Hi, if you’re new here (welcome!), rest assured that we are not. Cosmo has been battling regressive moral panic—and the censorship it can spawn—for decades. Over the years, various fringe groups have sought to censor us for printing “pornography” and “explicit content,” aka honest, informative reporting on totally normal physical intimacy and crucial sexual health topics. So you could say we are experts in defending the right to empower readers. Which is why we’re standing with the LGBTQ+ authors whose work is under fire right now from lawmakers and at least 50 groups agitating for book bans at the national, state, or local level.

madison bailey on cosmopolitan

This isn’t just about Drag Story Hour or inclusive kids’ books anymore. (Although the challenges against both, against titles like And Tango Makes Three—the award-winning, completely unscandalous illustrated tale of two male penguins raising a chick—remain absurd.) It’s not just about parents being denied a say in what their kids can and cannot read. In some parts of the country, the hysteria is preventing even fully grown adults from accessing books—for themselves—that happen to have LGBTQ+ themes.

Last year, the Patmos Library in Jamestown, Michigan, lost its taxpayer funding after staff refused to strip a handful of LGBTQ+ titles from the library’s collection. Targeted books included Gender Queer, a 2019 illustrated memoir that, as a concession to conservatives, was already shelved behind the checkout desk like a controlled substance. (The library has managed to stay open with more than $277,000 raised via GoFundMe, but some of its detractors have stepped up their efforts and are now calling for the removal of all books containing LGBTQ+ themes.) This March, conservative lawmakers in Mississippi advanced a bill aimed at combating so-called internet pornography that would in effect prohibit e-books depicting “homosexuality” or “lesbianism” (among other topics) from public schools and libraries. Meanwhile in Oklahoma, state senate Republicans passed a bill that would ban both printed and digital material from the state’s public and school libraries “that the average person age 18 or older applying contemporary community standards would find has a predominant tendency to appeal to a prurient interest in sex.” It’s easy to guess which kinds of sex those “community standards” would censor.

rodrigo cid

As crushing as the news can feel, it’s important to understand that this baseless alarmism springs from a noisy, intolerant minority. The truth is that 73 percent of U.S. adults say they oppose book bans, according to a November 2022 national survey conducted by OnePoll. Forty-three percent said they made an effort to read banned or challenged books in the previous year. And there are plenty of people actively challenging the challenges.

“Librarians on the ground are organizing, quite effectively, to push back,” says Emily Drabinski, president-elect of the American Library Association. Drabinski is openly gay and will be sending a clear message when she takes office in June: “I’m gonna have the gayest inauguration brunch in the history of libraries—it’s going to be all rainbows. Now is the time when we have to be really loud and super public about who we are.”

on figuring ourselves out

Hope Glassel (with Horse Barbie) and Attis (with Nobody Needs to Know) reading poolside.

Community involvement is crucial too, so consider joining your local branch’s resistance efforts if you haven’t already. “There are so many more of us than there are of them,” Drabinski says of the would-be censors. “I know we’re on the right side of history and I know we’re on the right side of the present. I totally believe we’re going to win.”

LGBTQ+ writing is essential not just to the queer community—as a guiding beacon of survival, wisdom, truth, and excellence—but to a general public that benefits from understanding the breadth of human experience. Sample some of that goodness on the following pages, where you’ll find stirring passages from 31 LGBTQ+ novels, memoirs, and more, most of which have roared into existence since last Pride season alone. May we be able to read freely, everywhere, and without apology.

couplets by maggie millner

Couplets: A Love Story

by Maggie Millner

$23 at Bookshop

“Everyone had the same Ikea bed.
She tied my wrists to hers, above my head.

