Transgender Books: Definitive Reading List (FTM/MTF/LGBTQ)
When I was in college I read through the entire trans section in the library which was mostly very academic gender study kind of things, but over the years I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on the trans book scene, so today I thought I would share some of my favourites.
I have linked to some of these books, you can just click the book title headings to buy them from Amazon in your country (if available).
My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein
Firstly, My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein. It’s an actual workbook, there’s like quizzes and crossword puzzles and all kinds of stuff and it is super fun.
Just Add Hormones by Matt Kailey
Another kind of 101 book that I really liked is Just Add Hormones by Matt Kailey. I hate the cover of this. I wish there were another edition. Maybe there is, I just haven’t found it yet. This goes through Matt’s story and like his life and figuring out his identity but it also has lots and lots of very practical information about transitioning so it’s a great beginner book.
My number one top recommended trans book of all time, and in fact probably my number one recommended feminist book just like if you want to think that you support all genders and are feminist, this is required reading for you. It is Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. I just… So trans people have a very unique perspective into misogyny and how women are treated in society and in public spaces. Often times trans men are the ones who get that platform to talk about that because we’re the ones who are like ooh I suddenly have privilege but it’s weird to me that we’re like validating women’s experiences by listening to men, so I always think that we should listen to trans women in that case.
Julia Serano does an amazing job of breaking down like the loss of privilege that she experienced and why that is and just oh she just covers everything and this book is just so good. You have to read it. It will make you so much smarter, and I want everyone in the entire world to read this book.
A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein
If you want more of those like higher level gender theory type of books, I definitely recommend anything by S. Bear Bergman and Kate Bornstein. Kate Bornstein is the one who did the Gender Workbook and also another book I love by them is A Queer and Pleasant Danger which is their memoir.
The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the church of Scientology and leaves 12 years later to become the lovely lady she is today. Kate Bornstein has lived quite the life, but they’ve also written a ton of other books and I really enjoy everything that she writes.
And since I mentioned Kate Bornstein’s memoir let’s move into what is probably the largest chunk of trans literature which is memoirs.
Balls by Chris Edwards
One of my favourite new memoirs is called Balls by Chris Edwards. It’s about his bottom surgery. I mean it’s about more than that, but that’s kind of obviously the focus. It’s about his journey to get some balls.
Chris transitioned back in I think the nineties and he transitioned on the job and didn’t lose his job and wasn’t rejected by his family so while he has like a little bit of the past generation experiences with being trans, he also has some of the more modern acceptance experiences and also like bottom surgery tends to be kind of a taboo subject in some trans masculine communities.
I enjoy anyone who’s willing to put their experiences out there and actually talk about the facts and what it is really like. So it’s a good one, and he has a hilarious family so it was a fun read.
Darling Days by iO Tillett-Wright
This book is about growing up and there’s a lot of heavy stuff that’s covered in here, a lot about his relationship with his mom. I also love it cause the lower east side New York City history that you get from like the late eighties, early nineties, but I also just love it because I love having a mainstream traditional media representation of a non-binary person, this is great!
Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard
Speaking of which I also just read Eddie Izzard’s memoir Believe Me. Eddie also doesn’t exactly have a label in the modern type of terminology that we would be using. He does identify as transgender and talks a lot in this book about how that is the term he uses now because that is the term we all use now.
Yes, he was made famous in all of his stand-up comedy talks about him being a transvestite which was the language that was being used when he was growing up in the seventies and eighties. But also he’s just such an accomplished dude and you get a lot of kind of practical tips about work ethic and creativity and achieving your dreams and stuff like that, so it’s a good book. He’s my hero so of course I liked it.
Pivoting slightly into biographies, a biography of Christine Jorgensen. Some of it takes from I think her personal journals or something so it’s sort of called an autobiography. Christine Jorgensen is one of the trans women to know from history, especially I think right now with everything being talked about trans people in the military.
