In trying and discriminatory times, queer literature can portray lives and loves that might otherwise be forced to remain invisible. Stories written by or for the LGBTQ community are, of course, just as varied as ‘heterosexual fiction’. But they also serve a unique purpose: to validate, explore and challenge ideas about same-sex attraction.
Published in 2015, A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers showcases a distant future where humans are a small part of a vast alien population. Within this sci-fi melting pot of cultures, there’s an acceptance of all sexualities, genders and races. Queer relationships are treated the same as any other, transporting the reader to a refreshingly accepting galaxy that we can currently only hope for.
“It’s vital to celebrate works by queer authors”
While Chambers’ novel presents a utopian vision of the future, The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurt reminds us just how difficult life has historically been for gay people in Britain. Set in Eighties London with a backdrop of the Thatcher administration and the looming AIDS crisis, it follows young protagonist Nick Guest as he manoeuvres his way through the hypocrisy and prejudice of the upper classes. Elegant and stark, it’s a book that will stay with you long after you’ve put it down.
Young adult fiction also shouldn’t be ignored when discussing LGBTQ fiction, given that many people first question their sexuality during adolescence. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera tells the story of a Puerto Rican teenager who has just told her family she is gay. What follows is a magnificent exploration of issues such as white privilege, the power of the queer community and the process of coming out.
In a world where people are still persecuted for their sexuality, it’s vitally important to celebrate works by queer authors such as Chambers, Hollinghurst and Rivera. They remind of us all that we’ve achieved in the long march towards equality – as well as how far we still have to go.