Once upon a time, in a land not too far way, there lived one queer protagonist and now there are more. Pride month is almost here, queer pals and allies! The year 2020 has given us more representation in movies, shows, music and literature. Out and proud, we’re not going to let others push us into the shadows anymore. It’s time for queer to be part of the mainstream.
We still have a long way to go in the fight for equality but the victories we have claimed are definitely worth celebrating. Included in the list of wins for LGBTQ+ rights are the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Costa Rica (a first in Central America) and how LGBTQ+ families were qualified for financial aid in Pasig City. While its important to show the struggles of the community, it is also important to show how similar queer and straight lives are. Here are some free, queer books (to read in between all that fanfiction you bookmarked) you can add to your digital shelves to prep you for Pride month.
“On a Sunbeam”
Tillie Walden is one of the most well-regarded young queer comic artists of today. She won an Eisner Award for her moving graphic memoir entitled “Spinning” about her coming-of-age as a disenchanted figure skater who falls in love for the first time with another girl. Critics and fans alike have been happy to share that the comic she followed up with lived up to their expectations. “On a Sunbeam” is about a girl named Mia who joins a crew that rebuilds broken-down structures in space in order to reunite with her long lost love.
Apart from the touching love story, it offers intriguing world-building (for its world without men) and gorgeous, detailed panels. The New Yorker called it “a queer coming-of-age story, a story about how to salvage lost love and youth, and a multigenerational story about how to thrive in a society that does not understand who you are or what you can do.” You can read the comic on its website.
Before writer and visual artist Noelle Stevenson became the showrunner for the wholesome and queer animated series “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power,” she released her senior thesis turned graphic novel “Nimona.” It’s a “deadpan epic” set in a world that mixes science and symbolism. It follows the story of butch shapshifter and villain sidekick Nimona. Together with mad scientist Ballister Blackheart, the pair is out to expose how the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics isn’t as good as they seem to be. Although the characters’ gender and sexuality weren’t explicitly mentioned, the characters are queer coded and there was a hinted romance between two characters. It’s also available as an audiobook and has a movie adaptation in the works.
Stevenson has gone a long way since the release of her first comic. At the start of her career, she has shared that breaking stereotypes was one of her motivations as a female writer in comics but she had to fight for a long time to be given the freedom to present authentic queer representation in her work. In an interview with Nerdist after the last season of “She-ra” came out, she said, “I really wanted to represent points of view that we didn’t always get to see in media because I think that kids really need to see those narratives. If you only see one narrative and you experienced something different then you start to think, ‘Oh maybe I’m the weird one? Maybe I’m the odd one out?’ You don’t learn to process those feelings.” Here’s hoping she’ll have the same level of authority on the movie version of “Nimona.” You can read the entire graphic novel on the Internet Archive.
Imogen Binnie’s debut novel “Nevada” is a dark comedy about a punk, trans woman living in New York named Maria Griffiths who’s trying to stick to her values while working in retail. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, she ends up going on a much-needed journey of self-rediscovery after she finds out that her girlfriend cheated on her. She meets James along the way who is still in the process of coming to terms with “probably” being trans. As their friendship grows, Maria once again faces the things that she tried to bury within.
The book is filled with witty inner monologues about identity politics, pop culture, heteronormativity and a bunch of other stuff. Fans say that it’s an easy read that will make you laugh even when it’s tackling topics that are difficult to talk about IRL. If you’ve been struggling to find a character who you can identify with, Maria might just be the gal you’re looking for. Find out by getting a copy on its website.
“Meanwhile Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers”
If you’ve ever asked the question, “Where the f*ck are the trans characters in science fictions and fantasy?” We’ve got good news: an anthology of speculative short stories written by 25 trans writers actually exists. “Meanwhile Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers” offers contemporary queer contemplations on utopia and multiverses. On the cover, it calls itself “The #1 post-reality generation device approved for home use!” If you’re not sold on their fictional hard sell, it has been well-received by a lot of readers.
Editors Cat Fitzpatrick and Casey Plett chose a diverse set of stories which makes it a bit of a mixed bag. There’s a short about a trans lesbian whose internet famous cat got repossessed by a media company. There’s one with a character who is a trans lesbian trying to win her old body back after trading it for a trans man’s. It plays on a lot of the genre’s tropes and blends it with queer introspection. You can download the book on Plett’s WordPress.