Even though we live in the 21st century, a lot of schools still don’t teach anything about LGBTQ+ history, people, scientists, writers, politicians…anyone. Now, this isn’t just important for people who are LBTQ+ themselves, to see people that they can relate to, doing things important in the world. This is also important for everyone to know that LGBTQ+ people are part of all aspects of our lives.
Let’s begin with the most iconic LGBTQ+ writer in history, Oscar Wilde. You’ll definitely be familiar with his work. He wrote plays like “A woman of No importance”, “The Importance of Being Earnest” and the novel “The Picture of Dorian Grey”. Wilde’s work often had a biting social commentary to it, especially in terms of gender and class. It is often difficult to pinpoint someone’s sexuality or gender onto a historical figure. However, tragically for Oscar Wilde, this is something that we can do easily in his case. Because of his romantic and sexual relationships with other men, he was brought to trial for gross indecency. He was sentenced to two years of hard labour which was the maximum penalty at the time. Because of society’s attitude towards his sexuality, this bright and brilliant man died impoverished.
He was one of the war poets of the First World War. He wrote about the war in a way that it had never been written before. A way that criticized the war. A way that described it as something that wasn’t incredible and brave and patriotic, but that was controlled by an elite who never even fought in the field. He wrote, “Dulce et Decorum est” and “Anthem for a Doomed Youth” among many other war poems. A shift in the quality of his poetry came after he was taken to the mental hospital Craiglockhart. This was to treat PTSD or shell shock, many soldiers went there, including at the time Siegfried Sassoon, another war poet. Wilfred Owen suddenly died before the war ended, and it is really tragic because it would have been fascinating to see more of the work he could’ve produced in the anti-war sentiment after he was away from the battlefield.
She is not so well known in the “mainstream” literature, so you probably didn’t study her work in school. She wrote books like “Stone Butch Blues”, and “Transgender Warriors”. Essentially she laid the groundwork for discussions of non-binary identities and the relationship between sexuality and gender. She talks a lot about pronouns. She describes herself as a butch lesbian and a transgender activist. Even if it not on your syllabus “Stone Butch Blues” is a must-read if you want to look at discussions about class, gender and sexuality.
Before the gay liberation movement even started, Baldwin was writing books like “Giovanni’s Room” which has explicit relationships between LGBTQ+ men. It explores the intricacies and intimacies of their private lives in a way that few people had done before. James Baldwin was an incredible spokesperson for the civil rights movement in America, to the point that Time Magazine put him on the front cover of their issue. He is an inspiration for many well-known writers both in a literal sense and a political one.
She has written books like “This Book is Gay” which is a fantastic resource about LGBTQ+ information. This book has been in a lot of schools which I think is wild and incredible and really pioneering. She has a book out at the moment which is called “The Gender Games”. She has also written a lot of articles for magazines online so you can check those out as well.