International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia: May 17, 2021

May 12, 2021 | Ames

Comments (2)

On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization decided to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 2004, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (sometimes abbreviated as IDAHOT) was established as May 17, every year, in recognition of this historic date. The goal of IDAHOT is to draw attention to the discrimination still experienced by LGBTQ2S+ people today. LGBTQ2S+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or two-spirit. This acronym is meant to represent all people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or reproductive characteristics. Not every identity or orientation included has a letter in the acronym, such as pansexual or asexual.

You can learn more about these diverse orientations and identities and terms used by and for them through:


While progress has been made since 1990, there's still a great deal to be done. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) by the American Psychiatric Association removed "homosexuality" as a mental disorder in 1973. But "gender identity disorder" was actually added to the DSM in 1994, and it wasn't removed until 2013! Now, patients are diagnosed with "gender dysphoria" if they feel "distress at the mismatch between their identities and their bodies."

This map (created in May 2020) shows the 70 countries in which it is still illegal to be gay / homosexual. In some cases, being gay is still punishable by the death penalty.

What can you do to help? Here are a few ways:


Another way to be an ally is to develop your empathy for the challenges and discrimination that LGBTQ2S+ people still face. Some studies have shown that reading, even reading fiction, can help increase empathy and decrease prejudice. It allows us to see from someone else's perspective and be more considerate of their experiences. So here are some recommended books from TPL LGBTQ2S+ staff and allies to get started with. If you are taking part in the TPL Reading Challenge, we've included category suggestions for some of these titles.



Rubyfruit jungle

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Rubyfruit Jungle is a coming of age story about an unabashed lesbian, Molly Bolt growing up in 1940s into 1970s America. Its both hilarious and heartbreaking as Molly embraces her sexual identity from a young age while facing adversity from multiple directions. This can be an inspiring read for those looking to understand homophobia at the personal and societal level since this book reflects issues that still exist today. Content Warning: Multiple times throughout the novel, character dialogue includes racist and homophobic slurs as wells as stereotyping.

TPL Reading Challenge category:

  • A book about growing older

– Des'Ree, Public Service Assistant

Fierce femmes and notorious liars

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir by Kai Cheng Thom

The queer coming-of-age phantasmagoria you didn't know you needed. Kai's vivid and passionate hopes for the safety and joy of trans girls and women everywhere explode on the page like fireworks of glass shards and pixie dust. In this utterly unique work of magical realism, a young Asian trans girl (self-described kung-fu expert and pathological liar) runs away from home in order to manifest her true self, and in so doing finds her chosen family. Part vigilante-justice revolution, part surreal, poetic memoir, this book is devastating, tender, unexpected, necessary and full of fierce femme magic.

This book is also available as a digital audiobook, read by the lovely and talented Adri Almeida.

  • A book by or about someone you'd like to meet
  • A book about someone unlike yourself
  • A book about growing older
  • A book about love (not just the romantic kind)
  • A book in a genre you've never read before

– Andrea, Librarian

47000 beads

47,000 Beads by Koja and Angel Adeyoha 

This is an excellent picture book about Peyton, a child who does not want to dance because she feels uncomfortable wearing a dress. It's a touching story about Peyton's extended family coming together to make a pow-wow costume that is as unique as Peyton. Keep tissues on hand.

It could be used for these TPL Reading Challenge categories:

  • A book that made you feel comforted or hopeful
  • A book by two or more authors
  • A children's book by an LGBTQ2S+ author

– Kate, Librarian

The vanished birds

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

It's a highly enjoyable space opera featuring a vibrant cast of characters. It's got a bit of everything in it: romance, action, drama and it is written in a style that makes it hard to stop turning the page. It's set in the future, so can definitely cover that part of the reading challenge, but it also is a book about growing older.

For those working on TPL Reading Challenge advanced categories, it easily slots into the multiple categories, including being a debut novel and a book about love.

– Michael, Librarian

Notes of a crocodile

Notes of a Crocodile by Miaojin Qiu

This adult fiction novel is written by a Taiwanese author on the themes of coming of age, lesbianism, and Taiwanese history. A girl in love with another woman, receives no affinity, and turns to her circle of queer misfit friends for support. People would like to read this book as an insight to countercultural expectations, social defiance and liberation. The author has received Short Story Prize and United Literature Association Award for her past works prior to her suicide.

