Whether or not a child identifies as LGBTQ, more parents are now educating their children about queer identity and sex. Even if they’re not queer themselves, parents are looking for books that cover queerness in a positive way.
When it comes to sex, being raised in a shame-free environment fosters healthy communication skills as children grow into adults. But nowhere is that more true than in the area of queer sex, which – as we all know – has suffered from generations of stigma. That stigma, at times codified into law like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, has real outcomes: nearly half of LGBTQ youth have seriously considered suicide, even though Gen Z (born between 1990s and 2010s) have the highest rate of people who identify as queer.
The fact is: many people are something other than straight. Also: most people have sex for reasons other than procreation. They do it for pleasure, which is not only part of being a healthy human, it’s a quality that helps kids identify what touch feels good to them, and what doesn’t. When all children are educated about queer sex and identity under the umbrella of pleasure positivity, they’re safer.
So here are seven books to add to your bookshelf. If your child is not LGBTQ, these books will help you and your family support LGBTQ friends and young people in your community. If your child is LGTBQ, these books offer an affirming education.
By Cory Silverberg
Illustrated by Fiona Smyth
For ages 3+
A colorful picture book that tells the origin story of a baby, all without gendering people or body parts. A renowned sexuality educator, Cory Silverberg writes about conception, gestation, and birth, regardless of how many people were involved, their orientation, gender or family composition.
If the baby talk you got as a kid involved the phrase, “when a Mommy and Daddy really love each other…” then this book is a refreshing departure. Instead, your child will hear things like, “not all bodies have eggs in them. So do, some do not.” Also, Fiona Smyth’s illustrations are incredibly fun.
By Sara Matilde Perry
Illustrated by Kylie A Sivley
For ages 7+
This beautifully illustrated book is grounded in the notion (and, the research!) that teaching pleasure and confidence are an integral part of a consensual society. In the opening pages, author and parent Sara Matilde Perry writes that her book “is based on the idea that pleasure education is the key to lifelong bonds based on consent and respect, to changing a culture of shame and assault, and to healthy relationships of every kind.”
With accurate info about gender identity, gender expression and self-trust, Positive Sexuality checks all the boxes for broad family conversations on sexuality, including queer identity.
By Cory Silverberg
Illustrated by Fiona Smyth
For ages 8+
Another winner by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth, Sex Is A Funny Word is a comic book populated by children and families of all orientations and gender identities. It does an equally wonderful job of showing and telling the reader that this thing we call “sex” is all about boundaries, safety, and joy.
What this book doesn’t do is cover the mechanics of sex itself. That’s OK: it’s intended to normalize a child’s curiosity about sex, all in a queer-inclusive way. A la the Netflix show Big Mouth, Silverberg helps young readers better understand their thoughts and feelings behind sex, so that they don’t feel shameful for wondering about it.
By Gayle E. Pitman
For ages 10+
For young readers who enjoy history, The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out In the Streets is a truly fascinating read. While not a graphic novel, Pitman does include lots of photographs and newspaper clippings to help the reader feel like they’re right there in 1960s New York.
A series of spontaneous demonstrations by LGBTQ folx in reaction to a police raid at Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn, the Riots are often credited as the “spark” that ignited the LGBTQ movement. History is legitimizing: when young people (and their parents) read this book, they’ll understand how LGBTQ rights were fought for by real people, not so long ago.
By Casey McQuiston
For ages 12+
In recent years, Casey McQuiston has become known as THE queer rom-com author. I Kissed Shara Wheeler is her first foray into the YA space, and with McQuiston’s clever prose and loveable characters, you often feel like you’re reading the 2020s version of a John Hughes movie – only, not so heteronormative.
Shara Wheeler is her high school’s It Girl: blonde, rich, annoyingly perfect, and second in line for valedictorian. First in line? The Daria-esque Chloe Green: an out bi character (with two awesome moms) who decides to go in search of Shara after she goes missing. Along the way, teen shenanigans ensue, with queer crushes aplenty. It’s a sheer delight to read.
By Fox Fisher & Owl Fisher
For ages 13+
From coming out to friends and family to starting hormone therapy, the Trans Teen Survival Guide was written by two trans youth activists who’ve been there, done that. And that’s a wonderful thing, as Fox and Owl Fisher both entertain and heal in this funny, informative book.
From (hilarious) real-life trans stories, to heartfelt advice on dealing with depression, the Trans Teen Survival Guide helps readers chart their journey, and answers questions on everything from pronouns to puberty, dating to dysphoria. Despite some of the heavy topics (trans teens are especially vulnerable to suicide), Fox and Owl imbue this book with tons of warmth and humor, leaving the reader feeling like, you know what? They’ve got this.
By Juno Dawson
For ages 13+
By now, This Book is Gay has reached icon status – and for good reason. A candid guide to the sexuality spectrum and what it’s like growing up LGBTQ, it covers fun, pleasure-forward topics like how to flirt, gay sex, where to meet other queer folx, and so on.
What’s especially great about This Book is Gay is that it reads like for-real pleasure advice. Yes, it spends a lot of time normalizing queer identity, but it gleefully moves on into useful skills that young queer people can apply to their romantic lives.
Enjoy filling out your family’s bookshelf with these queer-forward, pleasure-forward reads! And if you’ve got other books on this topic that you love, let me hear from you. Join the conversation over on Instagram @sexwithemily.