Thu 31 22
17 Important Transgender Books (by Trans Authors)
13 min read
Today is Transgender day of visibility. It’s difficult to know where to start with talking about trans rights, gender dysphoria, and the politics behind transgender stories, other than to simply say that trans people need all the help and support that they can get. That’s where transgender books and trans authors come in.
Understanding your own dysphoria and deciding on the next step can be confusing, frightening, and lonely.
And something that can help is reading transgender stories by trans authors, or the biographies of people and their real-life experiences with coming out as trans and then going through their own transition.
We all like to know that we’re not alone, and that our experiences have been shared by others (if in their own way).
Vital Transgender Books by Trans Authors
And so, to that end, here are a few of the best trans books by trans authors. Some are transgender fiction (Also known as tg fiction); others are transgender stories of real-life experiences. One is a wonderful comic book by an even more wonderful trans writer.
We hope that these trans books by trans authors will help you, if you’re looking for a little support, knowledge, or comfort.
to support vulnerable trans people in the UK, consider donating to Mermaids.
Detransition, Baby made history when it became the first book written by a trans woman to appear on the longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Beyond this, Detransition, Baby also happens to be a bold and human novel that explores the dark and the light sides of being a trans woman in the twenty-first century, written by one of the foremost trans authors of our time.
The novel’s story, set in Brooklyn, centres around Reese and Ames (formerly Amy). Reese is a trans woman in her mid-thirties who desperately longs to be a mother. Ames is now living as a man but lived for six years as a trans woman named Amy, and much of that time was spent in a lesbian relationship with Reese.
Now, however, Ames has knocked up his boss, Katrina, having believed himself infertile after so many years on estrogen. Ames and Katrina do not feel equipped to be parents, and so Ames takes the leap of reaching out to Reese and asking her if she wants to be a third parent to this soon-to-be-baby.
Detransition, Baby shifts from the past to the present, exploring the complicated lives and journeys taken by trans women. It doesn’t shy away from difficult topics like suicide, assault, and detransitioning. But it is also, at times, a laugh-out-loud funny novel, told with biting wit and genuine wisdom.
Incredibly well plotted, Detransition, Baby is like a perfectly carved statue. Every minute detail has been so meticulously considered as to make for an engaging, educational, raw, funny, and fine-tuned novel about trans lives by one of the great trans authors.
Shon Faye is a renowned British writer and journalist, and The Transgender Issue is her debut book. As its subheading makes clear, this is a transgender nonfiction that makes clear how improving the lives of trans people in the UK and beyond — legally, socially, politically — would improve the world as a whole.
Each chapter of The Transgender Issue focusses on a specific social issue that negatively impacts, and often endangers, the lives of transgender people in the UK. She explores domestic violence and homelessness, legal and social rights, police violence and incarceration. Every point supported by impeccable research.
As a socialist who seeks to improve the rights and lives of all people, Faye uses her platform and position to make a case for human justice through a transgender lens.
Each point she makes about the lives of trans men and women can be extrapolated to a broader issue concerning healthcare, media influence, state violence, and more.
That said, The Transgender Issue is still a book that primarily argues for improving the lives of trans people in the UK. Interviews, statistics and research is all used to both reinforce her points and clear the fog of media bias, anti-trans propaganda, and general distrust.
The Transgender Issue is written for the average Brit: the white cisgender taxpayer who gets their news from the BBC and knows little about the struggles that trans people face.
This is a book that counters misinformation and seeks to calmly, kindly, and clearly educated the masses on the social, legal, and medical difficulties that British trans people face on a daily basis.
I’m Afraid of Men is an itty-bitty memoir/manifesto by Canadian musician, author, and professor Vivek Shraya. At under 100 pages, this is a quick but impactful read that documents a life spent navigating and jumping the hurdles put in place by patriarchy and misogyny.
Having transitioned in her mid-thirties, Shraya spent her youth attempting to pass as a man. Spit and slurs were hurled at her in school; men gave her advice on how to “take up space”; and she had to unpack her own learned misogyny.
Shraya is one of the loudest and proud trans authors writing today, and I’m Afraid of Men is a cutting, honest look at the toxicity created by masculinity and masculine spaces.
This was a book that hit me particularly hard, as a non-binary writer who has also lived in fear of the aggression and intimidation perpetuated by masculine men since childhood.
If you are a woman or a queer individual, you will find a lot of relatable moments in this book, not only in Shraya’s own life events but also in the ethos she puts forward.
I’m Afraid of Men aims a spotlight on the poison seeped out into the world by heteronormativity and considers how the world might be improved with a little more gender-queerness.
This book is a ride! While mostly a memoir, Please Miss is unconcerned with genre constraints and enjoys the freedom of exploring art criticism, queer theory, autofiction, and more. This book could only have been written by a punk academic ex-addict.
Grace Lavery is a punk, through and through. In the opening chapter of Please Miss, she presents a conversation between herself and a friend about the physical and philosophical role of her penis.
Shortly after, she reads us a letter she received from a seemingly mad person about clowns, believing it to be a form of written abuse by a transphobe. These clown letters continue to be relevant as the “narrative” moves forward.