She medically transitioned in 1952 and is sometimes hailed as like the first American I think, but she was also a GI and so of course it had lots of very scandalous headlines because the most macho of macho like became a woman. But I think it’s really good to know that part of our history.
The First Man-Made Man by Pagan Kennedy
I recommend this book with a grain of salt, but it was one of my favourite books that I got back at the NYU library and I’ve read so many times. It was one that was really like my security blanket during some of my early days of figuring out my identity and that is The First Man-Made Man by Pagan Kennedy. It’s the biography of Michael Dillon who’s often said to be the first trans man to medically transition in America, Europe, was it Europe? I think he was European.
The reason I recommend it with a grain of salt is it is written by a cis-gendered person and the use of birth name and pronouns is not how one would probably write it these days, you know? But it gives you so much history on what was going on with medical transitions in the early 20th Century, what was available, what was being experimented with. Michael Dillon pioneered a lot of that because he was actually a medical student and it does talk about a couple of other trans people at the time.
Some trans female contemporaries. There’s a bit about Lili Elbe, aka the Danish Girl. So it’s a really good history book, but it was written quite a while ago so not everything is going to be the most up to date terminology.
The next book is not about a trans person, but I do recommend it. So this is As Nature Made Him: The Boy who was Raised a Girl. Some of you may have heard the very tragic case of David Reimer. He was born an identical twin and he had a botched circumcision and his parents got very bad advice that because of his now ambiguous genitalia they should raise him as a girl and there was a psychiatrist named Dr. Money who was like following them throughout their lives as David and his brother grew up with David being raised as a girl and it never worked.
He was born a boy, he always identified as a boy even though he was being forced to live as a girl. I mean one, I just, I ripped through this book. I actually read it in one day, which does not usually happen to me with nonfiction books like this. Often, some haters like to bring up the case of David Reimer as an example for like why kids should not be allowed to transition or just why like trans people aren’t real in general, but really it’s a case for why gender identity is actually so persistent and how you can’t make someone live as the gender that they don’t identify as because they were doing absolutely everything to raise David as a girl and it did not work because he was a boy.
So if you’re someone who gets in debates with people about gender, it’s a good thing to have full knowledge of, but also it’s a really good book but I mean every trigger warning under the sun, this is a horrifically tragic tale.
Rethinking Normal by Katie Hill & Some Assembly Required by Arin Andrews
So moving along into Young Adult (YA), We’ve got Rethinking Normal by Katie Rain Hill and Some Assembly Required by Arin Andrews. These kind of go together. They don’t have to though. Katie is a woman of trans experience and she wrote this while she was in college majoring in three different things so she’s like superwoman.
I love both of these because they read like fiction YA novels, but they’re actually memoirs of their actual lives which is really cool. They dated at one point, which is why their books kind of go together. You kind of see both sides of their relationship which is interesting.
Also Arin makes YouTube videos, so you can see a third side of it from his YouTube videos he was making at the time. Arin is a trans guy, that’s another reason these are great that they go together because you’ve got the transfeminine experience and the trans masculine experience and yeah, if you were looking for YA books from either side of the spectrum I recommend both of these. They’re just exactly what you want in a trans YA book frankly.
Probably the most commonly recommend trans masculine YA novel out there is Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger. Wasn’t my favorite book that I’ve ever read, but I did of course love the representation. It has some sort of practical realistic information about what transition is like for a teenager and how families and friends would respond to it, so it’s definitely good from that perspective.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Sometimes in contrast to Parrotfish I like to recommend Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills. It is also a novel about a trans masculine teenager. This one I feel like is a little bit cooler. I related to the character’s interests a bit more.
He’s like an up and coming DJ and starts this underground movement, not in an activist way, just like in a fun way. Although I did think it was a little bit less of a practical representation of what transitioning is like for a teenager as compared to Parrotfish and certainly as compared to Katie and Arin’s books.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Another YA book that oh my gosh is one of my favourite books ever, Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. There’s like six main characters, like three different couples and only one of them is a trans guy, but he’s portrayed so well and it’s beautiful and really this book is just oh my gosh it’s so good, so goes in between the three contemporary teenage couples and then you’ve got this sort of like group narrator that seems to be some of the folks who died during the AIDS epidemic. They are kind of watching the current generation and talking to them and it’s just so beautiful.
