I self-identify as a late bloomer because when I had the realization that I was not strictly into men that fact reared up and slapped me in the face like a tidal wave. There were flashes of my childhood that I was looking back on, cocked head, like “really Layne? You didn’t know that you were a little bit gay?”
Please enjoy a short list of moments from my childhood where I definitely should have known I was queer:
- Rewatching the Beautiful Liar music video over and over and over again and wondering why I was so obsessed with it. Haven’t seen it? Don’t worry it’s linked right here.
- Playing softball. Okay, I get it, this one is kind of cliche. But like if the shoe fits, girlypop!
- Shego from Kim Possible. This is a universal gay experience, right?
- And last but not least having like ~a lot~ of really intense ~friendships~ with girls and then getting like ~a little bit upset~ when they got boyfriends.
Anywho, you’re here for a book list, and a booklist I shall provide. Below are some books that have been a cornerstone to my queer identity:
When I was twenty-two I came out as queer. I was moving to New Orleans and I ended things with my college boyfriend with a “sorry I think I want to have sex with women so I think we need to break up!” phone call (def could have handled that one better, sorry Quang)! Bright-eyed and bushy tailed I was ready to explore queer dating in New Orleans. Only, it was really difficult, and I was saddled with the debilitating, persistent anxiety that I wasn’t actually queer. Then my friend Jess lovingly patted me on the head and said, “here read this,” and handed me Chloe’s book, Women.
And I devoured that shit.
Women was an eye-opening and revolutionary read for me that really highlighted why I struggled with my intense relationships with girls growing up. It illuminated how even though I was hiding behind this deeply integrated Impostor Syndrome, I was still a queer person who was mainly attracted to a person’s identity, morals, ideas etc. than I was to their specific gender. There’s such a special place in my heart for this book because it really represented my first validation as a queer woman. I re-read this one from time to time and I still really love it.
Buckle up to get wrecked because this one fucked me up!! My friend Jinhe (also a fellow chaotic bisexual *salute emoji*) decided that she wanted to buddy-read this one with me at the very beginning of lockdown. I, as per usual, was very behind on my buddy read and casually decided to read the entire book, without reading the back cover copy, a day before we were supposed to chat about it. HA HA HA, I was in the fetal position. Screaming, crying, throwing up!
This is a memoir about Carmen’s abusive relationship with a woman, in case you’re living under a literal rock and haven’t heard of this masterpiece. This book spoke to me in a different, but still very acute, way. I was in an abusive relationship in late high school/early college and reading Carmen’s memoir about her experiences was like getting teleported back into my 17-19 year old body because I could have sworn I was reading my literal diary.
Carmen Maria Machado is a writer that truly will define my entire existence as a queer reader. I’ve never been more validated by a book in my ~entire life~. Read it, sob whilst clutching it to your chest, and then slide into my DMs and tell me all your little thoughts about it.
Oh man, this was another one where I was like “lol stop being inside my head! Hahahaha.” I really enjoyed the main character’s journey in this book. It’s very much a coming-of-age, queer identity coming to fruition kind of book.
“Old Enough” made me feel seen in some great ways. Like Sav, I was assaulted and it took me a long time to realize what exactly happened, that it was not okay, that I was raped. The myriad of emotions that Sav experiences and untangles in this novel really captured my personal experience with sexual assault and for that, I’m really grateful. It would have been so beneficial for me to have had this book when I was in college!
I was completely knocked off balance by my first queer crush. I felt totally overwhelmed navigating my sexuality and it took a while (lol sometimes still processing) for me to feel confident in my queerness. Reading Sav’s experience navigating her identity was lovely and I (again!) saw myself in her!
Some final thoughts on gay reading and queer books…
Books have been a magical, loving, and revolutionary portal for me my entire life. When I was a child they helped me navigate through complex feelings that I was experiencing for the first time. In adolescence, they modeled healthy relationships and pushed me to think critically about the world around me. In adulthood, they have validated my experiences with my sexuality, identity, trauma, and so much more. My love for reading has truly pushed me at every stage of my life to be a better, more empathetic, and nuanced person.
Queer books hold an incredibly loving space in my heart because before I was ever validated by the queer community, I was quietly finding the courage to truly accept myself authentically in the pages of queer books with vibrant, lovable LGBTQ+ characters.
Happy National Coming Out Day to all my LGBTQ+ siblings whether you are “out” or not. Your identity is valid and you are seen and loved no matter what stage you’re at in your coming out process.
A literary omnivore and influential Bookstagrammer, Layne applies her vivid creativity for every title we promote by deftly coordinating news coverage and events for authors, writing and editing diverse content for social media, and assisting with Books Forward’s social media engagement initiatives.
As a former special education teacher, Layne firmly believes in the importance of literature and accessibility. This unique point of view is an asset in her publicity efforts as she works to reach readers across various platforms and demographics.
Layne received her Bachelors of Arts in Creative Writing and Bachelors of Science in Psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and her Masters of Art in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education. She lives in New Orleans with her loyal, but sadly illiterate cat, Macaroni.