Transgender people's lives are rich, unique, and complex. Once you get past the "Trans 101" nuts-and-bolts of terminology and medical/legal transition-specifics, there's a whole world of trans* lived experiences to explore.
Today, I took just a small sampling from my own bookshelf of books on trans and gender-nonconforming stories that I've enjoyed, and have made me think. This list isn't in order of "best to worst", by the way -- they're all tops on my list for different reasons.
it's worth noting, too, that some of these are "harder" reads than others -- more difficult subjects or more dense language. But reading is, in part, about challenging yourself to grow, and I've always felt deeply rewarded by pushing myself outside my limits.
So I hope you pick up a book and enjoy!
The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You
S. Bear Bergman
Trans writer S. Bear Bergman's essays humorously address issues from women's spaces to the old boys' network, from gay male bathhouses to lesbian potlucks, from being a child to preparing to have one.
Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions, and Imperialism
Viviane K. Namaste
Trans scholar Vivane K. Namaste calls readers to think critically about transsexual politics in relation to feminism, with particular focus on intersectionality and de-centering the American trans experience as the universal "trans" experience.
Visible: A Femmethology (Vol. 1 & 2)
Jennifer Burke (editor)
Visible: A Femmethology, the only two-volume anthology devoted to femme and feminine identity, calls the LGBTQI community on its prejudices; celebrates the diversity of individual femmes (including trans women & men); and challenges conventional ideas of how disability, class, nationality, race, aesthetics, sexual orientation, gender identity and body type intersect with each contributor's concrete notion of femininity.
Self-Organizing Men: Conscious Masculinities in Time & Space
Jay Sennett (editor)
Self-Organizing Men explores the he roles of paradox and incoherence in the construction and maintenance of the masculine self through poetry, visual images, essays, and humor.
Trans historian Susan Stryker's concise, chronological history covers the transsexual, transgender, and cross-dressing communities in the years following World War II; trans radicalism and social change through to the early 1970s; the mid-’70s to 1990—the era of identity politics and the changes witnessed in trans circles through these years; and the gender issues witnessed through the ’90s and ’00s.
The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard
Tom Leger & Riley MacLeod (editors)
The Collection represents the depth and range of tomorrow’s finest North American writers chronicling transgender narratives. 28 authors showcase the future of trans literature and the next great movements in queer art.
Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (editor)
Nobody Passes confronts and challenges the very notion of belonging. It explores and critiques the various systems of power seen (or not seen) in the act of “passing." Trans writer Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore sets out to ask the question, “What lies are people forced to tell in order to gain acceptance as 'real'?"
Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us
Gender Outlaw is an exploration of gender theory, interspersed with Kate Bornstein's personal anecdotes, and closes with the full text of Bornstein’s two-act play, Hidden: A Gender. Part coming-of-age story, part mind-altering manifesto on gender and sexuality.
Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme
Zena Sherman & Ivan E. Coyote (editors)
Sherman & Coyote's collection aims to resist simple definitions and reductive stereotypes of butches and femmes. Persistence gathers leading voices in contemporary queer writing whose hearts pounded the first time they read or heard the words "butch" or "femme."
Trans/Love: Radical Sex, Love & Relationships Beyond the Gender Binary
Morty Diamond (editor)
Exploring the crossroads of gender and sexuality, Trans/Love offers honest, engaging narratives that depict dating, sex, love, and relationships among members of the gender variant community.
Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
Feminist writer Julia Serano shares her experiences and observations—both pre- and post-transition—to reveal the ways in which fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness toward femininity shape our societal attitudes toward trans women, as well as gender and sexuality as a whole.
Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness, and Becoming a Man
Thomas Page McBee
Trans writer Thomas Page McBee's short, lyrical piece of creative nonfiction maps a journey toward self-realization as he suffers the post-traumatic anxieties of two pivotal events: his father’s sexual abuse of him as a child, and his near-death encounter with a mugger.
Manning Up: Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family & Themselves
Zander Keig & Mitch Kellaway (editors)
I'd be remiss to not list my own co-edited anthology! 27 trans men discuss their social transitions and roles as male community members: fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, boyfriends, friends, and mentors. Their essays address many topics, including birthing and raising children, gay male sexuality, facing racism, and finding solace in deeply held religious beliefs.