(She liked what she called clean lines, I would learn;
her major had been architecture.)”

girls like girls

“Out of the corner of my eye, I watch Sonya kick the beach ball into the water, stripping off her shirt as she bounds into the water, the white wake of her splash shining against the red of her bikini. My stomach dips as she disappears under the water, shimmering like a mermaid when she surfaces, and then I have to look away, because if I don’t, I’m going to go as scarlet as her bathing suit.”
pretty baby a memoir

“The days got shorter and colder, and I spent hours of each one burying the queer version of myself in letters to Sam….We loved each other in those letters like we didn’t know anyone would hate us.”
the adult

“As we kissed, I thought of bicycle wheels spinning, the promise of continued motion. I thought of a pond freezing over with ice, the weight of your legs beginning to slip. I was out of breath before I remembered to breathe, and I could hardly believe that I was myself, pressed against Nora’s face.”
unsafe words

Unsafe Words: Queering Consent in the #MeTooEra

Edited by Shantel Gabrieal Buggs and Trevor Hoppe


“I don’t entertain any purity myths, and I don’t believe in the concept of sin. I see group sex as a fun weekend activity that’s better than a movie but requires a bit more preparation.”

—Alexander Cheves

wanting women writing about desire

“For so long, I had dismissed the parts of me that wanted to be an object of desire….And while I had squirmed against the butch label, that was perhaps because I also saw how much I hid behind the swaggery, masculine aspects of it to keep myself safe from rejection. When I was suddenly faced with a person who actually wanted the soft, vulnerable—dare I say feminine—parts of me, who made me feel fuckable, it took time for the old stories to sieve their way out of me.” —Amy Gall

Wanting: Women Writing About Desire

Edited by Margot Kahn and Kelly McMasters

$17 at bookshop

mrs s

“Sitting above Mrs. S, I can see her neck, her hands folding in her lap….Estuaries of neon veins, knuckles rising like moons. Nails short, a practical choice, although this too I happily convert into a concealed lesbianism. Everything is a sign. For the first time, I see her bring a finger to her mouth, as if to bite, the movement well known….She is more restless than she lets on. I pretend it is my presence. Just one quick fantasy.”
sounds fake but okay an asexual and aromantic perspective on love, relationships, sex, and pretty much anything else

“We called our story—the story of Sarah and Kayla, Kayla and Sarah—a love story. We say that because it is….Our love being purely platonic doesn’t make it any less worthy.”

Sounds Fake but Okay: An Asexual and Aromantic Perspective on Love, Relationships, Sex, and Pretty Much Anything Else

by Sarah Costello and Kayla Kaszyca

$19 at bookshop

if tomorrow doesn't come

“I lay back on my bed and stared at the ceiling while angsty lesbian songs streamed out of my phone. I cried a little, then went into the bathroom to straighten my hair, put on red lipstick, push my boobs up in my lowest-cut shirt. I only knew how to pose myself for boys like Clayton. Is this what girls liked too?”


reading gender magic
tell me i’m worthless

Tell Me I’m Worthless

by Alison Rumfitt

$17 at bookshop

“We were hot, passionate, and kept each other as safe as we could. Burning under the sun, shouting the first Pride was a riot, first Pride was a riot, where’s a brick when you need it?”

the big reveal an illustrated manifesto of drag

“If spiteful politicians were ever to drive us from the public libraries and stages, we’d still have our bars. If we were driven from our bars, we would have our parties and our parks, our bodies and lives. Part of drag’s history is the fact that we always find ways to transform the world around us as well, to make room for one another. Through drag, we are trying to shape our communities into what we need them to be: built to withstand anything and unafraid to scream for what is right.”

The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag

by Sasha Velour

$42 at bookshop

all the things they said we couldn’t have stories of trans joy

“Joy is integral to my trans experience; it is the part of me that believed my life could be different, the part of me that carries my body into the streets to protest injustice, the part of me that I am most proud of.”

