LGBT literature  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
gay novel, lesbian literature

LGBT literature is a collective term for literature produced by and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, or which involves characters, plot lines or themes concerning LGBT communities.



Lesbian literature, gay pulp and gay science fiction are genres of LGBT fiction which represent some of the earliest incorporation of these "taboo" subjects in contemporary literature. Novels like La Garçonne by Victor Margueritte (1922) and The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (1928) are early examples of books with lesbian themes.

LGBT authors, characters and themes are present in all genres of literature, but the increasing amount of LGBT fiction emerging in recent years has established several (if unofficial) subgenres, including LGBT mystery, horror and romance, as well as gay teen and lesbian teen fiction.

LGBT themes in mythology

Many mythologies and religious narratives have included stories of sex or romantic affection between figures of the same sex, or feature divine actions that result in changes in gender. These myths have been interpreted as early forms of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual. transgender) literature, and modern conceptions of sexuality and gender applied to them.

The status of mythology varies by culture. Myths are generally believed to be literally true within the society that created them and deemed erroneous or fictitious elsewhere. Other cultures may regard myths as containing psychological or archetypal truths. Myths have been used to explain and validate the social institutions of a particular culture, as well as to educate the members of that culture.

Lesbian literature

Lesbian literature includes works by lesbian authors, as well as lesbian-themed works by heterosexual authors. Even works by lesbian writers that do not deal with lesbian themes are still often considered lesbian literature. Works by heterosexual writers which treat lesbian themes only in passing, on the other hand, are not often regarded as lesbian literature.

The fundamental work of lesbian literature is the poetry of Sappho of Lesbos. From various ancient writings, historians have gathered that a group of young women were left in Sappho's charge for their instruction or cultural edification. Not much of Sappho's poetry remains, but that which does demonstrates the topics she wrote about: women's daily lives, their relationships, and rituals. She focused on the beauty of women and proclaimed her love for girls.

Contemporary lesbian literature is centered around several small, exclusively lesbian presses, as well as online fandoms. Certain works have established historical or artistic importance. Works of lesbian literature are sometimes difficult to identify if they are not published by small lesbian presses due to a general lack of promotion of lesbian themes by mainstream publishers. An exhaustive list of works cannot be provided here, but key works in different genres are listed.

Gay pulp

Gay pulp fiction or gay pulps, refers to printed works, primarily fiction, that include references to male homosexuality, specifically male gay sex, and that are cheaply produced, typically in paperback books made of wood pulp paper; lesbian pulp fiction is similar work about women. Michael Bronski, the editor of an anthology of gay pulp writing, notes in his introduction, "Gay pulp is not an exact term, and it is used somewhat loosely to refer to a variety of books that had very different origins and markets" People often use the term to refer to the "classic" gay pulps that were produced before about 1970, but it may also be used to refer to the gay erotica or pornography in paperback book or digest magazine form produced since that date.

Science fiction

Homosexuality in speculative fiction refers to the incorporation of homosexual themes into science fiction, fantasy, horror fiction and related genres which together constitute speculative fiction (SF). Such elements may include a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual (LGBT) character as the protagonist or a major character, or exploration of varieties of sexual experience that deviate from the conventional.

Science fiction and fantasy have traditionally been puritanical genres aimed at a male readership, and can be more restricted than non-genre literature by their conventions of characterisation and the effect that these conventions have on depictions of sexuality and gender. However, speculative fiction also gives authors and readers the freedom to imagine societies that are different from real-life cultures. This freedom makes speculative fiction a useful means of examining sexual bias, by forcing the reader to reconsider his or her heteronormative cultural assumptions. It has also been claimed that LGBT readers identify strongly with the mutants, aliens, and other outsider characters found in speculative fiction.


LGBT themes in comics is a relatively new concept, as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) themes and characters were historically omitted intentionally from the content of comic books and their comic strip predecessors, due to either censorship or the perception that comics were for children. With any mention of homosexuality in mainstream United States comics forbidden by the Comics Code Authority (CCA) until 1989, earlier attempts at exploring these issues in the US took the form of subtle hints or subtext regarding a character's sexual orientation. LGBT themes were tackled earlier in underground comics from the early 1970s onward. Independently published one-off comic books and series, often produced by gay creators and featuring autobiographical storylines, tackled political issues of interest to LGBT readers.

Comic strips have also dealt in subtext and innuendo, their wide distribution in newspapers limiting their inclusion of controversial material. The first openly gay characters appeared in prominent strips in the late 1970s; representation of LGBT issues in these titles causes vociferous reaction, both praise and condemnation, to the present day. Comic strips aimed at LGBT audiences are also syndicated in gay- and lesbian-targeted magazines and comics have been created to educate people about LGBT-related issues and to influence real-world politics, with their format and distribution allowing them to transmit messages more subtle, complex, and positive than typical education material. Portrayal of LGBT themes in comics is recognized by several notable awards, including the Gaylactic Spectrum Award and GLAAD Media Awards for outstanding comic book and comic strip.

Since the 1990s LGBT themes have become more common in mainstream US comics, including in a number of titles in which a gay character is the star. European comics have been more inclusive from an earlier date. The lack of censorship, and greater acceptance of comics as a medium of adult entertainment led to less controversy about the representation of LGBT characters. The popular Japanese manga tradition has included genres of girls' comics that feature homosexual relationships since the 1970s, in the form of yaoi and yuri. These works are often extremely romantic and include archetypal characters that often are not identified as gay. Since the Japanese "gay boom" of the 1990s, a body of manga by queer creators aimed at LGBT customers has been produced, which have more realistic and autobiographical themes. Pornographic manga also often includes sexualised depictions of lesbians and intersex people. Queer theorists have noted that LGBT characters in mainstream comic books are usually shown as assimilated into heterosexual society, whereas in alternative comics the diversity and uniqueness of LGBT culture is emphasized.

Transgender and transsexual fiction

Transgender- and transsexual-centric fiction is a rare subset of LGBT literature. Most books published by and about transgender and transsexual people are non-fiction: autobiographies, critiques or general LGBT or queer studies texts.


See also

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Further reading

  • Pages Passed from Hand to Hand: The Hidden Tradition of Homosexual Literature in English from 1748 to 1914 edited and with an introduction by Mark Mitchell and David Leavitt, Chatto & Windus 1998
  • Homosexuality in Literature, 1890-1930 by Jeffrey Mayers, Athlone, 1977
  • A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods, Yale University Press, 1999
  • Gaiety Transfigured: Gay Self-Representation in American Literature edited by David Bergman, University of Wisconsin Press, 1991
  • Beyond Sex and Romance?: The Politics of Contemporary Lesbian Fiction edited by Elaine Hutton, Women's Press, 1998.
  • Lesbian and Gay Writing: An Anthology of Critical Essays edited by Mark Lilly, Macmillan, 1990
  • Love Between Men in English Literature by Paul Hammond, Macmillan, 1996
  • The Homosexual as Hero in Contemporary Fiction by Stephen Adams, Vision, 1980
  • The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse edited by Stephen Coote, Penguin, 1983
  • Essays on Gay Literature edited by Stuart Kellogg, Harrington Park Press, 1983.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "LGBT literature" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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