According to most representation across books, TV, and movies, queer people all seem to come out as teenagers. That’s definitely true for some of us, but for others it’s a much longer journey. Some people don’t realize it themselves until later in life, while others didn’t feel safe enough to tell others until they were more independent. Some people (like me!) come out multiple times in their lives, either having their gender or sexuality shift over time or just having a new understanding of themselves. It’s a much messier process than the traditional coming out narrative would have you believe!
So if you’re looking for representation of character who don’t come out in their teens or twenties, check out these titles! (The descriptions are from the publishers.) And please let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any that you know about!
A newly out-of-the-closet band mom falls for an orchestra teacher while snowed in at All-State.
Lana Novak hasn’t played violin in over twenty years, her musical life these days confined to being a devoted band mom to her clarinet whiz daughter Robin. She didn’t think she could get back into it after this long, but Melanie Feinberg, the outgoing, enthusiastic, and very cute butch orchestra director from Robin’s school, has other ideas.
Anna’s life’s in a bit of a rut. As a teacher with two great kids and a boyfriend, she seems to have it all. Except…she’s bored as hell. Perhaps a new hobby’s in order? Something…crafty?
Divorced mother and veteran Ollie has been through the wars, emotionally and physically. To relax, she runs a quirky crochet class in her London craft shop. She can’t help but notice the attractive, feisty new student. A shame Anna’s straight as an arrow.
But somewhere between the chain stitches, doubles and trebles, Ollie and Anna form a powerful connection they never expected.
A quirky lesbian romance about love never being quite where you expect.
Scholar and award-winning author Faith Fitzgerald has every reason to be happy: a wealthy, charming man who adores her and a family cheering her marriage prospects. But from the moment she meets Eric’s sister, Sydney Van Allen, she knows her safe, predictable feelings for him are a shadow of what could be.
Openly lesbian and running for Senator, Sydney can only succeed if she can live down her wild past. That means no liaisons, especially with the achingly alluring woman on her brother’s arm who looks at her with confusion–and desire.
Jacqueline Keys was ostracized from her small hometown of Pine Springs, Texas when she was seventeen, sent away because she was gay. Fifteen years later, Jacqueline is persuaded to go back to the tiny town of Pine Springs after her father’s death.
The quick trip she’d envisioned for the funeral turns into weeks as she learns her father’s business is suddenly hers to manage. And she is also again face-to-face with the woman who, as a teen, had been Jackie’s first crush. She and Kay had been inseparable as kids, and later as teens. They find themselves falling back into their old habits, and Jackie is soon fighting the same feelings she’d had when she was seventeen.
But living behind the pine curtain, Kay is afraid of her love for Jackie, afraid of what her family will say, afraid of how the town will react. Jackie refuses to hide, refuses to crawl back into the closet, so once again, she leaves Pine Springs . . . alone.
All her life, Annie Prideaux has suffered through her brother’s constant practical jokes only he thinks are funny. But Jake’s last joke is one too many, she decides when he sets her up on a blind date with his friend Drew Corbin—neglecting to tell his straight sister one tiny detail: her date is not a man, but a lesbian. Annie and Drew decide it’s time to turn the tables on Jake by pretending to fall in love with each other. At first glance, they have nothing in common. Disillusioned with love, Annie focuses on books, her cat, and her work as an accountant while Drew, more confident and outgoing, owns a dog and spends most of her time working in her beloved vineyard. Only their common goal to take revenge on Jake unites them. But what starts as a table-turning game soon turns Annie’s and Drew’s lives upside down as the lines between pretending and reality begin to blur. Something in the Wine is a story about love, friendship, and coming to terms with what it means to be yourself.
Some believe that special someone is out there just waiting to be found. Jorie Andolini is one of those people and has spent a lot of time envisioning that moment. She bumps into a woman at a grocery store, the woman drops a can of peas, Jorie picks it up, their eyes meet, and two souls connect. But it’s actually a wasted trip to New York, a snowstorm, and a canceled flight home that puts her in the path of Lena Vaughn.
