Whether you’re out and proud, in the closet and still trying to figure things out or looking to educate yourself on LGBTQ+ culture, the library is open this Pride month and we at Oxygen are here to show you that there is more to queer culture than Drag Race, because reading is what? A necessary way of self-educating by reading from other people’s perspective.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and if you’ve got any recommendations of what to add to the ‘Free Space’, please add them in the comments section!

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson is one of two coming-of-age novels I read for an elective module in college. Set in the Lancashire in 1985, the story follows a young, semi-fictionalised Jeannette growing up with her adoptive evangelical family as she discovers her sexuality in her teen years. This novel explores the complex relationship between a gay person and their devout family and hopefully imparts empathy on the reader as to the reality of coming out for young teens.

Angels in America, written by Tony Kushner, is a two-part Tony Award winning play about the AIDS pandemic in the US in the 1980s. This play was both commended and criticised for its portrayal of homosexuality and the AIDS disease, not only for the how it affects people but also how society viewed people who had AIDS. This play really hit home the “otherness” that gay people felt during the pandemic and still do in many cases today, and how harmful stereotypes serve to further marginalise minority groups.

Black Girl Dangerous on Race, Queerness, Class and Gender by Mia MacKenzie is a collection of essays on all the titular topics from the founder of the Black Girl Dangerous blog. Highlighting the voices of queer and trans people of colour that are marginalised even within the LGBTQ+ community, MacKenzie’s novel is a gripping analysis that is accessible for both non-academics and academics. Read this book if you want a better understanding of the intersection between the oppression faced by people of colour and LGBTQ+ people.

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett follows Simone Garcia-Hampton, a young bisexual woman who was born with HIV, as she explores sex. Throughout the novel, Simone is faced with dealing with people who try to take advantage of her status and shame her for it, but the novel is overwhelming sex-positive and serves to combat the misconceptions and harmful stereotypes of living with HIV. However, Garrett doesn’t sacrifice the protagonist’s character to serve as a function for just HIV, Simone is a witty and determined individual, and the novel is quintessential Y.A. reading material.

This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson serves as a light-hearted and informative instruction manual for LGBTQ+ people who are or have just come out and want a crash course in queer culture. Dawson, a former PSHCE teacher in England, writes about labelling, coming out advice, meeting other LGBTQ+ people and “a guide to recognising your gay saints.” Add this book to your coming out kits folks!

Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myers is a memoir that recounts Myers upbringing in a poor working class Roman-Catholic family, in 1950s and 60s Boston. Myers talks about how they discovered their interest in girls and questioned their identity, their love of poetry and their discovery of alcohol and drugs. Myers answers the questions you feel it’s inappropriate to ask in their memoir, in a frank and often amusing tone.

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe is a graphic novel memoir from the perspective of an asexual non-binary person, and retells eir journey of self-discovery navigating the similar issues that many a young person faces such as first crushes, coming out, fan-fiction and trauma. This beautifully illustrated memoir serves to remind readers that marginalised groups have more similarities than differences, and through personal anecdotes describes the importance of using correct pronouns.

Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers by Lilian Faderman was recommended to me by a friend when I asked her how to learn more about LGBTQ+ history, because I found the Irish education system severely lacking. The book chronicles the history of lesbianism in the 1900s. WWII America had a higher demand for women’s skills, leading to a temporary tolerance of female independence and homosexuality being an example of how thoroughly researched the book is. The fight for gay rights through the lens of lesbian history saw the harmful McCarthyist purge of gay women losing their jobs, and how that had a knock-on affect to the rise of the subcultures in the LGBTQ+ community that we see today.