The Audiobooks I Wish I Had Listened to Sooner (As a Late-Blooming Lesbian)

If you are questioning your sexuality or place in the world, know that you are not, and never will be, alone.

As what some in the LGBTQ+ community refer to as a “late-blooming lesbian,” it took me a little longer than most to figure out my sexuality. The road to embracing my true self was plagued with internalized homophobia, self doubt, a marked fear of living a life outside of the comfortable bounds of heterosexuality, and an ever-increasing distance from my inner self.

The more I walked toward the life that I thought I should want (read: I was engaged to a guy), and the more I tried to convince myself that this was the life I wanted (spoiler alert: it definitely was not), the more depressed I became.

Clarity and healing finally came as I began to peel back the layers of doubt and discomfort, and allow myself to listen to what my gut was telling me. Eventually, I embraced what I had always known to be true: I’m gay. To say I could've used some guidance along the way would be a massive understatement. So, during this time in my life I did what I have always done when in desperate need of a North Star to follow—I read and I listened, a lot.

There are certain stories that touched me in such immeasurable ways throughout this journey that I would be remiss if I didn’t share them for others who may be on a similar path. Not all of these audiobooks are centered around coming out specifically; rather, they all lend themselves to self-reflection and to ultimately closing the chasm between the person as is and the person self-actualized, standing in their truth. 

I sincerely hope these listens will bring you solace, companionship along the way, and a newfound closeness to your most authentic self.

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Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Writer, poet, and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde is widely considered a central force in the development of contemporary intersectional feminist theory. Her nonfiction prose has inspired a generation of activists and paved the way for social justice and societal change. A collection of 15 of Lorde’s most powerful essays and speeches, Sister Outsider inspires societal growth as well as the growth of self. In her essay “Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist’s Response,” Lorde writes: “The truest direction comes from inside. I give the most strength to my children by being willing to look within myself, and by being honest with them about what I find there.”

The Artist's Way

This thought-provoking book is widely revered for its ability to help listeners live a more creative and, ultimately, more fulfilling life. The Artist's Way is presented in the form of a 12-week course with corresponding tasks, questions, and activities to be completed each week with the goal of helping you get in touch with your inner artist and allow creativity to flourish. The questions and prompts often revolve around joy, childhood dreams, and inner passions, which sometimes boil down to the same question: “What do you really want?” For me, the answer that kept coming up was, “I want to live my life differently.” Eventually, I did—and I am much better off for it. This audiobook helped me get in touch with my inner life and provided a much-needed mirror for self-reflection.

Annie On My Mind

This sweet and emotive story of two teenage girls falling in love was my first foray into lesbian literature. I read Annie on My Mind for the first time at 12 years old, when I found it in my grade school library and hid between the stacks reading it, looking both ways and jumping at the slightest sound of footsteps like a fugitive on the run. To say it was transformative is an understatement. I saw myself in the girls on the pages in a way I never had before. I knew I was like them before I knew what the word “gay” meant. It was the first time that I realized there were other young girls like me out there, and that I wasn’t alone.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Written by the pioneering and iconic queer author Jeannette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is considered by many gay women to be required listening. This semi-autobiographical novel details Winterson’s early life growing up in a strict Pentecostal household and promptly leaving it upon falling in love with a woman and realizing her true (gay) self. This book will make you feel less alone as a young gay person, and perhaps even more so if you are a young gay person growing up in home that values religion conformity over true happiness.

The Argonauts

In this uncompromising half-memoir and half-critical theory listen, best-selling author and cultural critic Maggie Nelson draws on her own life experience to grapple with motherhood, sexuality, gender, and the institution of marriage. Winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, The Argonauts is an unflinchingly honest critique of society and our roles within it. Why is it on this list? Nelson provides an important account of radical self-examination, making a case for freedom of expression and for the breaking down of the arbitrary binaries by which we often live our lives.

