10 New Books on LGBTQIA+ History and Contemporary Life

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on June 7, 2022


Here at Facing History, we see awareness months as opportunities to deepen our knowledge of and attention to the histories and contemporary experiences of historically marginalized communities. However, the focus on celebrating these communities over one particular month can further marginalize the very experiences we are hoping to elevate. With this in mind, what follows is an invitation to engage with important themes raised by Pride Month this June and throughout all of the months of the year.


This month, we are sharing ten titles that have been released in the last year that bring important themes in LGBTQIA+ history and contemporary life to the fore. As we celebrate and affirm, we also want to explore and learn the diverse ways in which LGBTQIA+ history and life are being explored by educators, intellectuals, and thought leaders. Below is promotional text excerpted from material offered by each book’s publisher:

Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City 

by Gregory Samantha Rosenthal

Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City:  Rosenthal: 9781469665801: Books: Amazon.com“Queer history is a living practice. Talk to any group of LGBTQ people today, and they will not agree on what story should be told. Many people desire to celebrate the past by erecting plaques and painting rainbow crosswalks, but queer and trans people in the twenty-first century need more than just symbols—they need access to power, justice for marginalized people, spaces of belonging. Approaching the past through a lens of queer and trans survival and world-building transforms history itself into a tool for imagining and realizing a better future. Living Queer History tells the story of an LGBTQ community in Roanoke, Virginia, a small city on the edge of Appalachia. Interweaving historical analysis, theory, and memoir, Gregory Samantha Rosenthal tells the story of their own journey—coming out and transitioning as a transgender woman—in the midst of working on a community-based history project… Based on over forty interviews with LGBTQ elders, Living Queer History explores how queer people today think about the past and how history lives on in the present.” –The University of North Carolina Press

  • See "On Existing," a personal reflection written by a Facing History staff member about his experience growing up as a transgender man


Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal & Sovereignty in Native America 

by Gregory D. Smithers 

Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal & Sovereignty in Native  America by Gregory D. Smithers – Birchbark Books“Before 1492, hundreds of Indigenous communities across North America included people who identified as neither male nor female, but both… After European colonizers invaded Indian Country, centuries of violence and systematic persecution followed, imperiling the existence of people who today call themselves Two-Spirits, an umbrella term denoting feminine and masculine qualities in one person… Drawing on written sources, archaeological evidence, art, and oral storytelling, Reclaiming Two-Spirits spans the centuries from Spanish invasion to the present, tracing massacres and inquisitions and revealing how the authors of colonialism’s written archives used language to both denigrate and erase Two-Spirit people from history. But as Gregory Smithers shows, the colonizers failed—and Indigenous resistance is core to this story. Reclaiming Two-Spirits amplifies their voices, reconnecting their history to Native nations in the 21st century.”  —Beacon Press


Ordinary Equality: The Fearless Women and Queer People Who Shaped the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Rights Amendment

by Kate Kelly 

Ordinary Equality: The Fearless Women and Queer People Who Shaped the U.S.  Constitution and the Equal Rights Amendment: Kelly, Kate, LaRue, Nicole:  9781423658726: Amazon.com: BooksOrdinary Equality digs into the fascinating and little-known history of the ERA and the lives of the incredible―and often overlooked―women and queer people who have helped shape the U.S. Constitution for more than 200 years. Based on author Kate Kelly’s acclaimed podcast of the same name, Ordinary Equality recounts a story centuries in the making. From before the Constitution was even drafted to the modern day, she examines how and why constitutional equality for women and Americans of all marginalized genders has been systematically undermined for the past 100-plus years, and then calls us all to join the current movement to put it back on the table and get it across the finish line.” —Gibbs Smith

Public Faces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Women's Suffrage Movement 

by Wendy L. Rouse

Public Faces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Women's Suffrage Movement:  Rouse, Wendy L.: 9781479813940: Amazon.com: Books“The women’s suffrage movement, much like many other civil rights movements, has an important and often unrecognized queer history. In Public Faces, Secret Lives, Wendy L. Rouse reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the suffrage movement included a variety of individuals who represented a range of genders and sexualities. However, owing to the constant pressure to present a ‘respectable’ public image, suffrage leaders publicly conformed to gendered views of ideal womanhood in order to make women’s suffrage more palatable to the public. Rouse argues that queer suffragists did take meaningful action to assert their identities and legacies by challenging traditional concepts of domesticity, family, space, and death in both subtly subversive and radically transformative ways… Public Faces, Secret Lives is the first work to truly recenter queer figures in the women’s suffrage movement, highlighting their immense contributions as well as their numerous sacrifices.” —‎NYU Press

The Women's House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison 

by Hugh Ryan 

The Women's House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison:  Ryan, Hugh: 9781645036661: Amazon.com: Books“The Women’s House of Detention, a landmark that ushered in the modern era of women’s imprisonment, is now largely forgotten. But when it stood in New York City’s Greenwich Village, from 1929 to 1974, it was a nexus for the tens of thousands of women, transgender men, and gender-nonconforming people who inhabited its crowded cells. Some of these inmates—Angela Davis, Andrea Dworkin, Afeni Shakur—were famous, but the vast majority were incarcerated for the crimes of being poor and improperly feminine. Today, approximately 40 percent of the people in women’s prisons identify as queer; in earlier decades, that percentage was almost certainly higher. Historian Hugh Ryan explores the roots of this crisis and reconstructs the little-known lives of incarcerated New Yorkers, making a uniquely queer case for prison abolition—and demonstrating that by queering the Village, the House of D helped defined queerness for the rest of America. From the lesbian communities forged through the Women’s House of Detention to the turbulent prison riots that presaged Stonewall, this is the story of one building and much more: the people it caged, the neighborhood it changed, and the resistance it inspired.”
—Bold Type Books

