FRIDAY OPEN THREAD: What Was The First Gay Book You Read?

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Welcome to the Friday Open Thread, where you can virtually hangout with all your gal pals across the land. This is the place where you can share all your pet photos and selfies, vent about your week, tell us all your secrets or plans for the long weekend (if you have Labor Day off)! You can do all that right in this very post!

This week we’re talking about gay books! Do you remember the very first time you read a super queer book? Weren’t you amazed that there were characters you could actually relate to? Wasn’t it so cool to read about two girls making out or falling in love or breaking each other’s hearts instead of just straight people doing all those things? Maybe the first gay book you read made you realize that you were gay too. Didn’t it feel like this?

harry potter

The first gay book I read was a YA novel called Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters. I read this book in high school right around the time I was realizing I wasn’t straight. This time period in my life is all a bit blurry but I think I read this right after I made out with my best friend who became my secret girlfriend which was all a whirlwind of feelings. Keeping You A Secret is just about all those wild, young love feelings and I read it at the perfect time in my life. The book centers around over-achiever and perfect student, Holland who has a boyfriend and is Ivy League college-bound and how she fell for a new girl at school named Cece, an out lesbian. They develop a relationship and then have to deal with homophobia from their peers when they find out about them.

gaycovers

I really don’t remember how I got my hands on this book, I think it might’ve been my girlfriend at the time. I just couldn’t believe there were books with lesbian characters. Reading the book amplified all the squishy, butterfly feelings I had for my secret girlfriend which I didn’t get from reading Twilight. (I was so bored reading Twilight. SO BORED.) I think the homophobia the characters faced kinda reaffirmed my feelings for not coming out during the time so that probably wasn’t good but it was extremely important for me to know that there were other gay people in the world.

Right after I devoured the book, I remember I wanted more gay books. I needed them all. I tried looking for Annie On My Mind at the public library but it wasn’t in the place they said it was and I was too scared to ask the librarian so I ordered it online with a gift card I got from Barnes & Nobles. When it arrived, I took it to my room right away so my mom couldn’t see the title or the cover art and hid it. I only read it at night when my family was asleep. That book was everything. My queer BFF, Mary, lent me Rubyfruit Jungle in high school and I don’t really think I appreciated it that much. At that point, I had a lot of conflicting feelings and didn’t want to be gay so I was rejecting myself and didn’t want anything to do with gay things so all I remember from reading Rubyfruit Jungle was me telling myself I wasn’t gay. These three books shaped my formative gay years and impacted me in ways I didn’t realize at the time.

Now it’s your turn. I want to know all about the queer books that shaped your life. What was the first LGBTQ book you read? Was it a YA novel? Maybe the first queer book you read wasn’t a YA novel and you read it as an adult. That’s cool, tell me all about it! How did these books make you feel? What are some of your favorite LGBTQ books now? Tell us all about your queer book feelings in the comments!


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Yvonne

Yvonne S. Marquez is a lesbian journalist and former Autostraddle senior editor living in Dallas, TX. She writes about social justice, politics, activism and other things dear to her queer Latina heart. Yvonne was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter. Read more of her work at yvonnesmarquez.com.

Yvonne has written 158 articles for us.

209 Comments

  1. I’ve really enjoyed reading this, even though I’m a bit late.

    I second all the Anne of Green Gables and Little Women love.

    I think the first book I read with implied queer characters / queer sex were the Pern books by Anne McCaffrey – even though 12 year old baby-bi me had NO IDEA what was going on between the blue and green riders. Took me years to figure that one out. I read A Separate Piece in 9th grade English class, but I completely missed the queer subtext – probably because recognizing it in the book would have required me to see the queer subtext in my own life and yeah, not ready for that. I remember reading House like a Lotus by Madeleine L’Engle in HS, which has a lesbian secondary character, although it’s not a particularly flattering character. And

    I read Friday by Robert Heinlein (bi and poly female heroine and a boatload of misogyny) and The Color Purple sometime in college, probably. I don’t remember identifying with them – it was more of an out of body, oh, that woman’s having sex with a woman, isn’t that interesting thing.

    Once I started coming out to myself around ages 20 and 21 (1990/91), I actively sought out books about queer women – I read a Darkover novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley whose title I no longer remember but it had a bi woman MC, Rubyfruit Jungle (which really didn’t work for me – it was so bleak) and Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller, which I still really like. But I found it so hard to find queer books that I enjoyed that I kind of gave up on the genre until I discovered f/f and m/m romance a few years ago.

