5 Books to Read After LGBTQ+ History Month

Although LGBTQ+ History Month—an annual month-long (Oct 1-Oct 31, 2023) celebration of the history, culture, and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community—is coming to an end, we’ve curated a list of books to add to your bookshelf so you can celebrate LGBTQ+ history all year long. You can also browse a list of all of our LGBTQ+ books on our website.

Wondrous Transformations: A Maverick Physician, the Science of Hormones, and the Birth of the Transgender Revolution by Alison Li

Discover the history of transgender medicine and a pivotal figure behind it.

Harry Benjamin (1885–1986), a German-born endocrinologist, was a pivotal figure in the development of transgender medicine. He was physician to transgender pioneers such as Christine Jorgensen, the 1950s “Ex-GI” turned “Blonde Beauty” media sensation, and in turn, she and other collaborators helped to shape Benjamin’s influential 1966 book, The Transsexual Phenomenon. Alison Li’s much-needed biography of Benjamin chronicles his passion for hormones and his lifelong interest in sexology. 

Drawing from extensive research in archival documents, secondary sources, and interviews, Li tells the story of Benjamin’s early ventures in gerontology and his later work with over a thousand transgender patients. Benjamin’s contributions to treatment, education, research, and networking helped to create the institutional foundations of transgender medicine. Moreover, they set the stage for a radical reconsideration of gender identity, challenging us to reflect upon what it is to be male or female and to envision moving beyond these long-held categories. Read more.

“A smart and highly readable contribution to transgender studies.”—Publishers Weekly

Drastic Dykes and Accidental Activists: Queer Women in the Urban South by La Shonda Mims

Trace the history of urban southern lesbian communities from 1945 into the twenty-first century

After World War II, Atlanta and Charlotte emerged as leading urban centers in the South, redefining the region through their competing metropolitan identities. Both cities also served as home to queer communities who defined themselves in accordance with their urban surroundings and profited to varying degrees from the emphasis on economic growth. Uniting southern women’s history with urban history, La Shonda Mims considers an imaginatively constructed archive including feminist newsletters and queer bar guides alongside sources revealing corporate boosterism and political rhetoric to explore the complex nature of lesbian life in the South. Read more.

“This important work sits at the intersection of race, economics, religion, sectionalism, gender, and sexuality . . . . Highly recommended.”—CHOICE

The Famous Lady Lovers: Black Women and Queer Desire before Stonewall by Cookie Woolner

The Story of how Black women’s queer worlds shaped modern American culture 

Black queer women have shaped American culture since long before the era of gay liberation. Decades prior to the Stonewall Uprising, in the 1920s and 1930s, Black “lady lovers”—as women who loved women were then called—crafted a queer world. In the cabarets, rent parties, speakeasies, literary salons, and universities of the Jazz Age and Great Depression, communities of Black lady lovers grew, and queer flirtations flourished. Cookie Woolner here uncovers the intimate lives of performers, writers, and educators such as Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Gladys Bentley, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and Lucy Diggs Slowe, along with the many everyday women she encountered in the archives. Read more.

“Extraordinary in its scope and inventiveness to focus on their intimate lives . . . . Woolner’s beautiful prose and writing style makes this book a delight to read. Academics and general readers alike will be drawn to it.”—Starred review, Library Journal

Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City by Gregory Samantha Rosenthal

Living Queer History tells the story of an LGBTQ community in Roanoke, Virginia, a small city on the edge of Appalachia. 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 explores how queer people today think about the past and how history lives on in the present. Read more.

Living Queer History provides a model of how we can collectively make the past usable—not for academic institutions or urban developers—but for queer people today and in the future.”—Lauren Gutterman, QT Voices

Ambivalent Affinities: A Political History of Blackness and Homosexuality after World War II by Jennifer Dominque Jones

In the early twenty-first century, comparisons between the modern civil rights movement and the movement for marriage equality reached a fever pitch. These comparisons, however, have a longer history. During the five decades after World War II, political ideas about same-sex intimacy and gender nonconformity—most often categorized as homosexuality—appeared in the campaigns of civil rights organizations, Black liberal elected officials, segregationists, and far right radicals. Deployed in complex and at times contradictory ways, political ideas about homosexuality (and later, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender subjects) became tethered to conceptualizations of Blackness and racial equality. Drawing upon organizational records, manuscript collections, newspaper accounts, and visual and textual ephemera, this study traces a long, conflicting relationship between Black and LGBT political identities that continues to the present day. Read More.

“Jones moves beyond the high-water decades of the civil rights movement and the intense period of institutionalized homophobia to provide the most comprehensive history of the post–civil rights era to date.”—John D’Emilio, author of Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood: Coming of Age in the Sixties