Five Books that Explore LGBTQIA+ Experience with the Ocean

Dive beneath the waves with these inspiring reads

For me, Pride month is always a time to celebrate our big, beautiful community, honor all those who came before, and continue the fight for our rights. It is also an opportunity for me to reflect on the ways queerness weaves its way through my work, the environmental movement and the natural world. However, June doesn’t have to be the only time we focus on the history, advocacy and vibrancy of the LGBTQIA+ community. Even though Pride Month has ended, I wanted to offer up some awesome and relevant LGBTQIA+ books to add to your summer beach reading list.

These queer authors weave the ocean into their own narratives and offer us an opportunity to continue to explore the intersections in the environmental and LGTBQIA+ rights movement. 


“May you study the pink of yourself. Know yourself riverine and coast. May you taste the fresh and the saltwater of yourself and know what only you can know. May you live in the mouth of the river, meeting place of the tides, may all blessings flow through you.” – Undrowned by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

I have read Undrowned by Alexis Pauline Gumbs at least five times since I first bought it. Each lesson is a beautiful meditation on our connection with marine mammals. Gumbs eloquently relates the struggles faced by many marginalized communities with the struggles of survival marine mammals face in the ocean. She finds inspiration in the queer and protective behavior of these ocean animals and teases out important life lessons from her wonder for the natural world. 

How Far the Light Reaches

“I want to know what kinds of transformation the cuttlefish is capable of when it is motivated not by fear but by community and sex, and I am not interested in calling it a disguise.” ― How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures by Sabrina Imbler

Sabrina Imbler and I share a love of the ocean’s wacky, weird and strange creatures. As a journalist writing on science and conservation, their work invokes wonder in the mysteries of the ocean. How Far the Light Reaches is an exploration of the ocean’s most fascinating creatures and of Imbler’s own life. They poetically weave stories around the formation of their own queer identity with stories of yeti crabs scuttling around in the most inhospitable of ocean habitats or sand strikers waiting in the deep for their prey. This book serves up powerful reflections on sexuality, survival, relationships and community care from the dark waters under the ocean waves. 

Love After the End

What does it mean to be Two-Spirit during an apocalypse? What does it mean to search out romance at a pipeline protest—can we have intimacy during doomsday?” – Introduction by Joshua Whitehead to Love After the End

Love After the End is an incredible anthology that contains nine science-fiction stories from two-spirit and queer Indigenous writers. Each story is a vision of the future with a mix of utopian and dystopian tales. These writers bring visions of the rise of resistance movements, journeys to other planets and tales of lost loves brought to life by virtual reality. Each look into the future is full of the love and joy experienced in two-spirit and queer Indigenous communities. 

Queer Nature

“Hard to be a creature of earth in a world covered with water.” – “A Little Bit of Ocean” by Joy Ladin from Queer Nature

I picked up Queer Nature in the process of writing this piece, and it has been my favorite companion ever since. This anthology is full of poems by LGBTQIA+ voices that connect their experience with the natural world. There are incredible ocean gems like “Hermit Crab” and “once a marine biologist told me octopuses have three hearts” that are evocative and emotional. There are more than 200 poems in Queer Nature, and each one presents a unique look into the bonds between queerness and our environment.  

Voice of a Fish

“Noting these aquatic bodies helped me dissolve a world I found too hard, too strict in how it required me to live within it.” –  Voice of the Fish by Lars Horn

Lars Horn has been called “the mystic’s David Attenborough.” Their book, Voice of the Fishdraws parallels between the ocean’s ever-changing ways and their own gender fluidity. It is a collection of tales from Horn’s own life that flows together in a wave mixed with tales of the ocean and marine history. Their story draws ebbs and flows like an ocean current outside of expectations, boundaries and binaries.  In each of these excellent reads, the ocean is a powerful symbol and teacher. I hope you pick up one of these books and further explore the ocean and our shared human experience. 

Our work is focused on solving some of the greatest threats facing our ocean today. We bring people, science and policy together to champion innovative solutions and fight for a sustainable ocean.
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