All the Things They Said We Couldn’t Have: Stories of Trans Joy

by T. C. Oakes-Monger

$18 at bookshop

thin skin essays

“I remember going with J to get barbecue in Lockhart, Texas, how the woman behind the counter took one look at J’s undercut and put down her spoon, refusing to serve us. Someone else came up to help us, while she stood back with her arms crossed, staring. Later I told J what had happened, knowing she hadn’t noticed. ‘In the future,’ she said, ‘please don’t tell me when things like that happen.’ I was doing it again, acting as an agent for the fear, the threat that sought to put us in our place.”
gender magic

Gender Magic: Live Shamelessly, ReclaimYour Joy & Step Into Your Most Authentic Self

by Rae McDaniel

$26.97 at Bookshop

“If we focus only on easing suffering, we’re assuming that relief is the best thing a transgender or non-binary person can hope to achieve in their life. We lose out on the opportunity to connect on experiences like the joy of creative expression, pleasure in all its forms, laughing till we pee, and fiercely celebrating each other.”


nobody needs to know a memoir

“Learning I was intersex had opened me up to understanding myself, and sex and gender, in new and broader ways….I felt both exhausted and filled with appreciation for being able to learn more and share my story for the first time in person with others like me—others who had similar journeys.”
hijab butch blues a memoir

“There are other women like me in the Quran. Women who are uninterested in men, who are born wrong, living lives that are entirely out of their control.”
lesbian love story

Lesbian Love Story: A Memoir in Archives

by Amelia Possanza


“Through 10 years of dating women, I had rarely played the femme. Now, with this lover, I auditioned for a new part in the gendered script. I rolled on tights, clamped shut the buttons down the front of my dress, rewinding a seduction. I clomped my way through Brooklyn and across the bridge to Manhattan in a pair of low-heeled boots, clumsy as a colt. When I arrived at their East Harlem apartment, ankles intact, they lifted me off the ground and carried me into bed.”

it’s totally normal an lgbtqia guide to puberty, sex, and gender

“I started questioning if I was attracted to girls around the age of 9 or 10. I wasn’t really sure until I was around 14, so my preteen years were filled with confusion. Of course, the ‘Am I Gay?’ online quizzes surged in popularity around that time. In hindsight, those quizzes probably made me more confused—most of them asked stereotypical questions like ‘Do you wear a lot of flannels?’ and ‘Do you listen to Lady Gaga?’…The quizzes made me feel like I was faking my ‘identity crisis’ to seem more quirky. I think the fact that we even have to have those sorts of quizzes reflects how heteronormative our culture is—straight people never have to take ‘Am I Straight?’ quizzes.”

It’s Totally Normal!: An LGBTQIA+ Guide to Puberty, Sex, and Gender

by Monica Gupta Mehta and Asha Lily Mehta

$18 at bookshop

brown neon essays

“She declared to me that she would be my father. And I, her son….Big Poppa was a dapper butch dandy—someone who fought long and hard to own that identity….The butchness between us was ultimately a feeling of recognition that granted us language and confidence despite the generation between us.”
to name the bigger lie a memoir in two stories

“Coming out is a question of self knowledge, but it also is a means of speaking a self into existence. It requires honesty, and yet it’s one of the few instances in which we rarely blame the speaker if he or she lies. We say we understand if you lie, but what we mean is that we understand why you would.”

To Name the Bigger Lie: A Memoir in Two Stories

by Sarah Viren

$26 at bookshop

horse barbie a memoir

Amazon Prime

Horse Barbie: A Memoir

by Geena Rocero

$26 at bookshop

“Sometimes I second-guessed my modeling dreams. Still, I found affirmation in the fullness of my feminine expression, where I felt my power. So many voices in society had told me to act a certain way, dress a certain way, think a certain way, be a certain way. Modeling was my way of trying to define my own womanhood—to free myself from those cages.”

reading moby dyke
you’re that bitch other cute lessons about being unapologetically yourself

You’re That Bitch: & Other Cute Lessons About Being Unapologetically Yourself

by Bretman Rock

$28 at Bookshop

“It became an everyday thing: me driving my toy truck to the marketplace with my squad of sequined Barbies riding shotgun. We’d park at my auntie’s stall, and I was just that kid with his electric car and Barbies. That’s how I grew up. No one was like, ‘Oh my god, look at that gay kid with his fuckin’ Barbies in the car.’ First of all, your kids don’t have a motherfuckin’ car, let alone a motherfuckin’ Barbie, bitch.…That’s what I would have said if they had said anything.”

