Before We Go is a progressive blog that believes in LGBTQIA rights as well as encouraging both gay, straight, or otherwise to include them in their stories. However, more so, it’s good to recognize the characters that we love who just so happen to fall under one of these labels. So, here are the five favorite LGBTQIA characters of each reviewer here on staff.
Steve Westenra’s Picks
As a queer writer myself, I was very excited when this blog topic came up! I could fill a book with favourites but decided to limit myself to queer characters written by queer authors and who are confirmed on or off-page to be queer (with one exception). As a reader, I tend to prefer queer characters who aren’t perfect, and who aren’t written to conform to straight expectations or desires. Some works by straight authors are included in my honourable mentions.
- Jana Beil (Sapphic character, The Company Daughters by Samantha Rajaram) – It was a toss-up for me over whether to choose Jana or her partner Sontje for this one! Rajaram’s tragic queer historical romance is both captivating and shattering, full of moving realism and characters who feel fully drawn. Jana, the protagonist, isn’t perfect, but her heart beats on every page and the truths Rajaram articulates when it comes to the complex turnings of the human heart are deeply affecting. Reading Jana’s story, I felt as though Rajaram had cast a spell on me and very much felt a “queer touch across time” with both Jana and Sontje.
- Heru (Asexual representation, The Chronicles of Ghadid by K.A. Doore) – I love me a crotchety old man character, and although he starts off young in this enchanting queer fantasy adventure series by K.A.Doore, by the third book he qualifies. As someone who’s always been a bit crotchety myself (and who suffers from resting bitch face) I tend to identify with this type of character. Heru isn’t the lead character in any of the three books that make up Doore’s trilogy, but boy does he make an impression. Morally suspect but with impeccable fashion sense and an uptightness that’s delightfully funny on page, Heru is an ACE-spectrum badass with some serious brains.
- Lucy/Lucifer (Trans and gender nonconforming character, Not Wanted on the Voyage– Timothy Findley) – I challenge anyone to read this book and not come away changed. It presents such a stark and poignant account of how oppression and violence are used to enforce adherence to social norms, as well as how insidiously exclusion can be used as a marginalizing tactic. The novel is essentially a retelling of the biblical flood myth, with Satan represented as a sometime male, sometime female figure with strong trans and queer overtones. This is one of my favourite books of all time, and Lucy (along with other members of the cast) one of my favourite characters of all time.
- Noah Mishner (Trans male character, Depart, Depart! – Sim Kern) – This short, sweet novella packs a punch. As a trans man myself, Noah spoke to me on a very real level. Noah is basically just an ordinary guy and that’s what’s so fantastic and so devastating about both him and his situation. Depart follows Noah’s struggle to survive inside a temporary emergency shelter after a hurricane results in deadly flooding. Noah’s whole household is killed and he’s left (mostly) alone to wrestle with survivor’s guilt as well as the danger of being a minority (he’s both trans and Jewish) in a space where there’s next to no privacy. What I love so much about Noah is how human and relatable he is.The kinds of anxieties that he experiences felt exceptionally real to me and Kern’s multi-layered characterization helps to drive home the human cost of climate change in a way that’s personal and sensitive.
- Nana and Nana (Sapphic characters, Nana by Ai Yazawa) – These two manga protagonists are my one exception to my “only confirmed queers” rule. Ai Yazawa is one of my absolute favourite writers and artists, and Nana is arguably her magnum opus. Tragically, it remains unfinished due to an illness that has stopped Yazawa from being able to work, but from the very beginning of this adult manga series we’re given flash-forwards to a future where it’s hinted the relationship between the two female protagonists might have developed into a romantic one. Yazawa is no stranger to writing queer characters, so there’s some basis for my interpretation. Every character in Nana is incredibly well realized and authentic. The two Nanas in particular are such strong forces–on page they’re opposites (one stereotypically girly and domestic, the other an edgy punk rocker), but their deep connection is a big part of what propels the narrative and sucks you in. After my teens I unfortunately found it hard to connect with a lot of manga, but Yazawa has remained a favourite with her realistic depictions of interpersonal relationships. Characters aren’t always at their best in her work and the conflicts the Nanas face are heartbreakingly real (it’s a rare series that made me cry–not just on one occasion, but many).
