“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”Edgar Allen Poe
This quote rings true when we delve into the world of LGBTQ+ literature. The power of words, the freedom they offer, and the bold pioneers who dared to use them in their truest form are the heart of our exploration today.
The Power of Words
Words are the force of human connection. They have the power to heal, hurt, inspire, and transform. For LGBTQ+ authors, words have often been the only resort, the only platform to express their realities, struggles, victories, and dreams. They’ve used their pens (or keyboards) not just to tell their stories but to challenge norms and paint pictures of lives that have long been pushed to the edge.
Let’s take a moment to honor some notable authors who’ve used their words to spark change.
James Baldwin was a prolific writer and social critic whose works explored themes of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in mid-20th-century America. He believed being Black and Gay in society gave him the “outsider” perspective that allowed him to view the world clearly and for what it is. He discussed how the concept of sexuality in America appears to be tied to notions of masculinity, and there’s a societal struggle to distinguish between one’s understanding of their sexuality and self-identity. Baldwin’s novel “Giovanni’s Room” (1956) is a radical work that openly explores homosexuality. A quote from this novel that resonates deeply with the LGBTQ+ community,
“I think people ought to do what they want to do, what else are they alive for?”James Baldwin
Baldwin was set to speak at the March on Washington in 1963, where Martin Luther King famously gave his “I Have A Dream” speech but was removed due to fears of his speech being too provocative and potentially causing more violence.
Audre Lorde was a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” Her poetry and prose often addressed issues related to civil rights, feminism, and the exploration of black female identity. Despite being legally blind and born to immigrant parents in an impoverished area, Lorde did not let her differences stop her from achieving more. She developed her writing skills early on, became the first black student admitted to her gifted school, and earned her master’s in library science in 1961.
In 1976, Lorde published her first book, “Coal, ” a collection of poems that delve into themes of love, injustice, and the struggle for liberation, reflecting on her experiences as a black lesbian woman. Lorde’s influence extended beyond her writing, as she was a key speaker at the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979, further securing her role as a leading advocate for equality and justice. In her book “Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches,” she famously said,
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”Audre Lorde
David Levithan is a prominent author in young adult literature known for featuring strong LGBTQ+ characters and themes. His debut novel “Boy Meets Boy,” published in 2003, was one of the first young adult novels to present a gay love story in a positive, uplifting light, breaking away from the often tragic narratives associated with LGBTQ+ literature. Levithan’s work is characterized by its authentic representation of LGBTQ+ characters, capturing their experience, struggles, and triumphs with sensitivity and nuance.
His books have not only provided representation for LGBTQ+ youth but also fostered understanding and acceptance among a broader audience. His novel “Two Boys Kissing,” a touching exploration of love and identity, was listed on the National Book Award Longlist and translated into numerous languages, extending its reach and impact. In his own words, a quote from “Two Boys Kissing” summarizes his approach to writing and life:
“The first sentence of the truth is always the hardest. Each of us had a first sentence, and most of us found the strength to say it out loud to someone who deserved to hear it. What we hoped, and what we found, was that the second sentence of the truth is always easier than the first, and the third sentence is even easier than that. Suddenly you are speaking the truth in paragraphs, in pages. The fear, the nervousness, is still there, but it is joined by a new confidence. All along, you’ve used the first sentence as a lock. But now you find that it’s the key.”David Levithan
Casey McQuiston, a nonbinary author known for their vibrant LGBTQ+ narratives, has made a significant impact in the realm of romance literature. Their debut novel, “Red, White, and Royal Blue,” was a New York Times bestseller and won the 2020 Alex awards. The novel, which tells the story of a romance between the son of the U.S. president and the Prince of Wales, has been celebrated for its positive representation of queer love and identity. In their latest book, “I Kissed Sarah Wheeler,” McQuiston explores the experience of growing up queer in the South, challenging stereotypes and offering a portrayal of LGBTQ+ life in conservative religious communities.
McQuiston’s work could not have been without controversy. Their books have been threatened with bans due to their LGBTQ+ content. However, they are committed to writing love stories that are both relatable and radical, and they hope that their books can reach the hands of the younger generation. McQuiston states in their book “Red, White, and Royal Blue,”
“History, huh? Bet we could make some.”
The Impact of LGBTQ+ Literature
The influence of LGBTQ+ literature extends far beyond the pages of the books. These works have played a crucial role in shaping societal perceptions, fostering understanding, and promoting acceptance. They’ve given a voice to experiences that were often silenced, enriching the literary landscape with their diversity and depth.
The Role of Readers
As readers, we play a crucial role in supporting LGBTQ+ literature. By diversifying your reading lists, we enrich our understanding and support these authors and their important work. So, this Pride Month, why not pick up a book by an LGBTQ+ author? You might discover your new favorite read.
About the Author
Thy Nguyen is a Dallas native currently serving as a Digital Marketing Copywriter at 3BX. She recently graduated with a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Texas at Dallas and is passionate about digital marketing, content creation, and analytics. At 3BX, Thy applies her skills to drive brand growth through strategic content creation. Outside of work, she enjoys listening to music and podcasts, collecting cat memes, making slime and appreciating a good night’s sleep.