bellies a novel

“I’ll dance anyway, because this world is open and possible. And it’s a party without the burden of personal history, without people who knew me as a boy and, I suspect, deep down, still see me as one. I laugh. I hold hands with Deandra, another friend from my course. She’s a few years older than me. Her long black hair is in two French plaits. I sing along. Some wine spills onto the parquet floors. Carte blanche! Vita nova! Dua Lipa!”
quietly hostile essays

“I was splitting an apartment with this chaotic old gay man and neither of us could afford HBO when Sex and the City premiered, so I had to do what broke bitches did in 1998: wait for it to come out on VHS and take the tapes I bought at Circuit City to my friend Jenny’s apartment, where we sat on her floor and watched the entire season while sharing a Stouffer’s frozen lasagna. The show reflected nothing of my life but provided something of a road map for my future, planting a tiny seed in my brain that one day after Al Gore invented a little thing called the internet…maybe then I could write about my pussyhole on it.”
learned by heart

“Being with Lister is not what Eliza thought best-friendship would be: a soothing support. Lister unsettles and thrills her as if something’s about to topple from a shelf, as if a thunderstorm’s on the way.”
moby dyke

Moby Dyke: An Obsessive Quest to Track Down the Last Remaining Lesbian Bars in America

by Krista Burton


“Fuck being responsible. I wanted an adventure. I wanted drama. Goddammit, I wanted gay chaos. I had missed queers so much during lockdown, so much that I had fantasized, daily, about being surrounded by them.”

two people reading in the park
i keep my exoskeletons to myself a novel by marisa crane

I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself: A Novel by Marisa Crane

by Marisa Crane

$25 at bookshop

“You’re going to be a great mother because you’re you, you once said. We kissed and I silently thanked you for your most magnificent lie to date. I remember giving your ass a little spank to show you that I would always be fun and kinky, despite my pathologies. You didn’t react. Instead, you said, I hope our kid wants to be our friend. It would have been the saddest thing in the world if it were coming out of someone else’s mouth. Out of yours, it sounded like an incantation.”

heretic a memoir

“Coming out helped awaken me to my own erotic, but it wasn’t just about having sex with women, though that was essential to rewriting my story about pleasure. It wasn’t just learning to be in my body, though that was essential to revising my story about my own value. The erotic was ultimately about finding friendship and community with other queer people….It was rebuilding my life from the ground up, not just trying to add gay sex into an existing framework of fucked-up religiosity and capitalist striving.”
baby making for everybody family building and fertility for lgbtq and solo parents

“Once you start hormones, it seems as though society expects you to give up your chances of fertility. It wasn’t until I was around age 21 that I started to see trans families in the media. I saw a community of people that were just like me! Men who knew that they were meant to create life. I felt inspired and empowered to live my dream.” —Ezequiel Moore

Baby Making for Everybody: Family Building and Fertility for LGBTQ+ and Solo Parents

by Ray Rachlin and Marea Goodman

$18 at bookshop

a place for us a memoir

“Pulse embodied the sense of community I had discovered after moving to Orlando. It was one of the first places where I held hands with someone I had a crush on without glancing over my shoulder first, an exhilarating act of defiance that might have put me in danger almost anywhere else. It was one of the only spaces where I dared to let my guard down, to be a little messy and unpolished, unafraid of who might be watching.”
the family outing

The Family Outing: A Memoir

by Jessi Hempel


“Being queer has given us community…a group of people who experienced rejection of varying sorts and leaned into one another….In the end, it has given us our family back.”

Book research by Michelle Hart. All books quoted courtesy of the publishers.

Headshot of Erin Quinlan

Erin Quinlan is a journalist in New York City and the features director at Cosmopolitan

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