LGBTQ or not…

Book group, Reading and Society

I am a member of an LGBTQ book group. For those of you not in on the culcha, the acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer. “Queer” is kind of a catch-all for everybody on the sexuality and gender spectra who don’t feel the other labels fit. Sometimes, especially regarding teens, the Q stands for Questioning, when you’re just not sure. Sometimes you’ll see it LGBT, without the Q; or LGBTQIA, adding Intersex (which is different from transgender, having more to do with variant physiology than a gender identity that contradicts anatomy) and Allies (we love our allies!). Sometimes you’ll see GLBT or GLB, but it makes some folks politically uncomfortable to put the men (Gay) at the head of the line. Including the “B” and the “T” is important; historically, gay men and lesbians have sometimes been not only uncomfortable with but downright discriminatory towards bisexuals (“Ew, gross, you sleep with people with *those* parts?? Get away from me!”) and transgender folk (“Ew, just pick a gender! Be your parts, already!”).

With that out of the way: we’re here, we queer, we like to read and to talk about books. And we welcome straight people to join us at LGBTQ book group, cuz it’s about the books. Which, in our case, are by or about LGBTQ people.

Sometimes I wonder if having a specifically LGBTQ book group is the right thing. Do we really need a separate group? Can’t queer issues just be a natural part of any book group that’s paying attention to the human condition?

But as soon as I ask those questions, I know the answers: yes, it’s awfully nice; and no, for most groups it doesn’t work that way.

It really is nice having a book group “of our own”. I have made some very important friends through the LGBTQ book group (that seems to happen in every book group!). I really value our time together, sharing our perspectives on the material and the issues it brings up, disagreeing and laughing (also typical activities for a book group). It means something not only for us personally, but also that our local library recognizes us and makes a space for us.

They don’t, however, have a lot of our books. This is another reason why we need our LGBTQ Book Group. Books marketed for book groups typically have a specific audience in mind, and that audience is usually both female and straight. When libraries collect book group kits with multiple copies, they don’t normally do so with titles like Stone Butch Blues or And the Band Played On. For most of our group’s titles we have had to scrounge for copies. The Library Foundation has responded enthusiastically about finding funds for LGBTQ-themed book group kits, but we have been told that this will have to go through channels.

So, I love my LGBTQ book group. When (not *if*) I get hired, we almost certainly will have to move away, and the book group is one of the things we’ll really miss.