the opportunity to spend time with Charlie’s twin brother, Nick.
But Charlie is afraid of what others will think if he accepts that he has much more than a friendship with Luke. And Sage fears that if she lets things with Nick get too serious too quickly, they won’t be able to last as a couple outside of high school and miss their chance at forever. The duo will need to rely on each other and their lifelong friendship to figure things out with the boys they love.
While fiction novels can be an amazing resource to those who are in the midst of coming out, memoirs provide a more personal narrative. Below are some amazing memoirs about real people’s experiences with coming out.
Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia
As a young child in North Carolina, Jacob Tobia wasn’t the wrong gender, they just had too much of the stuff. Barbies? Yes. Playing with bugs? Absolutely. Getting muddy? Please. Princess dresses? You betcha. Jacob wanted it all, but because they were “a boy,” they were told they could only have the masculine half. Acting feminine labelled them “a sissy” and brought social isolation.
It took Jacob years to discover that being “a sissy” isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s a source of pride. Following Jacob through bullying and beauty contests, from Duke University to the United Nations to the podiums of the Methodist church–not to mention the parlors of the White House–this unforgettable memoir contains multitudes. A deeply personal story of trauma and healing, a powerful reflection on gender and self-acceptance, and a hilarious guidebook for wearing tacky clip-on earrings in today’s world, Sissy guarantees you’ll never think about gender–both other people’s and your own–the same way again.
A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Grace Dunham
How do you know if you are transgender? How do you know if what you want and feel is real? How do you know whether to believe yourself? Cyrus Dunham’s life always felt like a series of imitations—lovable little girl, daughter, sister, young gay woman. But in a culture of relentless self-branding, and in a family subject to the intrusions and objectifications that attend fame, dissociation can come to feel normal.
A Lambda Literary Award finalist, Dunham’s fearless, searching debut brings us inside the chrysalis of a transition inflected as much by whiteness and proximity to wealth as by gender, asking us to bear witness to an uncertain and exhilarating process that troubles our most basic assumptions about identity. Written with disarming emotional intensity in a voice uniquely his, A Year Without a Name is a potent, thrillingly unresolved meditation on queerness, family, and selfhood.
Boy Erased by Garrard Conley
The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality. When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life.
Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness.
Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H
When fourteen-year-old Lamya H realizes she has a crush on her teacher—her female teacher—she covers up her attraction, an attraction she can’t yet name, by playing up her roles as overachiever and class clown. Born in South Asia, she moved to the Middle East at a young age and has spent years feeling out of place, like her own desires and dreams don’t matter, and it’s easier to hide in plain sight. To disappear. But one day in Quran class, she reads a passage about Maryam that changes everything: when Maryam learned that she was pregnant, she insisted no man had touched her. Could Maryam, uninterested in men, be . . . like Lamya?
This searingly intimate memoir in essays, spanning Lamya’s childhood to her arrival in the United States for college through early-adult life in New York City, tells a universal story of courage, trust, and love, celebrating what it means to be a seeker and an architect of one’s own life.
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