Real Queer America

This firsthand account of the queer communities that thrive in so-called “flyover” states in Red America is educational, fascinating, and hope-inducing all at once. As author and former Mormon missionary Samantha Allen takes listeners across the United States, she introduces us to queer people from all walks of life who are working towards change in unexpected places. This uplifting audiobook reminded me of two things: queer community is everywhere, and cultivating a chosen family is one of the best parts of queer life.

Tipping the Velvet

By award-winning lesbian author Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet is a romance novel centered around adventure and self-discovery. With Victorian England as its backdrop, the story explores important themes, ranging from gender roles to societal pressures to identity, through the lens of two queer cabaret dancers who are falling in love. Waters does not shy away from sapphic love scenes like many romance writers of her day did—her novel was first published in 1998—and her prose won her the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction in 2000 and the Betty Trask Award in 1999. This iconic story of lesbian love and desire is a queer literary classic that is not to be missed.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Can you tell I can’t get enough Jeannette Winterson? Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a gritty, honest, and at times heartbreaking account of a young woman's search for and discovery of her sexuality. It's narrated by Winterson herself, and listening to this memoir is like listening to an older, wiser, queer friend talk you through their journey. Ultimately, our heroine accepts her true identity and uncovers a fundamental and liberating truth: it really is better to be happy than it is to be “normal.”

Untamed

Glennon Doyle's New York Times best-selling memoir absolutely lives up to the hype that has surrounded it since its March 2020 debut. Right before the pandemic closed down New York City, I devoured Untamed, and later sat in the pews of Saint Anne’s Church in Brooklyn listening to the author. As Doyle read from the pages and introduced the audience to her wife, soccer star Abby Wambach, I couldn't help but feel irrevocably moved. At its core, this is a thought-provoking listen about learning to trust yourself instead of desperately trying to control yourself. In Doyle’s case, trusting herself meant falling in love with and marrying another woman after a lifetime of heterosexual partnerships. In one particularly poignant chapter, Doyle imagines what it would be like to be with a woman. In reaction to her own thoughts, she reminds herself that she's married to a man and the mother of three kids, feeding herself the line: “Maybe in another life.” This line made my stomach drop, but as I listened on, I was glad to discover that Glennon Doyle came to the same realization I had: we only have this one life, and we should live it the way we want.

No One Belongs Here More Than You

This audiobook, narrated by the wickedly talented and witty Miranda July herself, is easily one of my favorite listens of all time. A collection of short stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You is raw, funny, quirky, and at times downright weird—all while remaining deliciously authentic and decidedly honest. Each chapter and each new story brought me into myself a little more, with every raw thought prompting me to question how processed my own thoughts can be. One short story centering on a lesbian relationship is especially heartbreaking, honest, and pure; it was everything I needed to hear. This audiobook is perfect for anyone with a curious heart. As a young queer person, it definitely helped me accept and acknowledge that I was different and that being different was more than okay—in fact, it was beautiful.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Writer, poet, and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde is widely considered a central force in the development of contemporary intersectional feminist theory. Her nonfiction prose has inspired a generation of activists and paved the way for social justice and societal change. A collection of 15 of Lorde’s most powerful essays and speeches, Sister Outsider inspires societal growth as well as the growth of self. In her essay “Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist’s Response,” Lorde writes: “The truest direction comes from inside. I give the most strength to my children by being willing to look within myself, and by being honest with them about what I find there.”

The Artist's Way

This thought-provoking book is widely revered for its ability to help listeners live a more creative and, ultimately, more fulfilling life. The Artist's Way is presented in the form of a 12-week course with corresponding tasks, questions, and activities to be completed each week with the goal of helping you get in touch with your inner artist and allow creativity to flourish. The questions and prompts often revolve around joy, childhood dreams, and inner passions, which sometimes boil down to the same question: “What do you really want?” For me, the answer that kept coming up was, “I want to live my life differently.” Eventually, I did—and I am much better off for it. This audiobook helped me get in touch with my inner life and provided a much-needed mirror for self-reflection.