– Aimïeh, Librarian



We have always been here

We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib

This memoir shares the experiences of a young queer Muslim, coming of age in Pakistan and then later on in Canada. Samra recounts a childhood spent hiding – first in Pakistan, hiding from extremists, and again in Canada hiding her queerness. Her writing is beautiful, especially the parts about finding her people.

TPL Reading Challenge categories:

  • A book about your heritage or culture
  • A book about someone unlike yourself
  • A debut book
  • A book that is narrative non-fiction

– Nalini, Senior Branch Head

Why be happy when you could be normal

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

This book is a memoir (of sorts) of Jeanette Winterson. Winterson is the author of the lesbian classic Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. The book delves into the pain of growing up as an adopted child, living with her extremely abusive, religious mother, and finding her voice as not only a lesbian but also as a writer and lover of books. I think many LGBTQ2S+people can identify with "rewriting the hurt", physical, mental or emotional. We all have had to create our own stories and find our own identities within a heteronormative society.

One of my favourite lines from the book is:

"There are markings here, raised like welts. Read them. Read the hurt. Rewrite them. Rewrite the hurt."

– Norine, Senior Public Service Assistant

The times I knew I was gay

The Times I Knew I Was Gay by Eleanor Crewes

This is a highly relatable graphic novel memoir – whether you're gay or not! It's in turns sweet and hilarious. Eleanor reinvents herself multiple times throughout the book as she works to figure out who she is and what she wants in life. Like Eleanor, I never had a single "aha!" moment. It's been a slow process, figuring out who I am. I'd recommend this book for ages 15 and up.

TPL Reading Challenge categories:

  • A book about growing older
  • A book that made you feel comforted or hopeful
  • A debut book
  • A book that is narrative non-fiction
  • A book about love (not just the romantic kind)

– Ames, Librarian

Gender Queer

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

This deeply personal graphic memoir by Maia Kobabe is a cathartic journey of self-identity and self-discovery. Maia uses Spivak pronouns (E/Em/Eir). E is queer, nonbinary and asexual. Eir experiences grappling with coming out to family, friends, and society is a tender personal journey, but the book also serves as a guide to gender identity and the vast multitudes we contain as living beings on this Earth. I truly believe it will make a better human of anyone who reads it!

TPL Reading Challenge categories:

  • A book about someone unlike yourself
  • A book about growing older
  • A debut book

I'm afraid of men

I'm Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

Every human should read this book. At 96 pages, you wouldn't think a volume so slight could contain such wisdom, but Vivek is a brilliant writer with a clear message and vision. As a trans woman and artist, Vivek is in a unique position to comment on the dangers of performative/toxic masculinity, as it has been both expected of, and inflicted upon her. What I love most about this beautiful book is that it explores possibilities for a world in which we all live as our most authentic selves without fear. This is a work to open doors and minds; a work to dismantle the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia; a work to be deeply cherished.

TPL Reading Challenge categories:

  • A book by or about someone you'd like to meet
  • A book by or about someone unlike yourself

– Andrea, Librarian

Queer progress

Queer Progress: From Homophobia to Homonationalism by Tim McCaskill

This book chronicles the history of LGBT2S+ activism in Toronto specifically, moving from the 1970s to World Pride in 2014. The accounts are incredibly detailed, and contextualized a lot of the struggle for LGBT people in Toronto within other social movements such as disability and labour activism. The book also does a really great job unpacking events that were considered ‘wins’ by many in and outside the community to discuss who they benefited and who they harmed and how. It’s my go-to recommendation for those looking for a primer on LGBT history in Toronto.

– Marta, Librarian

Rebent Sinner

Rebent Sinner by Ivan Coyote.

All Ivan's books are excellent, but this latest is a great read for young people who may be struggling with their own identity. Ivan has been there, done that, and writes about their thirty-year journey with feeling. I recommended this book to an elderly person who was trying to understand and support a grandchild, and I received heartfelt thanks.

TPL Reading Challenge Categories:

  • A book about growing older
  • A book that is narrative non-fiction
  • A book about someone I'd like to meet!