Lena has found fault in every man she’s ever dated. Her dream of finding a husband is dwindling with every year that passes. Despite what her friends say, Lena doesn’t believe she has a fear of commitment, she simply hasn’t found a man she wanted to commit to. It comes as a surprise that in fact it is a woman who stirs those desires. For Lena, it’s not really a matter of sexuality, it’s just Jorie.
Travel the road to happiness with Jorie and Lena. Two crazy old women, meddling friends, and cattitude are just some sights you’ll see along the way.
Jana Fleischer loves her life—wonderful family, best sister in the world, awesome soon to be sister-in-law, fabulous job, and a never-ending stream of men to chew through and spit out. So what if everyone says she’s too picky and she’s never had a real relationship?
When a chance meeting with Brooke Donnelly leaves Jana literally and figuratively off-balance, it doesn’t take long for her initial annoyance to turn into the first sparks of friendship. Jana always thought she was happy with her life, but the more time she spends with Brooke, the more she realizes something is missing. And maybe not just in the friendship department.
But how do you make that leap when you’ve never even considered kissing a woman, and have spent your whole life avoiding romantic commitments? Being brave, taking the first step, and admitting she wants to try to make things work with Brooke is only the beginning. Whether it’s the beginning of a disaster—or everything Jana hadn’t realized she wanted—depends on if Brooke can also be brave enough…
A smart, sexy lesbian romance about facing the truth about your desires … and risking everything.
Diana Parker is Atlanta’s top lawyer and isn’t afraid to let everyone know it. She’s driven, ruthless, demanding, and stuck in a failing marriage. Too bad she can’t run her personal life as well as she runs her ordered office.
When a young assistant shows up with bright blue eyes, a cute Southern accent, and a streak of pink hair, Diana’s sure she’s all wrong for the job. And yet something seems to be pulling her and Laurie Holcombe together, drawing them into a secret, thrilling dance that’s far too dangerous for a boss and employee.
Can they make rules for this powerful attraction, a way to keep each other at arm’s length? But how do you resist the irresistible?
Breaking Character by Lee Winter
Life has become a farcical mess for icy British A-lister Elizabeth Thornton. America’s most-hated villain stars in a top-rated TV medical drama that she hates. Now, she’s been romantically linked to her perky, new co-star, Summer, due to the young woman’s clumsiness. As a closeted actress, that’s the last thing Elizabeth needs. If she could just get her dream movie role, life would be so much better. The only problem is that the eccentric French film-maker offering it insists on meeting her “girlfriend”, Summer, first.
Summer Hayes is devastated when her co-star shuns her for accidentally sparking rumors they’re lovers. Now the so-called British Bitch has the audacity to ask Summer to pretend to be her girlfriend to get her a role? Elizabeth doesn’t even like Summer! Oh, how she’d love to tell her no. And Summer definitely would if it wasn’t for the fact she’s maybe a tiny bit in love with the impossible woman.
A lesbian celebrity romance about gaining love, losing masks, and trying to stick to the script.
Sometime Yesterday by Yvonne Heidt (Horror)
Natalie Chambers is a successful artist who, after her divorce, impulsively buys a Victorian house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Immediately, she begins to dream of Sarah and Beth, two lovers from the past and the Dark Man who controlled their lives. When she begins to look for explanations for the things going bump in the night, the only answer she can get from the locals is that several previous owners had fled screaming into the night.
Van Easton hasn’t had a serious relationship since her partner died several years ago. Content to let other women and alcohol distract her, she is surprised at the intensity of emotion that bubbles to the surface after she meets Natalie. Contracted to restore the gardens at Natalie’s house, she refuses to believe that the mansion is haunted. Until the Dark Man follows her home.
It appears he will stop at nothing to keep the new lovers apart, and the violence continues to escalate. Can they solve the mystery that will set Beth and Sarah free and banish the evil presence in the house? Or will they have to run to survive as well?
Vow of Celibacy by Erin Judge (Fiction)
Natalie has made a promise: a vow of celibacy, signed and witnessed by her best friend. After a string of sexual conquests, she is determined to figure out why the intense romantic connections she’s spent her life chasing have left her emotionally high and dry. As Natalie sifts through her past and her present, she confronts her complicated feelings about her plus-sized figure, her bisexuality, and her thwarted career in fashion design.