    But I did read a ton of lesbian / queer women erotica in my 20s, including Anais Nin and Herotica, ed. by Susie Bright (which has a mix of straight and queer sex).

  2. I second all the Anne of Green Gables and Little Women love.

    I think the first book I read with implied queer characters / queer sex were the Pern books by Anne McCaffrey – even though 12 year old baby-bi me had NO IDEA what was going on between the blue and green riders. Took me years to figure that one out. I read A Separate Piece in 9th grade English class, but I completely missed the queer subtext – probably because recognizing it in the book would have required me to see the queer subtext in my own life and yeah, not ready for that. I remember reading House like a Lotus by Madeleine L’Engle in HS, which has a lesbian secondary character, although it’s not a particularly flattering character. And

    I read Friday by Robert Heinlein (bi and poly female heroine and a boatload of misogyny) and The Color Purple sometime in college, probably. I don’t remember identifying with them – it was more of an out of body, oh, that woman’s having sex with a woman, isn’t that interesting thing.

    Once I started coming out to myself around ages 20 and 21 (1990/91), I actively sought out books about queer women – I read a Darkover novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley whose title I no longer remember but it had a bi woman MC, Rubyfruit Jungle (which really didn’t work for me – it was so bleak) and Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller, which I still really like. But I found it so hard to find queer books that I enjoyed that I kind of gave up on the genre until I discovered f/f and m/m romance a few years ago.

    But I did read a ton of lesbian / queer women erotica in my 20s, including Anais Nin and Herotica, ed. by Susie Bright (which has a mix of straight and queer sex).

  3. Boy Meets Boy. I was kind of obsessed with it, simply because it was about gay boys. I remember being a little embarrassed about loving it so much when I got a little older and recognized how limited the story actually was, but at the time it was very important to me. Then there were Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. As far as stories about girls go, I don’t remember my first, but I’m fairly certain it was shoujo ai manga. I’d started first with shounen ai and yaoi and eventually made it to girls.

  4. I’m late to Friday open thread, but I’m commenting anyway because I want to say that I haven’t read very many lgbt books, so I’m taking note of all of the titles in the comments. I only read Annie on my Mind a few months ago and I really wish I would have had than when I was in high school. I’ve read it twice since. I also read Rainbow Boys last year because one of my students asked if he could read it for sustained silent reading, but once he realized he would have to write a book report about it, he panicked and chose another book (which was sad). I thought Rainbow Boys was sort of shitty, but it’s the only book with LGBT characters in our school library, so I guess that’s better than nothing.

    Also, ya’ll should know I went on a sort-of date yesterday (date is kind of a strong word) and it went really well and that gives me a lot of hope for my poor, pathetic single life.

  5. Mine was The Saga of the Renunciates, by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

    I read it in seventh grade, when I was ultra-Catholic and in deep denial. I came for the “radical” feminism–women refusing to depend on men! Freeing other women from sex slavery! Being ultra best friends! Punishing sex workers for oppressing themselves! (like I said, ultra-Catholic)–and was horrified and fascinated by the sex scene between Camilla and Magda, which I tried my best to forget all about. I reread it when I had left the church, come out to myself, and gotten rid of a lot of internalized misogyny, and it was both better and worse. Gawd, the w***ephobia and transmisogyny. But CAMILLA AND MAGDA ARE SO SWEET TOGETHER

    • Since it’s now well-known — since her daughter went public with it — that Marion Zimmer Bradley was a pedophile who sexually molested both of her children, I wince every time I hear her name. And it throws some of her plot devices into serious question

      • Oh jeezus crist. My stomach hurts, what the fuck, what is WRONG with people that they can do that and still call themselves feminists. I’m really sorry for making you feel that way. Thank you so much for telling me. I appreciate it more than I can say, and I’m sorry again.

  6. I am very late to the party, but wanted to comment.
    My books were The Colour Purple for those scenes between Celie and Shug (I re read those scenes many times trying to savour it for as long as I could), also Hey Dollface by Deborah Hautzig where I can’t remember if the two best female friends got together or not but from the intense memory I get from it I must have been hoping that they would get together and acknowledge their love to each other.
    My Antonia by Willa Cather again I must re read this as I have totally forgotten the plot line but not the it was a lesbian book vibe…
    Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery because well, was Gilbert just a lavender red herring to camouflage Anne and Diana’s more intense “friendship”? and Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden.
    Also Going down with Janis by Peggy Caserta about her relationship with Janis Joplin. God so many. Also Trixie Belden.. Jim was a decoy.

