You’re young. You’re impressionable. You’re eying your sister’s scarves. So your parents suggest you read more. Something to keep your hands busy! Little do Dad and Mom know: Books are the gateway drug to being gay.

I know the drill. I was this orphaned kid adopted by Texas fundamentalists. Not the kind with cool bands on stage. The really serious kind that worry about the end of the world. But I found worlds that end without CGI effects.

I read books… a lot of books. My list was super weird. It started with The Stepford Wives and went in all directions from there. But there are better ways to try and distract your mind. I know about them because I once had a psychotic break from reading too much. Talk about being gay!

Now that I’m on the other side of that, here are five well-loved books to read to get you out of the closet. Or to celebrate being gay all together. From literary classics to self-help trends, my inspiration comes from my recently released memoir Bookmarked: How the Great Works of Western Literature F*cked Up My Lifewhich flips the script on western literature and its false narratives that brought me to question my sexual identity.

1. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

Shorter: Dude slides into your DMs, you hook up a few times (forest sex! hot!), and the Puritans leave you alone for the rest of your life. Plus, you get to wear designer clothes. (Monograms!) And you even get a kid out of it. (Auto follow-back from the Brooklyn Instagays.)

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Cocktail parties! Morning coats! Great Neck! Sure, Jay Gatsby’s a bootlegger. Okay, he’s really from North Dakota. But aren’t all the best gays from states with ninety-degree angles? And those super witty friends of his. That big lawn on Long Island. You always wanted a place in the country. Okay, he’s married. They all are. But his wife has the hots for another guy, this jock Tom. That is, when she’s not in for electro shock. So, a possible threesome!

3. Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain

Straight people are straight-up boring. This book will prove it. They yammer on about sweet potatoes and mumble shit about cornbread. Plus, they walk the hell all over creation just so they can be a dirt farmer in Georgia, rather than stick around the mountains of North Carolina, where all those hot otters in flannel own espresso bars in Asheville. No way you’d leave that scene. (Although, if you stay in the closet, Nicole Kidman could play you in the movie, so there is a serious trade-off.)

4. Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

This is the other thing straight people do: They love to buy great stuff, then feel guilty about it. They can shit on the best brocade, the finest velvet. Not you. This Japanese clean freak will clear the malls so the halls are wide open for your next spree. Besides, you spent years in the closet working on that collection of antique whisks and dough hooks. Read this book and you’ll realize it’s really a short step from those to a tragic hook-up off Grindr. Welcome to the family.

5. George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones

This one’s more advanced, for when you’re sort of out, just not enough for a real gay. Start with any book in the series. Doesn’t matter which one. They’re all a zillion pages long with leather daddies and lipstick lesbians talking like frat boys think Shakespeare would. Once you’ve read the tome, you can get into fascinatingly long, late-night conversations with that hot straight bae you’ve been eying for weeks. A few beers in, he’ll be talking about some chick riding dragons. Casually mention Renly or Oberyn and before you know it, he’s curious. Downside: the crying afterwards. Keep a box of tissues handy.

About the author

Mark Scarbrough is a New York Times bestselling cookbook author, half of the duo with Bruce Weinstein who've written such titles as THE INSTANT POT BIBLE and THE ESSENTIAL AIR FRYER COOKBOOK. 

Before all that, he was an academic who lectured on lit until he lost everything because he couldn't stop living the plots that had been put in his head. 

BOOKMARKED, his memoir, is the first book he's published on his own and a guide to the ultimate question: how can I be who I am when others are always telling me who I am. Learn more on his website

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Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.

Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.