Have you ever read something and had a holy shit moment? A good holy shit moment—not a bad one. The kind of aha brain blast that makes you feel like the writer really, truly gets you and speaks to you like a real-life human with all the emotions and character arcs of your own. That happened to Christie C., who says that seeing queer representation in LGBTQ+ books, by LGBTQ+ authors, helped her embrace her true self and come out to more people in her life. “It helped me be proud of being queer,” she says.
For me, Andrea Gibson’s poetry book You Better Be Lightning was my reminder that even in the face of pain and the uncertainty of life, it’s best to experience everything. Every damn thing. Through their own story of navigating love and loss, Gibson reminded me to be gentle with myself and that we "don’t have to be healed to be whole."
My point is that books really can help your mental health, whether they’re a happy distraction during hard times (like comfort shows), a mirror into parts of yourself you’ve hesitated to explore before, or a gentle squeeze to let you know you’re not alone.
In honor of Pride Month, Wondermind rounded up 11 other books by LGBTQ+ authors that offer these benefits, helping people inside and outside of the LGBTQ+ community boost their mental health in some way.
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“This book was one of two queer romance novels that allowed me to fully embrace and accept my sexuality because I was able to relate to Molly, the main character. Molly is newly out and discovering herself. In my own personal journey of coming out, I was able to identify with the ins and outs of having a same-sex crush for the first time, navigating said crush, and finding other queer friendships.
It was beautiful to read. It was important for me and my mental health to accept myself fully because I found myself getting tired of pretending to be someone I wasn’t. Tired of being scared and hiding who I truly am.” —Alora H., 26
“This book is like a warm hug on a cold day. It filled me with such joy, and I will recommend it to everyone. It’s a fantasy story about finding your chosen family, learning to love the things that make us unique, and overcoming societal expectations. I loved how masterfully the book used the idea of magical children to depict the discrimination and prejudice that is often experienced by groups in our society who are marginalized, such as people of color or the LGBTQ+ community. It manages to cover such deep and important themes while telling a beautiful love story full of wit and whimsy. Truly a joy of a book!
The book is a perfect escape from the seriousness of real life. After a few rough years, with lots of bad things happening in the world, I have found solace in books that are joyful and happy, particularly fantasy books where I can escape reality for a short while. Reading this book was a wonderful respite from the negative news cycle I am constantly seeing on TV and social media, and it allowed me to lose myself in the beautiful story.” —Chantelle T., 36
“This memoir in [letter] form is filled with so many heart-stoppingly beautiful paragraphs that I lost count. One about [suicidality] stood out. They wrote about ending up in the hospital: ‘The message was clear … I am not allowed to die. … [My life is] not mine; I just have custody for now, for this lifetime. It’s God’s, and if God says I can’t throw it away, then I can’t throw it away.’ I have a lot of tools in my toolbox, and lines like these give me, and remind me of, my own strength. If I’m still here, then I must not be finished.” —Anonymous
“This book helped me on my own journey of self-discovery. Just reading the summary of her story, I felt something unlock from my chest. It hit home for me. I recently came out as bisexual to my husband of 15 years and publicly as well. I’m now a 39-year-old mom who is finding that balance of stability and discovering who I am.
I found myself in the pages of Jillian’s story. Each aspect of the author’s journey fit me perfectly and made me realize that I wasn’t alone in what I felt or what I was facing. I admire her courage and her strength for stepping out to live her truth. It’s helped me live mine too and helped me continue to advocate for the LGBTQIA community. It’s even reflected in the children’s stories I write and have yet to write.” —Cassie B., 39
“I’m a Brazilian immigrant residing in Portugal, the country that once colonized and explored our land. Fariha’s book has provided me with a fresh perspective on the inaccessibility of true self-care for many marginalized individuals and colonized cultures, as well as the crucial role it plays in healing not only individuals but society as a whole.
Through her book, I have come to realize the immense challenges of achieving mental well-being and personal growth in a world driven by capitalistic motives that even seek to profit from my own healing journey. It is a complex situation, but I believe that books like this are important to see mental health through another lens. While individual stories hold significance, understanding the broader context helps us grasp why we are suffering so much. It also makes me understand in some ways that the ‘problem’ is not only with me and that we need to heal as a community.
It was very inspiring to see how she defines mental health and well-being using background ancestrality, her own journey, and the history of our society (especially not only the white and Western one). It helped me understand that self-care and wellness (in their true meaning) should be accessible to everyone. It also makes me understand that if my parents or other close people had access to self-care sooner, maybe some trauma patterns would be minimized or not exist.” —Gabriella K., 31
“A few years ago, during a quick trip to Target, I stumbled upon a book, Read This for Inspiration, by Ashly Perez. At the time, I was unfamiliar with the author, but the book cover instantly caught my attention. Since then, it has become my favorite book. Why? Well, it’s filled with quotes, anecdotes, and personal experiences shared by the author. It covers a wide range of topics, but what resonated with me the most were the quotes about self-love and the heartwarming stories about Ashly’s grandparents and their backgrounds. Ashly opens up about intimate moments with loved ones, and their stories reminded me of my own family, making me realize how fortunate and lucky I am to have them.
