A new study reveals the power of feeling seen and heard for LGBTQ+ people
Mainstream literature has a history of underrepresenting LGBTQ+ characters, choosing not to include them and centring heteronormative characters instead. Despite this, there is a history of LGBTQ+ literature that dates back to Ancient Rome and Greece, it’s just rarely taught. For example, did you know that same-sex partnerships have been found in Homer’s Iliad, Plato’s Symposium and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice?
A new study from biography writing service StoryTerrace has found that 65% of those in the LGBTQ+ community say reading stories they can relate to has a positive impact on their mental health. 49% also said they felt lonely and isolated because they rarely heard about people who were going through the same things they were.
Interestingly, it wasn’t just reading relatable stories that made a difference, the study also found that writing had a positive impact, with 48% in the community saying writing creatively about their experiences allowed them to understand themselves better. 34% also noted that journaling has been the most beneficial aid to their mental health to date.
Being seen in mainstream media is key, but so is being heard through writing. Gay author Roger Moreau wrote his life story with StoryTerrace and says it means a lot to him to be able to share his story, “Having written a manuscript of my life growing up in such a personal way and not being able to find the words to put it together, to now having it written in a way that makes me feel understood is amazing.”
In response to the representation of LGBTQ+ people in literature, Moreau says we’ve come a long way.
“When I was a teenager, seeing a gay character on television was rare. If you did see a gay character, it was mostly portrayed as something negative. It was either the person who was sick and dying from an illness or was a victim of gay-bashing. Today, there is so much acceptance and support - I absolutely love reading LGBTQIA+ memoirs and stories of someone overcoming adversity. It shows that there is hope, and to keep on going, no matter what you are going through in life.”
LGBTQ+ memoirs and stories to explore
Fairest by Meredith Talusan
This memoir explores Meredith’s life, from being a child sitcom star in the Philippines to an award-winning writer. Discussing themes of love, being an outcast and gender, this is a poignant memoir to add to your list.
We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib
From growing up in fear of her safety in Pakistan to facing new challenges as a refugee in Canada, Samra writes about experiences of racism, faith, art and sexuality.
To be a Gay Man by Will Young
Best known for winning Pop Idol, Will takes us back to his early years to discuss internalised shame, low self-esteem and what helped in this memoir.
In Their Shoes by Jamie Windust
Calling for non-binary self-acceptance and self-celebration, Jamie’s book discusses fashion, dating, mental health and the challenges faced by the trans community.
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Now an acclaimed Netflix series, the graphic novel series Heartstopper follows a young gay love story, centring gay, bisexual, trans and asexual characters.
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Warden
Another graphic novel to enjoy, On a Sunbeam takes you on a sci-fi journey exploring deep space and long-lost love.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Exploring identity, home and family, this novel follows protagonist Cyril Avery from 1940s Ireland to the present day.