Beautiful Novels that Represent the Transgender Community
By Emma Holbrook and Lauren Dooley
Recently, there has been an increased demand for protection laws for the transgender community to be introduced and enforced in many countries across the globe. We felt that this would be the perfect time to celebrate all the beautiful books that feature the misunderstood and under-represented transgender community in a respectful, educational and heart-warming manner. Below is a list of our favourite novels with trans characters, so please enjoy!
And They Lived… by Steven Salvatore (Young Adult)
Our first pick is the wonderful, recently published And They Lived… by the brilliant Steven Salvatore, who is a gay, genderqueer author living happily in New York. In this sex-positive, fairytale-inspired YA novel, Chase Arthur is a promising animator and hopeless romantic whose obsession with Disney films has him yearning for true love.
The story centres around Chase as he starts his freshman year of college, and how struggling to recover from his eating disorder and body dysmorphia leaves him desperate to figure out his gender identity. Enter Jack Reid: a pragmatic poet who worships words and craves a life outside of the sheltered world in which he finds himself.
With Chase’s gender struggles and the homophobia that has surrounded Jack from a young age, their relationship seems destined for destruction both from the outside and from within. Chase has to learn to love not only Jack but himself and how to live as the person he is truly meant to be. This novel is perfect for fans of What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, as Salvatore celebrates first love and self-acceptance, even if it takes breaking your heart to find it.
Stealing Thunder by Alina Boyden (Fantasy)
This fantastical debut novel is by and about a trans woman. In the powerful kingdom of Daryastan, transgender women are referred to as ‘hijras’. Born with the heart and soul of a woman, Razia Khan changes her name and identity to represent her true self. By day she is one of Bikampur’s talented dancers, and at night she becomes a successful thief. But when a target leads her to the Prince, Razia is the one who has something stolen from her – her heart.
This beautiful tale incorporates the transphobia that people face daily, especially from family, while uplifting Razia as the ultimate spokeswoman for the community; she is unapologetically herself and utterly fierce. The hijras are an amazing sisterhood, providing a sense of belonging to other trans people. Stealing Thunder is a lovely fantasy story about self-acceptance through an identity crisis.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (Literary Fiction)
Another phenomenal debut is Torrey Peters’ book about three women, transgender and cisgender, and how their lives intertwine. The story follows Reese’s life when her girlfriend detransitions and becomes Ames, tearing their relationship apart. During her self-destructive healing process, Reese receives a message from Ames detailing how he impregnated his lover and boss, Katrina. Having always craved motherhood, Reese must decide whether she wishes to help her ex and his lover raise the baby.
This insightful, moving story comments on the difficulties of being a woman, tackling transition and the emotions associated with it, and delving into topics of gender, sex and modern relationships in a witty yet thoughtful way.
Melissa by Alex Gino (Middle Grade)
We would not have a complete list without offering an amazing book for our younger readers. This contemporary middle grade story follows Melissa, who knows she is not a boy even though that is all people see when they look at her. When she learns that their fourth-grade play will be Charlotte’s Web, Melissa tries to find a way to come out as transgender so she can audition for the lead role.
Previously published as George, Alex Gino delivers a heart-warming read about acceptance and navigating gender identity at a young age. Gino identifies as genderqueer, uses they/them pronouns and understands the complexities surrounding gender. They changed the name of the book to highlight that we shouldn’t use someone’s deadname, as that is not their true identity.
This poignant tale won the 2016 Stonewall Book Award for Children and is a brilliant example of trans representation.
Youngman: Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan (semi-autobiography)
Gender Euphoria: Stories of Joy from Trans, Non-binary and Intersex Writers by Laura Kate Dale (anthology memoir)
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (YA)
Cemetery Boys by Aidan Thomas (YA)
The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye (non-fiction)
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (sci-fi)