Annie On My Mind

This sweet and emotive story of two teenage girls falling in love was my first foray into lesbian literature. I read Annie on My Mind for the first time at 12 years old, when I found it in my grade school library and hid between the stacks reading it, looking both ways and jumping at the slightest sound of footsteps like a fugitive on the run. To say it was transformative is an understatement. I saw myself in the girls on the pages in a way I never had before. I knew I was like them before I knew what the word “gay” meant. It was the first time that I realized there were other young girls like me out there, and that I wasn’t alone.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Written by the pioneering and iconic queer author Jeannette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is considered by many gay women to be required listening. This semi-autobiographical novel details Winterson’s early life growing up in a strict Pentecostal household and promptly leaving it upon falling in love with a woman and realizing her true (gay) self. This book will make you feel less alone as a young gay person, and perhaps even more so if you are a young gay person growing up in home that values religion conformity over true happiness.

The Argonauts

In this uncompromising half-memoir and half-critical theory listen, best-selling author and cultural critic Maggie Nelson draws on her own life experience to grapple with motherhood, sexuality, gender, and the institution of marriage. Winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, The Argonauts is an unflinchingly honest critique of society and our roles within it. Why is it on this list? Nelson provides an important account of radical self-examination, making a case for freedom of expression and for the breaking down of the arbitrary binaries by which we often live our lives.

Real Queer America

This firsthand account of the queer communities that thrive in so-called “flyover” states in Red America is educational, fascinating, and hope-inducing all at once. As author and former Mormon missionary Samantha Allen takes listeners across the United States, she introduces us to queer people from all walks of life who are working towards change in unexpected places. This uplifting audiobook reminded me of two things: queer community is everywhere, and cultivating a chosen family is one of the best parts of queer life.

Tipping the Velvet

By award-winning lesbian author Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet is a romance novel centered around adventure and self-discovery. With Victorian England as its backdrop, the story explores important themes, ranging from gender roles to societal pressures to identity, through the lens of two queer cabaret dancers who are falling in love. Waters does not shy away from sapphic love scenes like many romance writers of her day did—her novel was first published in 1998—and her prose won her the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction in 2000 and the Betty Trask Award in 1999. This iconic story of lesbian love and desire is a queer literary classic that is not to be missed.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Can you tell I can’t get enough Jeannette Winterson? Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a gritty, honest, and at times heartbreaking account of a young woman's search for and discovery of her sexuality. It's narrated by Winterson herself, and listening to this memoir is like listening to an older, wiser, queer friend talk you through their journey. Ultimately, our heroine accepts her true identity and uncovers a fundamental and liberating truth: it really is better to be happy than it is to be “normal.”

Untamed

Glennon Doyle's New York Times best-selling memoir absolutely lives up to the hype that has surrounded it since its March 2020 debut. Right before the pandemic closed down New York City, I devoured Untamed, and later sat in the pews of Saint Anne’s Church in Brooklyn listening to the author. As Doyle read from the pages and introduced the audience to her wife, soccer star Abby Wambach, I couldn't help but feel irrevocably moved. At its core, this is a thought-provoking listen about learning to trust yourself instead of desperately trying to control yourself. In Doyle’s case, trusting herself meant falling in love with and marrying another woman after a lifetime of heterosexual partnerships. In one particularly poignant chapter, Doyle imagines what it would be like to be with a woman. In reaction to her own thoughts, she reminds herself that she's married to a man and the mother of three kids, feeding herself the line: “Maybe in another life.” This line made my stomach drop, but as I listened on, I was glad to discover that Glennon Doyle came to the same realization I had: we only have this one life, and we should live it the way we want.

No One Belongs Here More Than You

This audiobook, narrated by the wickedly talented and witty Miranda July herself, is easily one of my favorite listens of all time. A collection of short stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You is raw, funny, quirky, and at times downright weird—all while remaining deliciously authentic and decidedly honest. Each chapter and each new story brought me into myself a little more, with every raw thought prompting me to question how processed my own thoughts can be. One short story centering on a lesbian relationship is especially heartbreaking, honest, and pure; it was everything I needed to hear. This audiobook is perfect for anyone with a curious heart. As a young queer person, it definitely helped me accept and acknowledge that I was different and that being different was more than okay—in fact, it was beautiful.

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