Honourable Mentions: Gilgamesh and Enkidu (I felt like it was cheating to go all ancient texts on this), Loki (see previous), Chant (A Conspiracy of Truths – Alexandra Rowland; another crotchety old man! Confirmed bi by the author!), Jake Livingston (The Taking of Jake Livingston– Ryan Douglass), Moog (Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames), Orlando (Otherland– Tad Williams), Cecil Palmer (Welcome to Night Vale books – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, Bella (Belinda Blinkedseries – Rocky Flintstone), Jonny Appleseed (Jonny Appleseed – Joshua Whitehead), Eileen (Eileen– Ottessa Moshfegh), Eric and Andrew (The Cabin at the End of the World– Paul Tremblay), Hild (Hild– Nicola Griffith), Vern (Sorrowland– Rivers Solomon).
CT Phipps’ Picks
As a longtime supporte r of LGBTQIA rights, I love finding characters that break the mold and we are getting more of them every day. While my favorites are probably the ones from my books, they certainly draw inspiration and kinship from these picks.
- Danny Tozer (Trans Lesbian, Dreadnought by April Daniels) – Danny is a transgirl who is trapped in a house where she’s closeted until she gains the power of the world’s greatest superhero. I wish I had been able to write this story as it is genuinely meaningful superhero fiction. Danny is awesome and i want that third book dammit.
- Lestat De Lioncourt (Bisexual Man, Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice) – The definitive vampiresexual character that remains someone that people know loves Louis most of all above any of the many who adore him. He’s such an asshole and we wouldn’t have him any other way.
- Aphra Marsh (Asexual Lesbian Romantic, Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys) – My bias is showing once more as I absolutely want more LGBT friendly Cthulhu fiction. Aphra Marsh’s asexuality is by Word of God and she completely misses her best friend is in love with her but she still has romantic tendencies. The books are also VERY gay and all the better for dealing with it in the Post-WW2 period.
- Ralph Allen (Homosexual man, Miskatonic University: Elder Gods 101 by Matt Davenport) – This book needs to be more read and while some may call it derivative of Super Powered, I absolutely love this football playing Deep One hybrid who just wants to escape Innsmouth as well as find love. Which he does with no major trauma.
- Ivy (Bisexual woman, The Hollows by Kim Harrison) – The motorcycle Joan Jett-esque vampire seems like she should be the protagonist of the books. She gets a number of interesting love interests but really should have ended up with Rachel.
Honorable Mentions:Gail Simone’s Red Sonja (bisexual woman, Red Sonja), Doctor Aphra (Lesbian, Star Wars), Sparkle Bright and Princess (Lesbian and Transwoman, Velveteen Versus by Seanan Maguire), Thara Celehar (gay male, Cemeteries of Amalo)
John Mauro’s Picks
The characters below are not only some of my favorite LGBTQIA protagonists, they are some of my all-time favorite characters period. In each case, their sexuality is treated by the authors with careful nuance.
- Nona Grey (Bisexual Woman, The Book of the Ancestor by Mark Lawrence) – Nona Grey is one of my favorite protagonists from any fantasy series. Her relationship with her classmate, Ara, is one of the highlights of Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor trilogy; the ending of Holy Sister left me in tears.
- Tashué Blackwood (Bisexual Man, Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar) – With Tashué Blackwood, Krystle Matar has developed one of the most complicated, compelling main characters of any book I’ve read, fantasy or otherwise.
- Patricia Cowan (Bisexual Woman, My Real Children by Jo Walton) – This light sci-fi novel is based on a bifurcating timeline where Patricia either accepts or rejects a marriage proposal from a man who demands a “now or never” response. In these alternating timelines, Patricia either chooses to marry her psychologically abusive suitor or reject the proposal and live a much happier life with a woman as her partner. This novel has stuck with me for years.
