July 27, 2017
To celebrate 50 years since the decriminalisation of male homosexuality, we have asked both authors and members of the team for the moments that have meant the most to them in LGBT literature.
‘THE WELL OF LONELINESS by Radclyffe Hall: Made me howl on a coach in Turkey some 32 years ago’ Imogen Taylor, Publishing Director
‘Sometimes it feels like the T gets left out of the LGBT party. But then I think of Shakespeare. Shakespeare never makes you choose between gender identity and sexuality. Shakespeare is happy to queer the whole of it, blur all the lines, play a bit, and tell a few fabulously confused love stories along the way.
My favourite play for these games is Twelfth Night. Orsino purports to be in love with Olivia but rests assured she’ll never have him. Meanwhile he’s actually smitten with his manservant. Cesario talks to him mano a mano, jokes with him, challenges him. What’s not to love? And then — surprise! — he turns out to be female underneath, which for Orsino is a miraculous best of all possible worlds.
For Olivia, it’s a less good turn. She’s not interested in Cesario (or any other man) until he opens his mouth and offers an earthy, lusty, restless love, woman to woman, Olivia has never heard from a wooer in her life. She goes mad for this wet, wild, very female version of devotion. When it turns out later she has to make do with a truly male version of this love — Sebastian looks like Cesario, but he’s male in body and in spirit, male in clothing and underneath — we’re torn. Maybe Sebastian is Viola within. After all, this play does ask, what’s in a body? Or maybe his heart is as male as the rest of his anatomy which leaves beguiled Olivia with a poor substitute indeed.
All that gender play is baked right in. The powers-that-be shut down and shut up Renaissance theatres because boys dressing up as girls was sinful as were poor people pretending to be wealthy or citizens pretending to be kings. Forsooth, thy outside must match thy inside. Plays are queered to begin with. What you see isn’t even supposed to be what you get. That bait and switch is what you pay for. Every production is a different take on an old story, every night a different performance of the same characters. You’ve seen Twelfth Night a dozen times, and every time it’s a different play. Sometimes Olivia’s attracted to women dressed as men. Sometimes she’s attracted to men with women inside, a different thing altogether. Sometimes Orsino’s gayer than Malvolio. Sometimes it’s his manliness that makes us want to rescue Viola away for a nice cup of tea and a good talking to. Sometimes it’s his weepy, delicate femininity that so repels Olivia. Sometimes, he’s all of the above, all of it further complicated when we think of the female characters as male actors in disguise and the male characters also as actors in disguise and everyone everywhere pretending and not and acting and not and being what you expect and not.
All the world’s a stage. Different play (though, wow, speaking of men dressed up as women dressed up as men dressed up as women) but still you see my point: Shakespeare always brings the T to the party.’
Laurie Frankel, author of THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS
‘It has to be TIN MAN, an absolutely exquisite, heart-breaking novel that proves love is the universal force that binds us all together’ Amy Perkins, Editorial Assistant
Janet Mock: Janet’s memoir Redefining Realness was everything I wanted it to be – riveting, refreshing and revolutionary.
Kate Bornstein: In many ways Kate is the grande dame of ‘Gendersplaining’. Definitely an author I revisit often.
Boy George: I read Take it Like A Man when I was writing my memoir. George’s glib definitely influenced me.
Mx Justin Vivian bond: Her memoir Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels helped me through the beginning stages of my transition.
Jayne County: I borrowed a copy of Man Enough to be A Woman and never gave it back. Pulling together all the gossip from Jayne’s life in New York and Berlin, it’s absolutely scandalous.
Anna Madrigal (Tales of The City): the first time I read about a transgender woman – I was instantly captivated!
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is one of my all-time favourite books, I never get tired of reading it.’
Rhyannon Styles, author of THE NEW GIRL
‘The Art of Being Normal is unapologetically honest and extremely funny – a must-read YA novel with a shocking twist, Lisa Williamson expertly brings to life the struggles of LGBTQ teens. Couldn’t put it down’ Jen Harlow, Publicity Assistant