Two books to pre-order!

Two awesome bi activists have books coming out in 2021 and I can’t wait to read them!

The first is Queerly Autistic: The Ultimate Guide for Lgbtqia+ Teens on the Spectrum by Erin Ekins. This will be a vital resource for young people, especially as being autistic and LGBTQ+ is marginalised despite the fact that they frequently coincide. You can pre-order it here*.

I also highly recommend checking this out if you organise events for LGBTQ+ people. When I ran Nottingham BiTopia for example, about a 1/4 of attendees were autistic or neurodiverse.

In case you aren’t following her already, Erin’s Twitter handle is @QueerlyAutistic.

The second book is Bi the Way: The Bisexual Guide to Life by Lois Shearing from the same publisher (Jessica Kingsley Publishers). It’s described as an essential guide for anyone who is bisexual, or looking for information on bisexuality, and will cover a wide range of topics such as dating, dealing with biphobia, and gender identity. Click here to pre-order*, and you can follow Lois on Twitter at @LoShearing.

What books are you excited about? Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments!

The above images are the book covers for Queerly Autistic and Bi The Way. Both covers are words on a coloured background. Queerly Autistic is yellow writing on orange. Bi The Way is pink, purple and blue on a purpple background.

*Note: I’ve checked the publisher’s site and they are not available to pre-order there. If this changes I will swap the links so people can support them directly.

Beautiful books to add to your reading list

I have read two memoirs this year which I wholeheartedly recommend and go really well together.

The first is “We Have Always Been Here” by Samra Habib. I first heard of Samra when I attended a panel on the Desi LGBTQ+ scene at the WOW Festival in London this year. I was captivated by what she had to say and pretty much ran to the book table to buy a copy her memoir afterwards.

The cover for “We Have Always Been Here”. At first glance it shows a pattern of pink, green, orange, and turquoise shapes – which you then realise are actually the outlines of people.

Samra writes about her childhood in Pakistan and what is was like to arrive in Canada as a refugee. She had to navigate two very different cultures and later escape an arranged marriage at 16. Like many who have to move countries, and many who realise they are queer within a homophobic/Islamaphobic society, what followed was a search for her own culture and identity – and how she can inhabit her truest self.

It is beautifully written. It is moving and inspiring. It is the kind of book you hug after finishing because reading it meant so much. Months later, I still think about the author from time to time and celebrate who she is and the amazing things she has achieved. (Like this photography project on being Muslim and queer, for example.)

Next on the list is “My Life as a Unicorn” by Amrou Al-Kadhi, a British-Iraqi who struggled to fit in and find a sense of self whilst trying to satisfy the unachievable demands of both cultures. Their Muslim family instructed them to not be gay and did things like throw away their gender non-confirming clothes. Outside of home, the world treats them no better for being gay, effeminate, Muslim and born outside the UK.

Whilst funny at times, this memoir also left me feeling anger and despair at everything they have had to go through – just for existing. I am so glad Amrou found joy, healing, acceptance and themselves through drag.

I really wish this book were mandatory for everyone. Our society would be a lot better for waking up to the hell we are currently putting people through.

The book features features a pink, helium unicorn balloon on the cover, surrounded by quotes of recommendation.

One thing that really struck me from reading Amrou’s memoir was the long-lasting harm of internalised homophobia. Speaking from my own experiences, I tend to forget the damage it does because I’m used to it always being there. This reminded me how brutal it can be.

As with Samra, I admire Amrou’s strength and courage so much. Especially when, towards the end of the book, they confront their parents about their homophobia. Something which all of us in similar situations have imagined doing at some point.

I only finished reading this last night but I am sure that months later I will still think about Amrou too, and celebrate who they are and the amazing things they have achieved.

“For my entire life you have made me feel so bad for being gay and for being myself. You told me I was the source of your unhappiness. Well you know what, you are the source of mine…

…Unless you are willing to apologise for what you have put me through, I have nothing to say to you.”

Amrou Al-Kadhi

Straight washed history

Recently I went to one of my favourite places in London, the Imperial War Museum! Within seconds of walking in I was raiding the bookshop. One book by Stephen Bourne caught my eye. ‘Fighting Proud’ looks at the gay men who served in the armed forces or contributed to the war effort on the home front in World War I and World War II.


The image shows the book cover, which features a photo of two men in uniform embracing.

After just 10 pages I had to put the book down for a while because it invoked such a strong reaction in me. In the preface Bourne writes “In the 1970s I was completely unaware that, as a gay teenager, I had a history.” He then goes on to write that finding a book in the library changed that, and taught him that gay men had existed in the past.

I can relate to that feeling so strongly. Growing up and going to school under Section 28 meant that I only learned about LGBTQ+ issues and LGBTQ+ history by myself, looking up and reading about whatever I could after I had left secondary school. It’s hard to look up what you don’t know about though. And you can’t educate yourself on what you never think to search.

In the first few pages of Fighting Proud I learned that Wilfred Owen, the well known First World War soldier, was gay. WHAT?! How did I not know this sooner?! Siegfried Sassoon was too!

I feel shocked, angry, and cheated by the education system. Like nearly everyone in the UK, I studied their war poetry in my English lessons. This important part of who they were was never mentioned. (Although I’m not sure if this was directly because of Section 28, or whether the syllabus in general was ‘straight-washed’ and this part of their identity was conveniently not mentioned by teachers or the textbooks.)

I also learned that a play I studied in English called ‘Journey’s End‘ contains a lot of homoerotic subtext. Its original director James Whale was gay and the author R C Sherriff is thought to have been gay too.