The book also served as a motivating force, encouraging me to persevere, embrace the present moment, love myself, pursue my dreams, and be true to who I am. Reading it made me feel understood and less alone. I could read this book over and over again without ever growing tired of it. It’s the kind of book that everyone should read—I assure you.” —Diana R., 24
“As someone in the LGBTQ+ community—I am bisexual—Glennon Doyle’s Untamed was completely liberating. Unlike Glennon, I have always embraced and accepted my sexuality. Thankfully those around me have always been supportive. However, while reading her book, I was in a heterosexual relationship I was afraid to get out of because I didn’t want to hurt the other person—[she explains a similar] situation she had with her ex in the book.
I’ve never fully seen the nuances and intricacies of sexuality and love so beautifully depicted in a text before. She explains how we CAN do hard things, and the most important thing we should do is be true to ourselves. While I was in a loving relationship, I was not living in integrity with my truest self in that partnership. She talks about accessing her ‘knowing,’ which we all have but often ignore for fear of hurting others or consequently feeling pain for making choices that are more aligned with our true, spiritual selves.
In short, the book helped me do hard things. I broke up with my boyfriend and opted to be in a same-sex relationship, which I later found is more aligned with my deepest integrity and desire.” —Yasmin C., 28
“Before 2021, I was only out to my friends and some family. I was aware of who I was for a handful of years, and yet I was absolutely terrified to be out as bisexual in the workplace. I was afraid if I came out as bi at work, it would put my job at risk. I knew I wouldn’t get directly fired, but I feared people talking behind my back or judging me for who I am and feared not being trusted with assignments.
I made the decision to be out as bisexual at the job I started in 2021. Or at least try to. I chatted with my other queer coworkers about my hesitancy to come out. I talked about how it weighed on me mentally: I felt like I was lying to everyone every day. The ‘secret’ that lived in the back of my mind made completing [tasks] difficult at times. It heightened my anxiety to be closeted at work, and I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells. I felt trapped and depressed at work. I felt like I was silencing myself and self-sabotaging both my career and the work I was producing.
As an editor, one story I worked on was about the history of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the American workforce. I went to my local library and took out several books from the last 30 or more years on [the topic].Published in 1996, Straight Jobs, Gay Lives completely changed my mindset about being out at work.
It had this line that absolutely blew me away: ‘Fear is the major enemy of gay professionals, we found. Those who summoned the courage to stand up to discrimination emerged with both their pride and their career intact. Thus, we believe, it is never too late to come out. Even after a discriminatory incident takes place, coming out may be a gay professional’s best defense.’ I struggled being out and proud—and even in 1996, the best thing you could do was to be out at work?! Are you serious?! How empowering, and how terrifying!
I felt my anxieties disappear; the weights I felt I was carrying were lifted. I was less depressed because I could be myself. I could speak up in meetings, I could be a voice for bisexual people, and I could put my best foot forward. I was actually happy and excited to go to work every day after reading that book. It completely changed my perspective and lifted my mental health because I didn’t have to hide anything about myself anymore.” —Christie C.
“I just finished reading The Girl from the Sea, a sapphic graphic novel by Molly Knox Ostertag. The protagonist, Morgan, struggles with coming out to her friends and family, and she wishes to keep her first relationship with a girl a secret. Meanwhile, her girlfriend is out and proud, and she doesn’t understand why Morgan is so afraid to be herself. Morgan learns from her girlfriend, and she ends up being unapologetically her queer self.
I struggled quite a bit with coming to terms with my bisexuality through most of my life, but seeing more media representation and connecting with other queer folks helped me feel more comfortable with myself. It opened my doors of curiosity around my identity, which I’ve been exploring ever since.” —Christie C.
“I really saw myself in Dante. I’m extremely protective of those I care about but am uncomfortable with people knowing or seeing my vulnerable, caring side. Like Dante, I like to be perceived as composed and in control. I love this story because it demonstrates the importance of cultivating community. Dante doesn’t save himself by relying only on himself. He has conversations with many people in his trusted circle that help him navigate the struggles of having a big heart in a sometimes unkind world.
This book helped my mental health because it provided examples of how important it is to ask for help within your communities when you need it. Asking for help and helping those you care about can take a lot of different forms. I loved that this book showed me that it’s not always easy, but to trust the kindness of the people who love you, whatever shape that takes.” —Dana C., 40
“This book was the first time I read about LGBTQ+ themes within the story of an Asian immigrant family. While I don’t identify as LGBTQ+, it was an incredibly touching and raw coming of age story of an Asian-American youth trying to grapple with intergenerational trauma and their own sexual identity. In my opinion as a clinician, it is a must-read if you work within the intersections of sexual identity and Asian diaspora.
This book helped my mental health by helping me realize that allowing grief and acceptance of who our parents are, in the context of their intergenerational trauma, gives us freedom to live more authentically. Their burdens are, and never should be, ours to bear.” —Jenny Wang, PhD
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