25 Essential Books by Trans and Nonbinary Authors to Add to Your Reading List
Nov. 20 marks Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance that honors the memory of trans folks whose lives were lost in acts of anti-trans violence. The last few years have seen an increase in anti-trans violence, a devastating and terrifying reality. There are many ways everyone can support the queer community all year long, but Trans Day of Remembrance is also a good opportunity to read or revisit works by trans and nonbinary authors.
From beautifully illustrated collections of poetry to compelling fiction novels to poignant memoirs, this list has something any reader at any level can enjoy. We've included names of staple pioneering trans authors, as well as some fresh faces we hope to introduce you to.
Whether you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, a loyal ally, or someone looking to live through the lenses of these well-written authors, this list is something you can (and should) return to beyond Trans Day of Remembrance.
— Additional reporting by Lena Felton
"Pageboy" by Elliot Page
This highly anticipated memoir from Elliot Page tracks the Oscar-nominated actor's life after the massive success of "Juno" — what it was like to fulfill his dreams but also face the pressure to play the part of a young starlet. Tracing his understanding of love, family, and fame, "Pageboy" is a brave look at what it means to find true strength and connection.
"Beyond the Gender Binary" by Alok Vaid-Menon
Gender nonconforming and transfeminine artist, activist, and writer Alok Vaid-Menon invites readers to see gender in full color in their book "Beyond the Gender Binary." In an effort to challenge the world's widely accepted view of seeing gender as black and white, Vaid-Menon draws from their own experiences to give a deeply personal account of why they believe gender is an extension of creative expression.
"Detransition, Baby" by Torrey Peters
In "Detransition, Baby," Torrey Peters traces how the lives of three women — trans and cis — collide after an unexpected pregnancy. The highly acclaimed debut navigates taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, all while offering an entertaining and deeply moving story.
"She of the Mountains" by Vivek Shraya
All-encompassing creative Vivek Shraya delivers a complex, lyrical love story between a person and their body in her stunning illustrated novel "She of the Mountains." Blending together impassioned, contemporary love with elements of reimagined Hindu mythology, Shraya investigates the negative effects policing gender has on the soul.
"A Safe Girl to Love" by Casey Plett
Canadian author Casey Plett delivers 11 compelling short stories featuring young trans women journeying through love, loss, and the everyday struggles of growing up as a trans girl in her book "A Safe Girl to Love." Through deeply emotional and poetic storytelling, readers live through the lenses of these brave women, experiencing intimate moments of embarrassment, frustration, sadness, happiness, and everything in between. This Lambda Literary Award-winning body of work is perfect for the short-story-lovers.
"Any Other City" by Hazel Jane Plante
Hazel Jane Plante's unique book "Any Other City" is the two-sided fictional memoir of Tracy St. Cyr, the lead of an indie rock band. Side A of the memoir looks at Tracy's life in the 1990s, when she's an artist starting out and falls in with a group of trans women; Side B follows her as a semifamous musician in 2019, healing from a traumatic event.
"He/She/They: How We Talk About Gender and Why It Matters" by Schuyler Bailar
You may recognize Schuyler Bailar as a history-making NCAA swimmer, but these days, Bailar is focused on advocating for the trans community. In "He/She/They," he offers an urgent guide to the essential language we all need to know in order to navigate the conversations and debates happening around trans rights.
"Tripping Arcadia" by Kit Mayquist
"Tripping Arcadia" is Kit Mayquist's debut novel, a modern gothic tale that follows Lena, a medical school dropout who takes a job working for the Verdeaus, one of Boston's most elite families, to help her parents. But as she uncovers the family's secrets — including that the Verdeau patriarch is responsible for the ruin of her own family — Lena vows to get revenge.
"Several People Are Typing" by Calvin Kasulke
Calvin Kasulke's "Several People Are Typing" is made for a post-pandemic era. The novel is entirely set inside the Slack channels of a small New York PR firm, with lots of strangeness: one employee convinces the others he's actually stuck in Slack; there's a queer romance; and, of course, lots of office drama ensues.
"The T Is Not Silent" by Andrea Jenkins
Andrea Jenkins, the United States's first-ever African American and openly transgender woman to be elected into office, brings light to the trans community in her book "The T Is Not Silent." In an exceptional effort to provide a deeper understanding of what she describes as "a community that is invisible to most," Jenkins explores the vicious struggles of living as a trans person. Discussing topics such as violence, unemployment, housing, and discrimination, Jenkins highlights the change needed and the resilience of the community.
"What Makes You Beautiful" by Bridget Liang
In Bridget Liang's beautifully written YA fiction novel, "What Makes You Beautiful," readers follow the lighthearted story of Logan Osborne, a high schooler who begins to experiment and question their gender identity. In a true coming-of-age tale, Osborne finds themself around a wider range of genders and orientations, which lead to them beginning to present themself as more feminine. After realizing they do not identify as a gay boy any longer, but a transgender girl, Logan changes their name to Veronica. Things become complicated with Veronica's love life after now identifying as a girl.
"Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity" by C. Riley Snorton
In an enlightening, deeply educational, and eye-opening historical account, scholar C. Riley Snorton identifies the cross-sectionality between transness and Blackness in his book "Black on Both Sides: A Radical History of Trans Identity." Carried by an extensive archive of materials such as fugitive-slave narratives, sensationalist journalism, and Afro-modernist literature, Snorton gives insight into the importance of Black history in relation to transgender topics.
"Seasonal Velocities" by Ryka Aoki
A tangible trophy to Ryka Aoki's commitment and promise to trans visibility, her book "Seasonal Velocities" is a captivating expedition into self-discovery. Through a collection of poems and essays curated thematically by the seasons, Aoki guides readers through harsh winters, flourishing springs, and her relentless journey of hope, healing, and finding herself. "Seasonal Velocities" is an extraordinary indicator of Aoki's own creative prowess and a must-read for those in love with artistic expression.
"How to Be You: Stop Trying to Be Someone Else and Start Living Your Life" by Jeffrey Marsh
Jeffrey Marsh's "How to Be You: Stop Trying to Be Someone Else and Start Living Your Life" takes the hands of readers, bringing them on an interactive, completely immersive journey into self-care. Using activities such as chart coloring and self-reflection questions, Marsh aims to help readers discover the patterns that are holding them back from living their best lives.
"I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl's Notes From the End of the World" by Kai Cheng Thom
In an eloquent collection of personal essays and poems, Kai Cheng Thom explores the furthest depths of contemporary society and social movements in her book "I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl's Notes from the End of the World." Diving deep into heart-wrenching topics of violence, family, and healing, Thom calls upon readers and advocates alike to invite hope into their lives.
"Tonguebreaker" by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarsinha
"Tonguebreaker" is the fourth collection of poetry from award-winning poet Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarsinha. In this one, Piepzna-Samarsinha beautifully illustrates what they describe as "surviving the unsurvivable." Through the topics of hate crimes, suicide, falling in love, and living life as a "working-class queer brown femme," they shine a light on what daily life is like for those in the trans community.
"My Life Is No Accident" by Tenika Watson
After a car accident left soul singer Teddy Pendergrass paralyzed from the waist down in 1982, media coverage surrounding his "mysterious" passenger, Tenika Watson, blew up. Although Watson was just a passenger, mainstream coverage, in a disgusting violation of her privacy, put a magnifying glass to her life. Rumors and conspiracies spread of alleged involvement, even going as far as to blame her for the incident. Watson tells her account in her book cowritten by Jennifer Daelyn, "My Life Is No Accident."
"Disintegrate/Dissociate" by Arielle Twist
In her powerful debut collection of poetry, "Disintegrate/Dissociate," Indigenous trans writer Arielle Twist shares the complexities of love and relationships after death. Inspired by the process of metamorphosis, breaking and rebuilding, and the duality of emotions, Twist takes readers on a transcendent path of grief, trauma, and identity.
"Becoming a Visible Man" by Jamison Green
One of the original leading trans rights activists, Jamison Green tells all in his candid autobiography, "Becoming a Visible Man." Green opens up about the transmasculine community, as well as the harsh realities of strained family relationships.
"I've Got a Time Bomb" by Sybil Lamb
Sybil Lamb's "I've Got a Time Bomb" immerses readers into the year 286, set in the city of Morteville. The protagonist, Sybil, is on her way home from a wedding when she is jumped and left for dead. After waking up in a hospital with serious head injuries, Sybil quickly realizes her version of reality will never be the same. In a compelling journey of grief, love, and discovery, Sybil embarks on an astonishing journey looking for love in every corner of America.
"Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy From Transgender Writers"
"Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy From Transgender Writers" is a collection of 25 short stories from authors like Cat Fitzpatrick, Casey Plett, Imogen Binnie, RJ Edwards, and more. Similar to a video game, readers get to choose their own path "from twenty-five preset post-realities."
"Sorted" by Jackson Bird
In the captivating memoir "Sorted," Jackson Bird explores the gender norms that shape childhood and how these led him to transitioning in his 20s. Through the bumps along the way, he offers a poignant view of what it means to navigate gender as a young adult.
"Freshwater" by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi's "Freshwater" explores the life of a Nigerian girl named Ada, who is born with "separate selves" within her. This causes strife for her family, and when Ada moves to America for college, these selves begin to manifest in a dangerous, albeit thrilling, realization. The unique narration style complements the book's dark undertones in the talented Emezi's debut novel.
"Little Fish" by Casey Plett
The award-winning story of "Little Fish" follows a trans woman's journey of discovery as she finds out her late grandfather may have been transgender himself.
"Magic For Liars" by Sarah Gailey
In Sarah Gailey's fantasy novel "Magic For Liars," private detective Ivy Gamble investigates a murder at a private academy. The gender-nonconforming author shows the protagonist unraveling this mystery as the complex case immerses itself into her personal life.