March 31st is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day to celebrate trans and non-binary people and raise awareness about the discrimination they still face.
There are some brilliant books by trans authors that deserve more love and attention, so today I’m sharing eight books you should check out, and seven books that are on my TBR.
Trans books you should check out
Cemetery Boys is a wonderful YA book about Yadriel, a trans teen who summons a spirit to prove his brujo abilities to his traditional family.
Things go awry when the spirit he summons is actually his school’s bad boy, Julian, who’s determined to find out what happened to him before he lets Yadriel help him pass on.
Yadriel and Julian are brilliant characters, with so much heart, and a grumpy/sunshine dynamic that I absolutely adore. Both teens grow and learn from each other throughout the story and their development was so wholesome to read. I honestly can’t recommend this book enough.
The Tensorate series
The Tensorate series (comprised of The Black Tides of Heaven, The Red Threads of Fortune, The Descent of Monsters, and The Ascent to Godhood) is a silkpunk fantasy series about twins Akeha and Mokoya, who discover they have special and unusual abilities.
The book has non-binary and queer rep and gender is explored in a way that I’ve never seen before in a novel. Characters in this world grow up as non-binary until they decide to choose their gender.
The writing is exquisite and the world building is so unique, using technological language to explain the magic of the ‘slack’ (the atmosphere, energy, and elements surrounding people). I adore this series and I’m excited to read the final book and see how it concludes (but I also don’t want it to be over).
Between Perfect and Real
This is a YA contemporary about a trans boy, Dean, as he accepts and embraces his identity and decides what being trans means for him.
This beautifully written story focuses on Dean coming out at school and to his friends and family. Dean is cast as a ‘non-traditional’ Romeo in his school’s production of Romeo and Juliet and his joy at finally getting to play a male role that feels right to him is wonderful to read.
This book isn’t without its sad moments, as Dean faces frequent violence and transphobia at school, but the author challenges these prejudices and strikes a sensitive balance between serious and sweet moments.
Coffee Boy is a short novella about a trans man, Kieran, who starts interning at a government office and slowly starts to have feelings for his co-worker. The romance is enemies-to-lovers and the chemistry between Kieran and Seth is great.
The discussions about the main character’s experience of being trans are nuanced and raw. Kieran describes what it’s like to wear a binder, to be misgendered, and to constantly have your identity questioned. He describes having to educate cisgender people on pronouns and LGBTQIA+ issues, and finding more confusion than acceptance.
The author covers a lot of ground in such a short novel, but nothing feels rushed or forced. The narrative doesn’t feel like it’s judging straight or cis people either, it’s simply saying “try harder, do better”, as we all should.
Pet is a YA fantasy that follows Jam, a Black trans teen with selective mutism, who unintentionally brings a monster from their mother’s painting to life.
One of the main themes of the book is what constitutes a monster. The author discusses the idea that the traditionally scary creatures we’ve always assume to be monsters, may not be the real monsters at all; sometimes people are the true monsters.
The novel’s prose is thought-provoking, imaginative and captivating and I loved this story.
Felix Ever After
This is a YA coming-of-age story about Felix, a Black, trans, queer teen who loves art and hanging out with his best friend. But when someone posts photos of him pre-transition and begins bullying him online, he decides to fight back by catfishing the person he thinks is responsible.
Through the book’s narrative, the author encourages us all to be our authentic selves. Felix wants to be able to be his authentic self without worrying about prejudice, but he fears that he’s ‘one label too many’. Throughout the story, we see him begin to accept every aspect of who he is, while also discovering new things about himself, like the fact that he’s a demiboy.
Friends-to-lovers is so underrated (especially when it’s childhood friends or they’ve been friends for years) and this book does it so well. This book is hopeful, uplifting, and feels like a heart-felt love letter to trans and queer readers and teens.
Boys Run the Riot
Boys Run the Riot is the first volume in a manga series about Ryuu, a trans high schooler, who unintentionally befriends Jin, a new transfer student, and the two decide to start a clothing brand together.
Ryuu explores his trans identity through clothing and there are some really beautiful moments when he’s wearing clothes he feels good in. I also loved Ryuu and Jin’s burgeoning friendship and how Jin instantly accepts Ryuu for who he is, and reminds him that it’s a gift to the world to be your true self.
I’m not kidding when I say this book instantly cleared my skin and watered my crops, it’s lovely and uplifting, with some great queer-affirming messages and sweet moments.
This is a sweet, feel-good graphic novel about two girls who reconnect when one of them joins the cheerleading team and then realise they’re starting to have feelings for each other.
Annie is a sarcastic, tough plus size lesbian, who enjoys spending time in her own company and doesn’t like many people at her school. Bee is a biracial trans girl who’s captain of the cheer team and a kind, gentle soul who likes helping others. (It’s a grumpy/sunshine relationship!!!)
There are some great moments where the cheerleading team grow closer and begin to trust each other fully. I also liked the way Annie challenges some of the team members’ internalised transphobia, showing them why their comments and ideas aren’t helpful or well meaning, even if they meant well.
Books by trans authors I want to read
There are still plenty of books by trans authors on my TBR that I want to get to ASAP and these are a few that are high up on my list.
Obviously, I can’t fully recommend these since I haven’t read them yet, but I’d encourage you to go and check out the synopses and decide for yourself if you want to read them.
The Transgender Issue
Trans people in Britain today have become a culture war ‘issue’. Despite making up less than 1% of the country’s population, they are the subjects of a toxic and increasingly polarised ‘debate’, which generates reliable controversy for newspapers and talk shows. This media frenzy conceals a simple fact: that we are having the wrong conversation, a conversation in which trans people themselves are reduced to a talking point and denied a meaningful voice.
In this powerful new book, Shon Faye reclaims the idea of the ‘transgender issue’ to uncover the reality of what it means to be trans in a transphobic society. In doing so, she provides a compelling, wide-ranging analysis of trans lives from youth to old age, exploring work, family, housing, healthcare, the prison system, and trans participation in the LGBTQ+ and feminist communities, in contemporary Britain and beyond.
So often the stories shared by trans people about their transition centre on gender dysphoria: a feeling of deep discomfort with their birth-assigned gender, and a powerful catalyst for coming out or transitioning. But for many non-cisgender people, it’s gender euphoria which pushes forward their transition: the joy the first time a parent calls them by their new chosen name, the first time they have the confidence to cut their hair short, the first time they truly embrace themself.
In this groundbreaking anthology, nineteen trans, non-binary, agender, gender-fluid and intersex writers share their experiences of gender euphoria: an agender dominatrix being called ‘Daddy’, an Arab trans man getting his first tattoos, a trans woman embracing her inner fighter.
What they have in common are their feelings of elation, pride, confidence, freedom and ecstasy as a direct result of coming out as non-cisgender, and how coming to terms with their gender has brought unimaginable joy into their lives.
Light from Uncommon Stars
Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.
When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.
But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.
Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.
Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese—and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby—and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it—Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family—and raise the baby together?
I Wish You All the Best
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
The Passing Playbook
Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.
At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing.
So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.
An Unkindness of Ghosts
Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.
Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.
When the autopsy of Matilda‘s sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother’s suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother’s footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it.
What are some of your favourite books by trans authors? Which books are on your TBR?