In another chapter of Fighting Proud Bourne writes about Lord Kitchener. Again, another prominent figure in British history. Even if you don’t recognise the name or know he was a military leader in the First World War, you’ve probably seen his face on the famous recruitment poster. (The one where he points towards the viewer with the caption “Your country needs you.” written underneath.)

As is often the case in history there is no concrete evidence of Lord Kitchener’s sexuality. However he did live with a younger man, Captain Oswald ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald, for 9 years. Again after reading this I felt shocked, angry, and cheated about what little I had been taught in history class.

Perhaps it’s worth pondering at this point whether someone’s sexuality matters. After all, it’s not relevant to their war poetry, playwriting skills, or ability to lead to lead the troops to victory, is it? We still learn about them and their achievements all the same, don’t we?

But it matters to LGBTQ+ people. Without this knowledge we grow up not knowing the lives and stories of those who came before us. I hope it’s different for younger LGBTQ+ people out there today, but for the pre-internet and pre-social media generation this straight-washing of education meant growing up thinking you were the only one. That you were abnormal. New. A seed rather than something with roots to ground you and show you your place within the world. You grew up without role models. Without knowing that people like you have achieved amazing things and have been remembered in history for them. (Or in Kitchener’s case, a controversial figure rightly criticised for a lot of horrific stuff too.)

And everyone else grows up thinking LGBTQ+ people never existed in the past either. That being queer or trans is wrong and abnormal when actually, we’re really common! There’s thousands and millions of us! And lo and behold, the harmful myths and prejudices against LGBTQ+ people continue. So does the higher rates of violence, hate crime, and discrimination. Plus higher rates of mental health problems compared to the general population.

All this time there was so much I never knew. I never fully appreciated how robbed I was by the straight-washing of history until now, and this is just one small section of history from one book.

Without consciously realising it I had thought that everything I studied in school was ‘straight’ and I just had to accept it. But I don’t think that way any more, because now I know that I was denied my truth and I was lied to.

I’ve mentioned the well known folk from history in this blog post, however Fighting Proud is full of other previously untold stories. Thank you Stephen Bourne for bringing them into the spotlight where they belong.

Bi Activism: For Those Who Like Reading

If you haven’t already seen it, please check out my
Intro to Bi Activism

Activism to do with books and stuff

  1. Google books by bi authors.
  2. Google books with bi characters in.
  3. Buy some!
  4. Or you can also ask your local library to order these books in for you
  5. Whilst there, look to see if they have an LGBTQ+ section. If not ask them to make one. If yes, is it labelled wisely or just called ‘Gay Books’?! Could they make a better label?
  6. Suggest bisexual related books they could order in for their (new) LGBTQ+ section. How about Purple Prose?
  7. Repeat steps 4, 5, 6 with your local book shops.
  8. If you think the library or book shop might say no, spend an hour looking up how many LGBT people are in your area, include that figure when you contact them. Explain we want to consume the books but can’t if they won’t stock them! Explain how much it will benefit us (wellbeing) and them (profits/increased readership) if they diversify their inventory.
  9. Did you enjoy any of the books you read after you Googled them? Share recs with friends and on social media.
  10. Contact the author to let them know!
  11. Contact the publisher to say it was ace – and you want more books like ’em.
  12. Follow all the cool, amazing writers you discover on social media. Sign up to their newsletters. Share their tweets. Attend their events and book signings. Make fanart. Write fanfic. Get a t-shirt with their book title/character on it.
  13. Did you come across any problematic content in a book? Were parts of it racist? Biphobic? Did it have one trans character in, who only existed as a victim of violence? Etc. Etc.  :/  If you have time and spoons contact the author and explain the problem and ask them to write differently in the future.
  14. Do you have an LGBT Centre in your area? Do they have a bookshelf of fiction and non-fiction that people can borrow? Repeat steps 4, 5 & 6!
  15. Is the LGBT Centre claiming to have no money for bisexual things? Tell them bi people outnumber gay and lesbian people they are letting down a majority of service users by not doing anything for bi people. Tell them bi people have worse physical and mental health than gay and lesbian people, which is in part caused by a lack of services and resources for them.
  16. Could your university/library/workplace/LGBT centre etc take out a subscription to Bi Community News (BCN)?
  17. Could you?
  18. If you write to BCN and ask for flyers they will send you some. You can distribute them around your area.
  19. Seeing as you’re now in contact with BCN, you could also write a book review for them of something you’ve enjoyed recently.
  20. Speaking of book reviews, maybe you could start a blog on bi books/bi authors?
  21. Google publishers.
  22. Is their catalogue lacking in diversity? Email them and ask for more books with LGBT characters, more books by bi writers, BAME writers, trans writers, disabled writers….heck even writers who are women! A lot of publishers aren’t doing a good job on that front either.
  23. Google LGBT publishers.
  24. Do they have any bi or trans stuff or is it just ‘Gay’ and ‘Lesbian’? If it’s a GL heavy zone return to step 22.
  25. Do you like zines? Are there any zine fairs in your area? Do they have a diverse array of stall holders or is it a straight blizzard in there? If yes, contact the organisers and ask ’em to sort it out. (Credit to @applewriter for this one.)
  26. Attend your local zine fair. Chat to zine makers. Talk about their stuff with them. BUY their zines. Repeat step 12!
  27. Are there any LGBT Book Awards out there? If so, nominate the books and authors you like. Vote for them if they are shortlisted.
  28. I personally haven’t been able to face DIVA again after reading all the biphobic content they used to print in the past. But they exist. Maybe they’re better now? Maybe you’ll like them?
  29. Damn I was so close to 30. Is there anything else I should add to this list?
  30. Thank you for reading and send me your bi book recs. Thanx.

bi books

Sketch of pile of books, purple background!