The Book of Queer – A Review

We continue on our reviews this time on the Book of Queer.

The Book of Queer is a 2022 historical TV series by Discovery+. The objective of the series is to reevaluate history from an LGBTQ+ perspective in a way that is factual but also highly humorous. The shows are approximately 45 to 50 minutes each, and they are rated 14+. These shows contain mild curse words with the strongest language being bleeped out entirely. Viewers should be aware that this series includes discussion of homophobia in addition to suicide.

The Book of Queer is currently streaming on Discovery+, Max, and on Amazon Prime Video along with The Roku Channel with premium subscriptions.

Episode 1: “Kings and Queens”- In the first episode of the series, the narrator, actor Alex Newell, introduces viewers to some of the most prominent and, at times, surprising LGBTQ+ leaders, including President Abraham Lincoln, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, non-binary Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, and Bayard Rustin, a gay civil rights leader as well as an advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Although Lincoln was married to Mary Todd, he was known to share the same bed with at least four different men many of whom he kept in contact with while he was married. Similar to Lincoln’s correspondence with men, the letters between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok attest to Eleanor’s attraction to women. The series sheds light on the fact that LGBTQ+ people have held prominent positions dating back to ancient times. King Akhenaten, for example, broke with tradition by having himself sculpted with masculine and feminine qualities. Many years later, Bayard Rustin informed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about non-violence approaches that King would utilize during the civil rights movement.

Episode 2: “Sashay it Forward”- In this episode narrated by comedian Margaret Cho, viewers learn about queer innovators in the fields of art, music, and science: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, singer Ma Rainey, Alan Turing, trans computer scientist Lynn Conway, and the first lesbian to travel to space, Dr. Sally Ride. Each of these queer individuals dealt with their own homophobic experiences that included the loss of employment, being jailed, and having to remain closeted while in the public eye.

Episode 3: “Queen Work Makes the Team Work”- In the third episode of the series, narrator Ross Matthews illustrates the major accomplishments made by LGBTQ+ people in society. These achievements include The Scared Band of Thebes, a top-notch military group in ancient Greece that was comprised of gay male couples in addition to the non-binary ruler Alexander the Great. For those wanting more modern examples of LGBTQ+ successes, this episode chronicles the first high five started by gay baseball player Glenn Burke along with the political run of José Saria and Harvey Milk’s successful win for a seat on the Board of San Francisco Supervisors. Speaking of Milk, his connection to the origin of the original Pride Flag is revealed during this episode.

Episode 4: “From Gay to Z”- Featuring the late Leslie Jordan, this episode delves into the queer romances of King James I who ironically was behind the making of the homophobic King James Bible. Aside from this literary work, viewers hear instances of lesbian poetry from Sappho who openly expressed her love of other women on the Isle of Lesbos. The show then takes viewers to America, where they learn about trans cowboy Harry Allen and We’wha, a two-spirit Native American from the Zuni tribe.

Episode 5: “Pride or Die”- In the series finale, actress, model, and author Dominque Jackson talks about the victories made in France by Joan of Arc while actively defying gender norms on the battlefield. Bisexual entertainer Josephine Baker also broke boundaries by revealing racism in her performances and at the same time was a spy during World War II. Lastly, the roles of trans icons Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson alongside lesbian Storme DaLarverie in the Stonewall Riots conclude this chapter of The Book of Queer. Viewers will be interested to learn how the police force was halted by a chorus line of Stonewall patrons.

Taken together, The Book of Queer is a phenomenal television series as it retraces as well as corrects the longstanding “straightwashing” of history. Each episode, narrated by a variety of queer entertainers, manages to be historically accurate while remaining hilariously funny at the same time. This preciseness is attributed to the “Truth Warning” at the beginning of each episode, which reminds viewers that what they’ll see is a realistic depiction of historical events. When it comes to humor, all of the episodes end with a corresponding musical number based on the theme of the show. To heighten the creditability of the series, multiple historians that are largely members of the LGBTQ+ community themselves, expound on the subjects at hand through the use of quotes, photos, and verified dramatizations.

The most noteworthy historian in the series is Dr. Eric Cervini who goes by the moniker of “the Homo Historian.” He makes an appearance in each episode to explain LGBTQ+ terms that viewers may not otherwise be familiar with. Given the extensive research for this series, this show would be a great educational resource for college students focusing on LGBTQ+ history. The main message of the series is to encourage LGBTQ+ individuals to embrace their true identities by being who they are and learning about their history in the process that has often been obscured.

If you’re questioning your identity, would like to discuss coming out, or are in need of local LGBTQ+ resources, or to simply talk to an affirming peer; please contact the National LGBT Help Center through the support services listed below.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

LGBT National Coming Out Support Hotline: 1-888-688-5428 (1-888-OUT-LGBT)

LGBT National Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-7743 (1-800-246-PRIDE)

LGBT National Senior Hotline: 1-888-234-7243

You can also reach out online at