In exploring her own transness, and the broader concept of transness in general, Lavery writes us comedy skits and letters. She transforms her prose on a whim and switches topic as she sees fit. Please Miss often reads like a series of musings tied together with old string.
It can be hard to follow. It’s esoteric, strange, even frustrating at times. But it is also an unshackled, meditative, and laugh-out-loud funny memoir of the gritty, messy topic of transness.
With Please Miss, Lavery has established herself as one of the great trans authors of our time.
Alison Rumfitt is a transgender writer based in Brighton, UK. Her debut novel, Tell Me I’m Worthless is an unflinching, punk trans novel about the UK’s treatment of trans people. It’s an unpleasant, twisted, gothic nightmare of a novel, and it’s also a work of literary genius.
Tell Me I’m Worthless follows two former friends: Alice and Ila. Alice is a trans woman who is haunted by ghost. Ila is a vocal TERF who was radicalised after the two spent a night at a haunted house together. Each of them believes the other sexually assaulted her in that house.
Rumfitt’s novel is a revolutionary piece of gothic horror that wears its pain on its sleeve. This is a novel that attacks transphobic Britain (or “TERF Island” if you prefer). It ponders what the UK is doing to trans people, rallying transphobes against us and leaving us to live in fear.
Beyond being an important and angry transgender novel by a fierce trans voice, Tell Me I’m Worthless is also, very simply, a wonderful piece of modern gothic fiction.
Mia Violet is a wonderful writer and blogger, and a vital voice in the transgender community. Her book, Yes, You Are Trans Enough, is a vindication of the rights of trans people, cementing her as one of the great trans authors of the decade.
It has been cherished and praised by members of the trans community as one of the most valuable and empathetic tg stories in print right now.
In her book, Mia recounts, with honest and in detail, her own personal experiences with coming out as trans and growing to understand and love herself.
It also widens its scope to tackle misinformation, as well as the narratives that trans people are often left to suffer at the hands of biased and lazy media bodies.
Uplifting and scathing in equal measure, Yes, You Are Trans Enough is ultimately a validating celebration of trans people and transgender stories, peppered with grounding and sobering warnings about the dangers of toxic narratives in the media.
Iconic British trans woman, and author of the celebrated Trans: A Memoir, Juliet Jacques has been around and done a lot. With Variations, she has written a monumental collection of short stories, closely inspired by real-life accounts by British transgender men and women from the past two hundred years.
Juliet Jacques is one of the UK’s most beloved trans authors, and here she’s turned her skill to documenting transness across two centuries.
Intensely researched, every story here is an adaptation of a letter, article, script, interview, or account of some sort, written by or about a real trans person from the UK.
Taking various different forms, these stories are all unique, set in different decades, facing different issues, featuring different trans people living wildly different lives. Variations shows the breadth and scope of trans life, celebrating its existence and highlighting its struggles.
The full title of Laura Kate Dale’s book is Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman. It’s a small book that covers a broad range of issues and experiences, proving her weight and importance as one of the UK’s vital voices amongst trans authors.
Laura Kate Dale is a UK-based video game critic, enormously successful and beloved within her community. She is also a trans woman who has lived her life with autism and the struggles and discomforts that come with it.
In this incredible memoir – one which toes the line between being personal and being factual – Dale calls on her own personal experiences with coming out as trans.
Dale also explores a wealth of facts and data regarding gender dysphoria, mental health issues, autistic spectrum disorder, and more in order to provide readers with an informed, comforting, enlightening, narrative.
For readers who are not trans, there is so much to learn here. And for those who are, I hope that you find a connection with this most personal and informative of tg stories and your own personal story.
Moving on from telling her own story in Uncomfortable Labels, Laura Kate Dale — now one of the UK’s biggest trans authors — has here edited (and written one third of) an essay collection documenting the beauty and excitement of being transgender, non-binary, intersex, and otherwise non-cisgender.
A diverse collection of voices from across the non-cisgender spectrum have here been brought together to tell their stories of gender euphoria. Every essay is a breath of happy air, pushing back against the often overwhelming narrative of gender dysphoria and the struggles of being transgender.
From the excitement of noticing their body change and become what they want it to be, to getting the gay wedding of their dreams, these are intimate and personal tales of euphoria by proud trans, non-binary, and intersex writers.
A stunning collection that celebrates transness in all its forms. A necessary and comforting read.
This is perhaps one of the most famous and most celebrated transgender stories around. A lot of the trans fiction and non-fiction we mention here has been published within the last year or two.
Whipping Girl, however, has had a little more time to sink into the public discourse. Published more than five years ago, this book has been repeatedly hailed as the definitive book on trans people, their experiences and their shared narrative.
Whipping Girl is a transgender manifesto that comes at transgender issues from a personal, social, and biological angle (author Julia Serano being both an activist and a biologist in her ordinary life).
It’s a treatise that stands for intersectional feminism and rights for trans people. It’s a guidebook, a friend, and a teacher for all people, trans or not, which highlights the power of Julia Serano as one of our most vital trans authors.
This is a narrative that explores coming out as trans across decades, from the 90s to now.