- Jasnah Kholin (Asexual Woman, The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson) – Jasnah Kholin is a boss. Her no-nonsense, take-charge attitude is amazing, especially in Rhythm of War, where Sanderson also did an excellent job with ace representation. I love her relationship with Wit, which is based on an intellectual attraction rather than anything physical.
- Red and Blue (Lesbian Androids, This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone) – This is a clever and touching love story told as two android agents, known only as Red and Blue, leave love notes for each other at different points during the broader conflict between their opposing civilizations. Given the nature of the war, their love must be kept secret. The touching relationship between Red and Blue forms the heart of this beautiful sci-fi novel.
Dan Finn’s Picks
- Tashué Blackwood (Bisexual Man, Tainted Dominion series by Krystle Matar)– Tashué is a troubled figure, a cop who discovers the life he’s devoted himself to is dead wrong. He’s a manly man, tough and violent when the need arises, but also sensitive and caring, and, as it happens, bisexual. I love how whole and multifaceted his character is, and his queer identity is just one facet of that complexity.
- Violetta Benedetti (Transwoman, The Calyx Charm by May Peterson) – Violetta is a trans woman with magical hair who spends the book working to overthrow her father and the patriarchal system he represents that has literally and figuratively violated her and stolen her agency. Peterson’s depiction of the struggle of the transfeminine identity and the joy in overcoming the countless (often literal) slings and arrows showered upon trans women is beautiful, moving, and utterly unforgettable.
- Fahriye Budak (Lesbian, Those Who Break Chains by Maria Ying) – Fahriye starts as a sort of cop, gets turned into a sort-of gargoyle, and ends up being the most lovable and complex character in my favorite all-time series. She’s a lesbian, like all of the characters in the books, and has liaisons with several other characters, all of them heartfelt and delicious, but her relationship with Elizaveta is my favorite.
- Taryn (Transwoman, Pride, Pain, and Petticoats series by Abigail Trusity)– Taryn (née Tarence) is magically transed at the beginning of the first book and learns the ways of womanhood with the help of her sisters at etiquette school. She also learns that she’d been playing the role of a man all along, and as we get her backstory in bits and pieces throughout the first two books, we get a close-up and often heartbreaking look at the transfeminine experience. Gorgeously written and deeply moving.
- Nelson Graves (Bisexual man, Under Red Sky by J. Calamy) – Graves AKA The Boss was one of the first queer characters I read in my modern era, a badass crimelord who’s brutal with his enemies and tender with his lovers. I fell head over heels in love with him because of the strength of his character–he’s a disabled man who lets nothing stop him from getting what he wants. He fights and fucks like a monster truck when the occasion calls for it, but his touch can be as tender as a butterfly drinking from a flower.
Beth Tabler’s Picks
- Multiple Characters (Queer characters, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers) – This is a story that reads like a TV show. It is luscious, descriptive and by the end of it I was literally clamoring for the next book.
- Viv (Lesbian Orc. Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree)- This is an amazing book. Travis managed to write a story that has fantasy but also is a warm hug without being schmaltz.
- Helen and Edith (Lesbian Protagonists, Even Though I knew The End by CL Polk )– C.L. Polk’s lovely Even Though I Knew the End is a beautiful way to spend the afternoon. To describe, it, you take one part supernatural thriller, one part hard-boiled same-spade detective story, and one part queer romance dash in a bit of the late 1930s-1940s in Chicago, and you have it.
- Kyr (Lesbian Woman, Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh) – “While we live, the enemy shall fear us” In the future the humans Are a brutish warlike people, who have lost a war and the Earth is no Moore. I suppose it is not so Far from who we are now. The remnants live in a high propagandized ship and train from birth very much like the spartans do with the sole purpose of fighting a war too avenge the humanity. This is a story about one of the warriors, Kyr, who is trying too unlearn all that she is taught and see the truth of what actually is. It is a brilliant space opera. Loved every page of it.
- Mahit (Lesbian woman, A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine) – A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine is an expertly crafted science fiction fantasy novel that incorporates real-world cultures into the intricate Aztec Empire influenced mythos. It is shining and immersive and should be read and read often. Again this is a masterclass of a space opera. The vivid characterizations and beautiful relationships, especially between Mahit and Three Seagrass are reason enough to read the book, but there is so much more.
