Cover image for Queer : the ultimate LGBT guide for teens
Queer : the ultimate LGBT guide for teens
Publication Information:
San Francisco, CA : Zest Books, 2011.
Physical Description:
208 p. : ill. ; 20 cm.
Added Author:
A guide that helps LGBT teens come out to friends and family, navigate their new LGBT social life, figure out if a crush is also queer, and rise up against bigotry and homophobia.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 306.76 BEL 0 1
Book 306.76 BEL 0 1

On Order



Teen life is hard enough, but for teens who are LGBTQ, it can be even harder. When do you decide to come out? Will your friends accept you? And how do you meet people to date? Queer is a humorous, engaging, and honest guide that helps LGBTQ teens come out to friends and family, navigate their social life, figure out if a crush is also queer, and challenge bigotry and homophobia. Personal stories from the authors and sidebars on queer history provide relatable context. This completely revised and updated edition is a must-read for any teen who thinks they might be queer or knows someone who is.

Author Notes

Kathy Belge coauthored the book Lipstick & Dipstick's Essential Guide to Lesbian Relationships , and writes on lesbian life for Curve magazine and

Marke Bieschke has worked as an editor at, , and the San Francisco Bay Guardian .

Reviews 2

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-This important and lively book covers a range of emotional and physical health topics. Subjects run the gamut from self-identity through queerphobia to dating and sex. By keeping the tone light and humorous, the authors keep readers engaged while imparting all kinds of information. They address a wide range of maturity and experience levels and provide accurate facts as well as some discussion of possible emotions. Both authors contribute occasional sidebar stories that come directly from their own experiences. Simple cartoon-style illustrations add to the appeal.-Sharon Senser McKellar, Oakland Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Divided into sections about coming out, homophobia, what it means to be queer, dating, and sex, this guidebook offers upfront advice and information for teens who think they may be (or know they are) lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The authors are equally open in asides drawn from their own experience (including disastrous dates and coming out to parents and friends), and additional sidebars explore LGBT pioneers like Harvey Milk and Christine Jorgensen, as well as current topics such as gay athletes and gay marriage. The tone of the book is consistently accessible, pop culture-savvy, and supportive ("Dating can often be awkward and stressful no matter your age [or] sexual orientation.... But as a queer teen, you've got a few more challenges on your plate"). An extensive list of resources, including Web sites, organizations, and books, is included. Ages 14-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.



