by Logan Pruss
Editor's Note: Religious holidays can be a difficult time for queer folks, who are so often excluded or ostracized in religious environments. As Easter approaches, ShopQueer.co is highlighting eight books that help readers navigate their faith and queerness in a special post curated by staff member Logan Pruss.
Growing up in and around Christianity, I hid my queerness from myself and those close to me because I was told that God loved everyone… except for me. It took 17 years of knowing I was queer to finally let myself say it out loud — and let myself believe it. When I sought out stories of those who had come before me, I found that religion’s LGBTQ+ history was rich with not just stories of personal transformation, but also with in-depth analyses of the very texts weaponized against us.
The books I’ve included below touch on various aspects of religion and the rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions that we LGBTQ+ folks often experience in or around it. The authors on this list remind us that our queerness is never a sin: it’s divine.
by Emily Austin
This novel beautifully captures the comfort that can come with exploring new ideas and beliefs, while also challenging those very beliefs. Gilda, a twenty-something atheist and lesbian, seeks out therapy for her severe depression, anxiety, and constant thoughts of death — but she accidentally stumbles into a receptionist job at a Catholic Church instead. While she pretends to be straight and Catholic to keep the position, Gilda begins obsessing over the mysterious and sudden death of her elderly predecessor. Hilarious and compelling, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead addresses sexuality, mental illness, religion, and the lines we blur to experience comfort in the face of grief.
by Amrou Al-Kadhi
Amrou Al-Kadhi has managed to capture their colorful beauty in a way that inspires others to discover their own authentic selves, whatever that may be. As a child growing up in a strict Iraqi Muslim home, they tell the unlikely story of how the fluid, beautiful marine creatures they studied helped them find themself. Life as a Unicorn inspires the reader to dive into the fluidity of self. Through stories of loss, forgiveness, hope, and the search for belonging, Al-Kadhi not only unravels their exploration of self-expression, but also empowers others to do the same for themselves.
by Jay Michaelson
While many of us raised in religious environments were taught that equality for all, especially for the queer community, would lead to eternal damnation, Michaelson shows us a new way of viewing equality through the lens of the Bible and Torah. For those who fear coming out due to religious rejection and pressure — not unlike myself once — God vs. Gay? tears down the theology used against our queerness with theology itself, affirming that LGBTQ+ communities exalt, not detract from, God.
by Julia Watts
Fittingly for the time of extreme division we’re living in, Quiver dives into the lives of two teenagers with wildly different backgrounds who come to realize, “maybe we could be like two sides of a vinyl record, not opposites so much as complementary.” Libby comes from a strict, evangelical Christian family that believes in producing as many offspring as possible to honor God, and Zo — Libby’s new genderfluid neighbor from the city — comes from a family as far left as Libby’s is right. In the span of this YA novel, Libby discovers that questioning passed-down beliefs can uncover a more curious and loving God than ever imagined.
by Shannon T.L. Kearns
Reflections from Father Shannon Kearns’ own life are beautifully woven into familiar biblical stories to make up the pages of In the Margins. As a transgender man, Kearns takes us into scripture through his eyes to show us that God and religion are much more expansive than institutions often teach. In his vulnerability, Kearns opens himself up to the reader and offers a reflection of God in those who find themselves in the margins.
by Mary Glasspool
From Bishop Mary Glasspool’s proclamations of divine love and lasting liberation to Westboro Baptist Church’s famous “God Hates F*gs” protests, Jeff Chu takes us across the United States in snapshots of the multitude of beliefs held within one country. He answers the question many queer Christians have asked themselves at some point: “Does Jesus really love me?” With hints of memoir, this book provides studied and vital insight into the ways that religion has taken shape throughout the country.
by Vicky Beeching
In the 2000s, Vicky Beeching was an evangelical Christian worship leader and songwriter who had it all in the eyes of the Church. The Guardian described her as “arguably the most influential Christian of her generation” — which meant that Beeching’s brave choice to come out as a lesbian in 2014 drew strong opinions from all sides. Her memoir chronicles dark thoughts that many of us can relate to: the shame of not conforming to expectations, the fear of losing everything by coming out. But above all else, she writes of the wholeness and authenticity that she found by stepping into her truth.
Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
by John Boswell
Written in 1980, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality was a revolutionary book in the worlds of both Christianity and the LGBTQ+ community. It’s an analytical and well-sourced inquiry into the history of the Church’s attitudes toward homosexuality, as well as the relationship between the Church and its queer members. Boswell moves the reader with his writing and takes back control of the narrative from those who have erased queerness from Christian history. Although Queer Studies has evolved since this book was first published, it’s a poignant testament to our community’s past and points ahead to a future of true equality and equity, inclusive of all identities and faiths.
Each of these books will speak to each reader in a different way; we all have unique experiences, questions, and lives. Yet my hope to anyone reading is that each book inspires you to love yourself and others just a little bit louder, however you can.
Enjoy 30% off Faith & Queerness books until Sunday, April 9th, at midnight! And remember, at ShopQueer.co, we split our profits with the author, and the rest goes to our Rainbow Book Bus campaign — all with the mission of protecting and promoting queer literature across the country. <3