Bad Gays: A Homosexual History 

by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller

Verso“We all remember Oscar Wilde, but who speaks for Bosie? What about those ‘bad gays’ whose unexemplary lives reveal more than we might expect? Many popular histories seek to establish homosexual heroes, pioneers, and martyrs but, as Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller argue, the past is filled with queer people whose sexualities and dastardly deeds have been overlooked despite their being informative and instructive. Based on the hugely popular podcast series of the same name, Bad Gays asks what we can learn about LGBTQ+ history, sexuality and identity through its villains, failures, and baddies… Together these amazing life stories expand and challenge mainstream assumptions about sexual identity… Bad Gays is a passionate argument for rethinking gay politics beyond questions of identity, compelling readers to search for solidarity across boundaries.” —Verso

Racism and the Making of Gay Rights: A Sexologist, His Student, and the Empire of Queer Love

by Laurie Marhoefer 

University of Toronto Press - Racism and the Making of Gay Rights“In 1931, a sexologist arrived in colonial Shanghai to give a public lecture about homosexuality. In the audience was a medical student. The sexologist, Magnus Hirschfeld, fell in love with the medical student, Li Shiu Tong. Li became Hirschfeld’s assistant on a lecture tour around the world. Racism and the Making of Gay Rights shows how Hirschfeld laid the groundwork for modern gay rights, and how he did so by borrowing from a disturbing set of racist, imperial, and eugenic ideas. Following Hirschfeld and Li in their travels through the American, Dutch, and British empires, from Manila to Tel Aviv to having tea with Langston Hughes in New York City, and then into exile in Hitler’s Europe, Laurie Marhoefer provides a vivid portrait of queer lives in the 1930s and of the turbulent, often-forgotten first chapter of gay rights.” —University of Toronto Press

It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful: How AIDS Activists Used Art to Fight a Pandemic 

by Jack Lowery 

It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful: How AIDS Activists Used Art to Fight a  Pandemic: Lowery, Jack: 9781645036586: Amazon.com: Books“In the late 1980s, the AIDS pandemic was annihilating queer people, intravenous drug users, and communities of color in America, and disinformation about the disease ran rampant. Out of the activist group ACT UP… an art collective that called itself Gran Fury formed to campaign against corporate greed, government inaction, stigma, and public indifference to the epidemic. Writer Jack Lowery examines Gran Fury’s art and activism from iconic images like the ‘Kissing Doesn’t Kill’ poster to the act of dropping piles of fake bills onto the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Lowery offers a complex, moving portrait of a collective and its members, who built essential solidarities with each other and whose lives evidenced the profound trauma of enduring the AIDS crisis. Gran Fury and ACT UP’s strategies are still used frequently by the activists leading contemporary movements. In an era when structural violence and the devastation of COVID-19 continue to target the most vulnerable, this belief in the power of public art and action persists.” —Bold Type Books

OutWrite: The Speeches that Shaped LGBTQ Literary Culture

Eds. Julie R. Enszer and Elena Gross

“Running from 1990 to 1999, the annual OutWrite conference played a pivotal role in shaping LGBTQ literary culture in the United States and its emerging canon. OutWrite provided a space where literary lions who had made their reputations before the gay liberation movement—like Edward Albee, John Rechy, and Samuel R. Delany—could mingle, network, and flirt with a new generation of emerging queer writers like Tony Kushner, Alison Bechdel, and Sarah Schulman. This collection gives readers a taste of this fabulous moment in LGBTQ literary history with twenty-seven of the most memorable speeches from the OutWrite conference, including both keynote addresses and panel presentations. These talks are drawn from a diverse array of contributors, including Allen Ginsberg, Judy Grahn, Essex Hemphill, Patrick Califia, Dorothy Allison, Allan Gurganus, Chrystos, John Preston, Linda Villarosa, Edmund White, and many more.” 
—Rutgers University Press

LGBTQ Youth and Education: Policies and Practices (2nd Edition)

by Cris Mayo 

LGBTQ Youth and Education: Policies and Practices (Multicultural Education  Series): Mayo, Cris, Banks, James A.: 9780807766705: Books: Amazon.com“This second edition is essential reading for educators and other school community members who are navigating the increasingly complicated laws and legal rulings related to LGBTQ students, employees, and community members. It combines historical, contemporary, theoretical, and practical information to help educators address exclusionary practices in schools related to gender identity, sexuality, racism, sexism, and other forms of bias that shape student experiences. To enable educators to better understand their obligations to students in relation to policy, staff training, daily school climate, pedagogy, and curriculum, the author has extensively revised this popular text to include updated information on the impact of same-sex marriage legalization and increasing federal recognition of transgender student rights. And because the legal terrain regarding transgender youth has been especially volatile, Mayo provides strategies that educators can use to maintain ethical trans-inclusive teaching, even when local regulations appear to impede transgender inclusivity.” —Teachers College Press


Facing History and Ourselves invites educators to use our lesson "LGBTQ History and Why it Matters" in the classroom.

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Topics: LGBTQ

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Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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