QUEER If you're a teen, you have a lot on your plate: school, family, social drama, body issues, how to get that relative who perpetually smells like onions to stop sitting next to you at every family gathering. As if that weren't enough, some of you have one more thing to deal with--the possibility (or reality) of being queer. This realization is definitely not a bad thing--but it can throw you for a loop. To best grasp what may be going on, you're going to have to spend some time looking within. That doesn't mean staring at your belly button, pondering the cosmos, the existence of God, and what Lady GaGa's going to wear next--though if any of that is helpful, go for it. But you will need to do a little soul searching. Lots of teens--straight or queer--have questions about their sexuality. It doesn't always feel clear cut from the jump. Have you ever asked yourself any of the questions below? • I am a girl and I have a boyfriend. But I fantasize about kissing my best girlfriend. Does that make me bisexual? • I think anyone can be sexy, regardless of gender. What does that make me? • I am a girl and sometimes I feel more like a guy. Does that mean I'm transgender? • I am a guy and I keep having dreams about my girlfriend's brother. Am I gay? If so, you probably want answers. Well, here's the good news: You don't need an answer to this today. Here's the even better news: Whatever the answer is, it's completely fine. Being straight or queer doesn't define who you are as a person. It doesn't say whether you're a good friend or a complete jerk or whether you should do ballet or go out for varsity football. It's just about who you are attracted to and, in the case of transgender people, what gender you want to live as. Any answer is the right one. And it's also OK if that answer changes at some point. It's all good. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE QUEER? To identify as queer means to see yourself as being part of the LGBT community. That means you consider yourself to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Here's the breakdown. Lesbian Lesbians are women who are emotionally and sexually attracted to other women. The Greek poet Sappho, who lived during the sixth and seventh centuries, wrote about loving other women. She was born on the island of Lesbos, and this is where the term lesbian comes from. There is no "typical" lesbian. Some lesbians consider themselves to be butch lesbians (also known as studs), which means they express themselves in what society might consider a masculine manner. Butch lesbians might feel more comfortable dressing in men's clothing, playing aggressive sports, working a traditionally manly job, or being the person who is more chivalrous in a relationship. Femmes (also known as lipstick lesbians), on the other hand, usually dress in a more feminine manner, wear make-up, have long hair, and enjoy activities more associated with girly- girls, like maybe shopping or watching chick flicks. Of course, not all femmes wear lipstick, and not all butches work in construction. And some lesbians call themselves futch, a combination of femme and butch. There are also blue jean femmes (a femme who doesn't wear dresses) and soft butches (those who consider themselves a less hard- core form of butch). Boi is another term, which can indicate a hip, youthful butch who may or may not identify as trans. But remember that all of these are just labels that help lesbians clarify their social identity, and the definitions are changing even as we write this book. Not everyone uses these terms, and some people find that their relationships to masculinity and femininity change over the years. If none of these labels feel appropriate for you, feel free to make up one of your own--or go without a label altogether. These identities are really about celebrating yourself and your queerness, not bogging you down. Gay Gay men are men who are emotionally and sexually attracted to other men. (The word gay is also used sometimes to mean homosexual in general.) Back in the day, the word gay meant "happy" or "carefree" and also the more negative "licentious," which means "lacking moral and sexual restraints." Gay began being used to describe homosexual people in the middle of the last century, though it's not totally clear why. (Maybe people thought gay people were happy to supposedly have no moral restraints!) Today, gay is usually used to describe homosexual men. It can seem like there are as many kinds of gay men as there are kinds of music. Gay men who are into alternative rock and punk, underground art,  and hipster fashion call themselves alternaqueers. (Lesbians and trans people can be alternaqueers, too.) Many large, hairy gay men refer to themselves as bears. Some younger men who pride themselves on being thin and clean shaven call themselves twinks. Gay men with feminine qualities might consider themselves queens, and when those qualities are really exaggerated, they might be called flaming. Gay men who work out a lot are often referred to as muscle queens or gym queens and, if they fly around the country to dance all night to circuit techno music, circuit queens. Wealthy gays who often dress in preppy styles are sometimes known as A-gays, and gay men into leather are leathermen. Though you'll find evidence of a lot of these subcultures online and in most major cities, you don't have to belong to any of them, and you could also create your own. Remember, these identities are only to help gay men say a little about who they are to the world. Never take on an identity if you don't want to, or let others label you against your will. Bisexual People who can be attracted to either sex are bisexual. Sometimes people think bisexuals are equally attracted to both sexes, but this is not necessarily the case. If you're open to dating both men and women, even if you prefer one sex over the other, then you can identify as bisexual (or bi). Sometimes people identify as bisexual during a transitional stage before coming out as lesbian or gay. For others, it truly is an identity that sticks with them their whole lives. For some people, coming out as bi is easier because it offers hope to their homophobic parents and friends that they'll end up with an opposite-sex partner some day. For others, coming out as bi is harder because people might want them to "choose" one sex or the other. If you think you may be bisexual, know that bisexuality has been around forever. Some cultures, like ancient Greece, celebrated bisexuality as a great way of life. Pansexual A little different than bisexuals, pansexuals people are attracted to not only boys and girls, but people who identify as transgender.  