Esmay Rosalyne’s Picks
As someone who is questioning their own sexuality and as a long-time supporter of the queer community, I am always looking for more delightfully queer characters to fall in love with. Never enough queer love, if you ask me!
- Gideon Nav (Lesbian Woman, The Locked Tomb by Tamsyn Muir) – My favourite foul-mouthed, fierce, snarky, and effortlessly funny necromancer. I mean, with her fiery red hair, painted-on skull face, bulky muscles, and big dark sunglasses, she pulls off the edgy look like no other. Safe to say, I am trash for Gideon Nav. Also, achingly slow but delicious sapphic pining, anyone?
- Jason Blackwood (Homosexual Man, The Tainted Dominion by Krystle Matar) – Oh Jason… what to say about this precious broken soul? His steady relationship with Lorne (one of my other favourites, who really gets his time to shine in book 2) is just about the only thing keeping his head above water while he’s imprisoned. He truly deserves to be protected at all costs, though life is brutal in the Tainted Dominion and I doubt my heart is safe with Krystle Matar (a.k.a. Trauma Mommy).
- Derossi Vargo (Bisexual Aromantic Man, The Rook & Rose by M.A. Carrick) – With his impeccable fashion choices, sensuous eyeliner, and devilish charm, this enigmatic crime lord just walked straight into my heart and will live there rent-free until eternity. Even better, this entire series is just delightfully queer and filled with dashing characters who are all dangerous flirts; the tension is soooo good!
- Sylah (Bisexual Woman, The Ending Fire trilogy by Saara El-Arifi) – Even though Sylah easily wins the award for most frustrating character on this list, I just can’t help but love her. This is one of the few series where a love triangle works, and the sapphic pining is on-point! Also, one of her best friends is a trans woman and their friendship is honestly to die for. We stan Hassa!
- Kihrin D’Mon (Bisexual Man, A Chorus of Dragons by Jenn Lyons) – As my friend Skye likes to scream at Kihrin: “Denial is a river in Egypt!!!!”. Yes, Kihrin might be in denial for a while, but just imagine my feral screaming when he eventually embraced his disaster queer identity. And what’s more, he is surrounded by a wonderful cast of other disaster queers and ends up in a beautiful polyamorous dynamic that just lights my heart on fire.
Honourable mentions: Ronan Lynch (Homosexual Man, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater), Calidra & Jisyel (Lesbian Women, The Dragon Spirits by L.L. MacRae), Kiokharen (Homosexual Man, The Gardens of War and Wasteland by Jessica A. McMinn), Calinthe (Aroace Intersex (femme presenting), Merchants of Knowledge and Magic by Erika McCorkle), Talon Cour-Vermane (Asexual Homoromantic Man, Legacy of the Vermillion Blade by Jay Tallsquall).
As someone who’s a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s always nice to come across queer characters in books just being their authentic selves and going on adventures. Thankfully, there are so many awesome representations in literature today, and I wanted to share 5 of my favorites.
- Blue (Bisexual Man, Sorrow’s Forest by Kaitlin Corvus) – a devil stolen from the forest, Blue is a mysterious being who is as beautiful as he is ethereal. I couldn’t help being charmed by him and how he always tries to find the best in people.
- Dex (Nonbinary, A Psalm for the Wildbuilt by Becky Chambers) – I absolutely adore Dex and their wholesome friendship with Mosscap. These two have definitely shown me the importance in just simply being. Always a special place in my heart.
- Petre ( Bisexual Man, The Fall is All There Is by C.M Caplan) – I would be remiss not to mention my chaotic cinnamonroll. He’s the true definition of a Bisexual Disaster™️ and I absolutely love him.
- Tonkee (Trans, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin) – I like Tonkee and her eccentric personality. She’s a scientist and honestly such a well crafter character who takes no bs.
- Clement (Gay teen, Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker) – Clem is someone who loves hard and is very protective of the people he cares about. All though he is thrown a lot of shit in Blood Debts, he holds his own and continues to fight. I’m excited to see his character growth in Blood Justice.