Piecing together toxic relationship patterns from her past, Natalie finds herself strutting down fashion runways and rekindling her passion for clothing design in the present. All the while, her best friend, Anastaze, struggles with her own secret-whether or not to reveal her true identity to the thousands of fans of her popular blog and her potential first sexual partner.
Clever, sexy, and hilarious, Vow of Celibacy delves into the perilous terrain of love and relationships, the uncertainty of early adulthood, and the sustaining force of friendship. This is an irresistible novel about the stories we can’t help but tell ourselves about others, and it captures in perfect pitch what it’s like to be a young woman coming of age in America today.
The new buzzword in female sexuality is “sexual fluidity”—the idea that for many women, sexual identity can shift over time, often in the direction of same-sex relationships. Examples abound in popular culture, from actress Cynthia Nixon, who left her male partner of 15 years to be with a woman, to writer and comedienne Carol Leifer, who divorced her husband for the same reason.
In a culture increasingly open to accepting this fluidity, Dear John, I Love Jane is a timely, fiercely candid exploration of female sexuality and personal choice. The book is comprised of essays written by a broad spectrum of women, including a number of well-known writers and personalities. Their stories are sometimes funny, sometimes painful—but always achingly honest—accounts of leaving a man for a woman, and the consequences of making such a choice.
Arousing, inspiring, bawdy, bold, and heartfelt, Dear John, I Love Jane is an engrossing reflection of a new era of female sexuality.
Leaving her garden to the mercy of the slugs, award-winning writer Alys Fowler set out in an inflatable kayak to explore Birmingham’s canal network, full of little-used waterways where huge pike skulk and kingfishers dart.
Her book is about noticing the wild everywhere and what it means to see beauty where you least expect it. What happens when someone who has learned to observe her external world in such detail decides to examine her internal world with the same care?
Beautifully written, honest and very moving, Hidden Nature is also the story of Alys Fowler’s emotional journey: above all, this book is about losing and finding, exploring familiar places and discovering unknown horizons.
Four years ago, Glennon Doyle—bestselling Oprah-endorsed author, renowned activist and humanitarian, wife and mother of three—was speaking at a conference when a woman entered the room. Glennon looked at her and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. Soon she realized that they came to her from within.
Glennon was finally hearing her own voice—the voice that had been silenced by decades of cultural conditioning, numbing addictions, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl Glennon had been before the world told her who to be. She vowed to never again abandon herself. She decided to build a life of her own—one based on her individual desire, intuition, and imagination. She would reclaim her true, untamed self.
Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both a memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It offers a piercing, electrifying examination of the restrictive expectations women are issued from birth; shows how hustling to meet those expectations leaves women feeling dissatisfied and lost; and reveals that when we quit abandoning ourselves and instead abandon the world’s expectations of us, we become women who can finally look at ourselves and recognize: There She Is.
Untamed shows us how to be brave. As Glennon insists: The braver we are, the luckier we get.
At age 36, while serving on a jury, author Molly Wizenberg found herself drawn to a female attorney she hardly knew. Married to a man for nearly a decade and mother to a toddler, Wizenberg tried to return to her life as she knew it, but something inside her had changed irredeemably. Instead, she would discover that the trajectory of our lives is rarely as smooth or as logical as we’d like to believe.
Like many of us, Wizenberg had long understood sexual orientation as a stable part of ourselves: we’re “born this way.” Suddenly she realized that her story was more complicated. Who was she, she wondered, if something at her very core could change so radically? The Fixed Stars is a taut, electrifying memoir exploring timely and timeless questions about desire, identity, and the limits and possibilities of family. In honest and searing prose, Wizenberg forges a new path: through the murk of separation and divorce, coming out to family and friends, learning to co-parent a young child, and realizing a new vision of love. The result is a frank and moving story about letting go of rigid definitions and ideals that no longer fit, and learning instead who we really are.
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An earlier version of this post ran in March.