October is LGBT* History Month and Shmoop invites you to meet LGBT characters and writers throughout literature and history. Check out the following reads for some different perspectives on LGBT history.
*(lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender)
In Shmoop Literature
Giovanni’s Room: A controversial semi-autobiographical novel about an African-American man coming to terms with his homosexuality… in pre-Civil-Rights-Movement, nineteen-fifties America. Talk about the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Merchant of Venice: Shakespeare’s classic play about two merchants and a pound of flesh raises questions about why Antonio (one merchant) gives up so much for his beloved friend Bassanio.
The Color Purple: There’s something to be said for an extremely unfortunate black woman making the most of her situation by standing up to her dirtbag husband. Oh yeah, and running off with his mistress.
Brideshead Revisited: Meet Anthony Blanche, the literary forefather of hilariously over-the-top dandies who you might meet today on Ugly Betty or Glee.
Orlando: A classic love story about a man who falls for an androgynous Russian princess only to have his heart broken, move to Constantinople, spontaneously transform into a woman, run away with a band of gypsies, and ultimately return to England and marry a sea captain, all in the space of 4 short centuries.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: The story of a repressed man struggling with his gay identity. Interestingly, the film version (starring gay icon Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman), repressed the gay storyline due to a 1930s law (the Hays Code) that prohibited any mention of homosexuality in motion pictures.
In Shmoop Poetry
Howl: All we can say here is wowsa. It’s been fifty years, but gay Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” hasn’t lost any of its shock value – or its cultural significance. The poem’s graphic depictions of sex stirred a legal battle that launched the Beat movement into the public consciousness.
In Shmoop Biography
Tennessee Williams: Growing up gay in the American South in the 1930s wasn’t easy. Williams often explored sexual identity, repression, and homophobic elements of society in his Pulitzer Prize-winning career as a playwright.
Virginia Woolf: Woolf explored themes of bisexuality and open relationships both in her writing (see Orlando) and in her personal life.
In Shmoop Civics
Equal Protection: Wanna know why women can’t be drafted? Or why California laws about having sex with minors used to be more stringent for men than for women? Or why state laws affecting the LGBT community must meet fewer requirements than those affecting women or African-Americans? Then take a look at the history of Equal Protection and its sometimes unequal application.