February was LGBT History Month in the U.K. People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and the wide variety of sexualities and genders have been a part of human history for as long as human history has existed. Yet in education, as well as in literature, these experiences and contributions are still too often ignored. These books will tell a variety of stories of LGBT history from the U.K., Europe, and the U.S.
Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe by American historian James Boswell examines the evidence of the Medieval Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches sanctioning same-sex unions. Whilst some other scholars of Christian history have criticised his findings, Boswell does present many compelling ideas, placing Christian LGBT history in a wider historical context to see a fuller view of the culture.
Heinz Heger’s The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps was the first first-hand account of a gay Holocaust survivor to be translated into English. This autobiography reveals the horrors both of the Nazi concentration camps, and of the often overlooked plight of gay prisoners at the end of the Nazi regime.
Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1940 by George Chauncey is an exposure of the world of gay men living in early 20th century New York City. Using personal and legal documents this book shows how this world wasn’t as underground as we often believe it must have been.
Another look at 20th century American history is Lillian Faderman’s Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America. This is a social history that builds on journals, art, legal and medical documents, and many other sources contemporary to the period to take a closer look at the realities of life for lesbian women, and to show how how these realities changed and evolved over the century.
Christopher and His Kind is Christopher Isherwood’s famous memoir recounting his life in 1930s Berlin. Isherwood’s story expresses how his sexuality was not something private or shameful but both a central part of himself, and something worth cherishing.
On a similar theme to Gay New York is Matt Houlbrook’s Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis. Queer London revisits the lives, and traces the steps of, early 20th century London’s diverse gay and queer population through compilations of personal and official documents. In doing so the book also touches on how their lives have influenced the London of today.
In Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan Of Arc to Dennis Rodman Leslie Feinberg uncovers the history of gender nonconformity. Essentially this is a journey through evidence that transgender people, and gender experimentation, are far from a new idea, and are in fact steeped in history and culture.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches is a collection of essays by Audre Lorde. Writing as an African-American lesbian in the 1980s, in this collection Lorde explores ideas of gender, race, sexuality, and class, with a focus on the need for empowerment of women in minority or oppressed groups.
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