11 Books that Celebrate Trans People and Trans Lives
Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility, and we want to take this opportunity to recognize the work of transgender writers and stories about trans lives. We’ve pulled together a list of 11 great books from independent publishers that tell #TransStories – from YA books about trans superheroes to memoirs that testify to the trials and triumphs of trans people.
If you’d like to purchase any of these books, we’d highly recommend seeking out your local independent bookstore. Your business helps ensure the survival of these vital cultural institutions during this difficult time.
Dreadnought by April Daniels
Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.
It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.
She doesn’t have time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.
Our Work is Everywhere by Syan Rose
A visually stunning collection of illustrated narratives on queer and trans resistance.
Over the past ten years, we have witnessed the rise of queer and trans communities that have defied and challenged those who have historically opposed them. Through bold, symbolic imagery and surrealist, overlapping landscapes, queer illustrator and curator Syan Rose shines a light on the faces and voices of these diverse, amorphous, messy, real and imagined queer and trans communities.
In their own words, queer and trans organizers, artists, healers, comrades, and leaders speak honestly and authentically about their own experiences with power, love, pain, and magic to create a textured and nuanced portrait of queer and trans realities in America. The many themes include Black femme mental health, Pacific Islander authorship, fat queer performance art, disability and healthcare practice, sex worker activism, and much more. Accompanying the narratives are Rose’s startling and sinuous images that brings these leaders’ words to visual life.
Man Alive by Thomas Page McBee
In Man Alive, Thomas Page McBee attempts to answer that question by focusing on two of the men who most impacted his life; one, his otherwise ordinary father who abused him as a child, and the other, a mugger who almost killed him. Standing at the brink of the life-changing decision to transition from female to male, McBee seeks to understand these examples of flawed manhood and tells us how a brush with violence sent him on the quest to untangle a sinister past and freed him to become the man he was meant to be.
Man Alive engages an extraordinary personal story to tell a universal one—how we all struggle to create ourselves, and how this struggle often requires risks. Far from a transgender transition tell-all, Man Alive grapples with the larger questions of legacy and forgiveness, love and violence, agency and invisibility.
I Hope We Choose Love by Kai Cheng Thom
Essays on love, mercy, and forgiveness as political values in these polarizing times, by the acclaimed trans poet and prose writer.
What can we hope for at the end of the world? What can we trust in when community has broken our hearts? What would it mean to pursue justice without violence? How can we love in the absence of faith?
In a heartbreaking yet hopeful collection of personal essays and prose poems, blending the confessional, political, and literary, Kai Cheng Thom dives deep into the questions that haunt social movements today. With the author’s characteristic eloquence and honesty, I Hope We Choose Love proposes heartfelt solutions on the topics of violence, complicity, family, vengeance, and forgiveness. Taking its cues from contemporary thought leaders in the transformative justice movement such as adrienne maree brown and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, this provocative book is a call for nuance in a time of political polarization, for healing in a time of justice, and for love in an apocalypse.
Pass With Care by Cooper Lee Bombardier
Pass with Care is a testament to trans resilience, queer joy, and the power of finding freedom and adventure within a community of your own creation. Transgender writer, artist, and activist Cooper Lee Bombardier shifts effortlessly between lyrical essays, poetry, and narrative nonfiction as his own landscape changes over the course of two decades. From working-class New England to the queer punk scene of early ’90s-San Francisco to New Mexico’s deserts, Bombardier documents his experiences with compassion and reverence, offering us an expansive view of gender and sexuality, masculinity and tenderness, and the difference between surviving and thriving.
Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve
An historical mystery with a transgender protagonist.
Leo Stanhope is rich in dreams but poor of pocket. He dreams of making a home with Maria, the prostitute he loves. And he dreams of a world where no one cares what is tucked between his legs. Leo has a secret and in Queen Victoria’s England, that secret could get him locked up for life…if nobody kills him first. But it’s a prostitute who’s killed instead, and Leo becomes the prime suspect. Desperate to clear his name and find the murderer, Leo is forced to sacrifice his books, his job, his home.
Trans New York by Peter Bussain
A visually stunning, landmark photography book of transgender New Yorkers, complete with thought-provoking and revealing interviews that honor the transgender community and the courage it takes to find oneself and defy societal norms.
