The 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S. has given book, television, and movie writers encouragement to incorporate queer characters into their works. Even though the queer community still has a long way to go for equal rights under the law, creative writers have mostly stepped up to the plate and incorporated various identities in their writing. This is huge!


Teachers can also incorporate queer stories into their classroom through offering choice in book units, such as book talks, book clubs, and lit circles. Even though the entire class may not focus on the LGBTQ+ book, having these stories offered goes a long way.


In fiction, many authors who include LGBTQ+ characters focus on their coming out stories—very similar to a coming of age story, except it’s focused on the character’s sexuality or gender identity. When you think about it, understanding you’re not straight or cis gendered (the sex assigned at birth) is essentially a coming of age story. What an important thing to understand!


Some authors do something much more meaningful to queer readers—they write a stellar story with queer characters who are simply a part of the storyline with no attention to their coming out story. Some of these books start off with explaining the main character’s coming out story or identities, and some weave this information throughout the story as we get to know the characters more. This helps queer readers feel like their identities matter enough to be in “regular” books.


Download the lesson below, featuring These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling, to guide you through a rewarding conversation with your classroom about queer characterization in literature!


Download the lesson below in a convenient pdf to print or save!



Jennifer Epping is a high school English and journalism teacher in Des Moines, Iowa. She has a passion for reading, writing, and making lame jokes to her students just to see them laugh or roll their eyes. She just concluded her ninth year teaching. Epping graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in journalism and mass communication (2010) and BA in English Education (2013). She attended New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute (2010), and spent some time in children’s book publishing in New York.