Our Favourite LGBT Characters from Books
To celebrate LGBT History Month, we asked our staff to tell us about LGBT characters who meant a lot to them or stayed with them for a long time after the final page.
Jesper Fahey from Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (YA Fantasy)
Chosen by Nicole Brandon, Young Writers Programme Manager (@puretemerity)
Gregarious, huge-hearted, loquacious and a heck of a shot – Jesper’s the glue that holds his pernicious criminal gang together. His own serious gambling addiction, and the mistakes he makes because of it, flesh out the character of a charming young rogue who brings out the best in people. None more so than in his cheerfully light-touch courtship with fellow criminal-by-choice Wylan, and in his self-sabotaged relationship with his loving, clueless father.
Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton
Chosen by Kirsty Sinclair, Early Years Operations Manager
Introducing Teddy is a gentle yet powerful story exploring gender identity, a theme I haven't really seen in picture books before. Errol and Thomas the Teddy are the best of friends and Thomas is worried about telling Errol how he feels. The thing I most admire about this book is the total acceptance shown by Errol - all that matters to him is their friendship. A landmark in children's publishing.
Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch (Baz) from Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Chosen by Kay Bohan, Writer Development and Live Literature Administrator (@kayleighbohan)
Carry On is so much fun that it's my go-to book for breaking a reading slump. Baz, the Chosen One Simon's great rival, is a member of the landed gentry, a sarcastic vampire with pointy shoes. As good as the book is before he shows up, it really kicks off when Baz makes the most extra of entrances. My favourite thing about Baz is that he's a total magic geek. He loves writing research on chalkboards and grudgingly wants to be friends with the smartest girl in the school, Penelope (seriously, just be friends already). He knows spells that rely on 'the Great Vowel Shift of the Sixteenth Century' and hundreds of verses of nursery rhymes. Baz is all flame (and flammable) and an absolute delight to read – but probably not to share a room with. Even better, Baz isn't the only LGBT character in Carry On – he's free to be one option among others, entirely himself.
Nell from Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nichols
Chosen by Beth Goodyear, Acting Schools Programme Manager (@betbott)
I love Nell from Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nichols. She’s a straight-talking, pragmatic and hard-nosed young suffragette who loves who she loves and to hell with everything else. She runs around 1914 London in boys' clothes every bit as capable of any of them and desperate to show it. This really chimed with me growing up when I refused to shop in the girls' section and couldn’t understand why people treated me and my brothers differently. Nell is ahead of her time and she is fierce.
Baruch and Balthamos from The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
Chosen by Niall Walker, Head of Schools Programme (@readicalscot)
Baruch and Balthamos, two angels from Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass, were the first LGBT characters I knowingly encountered in books. As a boy, I was struck by the depth of their bond that stretched across millennia. Reading the book aloud now, to my own son, I’m just as moved by how genuine, mature and real their love is. Baruch and Balthamos are not the archetype of gay men that children in my generation often saw – universally effeminate and camp – they are two powerful, intelligent men that any boy would aspire to be like, regardless of their own sexuality. Their relationship was never hidden to the reader, or treated as fertile ground for a twist or reveal, it was shown as natural and as unremarkable (to the child protagonist) as any two adults in love. The mysterious origins of their relationship are fascinating, particularly the hinted discrimination – perhaps even murder - Baruch suffered from his family as a human, and his salvation as an angel with Balthamos. [spoilers ahead! - Ed.] The grief Balthamos suffers at Baruch’s noble sacrifice and fading to Dust on the breeze, felt from a world away, was as heart-wrenching to read as a man as it was a boy.
Do you want to celebrate LGBT History Month with a great book? Check out these book lists:
- Picture Books To Celebrate LGBT History Month
- 29 Great Books by Scottish LGBT Authors
- 10 Books About the LGBT Experience
Interested in creating genderqueer and nonbinary characters for future readers? Read Eris Young's blog!