Not Just a Tomboy examines how the social discourse, conversation, and media coverage surrounding transgender visibility has evolved over the years, all the while remaining entirely intimate and introspective.
Most tg stories have the effect of being comforting and supportive, whether that’s intentional or not (though it usually is), and Baldwin’s tale is no different.
Tracing his life experiences from childhood, through his teen years, and into adulthood, it goes a long way in supporting the vital understanding that gender dysphoria and being trans has no age limit.
So, Lumberjanes was originally the invention of the delightful writer and editor Shannon Watters. It’s a comic book series about a group of campers who go on adventures little and big, dealing all the while with strange and supernatural happenings.
It’s a delight, always. But Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass is something special, carrying the title of being the first full-length graphic novel of the Lumberjanes canon.
And this particular book is written by beloved trans writer Lilah Sturges, a woman who positively and jovially supports her fellow members of the trans community constantly and with so much pure love.
While this isn’t, strictly speaking, transgender fiction, it is fiction written by a trans writer. And we need to see more and more of that, especially in the world of comic books.
CN Lester is a genderqueer writer, journalist, and classical music singer/songwriter. In short, they are a powerhouse of artistic talent, activist strength, and a vital voice in the transgender and non-binary communities.
Trans Like Me’s subtitle, A Journey for All of Us, is vital in espousing their message that this is a book for everyone: trans people, non-binary and genderqueer people, allies, supporters, family members, and those who simply want to understand.
In Trans Like Me, Lester is opening up the transgender discourse, pulling it apart and looking at it from all angles. They discuss activism and the media, provide personal and detail tg stories, and educate readers with vital facts and unbiased information
This is the book that can perhaps most help those who want to understand the conversation surrounding trans rights and the very existence of trans and genderqueer people, especially if they are not trans themselves.
If I might speak personally for a moment, it was Laura Jane Grace’s story which first brought to light, for me, the modern experiences of transgender people. It was one of the first transgender stories I personally paid attention to.
I had been a huge fan of her punk band Against Me! for years before Grace came out as trans. When she did, her band and her fans showered her with love and support, as did her wife.
Grace’s hidden truth about her gender dysphoria had been tucked into lyrics in her songs for years. Once she was out, though, she wrote the band’s magnum opus: Transgender Dysphoria Blues.
Fast forward a few years and the publication of Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout.
The word ‘tranny’ is certainly not a favourite one these days, but perhaps you can chalk this up to a minority member of society (a punk rock star, no less) turning a slur back on the world. The book itself is a pacey, raw, energetic, engaging thrill-ride.
First things first: we have to pause for a second to admire this fantastic pun of a title. All right. Now to what this book is.
Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard is the personal biography of a ftm transgender person who understood what he was at the age of 15 and would then set out on a trans mission to become in the public eye what he always was inside.
Alex’s story is full of sardonic wit and real laugh-out-loud moments. Even its cover lets you know that Alex is coming at his story from a positive angle, which is a colossal breath of fresh air.
Of course, nobody could be confused by why so many transgender stories are serious and often sorrowful – trans people fight simply for their right to exist and be seen right across the globe – but still, having a more happy, positive, jovial tone really encourages Alex’s trans readers to celebrate being trans.
There’s an uplifting amount of transgender fiction being published right now, but so much of it is written by non-trans writers. And while that isn’t always a problem, it does mean that the author isn’t necessarily speaking from a place of personal experience.
And so, we have chosen to include a piece of tg fiction specifically written by a transgender writer.
Meredith Russo’s novel, If I Was Your Girl, is a joyous narrative piece of transgender fiction that puts the focus on not being a tragedy. So much trans representation in fiction brings the trans character’s story to a tragic ending, which is not the kind of narrative we want to be engrained in the public discourse.
That’s why this particular piece of tg fiction is so important. It’s a TA trans novel written by a trans author that is full of hope.
It’s detailed, full of highs and lows, but it reminds its trans readers that their own ending can and should be a happy one, making this one of the most vital pieces of transgender fiction, and will go down as one of the great transgender stories.
Translated from the Chinese by Ari Larissa Heinrich
This final book is a bit of a wild card, only because its author is not transgender. He is, however, a scholar of LGBTQ literature and a celebrated writer of queer fiction in Taiwan. And, given the status of queer and trans authors as punk and rebellious artists, The Membranes arguably deserves a spot on this list.
The Membranes is a speculative sci-fi novel set at the turn of the 22nd Century, in a world where humans live in cities on the ocean floor, protected from the sun after the evaporation of the o-zone layer.
Our protagonist is a transgender woman named Momo, a dermal care technician who was born of a test tube and now estranged from her mother.
Exploring the details of Momo’s transness would be spoiling the novels many incredible twists and turns, but knowing that she is trans going in won’t spoil anything by itself.
This is a queer sci-fi novel that plays with the lines between genders, sexual relationships, and more. Originally published in 1995, it is a Taiwanese novel far ahead of its time, and ahead of the status of the entire world in the 1990s.
Disclaimer: I, the writer, am an AMAB non-binary person. I am not transgender, but I am an ally who wants to do their part in supporting trans writers and all transgender people. But I do not and cannot speak for trans people.