    • Oh yes! Trixie and Honey forevah (not that I could have articulated that at the time I was reading them, but yeah, Jim was not nearly as interesting to me as Honey).

      I remember being so confused when a couple of my friends in college were all “Gilbert Blythe is SO dreamy” – did we read the same book? Apparently not, because I thought Anne had much more chemistry with any and all of her female friends than boring old Gilbert.

  7. Does Pretty Little Liars count? I remember early in middle school i read those books and it made me think maybe not all of The Gays were bad because one of the main characters was a conflicted lesbian who didn’t actually want to be gay (like me in middle school, which explains why she was my favorite character) Then, of course, i reread all the parts with girls kissing and wondered why it gave me warm fuzzy feelings.

  8. I don’t know for certain whether Ash by Malinda Lo or Tropical Storm by Melissa Good was first; I read them both about the same time, not long after I finally Figured Things Out. I had plenty of fanfiction under my belt but was scared out of my mind to be caught with an actual physical book my mom could google the title of, so I held off a very long time. I remember my professor had a galley copy of Ash in her pile of books that she was offering to us to take and review for our children’s and young adult lit class and my interest was super piqued. I lurked by the book for a long time before I chickened out of taking it, and then I just went and bought it on my Kindle when I got home. Tropical Storm, well, I’m Xenite trash, of course I had to start off with the uberierest uber to uber. And since I am also the oldest child from a conservative Michigan family and interested in computers (and got outed by my mum finding a picture) I latched onto Kerry Stewart HARD and now I’ve probably read that damn romance series upwards of 40 times, whoops. It’s pretty much my emotional security blanket.

  9. The first lesbian book I read was “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by Emily M. Danforth. When I bought this book, I was with my mom at Barnes and Noble and she was willing to buy me a book, and this is the one I picked out. She read the back of the book and then proceeded to say, “You want a book about girls kissing girls? Are you a lesbian or something?” She meant it as a joke, and I kind of laughed it off and said I wasn’t. But inside I was having a panic attack. I was asking myself, am I a lesbian? Do I like girls? This event scared me so much that I put the book on my shelf and didn’t open it for four years until this summer before I left for my first year of college. This book literally changed my life. It was awesome to read about characters who I could relate to, and it allowed me to open my mind to the fact that I quite possibly am gay. So thank you Emily M. Danforth, you have helped me an astronomical amount!

  10. Growing up in small homophobic country, I didn’t have a chance to read books with openly lesbian characters. But, as a child I remember that I loved to read books with strong girls/women. I always wondered if Georgina (who preferred to be called George and wore boy’s clothes) from “The Famous Five” book series by Enid Blyton was actually baby-dyke :D
    I found the first traces of women-loving-women in poetry – in high school I was obsessed with Baudelaire’s poetry and then I stumbled upon his “Femmes Damnées (Delphine et Hippolyte)” and my, my, was I surprised at such strong and erotic depiction of relationships between women. Another meaningful encounter was the one with Sappho’s poetry. But what blew my mind was reading Marina Tsvetaeva’s poems. The first novel with lesbian themes that I read was her book “The tale of Sonechka”. I still consider it as one of the most poetic novels I’ve ever read! Unfortunately, her bisexuality is suppressed in nowadays Russia, while some of her most important works (like that novel) were not even translated to English, so there are not many people who know or have read this book.

  11. The first queer book that had an impact on me was “Empress of the World” by Sara Ryan. A gifted teenager goes to a summer program and falls in love with a wonderful girl. Angst ensues, along with a neat cast of supporting friends. The main character, Nic, was bisexual, and used the word (!!!), and had a habit of journaling and overanalyzing (how I feel that). Nic is a character I can understand and really connect to. I was lucky to come across it in my library and have that representation as a younger bisexual.

  12. Mine was probably Boy Meets Boy, but I’d also read The Realm of Possibilities before that, although that’s more of a collection of stories. I remember telling my sister not to tell my mum I was reading it, the reason being that I didn’t want my mum to think I was gay. At the time I knew I wasn’t straight but not exactly sure what that meant exactly. I can’t exactly remember what the first lesbian characters was, it might have been Keeping You a Secret, which I found a bit cheesy and I couldn’t really relate to the characters all that much. And it had a really depressing ending! My favourite queer book though is probably The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which I found really relatable. Even though I only read it a few months ago I kind of feel like reading it again.

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