Oh it’s so beautiful, and David Levithan is so great about including trans characters. In his book Every Day there is also a trans character. I love that representation and this book makes me cry.
Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Since I was talking about YA books we’ll jump down a little bit. Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart. Lily is a trans girl, Dunkin is bipolar and it’s about them becoming friends and learning about each other. Learning what each other’s lives are like with the different challenges that they have and about their families and how they deal with their families. I would highly recommend it for like younger trans kids and their parents to read together maybe.
This is David Walliams, The Boy in the Dress. David Walliams is an English comedian. You might know him from Little Britain. He’s also become like a very prolific children’s writer and he is known for being very effeminate. He’s not super open about his sexuality, but he you know is kind of in the pansexual category and so this book I think is one that meant a lot to him and has meant a lot to a lot of people. It’s a very good basically children’s book about a boy who wants to wear a dress. He also wants to play soccer and all of that is fine.
No House to Call My Home by Ryan Berg
So going back to grownup adult books, this is, this book definitely deals with adult themes. No House to Call My Home by Ryan Berg. This is nonfiction based on true stories of Ryan’s experience as a social worker and there are I believe a couple of trans characters. There’s at least one. He tells a lot of stories of kids in LGBTQ youth homes where he has worked for most of his career. And then it’s also a lot of his own unpacking that he does as a more privileged white cisgender gay man. It illuminates a lot of things that I think a lot of people need to hear.
Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowrey
This book was interesting, Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowrey. It is about a bunch of bois like B-O-I bois. It’s like a queer punk retelling of Peter Pan that’s made up of like runaway bois and other queer people. There’s definitely like BDSM elements, not so much in like the actual actions taking place but in those types of relationship structures. It is not exactly what I thought I was getting into, but I really appreciate it existing.
Revolutionary by Alex Myers
All right, next I have three books that I need to finish reading. First is Revolutionary by Alex Myers. Now this is a cool book because the author is a trans guy and he’s writing about his actual ancestor who it’s tough to talk about people’s identities when they are from the past and we didn’t know them, so for the sake of everything we will say this person was female assigned at birth and dressed as a man to fight as a soldier in the Revolutionary War.
This is really a novel and I’ve really been enjoying it so far and I just think that it’s really cool that this trans guy has this gender non-conforming ancestor and wrote a novel about them and that’s really cool.
This book just came out I think this year actually. It’s called At the Broken Places and it is a book written by a trans guy and his mother, and it’s sort of like essays back and forth sort of about them repairing their relationship as every trans person knows, there can be a lot of tension between you and your parents even if they don’t outright reject you, maybe they don’t talk to you for a few years. Maybe a lot of other things you hadn’t been talking about for a while bubble up to the surface. So this is sort of like a healing book between the two of them.
Real Man Adventures by T. Cooper
And finally I’ve thought about reading this book forever and finally picked it up on a whim at Bluestockings. Real Man Adventures by T. Cooper. I mean how can you not love this cover and the whole art design is just great. From what I know, T. Cooper is like pretty much heterosexual kind of your standard trans guy.
I don’t know how much it might touch on like queer experiences or anything like that, which I usually like to have in trans masculine books, but even my friends who have that same taste in books recommended it and said that it is actually great. It lives up to how awesome the cover is. I actually had to stop myself from reading it because I need to be finishing other books, but when I bought it I just immediately like read the first 100 pages, oops!
So those are all of the trans books that I have actually read that I would recommend, but there are a bunch of books that are on my to read list. I bet there’s a bunch that you’re going to recommend in the comments, maybe you thought I was going to mention your favourite one and I didn’t because I haven’t read it yet!
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