One of the things I enjoy most about comics is the sheer range of stories they can tell. I love a graphic novel, and I love a graphic memoir. But sequential art is so much more than that! Visual storytelling is a wonderful way to explore complicated subjects. It’s a great tool for teaching history. It’s a fantastic way to learn about the world and to familiarize yourself with new topics, people, and ideas. Picking up a massive history tome or a dense biography or an academic text can be daunting, even if you’re interested in the subject matter. But picking up a nonfiction comic isn’t quite as scary.
These ten queer nonfiction comics cover a range of subjects, styles, and genres. Looking to learn more about queer history? There’s a comic for that! Interested in a comics anthology that explores one particular subject in depth, from a variety of perspectives? Got that. Looking for a memoir that’s not just a memoir, but also touches on history and philosophy? Check. Have you always been curious about queer theory but been too intimated to pick up a book about it? Never fear: comics to the rescue!
These books have taught me so much about queer life and queer history. They also serve as wonderful jumping-off points. So often, nonfiction comics function like doors in my reading life. I pick up a comic about something I never would have picked up a non-comic about, and suddenly I’m fascinated, and find myself reading all sorts of other wonderful books I didn’t know I needed. Consider yourself warned.
Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele
Don’t be fooled by the cover! This isn’t a book about 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 such as Judith Butler and Alfred Kinsey, the origins of queer theory as an academic field, and a whole lot more. It’s a lot of information, which can feel intimidating, but the illustrations help break down big concepts.
A Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities by Maddy G. and J.R. 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, navigating relationships, coming out, and a whole lot more. It’s not meant to be comprehensive (no book could ever cover every aspect of queer and trans identities!) but it’s informative, affirming, and clear.
How to be Ace by Rebecca Burgess
This is a memoir, but it’s also a wonderfully informative book about asexuality. Rebecca Burgess shares their experiences of growing up without the words to express their own identity, and their journey coming out as ace. It’s funny, moving, and smart — a perfect blend of personal narrative and commentary on the cultural norms around gender, sex, and desire. And because Burgess sets out to learn a lot about asexuality, the readers end up learning a lot, too.
Be Gay Do Comics Edited by Matt Bors
This anthology collects the work of over 30 LGBTQ+ cartoonists and comics artist, and they all have something different to say about queer life. It’s a beautifully varied collection, with contributors of many ages, genders, sexualities, and races. There are some personal stories, but there are also lots of comics exploring aspects of queer history, current queer politics, activism, art, and more. And the art styles are all so different, which makes for a continually engaging read.
I’m A Wild Seed by Sharon Lee De La Cruz
This is another memoir, but it’s not just a memoir. 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 have impacted her understanding of her own queerness, and then looks to her queer and trans ancestors of color in order to begin dismantling those systems in her life. It’s a beautifully illustrated and powerful personal journey, as well as a mini history lesson, and a 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 feels likes sitting down with a bunch of rad queer and trans artists, healers, and activists, and listening to them talk about what inspires them, angers them, fuels them. The art is truly unique — each page feels like its own work of art. Here you’ll find stories about ancestral wisdom, the power of queer tarot, mutual aid organizations, community gardening initiatives, radical wealth redistribution, and so much more more. It’s an inspiring book spilling over with LGBTQ+ brilliance and creativity.
Special Topics in Being a Human by S. Bear Bergman and Saul Freedman-Lawson
This is not a history book, and it’s not a memoir, but it’s definitely nonfiction, and it’s delightfully informative and useful, so it gets a spot on this list. In this warm, funny, and tender book of advice, Bergman shares many valuable lessons about how to be a human in the world. There’s a chapter on how to apologize well, a section on doing things you’re not good at, and lots of wonderful advice on relationships of all kinds (including your relationship with yourself). Bergman’s approach to life is radical and feminist, and his gentle, encouraging advice centers queer and trans lives and experiences. The illustrations are also wonderfully inclusive.
Embodied: An Intersectional Comics Poetry Anthology Edited by Wendy Chin-Tanner and Tyler Chin-Tanner
Is poetry nonfiction? I’m not sure, but this book is so unique and wonderful that I think it deserves a place on this list. It’s a collection of poems by women and nonbinary poets; each poem is illustrated by a different comic artist. The poems cover a range of subjects and styles, though many of them explore gender and sexuality. Each artist has their own style, and it’s fascinating to see how they interpret each poem. The poems come alive in different ways in each artist’s imagination.
The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel
This is another memoir-hybrid. Bechdel uses exercise as a lens through with to examine her life. She tells stories about the various physical activities she’s been obsessed with at various ages, and reflects on how fitness and outdoor activity has shaped her identity. But, though the book is personal, Bechdel is also interested in the world outside of herself. She explores the lives of the transcendentalists and the Romantics (especially William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy), the history of exercise, a whole slew of fitness fads, and various schools of philosophical thought.
Comics for Choice Edited by Hazel Newlevant
This anthology isn’t explicitly queer, but it does contain many pieces by queer and trans contributors. It’s a collection of comics about abortion, and it is full of personal stories about people getting abortions, as well as tons of informative comics about abortion providers, health care, reproductive justice, and the history of abortion access. Many of the comics, whether a deep-dive into abortion history or a personal story, also explore mental health, family, relationships, racial and economic justice, and more. As a whole, it’s a powerful anthology that highlights the importance of self-determination and abortion access for everyone.
Looking for more queer nonfiction comics? Check out these 9 sapphic graphic memoirs! And if it’s nonfiction comics in general you’re after, why not check out these excellent graphic memoirs, or these fantastic nonfiction YA comics?