Transgender People who feel there is a difference between their birth gender and the gender they truly are inside consider themselves transgender or simply trans. They often choose to live life as the gender they feel they are, or, in some cases, they don't identify as any gender at all. Transgender people sometimes opt for medical treatment--like hormones and surgery--to actually change their sex so that their bodies appear on the outside more like what they feel on the inside. People who undergo these medical procedures sometimes think of themselves as transsexuals, though often they prefer to be thought of and referred to simply as the gender they are living as (male or female) since transsexual is sometimes seen as an impersonal medical term. There are also abbreviations for people who change their sex, like FTM (female to male) or MTF (male to female), which are sometimes used. People who feel they don't fit into either gender may use the terms gender queer or gender fluid to describe themselves. They may feel that they are neither male nor female, both male and female, or somewhere in between. They may also feel that even saying there are only two genders is too restrictive, and may identify with one of the various genderqueer terms out there like transboi, bi-gendered, or third gendered. It's important to understand that while the identities of lesbian, gay, and bisexual refer to one's sexual orientation, being transgender does not. It is specifically about gender. People who are transgender can be straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Queer Queer can describe people who are any of the above or people who don't want to use any of the these labels but know they fall somewhere along the LGBT spectrum or that they don't fit into the heterosexual norms. If you find yourself wondering if any of the terms in this chapter describe you, you might be queer. Of course, you might also just be questioning-- and that's OK, too. These days, we often see the acronym LGBT with a "Q" at the end (LGBTQ). That "Q" stands for questioning, which means people who are still figuring it out. (And aren't we all just trying to figure something out?) The "Q" can also stand for queer. Sometimes people even write the LGBT acronym as LGBTQQ or LGBTQQI, where the I stands for intersex (see page 24). With all those letters to keep track of, sometimes it's easier to just say queer!   HOW DO I KNOW IF I'M QUEER? You may have simply always felt different from other kids. Maybe the words other people use to describe themselves just don't seem to fit you, or you don't feel comfortable dressing or acting the way that society says you should. If you're a boy, maybe you're into "girl stuff." If you're a girl, maybe you're into "boy stuff." Maybe you don't feel like you're a girl or a boy but that you're something unique that doesn't really have a name. Maybe you're a boy into boy stuff or a girl into girl stuff, but you feel attracted to other boys or other girls. Even if you relate to any of the above, that doesn't necessarily mean you are LGBT. Plenty of straight people are into things that most of society doesn't consider "normal" like heavy metal, contemporary art, or raspberry granola, and you certainly wouldn't base your sexuality on what you like to eat for breakfast. Besides, you're in a stage of your life right now when love can feel a bit confusing, and you may not know if you want to kiss that cute soccer player or just want to be her. You'll probably get crushes on all kinds of people, from teachers and best friends to celebrities and star athletes. You may even go through a period of trying out different things to find out what's right for you. Some days you might feel one way, and other days, another. Just because your friends aren't talking about conflicting feelings around sexuality doesn't mean they aren't feeling them, too. That being said, if your feelings persist, then you may decide to start identifying as queer or as any of the related identities. If so, embrace it! Being part of the LGBT community is great, but it does mean that, yes, you are a little bit different than most of the people you know. Being different, of course, is something to celebrate. But it also means that sometimes you might feel like you are from another planet. If so, think of us as your tour guides to Planet Queer! DO I HAVE TO HAVE SEX TO KNOW? Lots of questioning teens think they need to have sex to know if they are queer, and often older people will doubt a teen's assertion of being queer with a response like, "How could you know? You haven't had sex yet!" But the truth is that you don't have to have sex to know if you're LGBT. Most of the time, it's something you'll just have a sense about. For instance, if you're a guy and you consistently have crushes on other guys, then you might be gay. You don't have to act on those attractions sexually to know how you feel. Straight kids have crushes all the time and they don't need to act on them to know they are straight. It's no different for queer kids. Some people do say that they discovered they were lesbian, gay, or bisexual after experimenting sexually. So that is possible. But most people say that if you are queer, you'll know it on a much deeper level. It becomes a part of your identity and how you see yourself. It's more about who you are and who you have feelings toward rather than simply who you're getting busy with. On the flip side, just because you've had sex with someone of the same gender, you're not necessarily gay or lesbian. Sometimes people experiment just for fun and still don't consider themselves queer because they don't want to actually date or have relationships with people of the same gender. Or you might have fantasies or dreams about having sex with someone of the same gender, but in real life you don't feel the same way. Obviously, sex is part of the queer equation, but it's definitely not the whole thing. WHY ARE PEOPLE QUEER? That's the multimillion dollar question. And it's one that no one's really been able to answer