LGBT Politics

5 Great Books on LGBT Politics Selected by Choice Reviewer Melissa R. Michelson

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) politics are an increasingly salient topic in the US, from the rights of same-sex couples to marry and adopt children, to fights over gender-neutral bathrooms, to violence against LGBT people. These five books provide a background of the important history of the LGBT community, their activism and legal battles, and continued efforts to gain dignity and equality. While many casual observers of LGBT politics often see the 1969 Stonewall Riots as the launch of the gay rights movement, the fight for LGBT politics actually covers a much longer timeline, with interesting lessons for students of social movements and the power of minority groups.

Fragmented Citizens: The Changing Landscape of Gay and Lesbian Lives, by Stephen Engel. NYU, 2016.
Despite the US Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 making same-sex marriage the law of the land, and Justice Kennedy’s argument that doing so was crucial for the dignity of gays and lesbians, Engel posits that they are still often viewed as less than full citizens—as fragmented citizens with only partial rights.

ballot box cover

Gay Rights at the Ballot Box, by Amy Stone. University of Minnesota, 2012.
This compelling if disturbing history of anti-gay ballot campaigns in the US since 1974, fleshed out through interviews with movement leaders, is an accessible and informative study of social movement politics in general and a key perspective on the modern gay rights movement.

The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government, by David K. Johnson. University of Chicago, 2004.
Most folks are familiar with McCarthy’s Red Scare, but not with the contemporaneous attack on homosexuals. This violent episode in US history also is a story of the origins of the gay rights movement dating 50 years prior to Stonewall.

different politics book cover

Same Sex, Different Politics: Successes and Failures in the Struggle over Gay Rights, by Gary Mucciaroni. Chicago, 2008.
This book examines the politics of policymaking on a variety of LGBT issues, including the legalization of homosexual conduct, marriage, adoption, military service, and hate crimes, revealing how each brings together different perceived threats and advantages, and often with surprising results.

Transgender Rights, edited by Paisley Currah, Richard M. Juang, and Shannon Price Minter. University of Minnesota, 2006.
Transgender rights are now front-page news, but until recently, the T in LGBT political science was often overlooked. This book is the perfect place for folks to get up to speed on the terminology, history, and ongoing struggles facing the transgender movement.

About the author:

Dr. Melissa R. Michelson ( is Professor of Political Science at Menlo College in Atherton, California, and co-author of Listen, We Need to Talk: How to Change Attitudes about LGBT Rights, Oxford, 2017.