This essay reconsiders the common trope of gay and lesbian reading from the vantage of racial difference as an entry point into thinking the possibility of comparative queer of color literary history. While testaments to reading as crucial to gay and lesbian identity formation abound, such reflections and the literary canons they produce do not account for racialized readers or literary traditions. This neglect becomes evident when examining women and queer of color anthologies as well as scenes of reading in three texts published from the advent of explicitly LGBTQ2 of color literature to the present: Audre Lorde’s biomythography Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982), Craig Womack’s (Muscogee-Creek and Cherokee) novel Drowning in Fire (2001), and Janet Mock’s memoir Redefining Realness (2014). Although these narratives imagine and claim other cultural histories and frames of reference that render queer and trans of color existence and eroticism possible, intelligible, and valuable, they remain within the logic of reading as textual mirroring and self-identification, which precludes comparative modes of reading and occludes the definitional challenges posed by queer of color critique. Returning to Lorde and renovated theories of comparative racialization, I close by gesturing toward the subjective vulnerabilities and (dis)identifications as well as the institutional changes necessary for comparative queer of color literary histories to flourish.

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