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Coming-out day – A reading list

In the past few decades, LGBTQ+ acceptance has come a long way. In fact, more than fifty LGBTQ+ pride parades were held worldwide in 2019. Coming out, however, is still a difficult experience for many people on a personal level. Everyone’s story is different and not everyone belongs to a clear denomination within the LGBTQ+ spectrum. That is why learning about the personal experiences of people that have struggled with coming out can be helpful, not only for LGBTQ+ people, but especially for their friends, family and loved ones. Leiden University Libraries (UBL) holds lots of titles that might be helpful in this regard.

The titles below are not exhaustive, and new works in LGBTQ+ studies emerge every year. Leiden University’s graduate students have produced dozens of new theses and dissertations on LGBTQ+ topics just last year, including the PhD thesis Savage embraces: James Purdy, melodrama, and the narration of identity by Looi van Kessel, and the MA thesis Minority Consciousness Gone Mad? Exclusion, inclusion and self-organisation of disabled LGBTI people in the Dutch and British LGBT+ and disability movements in the late twentieth century by Nina Littel. Students working from home during these unusual times should consider using the Gale Archives of Sexuality: LGBTQ History and Culture Since 1940, which the library purchased, and which provides digitized access to thousands of LGBTQ+ periodicals, some of which are Dutch.

All books below can either be accessed online or borrowed from the UBL by following the links under the book titles, or by searching our catalogue

Jonkheer mr. Jacob Anton Schorer (1866-1957): een biografie van homoseksualiteit

To start off with, the account of a Dutch homosexual during a time that LGBTQ+ acceptance in the Netherlands wasn’t even part of the discourse yet. In fact, when Jacob Anton Schorer was born, homosexuality as a word in the Dutch language didn’t exist. This biography, that is unfortunately only available in Dutch, tells the story of a man who was of great importance for gay emancipation in the Netherlands. It doesn’t just tell the life story of J.A. Schorer, but is also a history of ideas, politics and social development of homosexuality before the Second World War. It is a ‘bottom up’ history, about life, work, love and heartbreak.

The politics of passion: women's sexual culture in the Afro-Surinamese diaspora

Gloria Wekker analyses the phenomenon of mati work, a practice among the Afro-Surinamese working class in which women seek same-sex partners for mutual support. Wekker describes the lives of these women, who create alternative families, and gives an account of women's sexuality that is not limited to either heterosexuality or lesbianism. She offers new perspectives on the lives of Caribbean women, transnational gay and lesbian movements, and an Afro-Surinamese tradition that challenges conventional Western notions of marriage, gender, identity, and desire.

Shimmering images: trans cinema, embodiment, and the aesthetics of change

In this work, Leiden University researcher Eliza Steinbock introduces the new concept of ‘shimmering’; the way in which sex and gender can appear mirage-like on film. The author applies the concept of ‘shimmering’ which delineates change in its emergent form as well as the qualities of transforming bodies, images, and affects - to analyse films that span time and genre, like Georges Méliès's nineteenth-century trick films and Lili Elbe's 1931 autobiographical writings and photomontage in "Man into Woman”, as well as more recent documentaries and science fiction, pornography and experimental films.

Immigrants in the sexual revolution: perceptions and participation in northwest Europe

In the latter half of the twentieth century, two large social shifts happened in northwest Europe. Countries like the Netherlands and Denmark became increasingly multicultural with the arrival of foreign workers and (post-)colonial migrants, while feminist and sexual liberation activists were gaining significant ground. This book, written by Leiden University’s Andrew Shield, explores the wide variety of viewpoints held by immigrants about European gender and sexual cultures through accounts from primary sources like multilingual newspapers, archives of foreign worker organisations and interviews. It challenges politicians, journalists and other thought leaders to rethink the stereotypical link between immigration and sexual conservatism, misogyny and homophobia. Chapters 7 and 8 offer glimpses into the lives of Dutch queer people of colour in the 1960s-80s.

Queer crips : disabled gay men and their stories

With Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories, readers get an inside perspective on life as a disabled gay man. Queer disabled men get the chance to tell their story through a first-person narrative. Through the intimacy of one-on-one storytelling, the reader gets a new perspective on the lives of gay men with mobility- and neuromuscular disorders, spinal cord injury, deafness, blindness, and AIDS, fighting isolation from society and each other.

Coming out in Japan

This highly personal account, told from the author’s perspective, gives voice to the struggle waged by homosexuals in Japan. It describes the authors coming out to their family, friends and wider society and describes their both personal and public appeals for acceptance of their lifestyle and sexuality within Japanese culture.

Queer Singapore: Illiberal Citizenship and Mediated Cultures

Singapore remains one of the few countries in Asia that has yet to decriminalize homosexuality. Yet it has also been hailed by many as one of the emerging gay capitals of Asia. In Queer Singapore (edited by former Leiden post-doc Jun Pow), established and emerging local scholars and LGBTQ+ activists describe the rift between official policies and a tradition of sexual repression and pragmatic cultural liberalisation. Using the innovative framework of illiberal pragmatism, the authors describe the impact of homosexuality on Singapore’s media cultures and political economy, law, religion, military, literature, theatre, photography, cinema, social media and even queer commerce.

The Path to Gay Rights: How Activism and Coming Out Changed Public Opinion

This work is the first accessible, data-driven account of how the LGBTQ movement in the United States achieved its most unexpected victory, the liberalization of mass opinion on gay rights. The current academic understanding of how social movements change mass opinion, through sympathetic media coverage and endorsements from political leaders for example, cannot provide an adequate explanation for the phenomenal success of the LGBTQ movement at changing the public’s views in the United States. The book argues that these factors were not the direct cause of changing attitudes but contributed indirectly by signalling to other LGBTQ people across the United States that their lives were valued.

Global encyclopedia of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) history

This comprehensive database provides a global view of the history of LGBTQ, covering significant figures and events worldwide. With entries about more than seventy countries and extensive peer review with abundant cross referencing, the Global encyclopedia of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) history is an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to learn more about LGBTQ+ culture, history, literature, psychology, sociology and many other disciplines. The Global encyclopedia of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) history is fully accessible online through the UBL catalogue.

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