Most listicles like this are filled with books that the author hasn’t read. But I can assure you that I have read each of these gay memoirs from start to finish and loved them immensely. They are exquisite narratives that reach deep into the heart of queer life.
The best part about these gay memoirs is how they challenge the current queer literary landscape, revealing the raw truth of male sexuality. This is vastly different from the privileged coming out stories we’ve seen in fictional works like Call Me By Your Name and Love, Simon. Don’t get me wrong, they are masterpieces in their own right, but not everyone gets an easy coming out story.
And hey, being a gay man ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!
Later: My Life at the Edge of the World by Paul Lisicky
Later: My Life at the Edge of the World is a memoir that focuses on place. Particularly the seaside suburb of Provincetown.Because it’s here where Paul bloomed into his own sexuality and found love.
There’s something special about how Paul relates to Provincetown (or Town, as he calls it) that brings me to a reverie about my own hometown and growing up gay there. How it moulded me, how it shaped my beliefs, how it brought truths to the surface.
Of course, Campbelltown, New South Wales is quite different from Provincetown, Massachusetts. For one, not many people would ever construe Campbelltown as a gay haven, but simple suburbia, filled with many faces and many lives. A multicultural complex. But, dare I say that Campbelltown taught me more than enough about my sexuality. And thanks to Paul Lisicky’s memoir, I was able to revive some particular memories.
In this cleverly scattered memoir – filled with hundreds of perfectly-timed jigsaw pieces – Paul digs through the early 90s and the AIDS epidemic that took place. He positions the memoir in Provincetown, the haven and sometimes final resting place for many gay people back then.
It’s highly recommended for every gay man – whether old or young – to either reminisce or understand or both. And even for anyone else wanting to bathe in the queer community, to gain unique insights into living as a gay man.
Desire: A Memoir by Jonathon Dollimore
Desire: A Memoir is a deep rumination of a past life, given by the well-versed queer academic Jonathan Dollimore. He explores the overarching theme of desire through his coming of age during the late 80s and early 90s – where he traversed the gay hubs of New York, Brighton and Sydney. With brutal honesty, Jonathan uncovers his attraction to risk, his intensely lucky escapes, his battle with depression and suicide, and “the life of desire haunted and torn by loss.”
Jonathan is a gifted writer and an evocative storyteller. He is not afraid to say what he thinks, offering nuggets of wisdom that shoot through the page. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will ruminate alongside one of the greatest critics of politics, literature and sexuality.
This memoir is predominately a queer story, but I think there’s much to learn here for any persuasion. Especially regarding desire.
Boy Erased by Garrard Conley
Boy Erased is a fresh perspective that goes against the recent privileged coming out stories like Love, Simon and Call Me By Your Name, while indifferently poking a finger at religion.
At age 19, Garrard Conley was outed to his parents in the cruellest of ways. His parents gave him the ultimatum of either attending a church-run conversion therapy program or risk losing everything: his family, his friends and his faith.
The expectation that Garrard would emerge as a heterosexual man, freed from impure urges and thoughts, instead became a battle between his true self and the identity that those around him wanted him to be. Through this memoir, Garrard expresses the emotional torture that comes from conversion therapy, along with the conflicted mind that screams for peace and the power of knowledge that saved him.
Perhaps the greatest thing about this book is how indifferently it treats religion, by giving it respect while equally painting it with contempt. Garrard understands that not every religious person agrees with these practices that aim to cure the world of whatever it dislikes. He knows there are good people in this world who happen to believe in God. But he reminds us that we must remain vigilant because even in 2021 there are people who still think gays can be cured.
So there you have it! Three great gay memoirs you must read. Do you know any great gay memoirs that should be on this list? Let me know below!