– Vivien, Branch Head

In the dream house

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

This memoir recounts Machado’s own experience in an abusive lesbian relationship in a unique and innovative format. Each chapter is structured by a narrative tradition (haunted houses, erotica, choose your own adventure). This memoir is a deeply personal reflection but also asks the question of why abuse in queer relationships is still rarely discussed or studied. It both pulls at your heart strings and punches you in the gut.

TPL Reading Challenge categories:

  • A book about someone unlike yourself
  • A book by or about someone you'd like to meet

– Katelyn, Librarian

Tomorrow will be different

Tomorrow Will Be Different by Sarah McBride

Imagine being unable to go into a public restroom without breaking the law, or unable to change your sex on your ID, or unable to keep a job or find housing. Imagine being vilified, ostracized, beaten up, and an object of fear. These are the issues that Sarah and other trans activists have been fighting for. In Tomorrow Will Be Different, Sarah McBride shares her personal story and her political activism for trans rights. This book made me cry several times, and was both inspiring and heartbreaking. In January 2021, Sarah became a Democratic member of the Delaware Senate. She is also the National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.

My favourite quote from the book is:

" ...each time we ask anyone – whether they are transgender, Black, an immigrant, Muslim, Native American, gay, or a woman – to sit by and let an extended conversation take place about whether they deserve to be respected and affirmed in who they are, we are asking people to watch their own life pass by without dignity or fairness. That is too much to ask of anyone."

This is someone who I would definitely love to meet (for a TPL Reading Challenge category!)

– Lucas, Librarian

Fun home

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

This is an extremely well-written and popular graphic novel. It is Alison Bechtel's memoir of growing up in her family. There are many strange details in her story as the plot twists and turns. These include as her mother's grad student days, the family funeral home business, her dad's home improvement adventures and more.

– Linda, Librarian


Movies and Documentaries

Reading isn't the only way to experience other perspectives and develop empathy and understanding. Here are some recommended movies and documentaries to watch.



Set amid the AIDS crisis, 1985 is a story revolving around a closeted gay man visiting his somewhat estranged family during the holidays. It’s a familiar premise, but it’s so intimate and beautiful in its bittersweetness. The family members all have secrets of their own, some bigger than others, and though nothing comes together tidily in the end, there is a glimmer of hope for some. Watching it, I could appreciate how much has changed in respect to our understanding of AIDS over time, but also recognize all the ways in which some things haven’t changed at all – like the pain of searching for acceptance and the toll of holding a heavy truth inside.

Boy Erased

Boy Erased (DVD), based on a memoir with the same title

Based on a true story, Boy Erased is an eye-opening glimpse of conversion therapy, a practice wherein non-cisgender and hetero-divergent people are singled out and subjected to cruel, scarring, and humiliating treatment attempting to change their sexual identity, attraction, gender expression and/or gender identity. As chilling as it is to think of families leaving their children at these facilities thinking they’re doing the right thing, oblivious to the physical, emotional, and psychological toll of these ‘treatments’, it’s even worse to think that conversion therapy remains legal in Canada until the bill to criminalize it finally pushes forward. The movie ends on a hopeful note for the lead character, but serves to remind one of the millions of people in Canada and abroad who suffered and are still suffering until these harmful, unethical practices are shut down for good.

– N., Librarian



This is a documentary about a group of nurses and caregivers who opened the first AIDS ward in the world at San Francisco General Hospital. It tells the inspiring stories of quiet heroes who deserve to be recognized and celebrated. We are living in another pandemic now, but AIDS is still around and there is still a lot of stigma around gay men who are living with AIDS.

– Lucas, Librarian

Beach rats

Beach Rats

Although not a well-known movie, it should be. It has a very realistic quality and a contemporary feel. It follows the summer of a good-looking young man with a girl chasing him. But he is attracted to men. This leads to misunderstanding with his family.

– Linda, Librarian

But I'm a cheerleader

But I'm a Cheerleader

This film is a satirical romantic comedy and about a teen girl whose parents send her to a conversion therapy camp. It has become a cult classic. It stars Natasha Lyonne and RuPaul!

– Jennifer, Page


Other Recommended Reading

Here are some previous posts by TPL staff with LGBTQ2S+ reading and watching recommendations.


You can also find reading lists, collection highlights and more on our Pride Celebrations webpage,


If you have more recommendations for LGBTQ2S+ books, movies and resources, please share them in the comments below.