Kasey Keeley is a fellow queer librarian (yay!) who semi-regularly gets a heads up about my blog because when people they know find it, it makes them think of Kasey. Kasey’s a queer, non-binary person who realized they were queer—or bisexual, at the time—in high school after falling in love with their best friend. (Aww, isn’t that a cute story that may have also happened to many of us…) They realized they were non-binary in their mid-20s after a few years of intense interest and amazement at the idea of non-binary options, realizing that the fact that the idea was resonating so deeply meant their brain was trying to tell them something! They started a blog Valprehension around the same time, while also processing trauma from a previous abusive relationship “*and* … just beginning to get really into feminism.” They’ve managed to keep the blog going and are still writing today. You should definitely check out Kasey’s blog: recently they’ve written some really cool personal essays about coming out as non-binary at work, and also have an ongoing series called “the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet,” where they tackle different transphobic and misinformed shit starting with each letter of the alphabet. You should also follow Kasey on on Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook!
Here’s a look at Kasey’s reading habits, past and present. They talk about Ann-Marie MacDonald’s majestic and devastating first novel Fall on Your Knees, genderqueer books like Gender Failure, Lost Boi, and Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary, looking for books about trans people who aren’t always works-progress, what working at a public library does to your “to-read” list, and more!
What was the first LGBTQ2IA+ book(s) you remember reading? How did you end up reading it (i.e., were you searching for queer books or did you just happen across it?)
This… is a surprisingly difficult question. I don’t think I read any books with queer content before figuring out that I am queer, through a combination of not seeking it out, and also just not being exposed/having access to it. LGBTQ2IA+ books were even fewer and further between when I was younger than they are now, of course, but I was also raised Catholic, and my parents would scan through books to check for ‘inappropriate’ content, which pretty much meant anyone having sex, but also probably would have included and LGBTQ2IA+ content as well.
Anyway, I think the first book I read with queer content was Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees, which to this day is one of my favourite books ever – I even took one of my middle names from the book when I changed my name! I definitely didn’t know it had lesbian characters before reading it and I have no idea why I picked it up in the first place (it seems likely that it was recommended by that best friend I fell for, but I don’t actually remember that being a thing so who knows?)
The first centrally ‘queer’ book I read (not long after Fall on Your Knees, really!) was Joey Comeau’s Lockpick Pornography, (which you can read for free on his web site!). To this day, this book is one of the most cathartic things I have ever read. It’s such a quick read that I can pick it up whenever I am just so sick and angry about anti-queer shit and need both to have my feelings reflected and expressed really bitingly, and find a way to laugh about it. Lockpick Pornography gives me both of those things and I love it so much for that!
I kind of love that both of these are also Canadian lit, to be honest!
What is/are your favourite LGBTQ2IA+ books, and why? (Choose up to five if you want!)
Oh gosh, so there’s the two I already mentioned above, for sure! Fall on Your Knees is my favourite for reasons largely unrelated to it’s LGBTQ2IA+ content (I am a sucker for writing that manages to be beautiful while talking about ugly things, and the content of Fall on Your Knees is very, very heavy and will break your heart in a thousand places!) and I actually already described why I love Lockpick Pornography, so let’s move on to some other faves.
I think that Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary deserves to be on this list because when I first read it, it so strongly shook up my understanding of gender, in so many ways that resonated with me, that it was probably directly instrumental in my coming to understand myself as a non-binary person. I don’t think it would stand up as well if I revisited it now, but it will always have a special place in my heart anyway!
I also have to mention Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon’s Gender Failure. I saw the live show that the book was based on twice, and it made me cry both times. I love both Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote so much – two amazing queer non-binary Canadians from underrepresented parts of the country (the prairies and the Yukon, respectively) who produce achingly beautiful art, and they got together to produce this book! It couldn’t have been anything other than amazing!
Ok, just one more? Another book I read recently that I loved a lot is Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowrey. I love the way it throws you into a community where gender, sexual, and all kinds of other norms are just so alien from the mainstream, and you’re just expected to roll with it without a huge amount of context. That, and I am always a sucker for fairy tale adaptations, and the mapping of iconography from Peter Pan onto a hyper-queer, kinky, squatter commune is surprisingly perfect.
Which LGBTQ2IA+ book have you read that best reflects your experiences as an LGBTQ2IA+ person?
Gender Failure, for sure! The book focuses on the experience of failing to fit into the binary, and examines both authors’ personal journeys toward non-binary identities, and so much of it either resonates with me, or provides me with role models for who and how I want to be in the world!
Which LGBTQ2IA+ book do you wish you could read but can’t because it doesn’t exist yet?
I think what I want most of all is more books that feature LGBTQ2IA+ characters without their LGBTQ2IA+-ness being necessarily central to the plot. I want books about people who are in happy healthy queer relationships that are about the struggles they face together in figuring out life in general, (y’know the same way cisgender, straight people do!)
I want stories about trans people who aren’t in the middle of their transition, because that story has been told to death and we need more examples of what comes ‘after’. I want trans people who aren’t portrayed as perpetual works-in-progress, really. I want us to just be allowed to be and exist in fiction as so many of us do in real life.
How do you find LGBTQ2IA+ books? How easy or hard is it in your experience finding the ones that you want to read?
I mean, I work at a public library, and I look at hundreds of a books a day, so finding LGBTQ2IA+ books isn’t terribly hard for me. I am always checking out all of the new books we get in, and if they have LGBT2QIA+ content they inevitably end up on my “to-read” list (which grows much more quickly than I can read).
I definitely favour books that are written by LGBTQ2IA+ authors, because they are more likely to allow their LGBTQ2IA+ characters to be whole people who aren’t simply defined by that single characteristic that makes them ‘different’ from the norm.
Do you know other LGBTQ2IA+ readers or participate in any LGBTQ2IA+ reading communities (in person or on the Internet)? What’s it like? Why or why not?
I used to be part of a book club (formed of my friends) that focused on books by LGBTQ2IA+ and/or POC authors, which was lovely! I also recently joined the LGBTQ book club at my local public library branch, but I haven’t been to a meeting yet, so it remains to be seen how that will go, but I am excited about having a new community of people who are likely to have similar interests in and struggles with LGBTQ2IA+ portrayals in books.
Thanks for sharing with us Kasey! It was great to e-meet another queer librarian!