A growing portion of the LGBTQ+ community identifies as transgender; they are family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, and yet they are all-too-often stigmatized and misunderstood. This visual tour de force presents exquisite portraits of more than fifty New Yorkers who identify as trans, genderqueer, or gender nonbinary, and interviews with them in which they reveal who they are and what their transitions were like and combat common misconceptions and stereotypes.
The vibrant, honest photographs were taken on the streets of New York or in iconic places like Grand Central Station, and together the photos and interviews provoke questions on gender identity, the gender spectrum, and gender expectations. In total, this is an unparalleled articulation of the expressions of sexuality, gender, and self that New York, in all of its beauty, honesty, and compassion, welcomes, as well as a celebration of the power of finding oneself and a compelling call for respect and acceptance.
This One Looks Like a Boy by Lorimer Shenher
Since he was a small child, Lorimer Shenher knew something for certain: he was a boy. The problem was, he was growing up in a girl’s body.
In this candid and thoughtful memoir, Shenher shares the story of his gender journey, from childhood gender dysphoria to teenage sexual experimentation to early-adult denial of his identity—and finally the acceptance that he is trans, culminating in gender reassignment surgery in his fifties. Along the way, he details his childhood in booming Calgary, his struggles with alcohol, and his eventual move to Vancouver, where he became the first detective assigned to the case of serial killer Robert Pickton (the subject of his critically acclaimed book That Lonely Section of Hell). With warmth and openness, This One Looks Like A Boy takes us through one of the most important decisions Shenher will ever make, as he comes into his own and finally discovers acceptance and relief.
Self-ish: A Transgender Awakening by Chloe Schwenke
SELF-ish is a narrative drawn from an international life, beginning with some early glimpses out at the world by a girl in a boy’s body. Chloe Schwenke was raised as Stephen in a Marine Corps family and was sent off at age fourteen to “man-up” at a military academy. Later—and still embodied as a man—she ventured abroad to work in some of the roughest regions of Africa, the Gaza Strip, Turkey, and many other locales. Her far-flung global journey was matched in intensity by an inner identity and spiritual struggle and the associated ravages of depression before she came to the revelation of being a transgender woman. At a time when many Americans are just waking up to the reality of the transgender phenomenon, this portrayal of Chloe’s life, her challenging gender transition, and her many accomplishments and adventures along the way (including being among the first three transgender political appointees in U.S. history, under President Obama), creates a poignant story of authenticity, self-discovery, and the meaning of gender set against a fascinating international backdrop.
Once a Girl, Always a Boy by Jo Ivester
Jeremy Ivester is a transgender man. Thirty years ago, his parents welcomed him into the world as what they thought was their daughter. As a child, he preferred the toys and games our society views as masculine. He kept his hair short and wore boys’ clothing. They called him a tomboy. That’s what he called himself.
By high school, when he showed no interest in flirting, his parents thought he might be lesbian. At twenty, he wondered if he was asexual. At twenty-three, he surgically removed his breasts. A year later, he began taking the hormones that would lower his voice and give him a beard—and he announced his new name and pronouns.
Once a Girl, Always a Boy is Jeremy’s journey from childhood through coming out as transgender and eventually emerging as an advocate for the transgender community. This is not only Jeremy’s story but also that of his family told from multiple perspectives—those of the siblings who struggled to understand the brother they once saw as a sister, and of the parents who ultimately joined him in the battle against discrimination. This is a story of acceptance in a world not quite ready to accept.
Finding the Vein by Jennifer Hanlon Wilde
Isaac knew Heritage Camp would be different this year: he was different. While he had accepted who he was, he wasn’t sure how his peers would feel. What he didn’t expect was having to investigate the sudden death of his camp counselor.
Sergeant Mikie O’Malley is called to work on the case, but she finds herself distracted by the fact that the victim was adopted, reminding her of a recent inheritance that has her questioning what family really means.
Located outside of Portland, Oregon, Heritage Camp is a summer retreat for adopted international children where adoptees can explore their identities and bond over their shared experiences. When camp counselor Paul goes into fatal anaphylactic shock one evening, everyone believes it to be a tragic accident. But Sergeant Mikie, a former ER nurse, and her new partner Detective Wu aren’t so easily convinced. Rumors spread quickly through the camp—everyone is a suspect. Isaac and his new friends share their grief and theories about what really happened, bringing shocking evidence to light. As the detectives and campers each conduct investigations into Paul’s death, Heritage Camp’s own secrets start to unravel. They soon discover something much more sinister than they ever expected.