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One of the things I love the most about comics is the huge range of stories they can tell. I love a graphic novel, and I love a graphic brief. But sequential art is much more than that! Visual storytelling is a wonderful way to explore complicated topics. It is a great tool for teaching history. It’s a fantastic way to experience the world and to get acquainted with new topics, people, and ideas. Taking a big volume of history, a dense biography, or an academic text can be intimidating, even if the topic interests you. But picking up a non-fiction comic isn’t that scary.
These ten queer non-fiction comics cover a range of topics, styles, and genres. Looking to learn more about queer history? There is a comic for that! Interested in an anthology of comics that explores a particular topic in depth, from various angles? It’s understood. Are you looking for a thesis that is not only a thesis, but also touches on history and philosophy? To verify. Have you always been curious about queer theory but been too intimidated to pick up a book about it? Don’t worry: comics to the rescue!
These books have taught me so much about queer life and history. They also serve as wonderful stepping stones. Quite often, non-fiction comics function as doors into my reading life. I pick up a comic about something that I never would have chosen a non-comic, and suddenly I’m mesmerized and find myself reading all kinds of other wonderful books that I didn’t know I had. need. Consider yourself warned.
Queer: a graphic story by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele
Don’t be fooled by the cover! This is not a book on queer history, but an academic introduction to the field of queer theory. It covers a lot of ground, offering mini-introductions to a range of topics. You’ll learn about influential queer thinkers like Judith Butler and Alfred Kinsey, the origins of queer theory as an academic field, and more. It’s a lot of information, which might sound intimidating, but the illustrations help break down the big concepts.
A quick and easy guide to queer and trans identities by Maddy G. and JR Zuckerberg
This is a short, fun, and very readable collection of comics about queer and trans identities – exactly what the title says! It covers the differences between gender identity and sexuality, relationship navigation, coming out and more. It’s not meant to be comprehensive (no book can ever cover all aspects of queer and trans identities!), But it’s informative, affirmative, and clear.
How to be an ace by Rebecca Burgess
It’s a memoir, but it’s also a wonderfully informative book on asexuality. Rebecca Burgess shares their experiences of growing up without words to express their own identity and their journey that comes out like an ace. It’s funny, touching, and clever – a perfect blend of personal storytelling and commentary on cultural norms around gender, sex, and desire. And because Burgess seeks to learn a lot about asexuality, readers end up learning a lot too.
Be gay, do comics Edited by Matt Bors
This anthology brings together the work of over 30 LGBTQ + cartoonists and comic artists, and they all have something different to say about queer life. It’s a beautifully diverse collection, with contributors from many ages, genders, sexualities, and races. There are a few personal stories, but there are also a lot of comics exploring aspects of queer history, current queer politics, activism, art, and more. And the art styles are all so different, making it always an engaging read.
I am a wild seed by Sharon Lee De La Cruz
This is another brief, but it is not just a brief. In order to better understand herself and her place in the world, De La Cruz turns to queer history. She examines how white supremacy and heterosexism impacted her understanding of her own homosexuality, then turns to her queer and trans colored ancestors to begin dismantling these systems in her life. It’s a beautifully illustrated and powerful personal journey, as well as a mini history lesson and celebration of the work and wisdom of queer and trans activists, authors and artists.
Our work is everywhere by Syan Rose
Reading this beautiful collection of oral histories and interviews is like sitting down with a group of queer and trans artists, healers and activists, and listening to them talk about what inspires them, puts them in the spotlight. anger, feeds them. The art is truly unique – each page looks like its own piece of art. Here you’ll find stories about ancient wisdom, the power of queer tarot, self-help organizations, community gardening initiatives, radical wealth redistribution and more. It’s an inspiring book bursting with LGBTQ + sparkle and creativity.
Special Topics in Being a Human by S. Bear Bergman and Saul Freedman-Lawson
It’s not a history book, and it’s not a dissertation, but it’s definitely not fiction, and it’s delightfully informative and useful, so it has a place on this list. In this warm, funny, and loving advice book, Bergman shares many valuable lessons on how to be human in the world. There’s a chapter on how to apologize, a section on things you’re not good at, and lots of wonderful relationship advice of all kinds (including your relationship with yourself). Bergman’s approach to life is radical and feminist, and her gentle, supportive guidance centers queer and trans lives and experiences. The illustrations are also wonderfully inclusive.
Incarnate: An Anthology of Intersectional Comic Book Poetry Edited by Wendy Chin-Tanner and Tyler Chin-Tanner
Is poetry fiction? I’m not sure, but this book is so unique and wonderful that I think it deserves a place on this list. It is a collection of poems by women and non-binary poets; each poem is illustrated by a different cartoonist. The poems cover a range of subjects and styles, although many of them explore gender and sexuality. Each artist has their own style, and it’s fascinating to see how they interpret each poem. Poems come to life in different ways in the imagination of every artist.
The secret of superhuman strength by Alison Bechdel
This is another memory-hybrid. Bechdel uses exercise as a lens to examine his life. She tells stories about the various physical activities she has been obsessed with at different ages and reflects on how fitness and outdoor activities have shaped her identity. But, although the book is personal, Bechdel is also interested in the world outside herself. She explores the lives of Transcendentals and Romantics (especially William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy), the history of exercise, a variety of fitness fads, and various schools of philosophical thought.
Comics for choice Edited by Hazel Newlevant
This anthology is not explicitly queer, but it does contain many pieces from queer and trans contributors. It’s a collection of abortion comics, and it’s packed with personal stories about people who have abortions, as well as tons of informative comics about abortion providers, healthcare, the justice system. reproductive and history of access to abortion. Many comics, whether it’s a dive into abortion history or a personal story, also explore mental health, family, relationships, racial and economic justice, and more. Overall, this is a powerful anthology that highlights the importance of self-determination and access to abortion for all.
Looking for more queer non-fiction comics? Discover these 9 sapphic graphic memories! And if you’re looking for non-fictional comics in general, why not check out these great graphic briefs or fantastic YA non-fictional comics?