Memoirs provide us with a singular literary experience, combining the informative elements of history books with the prose and personal touches of fiction. Through queer biographies and memoirs, we can discover the lived realities of people we otherwise wouldn’t have known. And this act of unearthing benefits everyone—from members of the queer community who want to relate to similar struggles and triumphs to allies wanting to learn more about experiences they will never personally understand. So, for whatever perspective you’re coming from, check out these masterful exercises in the memoir genre.
When Darnell L. Moore was young, a group of homophobic bullies tried to set him on fire. Unfortunately, this wouldn't be the last time he was in danger simply because of who he was. As an adult, he has dozens of accolades under his belt and a stirring story to match. Moore's poignant memoir is at the same time a harrowing tale of the violence that can occur against Black gay men and a rousing story of triumph and tenacity.
by John Glynn
Summers have the potential to change our lives. Summer is a time of self-discovery and adventure, where we come back to the fall changed for the better. In Out East, John J. Glynn documents one such summer, where at the age of twenty-seven, he still didn't feel like his sense of self was complete. Retreating to Montauk to search for some semblance of peace, he ends up finding much more than he bargained for, eventually coming to terms with his sexuality and more at a shared summer house.
Carmen María Machado
Bisexual writer Carmen Maria Machado is a master of the written word. Known most for her electric short story collection Her Body and Other Parties, now she brings her skills to the art of introspection. Weaving in popular narrative tropes (like the haunted house, the coming of age story, and so on) with the narrative of her actual life, Machado tells a heartrending account of domestic abuse. In doing so, she unravels common stereotypes about lesbian relationships and assumptions about what a memoir can and cannot do.
by Abby Stein
Abby Stein always knew she was a girl. But this was at odds with what her Hasidic Orthodox community thought they knew: that Abby was a boy, and more specifically a boy destined to become a rabbi when older. This memoir delves deep into philosophical and theological questions about gender and religious doctrine, exploring transgender identity in a community that had already planned out Abby's life for her. Her story is a wild ride bursting with love and acceptance of one's self, no matter the cost.
by Cleve Jones
A list of LGBTQ memoirs isn't complete without some older icons in its picks. Cleve Jones was born in 1954, in a much more turbulent time for a gay man than the present day. Searching for a community, he went to San Francisco, a bustling metropolis with an underground gay scene. There, his life entangled with legendary gay rights icon Harvey Milk, and Jones' activist legacy continued long after Milk's death. This is a must-read for anyone interested in gay history.
Saeed Jones is an award-winning poet, and it's totally obvious in every sentence of his truly powerful book. Black and gay, the intersections of his identities have set him in the crossfire of bigotry and intolerance. But that hasn't stopped him from carving out an influential, acclaimed spot as the voice of his generation and weaving a beautiful, honest tale in the process.
Rose Ellen Dix; Rosie Spaughton
First viral YouTube personalities and now authors, Rose and Rosie tell all in this lighthearted exploration of life as a gay couple. Hoping to give strength and solidarity to those going through similar issues, Rose and Rosie spill the secrets of navigating mental health, marriage issues, familial relationships, and more. Filled with honesty and a healthy dose of humor, this one will have you chuckling while becoming more comfortable in your own skin.
by Cyrus Dunham
Cyrus Grace Denham's memoir evokes relatable and poignant feelings of questioning, selfhood, and growth. We follow Denham as they transition away from the label of "girl", leading us on an odyssey of analyzing assumptions and preconceived notions of gender and sex. Through deft prose, Denham asks us: what does it mean to belong, both in one's body and in your place in the larger world?
You might know already Cameron Esposito from her hilarious comedy routines or her sitcom "Take My Wife". And if you do, you know her sexuality isn't at all a secret. Though a proud lesbian now, this wasn't always the case. Raised Catholic, her life's journey led her to a Catholic college and ended up with her career in stand-up comedy. Though living a very different life now, she can still draw from what she's learned to prepare her for the ups and downs she faces now. If you're looking for a more lighthearted read (with all the same emotional impact as others on this list), this one's for you.
What to Read Next
Mya Alexice is a reader, poet, and writer with a never-ending TBR pile and a cat named Ramen. You can find them and their work on Twitter @literallymya.