yet, probably because everyone, queer or straight, is different. For years, scientists have been trying to discover if there is a "gay gene" or something in our brains that makes us prefer the same sex. So far, the studies have been inconclusive, and we don't know exactly what makes one person gay and another bisexual or trans or even straight, for that matter. There are any number of things that make you the person you are. For some queer people, it seems like they were just born that way. For others, it's the way our emotions and sexuality developed as we grew up and our personality began expressing itself. And other people say that somewhere along the way, they just changed and suddenly started liking people of the same gender. But though you may come into your queerness at any stage, it's not a choice. It's something that naturally happens. You can't "train" yourself to be straight any more than you can train yourself to have three eyeballs, fly like a bird, breathe underwater, or like listening to the Rolling Stones as much as your parents do. You have no control over your sexual orientation or gender identity. Be authentic and you'll gain the respect of others and yourself. You'll also be way happier in the long run. WHERE ARE YOU ON THE SEXUAL SPECTRUM? Back in the 1940s, a sex researcher named Alfred Kinsey asked people to be honest about their sexual activities, fantasies, and romantic attractions. After thousands of interviews, he found that it is rare that a person is solely homosexual or heterosexual. People's desires and preferences fell all along what he called a "sexual spectrum" (also known as the Kinsey Scale) between gay and straight. What he interpreted this to mean was that most humans have the capability to be attracted to or to fall in love with both men and women. We think that the idea of viewing sexuality as a spectrum is a great way to look at it. It means there is some fluidity in our preferences, and everything is totally acceptable. Of course, that doesn't mean you won't prefer to date one gender or the other. You probably will. But if you're not sure how to label yourself or where you fall on the spectrum of straight, bi, or gay/lesbian, we say don't stress about it. Even though it may seem like everyone around you has it figured out, they proably don't. Instead, see all of your questions about your sexuality as something that makes your life more interesting and will give you more personal insight and confidence. Want to try a little experiment? Look at the scale below and locate where you think you are on the spectrum. Make a note of what you think today, and then see if it's the same a year from now. (Image not shown) WHEN DO I NEED TO DECIDE IF I'M QUEER There is no time limit. Like we said, it's natural to go through a period of questioning and experimenting before you know what's right for you. You may spend some time being bi-curious, which means you wonder a lot about what it would be like to get with someone of your own gender. You may try out dressing as the opposite gender or explore your feelings by looking at photos or movies to see what appeals to you. It's your life. Only you can decide when and how to express your gender identity and sexuality--no one else.  In Marke's words   My Big Gay Revelation  For me, the signs were probably there from the start. I was the kind of little  kid who played dress-up in his mom's clothes, ran around singing show tunes  at the top of his voice, and pretend-flirted with other boys. (My parents even  have pictures of me kissing one of my boy cousins on the lips when we were  in diapers!) In grade school, I also fooled around with some other boys in my  neighborhood and from my school. But I didn't really think about it in terms  of whether I was gay or straight or whatever. I knew lots of boys who did  stuff like this, and it didn't seem like a big deal.   It wasn't until around sixth grade, when I started developing deep crushes on  other boys, that I started thinking I might be a little different. But I still  couldn't put my finger on it. I had never even heard the word gay until some  older boys from another school tried to insult me by calling me that. I did a  little research in the library to find out more and discovered a whole history  of people who not only had sex with people of the same gender but had  passionate romantic relationships as well. In fact, there was an entire  community of people who felt the same way I did; it was a delicious  wonderland of queerness! I realized it was OK to like other boys in "that  way," and even though it took a little while to find other boys who liked me  back, I knew that I wasn't "abnormal" or "weird"--just a little bit different.  In Kathy's words   Uh, That Explains It (How I Knew I Was a Lesbian)  As a kid, I kept falling in love with my best friends. Sure, I had crushes on guys,  but when the opportunities came to be with them or a girlfriend, I always chose  the girl. When I go back and read my old journal from high school, I have to  laugh at what I wrote. There are entries that say things like, "I'm not queer or  anything, but I don't want Lisa to get a boyfriend because we wouldn't be able  to spend as much time together" or "We're not queer or anything, but I'd just  rather be with Jenny than with Joe" or "I'm not turning to girls, I just really  want to be close to Kim." Seriously.  It's pretty obvious to me now that I was trying to justify what I was feeling  because I was confused. At the time, I didn't really understand what it meant to  be a lesbian, and the thought scared me. Lesbians were something we made fun  of, and I didn't really know anyone who was openly gay.  When I got to college and started meeting other lesbians, I was finally able to  admit to myself that I was queer. It was no longer some big scary thing because  I was meeting some really amazing women who were lesbians. I got to see  what lesbian relationships looked like and started going out dancing to lesbian  bars and seeing lesbian movies. I became more and more comfortable with  other lesbians and with myself. So by the time my first girlfriend, Lori, leaned  in to kiss me, it felt like the most natural thing in the world.   Excerpted from Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens by Marke Bieschke, Kathy Belge All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.