One of the goals I had set myself for this year was to read more LGBTQ+ books and I’m happy to say that I did. Here are the five books that moved me the most of the ones I read.
Lesbiska ligan by Mian Lodalen
Swedish language novel. The title translates to ‘The Lesbian Gang’.
A fictionalised account of a true story about the last women in Sweden to be convicted of the ”crime” of homosexuality. Written by one of my favourite lesbian authors, this book seeks to reminds us that our freedoms are not to be taken for granted. It also brings attention to one of many human rights violation perpetrated by the Swedish state. Lodalen believes the state should apologise for their past persecution of gay people. To this day, they have not.
Hästpojkarna by Johan Ehn
A Swedish language book, the tile translates to ‘The Horse Boys’.
Two boys in Czechoslovakia in the 1920s escape from their orphanage and join a circus. Over the years, their feelings for each other blossoms into something more than friendship. But the Nazis are rising to power and their love cannot have a happy ending.
Part of the book also takes place in modern Sweden, where a young home care worker meets an enigmatic elderly man who refuses to speak. But he will find a way to connect to him through their shared love of horses.
This is one of few books this year that brought tears to my eyes. The story is heartbreaking but so very important.
Je suis en vie et tu ne m’entends pas by Daniel Arsand
French language novel which translates to ‘I am alive and you can’t hear me’. Also available in Swedish and Italian.
A young man returns to his hometown after having spent years in a concentration camp where he was sent because of his homosexuality. Deeply traumatised, he struggles to return to a normal life and finds it hard to connect to others. Decades will pass before he finds the strength to tell the story of what he went through.
The author has a special writing style, very stream-of-consciousness, which can take a bit to get used to. But it also fits well with a story about trauma. You can sense how trapped in his own thoughts the main character feels.
Je suis en vie et tu ne m’entends pas is an emotionally difficult read, the most difficult I’ve had this year, but this story inspired by real historical events needs to be known.
Ett lyckligare år by Jonas Gardell
I’ve previously written about this book, which won the QX Gaygala prize for Book of the Year. An important read for anyone interested in the history of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Sweden.
We Both Laughed in Pleasure: The Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan, 1961-1991 edited by Ellis Martin and Zach Ozma
Lou Sullivan is one of the most important figures in the history of trans activism. He founded one of the first organisations for transmasculine people, FTM International, and was also the one who campaigned for the right of gay and bi/pan trans men to access medical transition.
A common – and erroneous – view of transness is that it is an extreme form of homosexuality. Trans men are seen as a step above butch lesbians, who in turn are seen as more gay than femme-presenting lesbians. So, the very idea that a trans man could be attracted to men seems impossible to a lot of people. And for a long time, this was also the opinion of the very medical professionals who were supposed to help us. If a trans man revealed that he was attracted to men, he would not be allowed to medically transition. Lou Sullivan fought tooth and nails to change this and brought attention to the fact that gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are all separate things.
Up until his untimely death, Sullivan fought for trans rights. He continued to campaign and write articles as well as the FTM International newsletter. He also wrote a book about Jack Bee Garland, a gay trans man who lived in San Francisco in the late 19th and early 20th century (here is the only place I’ve been able to find it).
Lou Sullivan was a lifelong journaler and in We Both Laughed in Pleasure, you can read selected journal entries from his days as a school kid infatuated with The Beatles, to his very last days before dying of AIDS at the age of 39.
Lou Sullivan has long been a personal hero of mine. As a gay trans man, I owe him a lot and it felt like an honour to get to read his most intimate thoughts.
This is the only book on the list available in English and I cannot recommend it enough.