Sunday, November 27, 2011

Transgender Young Adult Fiction (Also Genderqueer, Intersex, Cross- Dressing and So On)

Transgender Penguin shirt
Transgender Penguin by fightcancertees
Like bisexual fiction, transgender, intersexed, and general gender identity books are as likely to be about girls as boys, if they're about any identity in particular - and by nature, they generally cover both! 

There's also no reason that a transgender or otherwise genderfluid teen can't also be lesbian, or think they are before figuring out what they actually are, and many lesbians may be wondering if they are actually transgender. At least as far as I'm concerned.

 There aren't many YA books on transgender people anyway, so they might as well be included here, especially given the difficult of drawing the line along the spectrum. Books are grouped under FtM, MtF and 'Everything Else' (e.g. intersex, cross dressing).

Both FtM and MtF

Wandering Son by Shimura Takako, translated by Matt Thorn
 A sensitive manga about two young teenagers who become friends. Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. The series follows them through school, with a transgender mentor appearing in the second book. 

FtM Books

Contemporary YA fiction

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Gabe lives in small town Minnesota, runs a weekly radio show and is passionate about DJ'ing. Oh, and he's also coming out as transgendered while struggling with romantic entanglements, impending adulthood, and the unpleasant reactions of some of his fans when they discover that he is someone they know as a 'her'. Full of music geekery and relationships, this is a book more about a transgender person than about being transgender.

Circle of Change by Laney Cairo
Kim is in high school, gay and transgender, and - unlike most transgender characters - begins the story with the support of his family and preparing to transition. And then he falls in love with a cocky, emo university student called Dash - and has to tell him. A book about coming of age, love and dealing with transitioning.

f2m: The Boy Within by Hazel Edwards & Ryan Kennedy

On his 18th birthday Skye decides to become Finn and kicks off a story of self discovery and hard decisions. From medicine to family - to how the feminist all girl band he's part of will react.

Selected for '2011 The White Ravens' top 250 children and YA novels internationally of 2011.Ryan Kennedy is a transgender first time author from New Zealand, while this is Hazel Edwards' - and award winning Australian author - 200th book.
I Am J by Cris Beam
Born Jennifer,  J has never been comfortable in his body and goes from covering up, to running away to a school for GLBT teens, and finally transitioning. From the author of Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers

Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde
16 year old Elle has to leave home and finds herself very alone in a new flat. She makes friends with a couple next door - and starts to crush on Frank, until she finds out he's transitioning. A story about friendship and admitting your own mistakes, you may or may not appreciate the main character - but Frank is a positive role model and the saving grace of the book.

London Reign by A. C. Britt
16 year old London is a survivor and a street kid of Boston and Detroit, who passes for a man, likes women and expects people to put up with that. A book of ups and downs as London finds love, and starts figuring out who she - or he - is. I think this is the only book on the list with an African-American protagonist.

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
Named after the parrotfish, a fantastically coloured fish that changes sex when necessary. Angela always felt wrong as a girl, and comes out as Grady - to universal rejection from his old life. Luckily, he finds a new friend and falls in love, everything starts working out and he finally starts to figure out who he is. A positive and nonthreatening book for 13-16 year olds.

Please Don’t Kill The Freshmen by Zoe Trope
A rather disjointed and rambling memoir in the form of a diary, from a 16 year old girl, whose girlfriend transitions into a boy.

Fantasy/ Scifi / Historical

The End by Nora Olsen
A futuristic fantasy set at the outbreak of WW3 in 2014, about a group of teenagers with various powers who have to get together and use magic to save the world from a demonic goddess. A nice mix of lesbian/bisexual/boy/girl/transgender, with the main focus on the lesbian couple, but otherwise shared around. The FtM transgender character is Marly. 
What I Was by Meg Rosoff
Set in 1962, this is the story of a secret friendship between a slacking schoolboy and a mysterious boy he discovers living alone in a hut on a beach. The protagonist becomes enraptured with his new friend, idealising his survivalist way of life, but it ends badly when Finn falls ill and is discovered to be a girl, causing scandal.
Also see Pantomime by Laura Lam (Intersex, fantasy/steampunk), from the genderqueer section.

MtF Books

Contemporary fiction

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
Average teenager Logan finds a friend in the new student Sage, inevitably falling for her - only to discover she was born male. He doesn't take it too well initially, but slowly comes to terms with who she is and how he feels about her.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
A satirical story of beauty queens stranded on a desert island, including a transgender boy and a lesbian, in a 'Lost'-like plot that spirals out of control.

Choir boy by  Charlie Anders
12 year old Berry lives for choral singing and is desperate to preserve his voice. he embarks on a desperate stratagem to avert puberty and ends up on hormones. But then, he grows breasts and has to start making some real decisions about himself. Or herself. A somewhat camp story about uncertainty and gender and growing up.

Happy Families by Tanita S. Davies
The twins Ysabel and Nicholas are normal, happy kids (fifteen and older throughout the book), whose lives are up ended when they discover that their father is transgender. They struggle to cope with this, then go and stay with him and learn about who he - she - is, and about transitioning and being transgender. A good book for teens who know somebody who is transgender and ultimately sympathetic and well handled (although the twins aren't immediately accepting, and are both hurt and confused initially).

Luna by Julie Anne Peters
15 year old Regan spends much of her life protecting her gentle older 'brother' as she secretly becomes Luna. Just as Regan starts to crack under the pressure, Luna decides to transition. A sympathetic story that looks at the effects and issues of both Luna and those around her. 

Trans-Sister Radio by Chris A. Bohjalian 
While this is actually an adult book, it has received very good reviews and is worth mentioning. School teacher, divorcee and parent Allie falls in love with Dana, a local college professor, just before he comes out to her as transgender and transitions. Despite the risk of backlash from the community and her own misgivings, she decides to stick with him once he becomes her and see if this now-lesbian relationship can be made to work or not.  A sort of realistic and bittersweet romance, that follows the various people involved equally as they adjust.

The various issues and facts of transsexuality are presented well, and older teens can identify with college-age Carly (the daughter). A good book for any teens who are having to come to terms with an older family member or friend. Not, however, quite such a good book for actually transgender people.

Also see Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman (intersex, MtF identity) from the genderqueer section

Fantasy/ Scifi

The Tamir Trilogy by Llynn Flewelling

A fascinating fantasy trilogy about a land where a corrupt king rules and a prophesied Queen will save the day - and a newborn girl is magically transformed into a boy at birth to protect her until she comes of age and can take the throne. When she does finally emerge as herself, it's understandably awfully confusing for everyone involved, including Prince Tobin/ Princess Tamír (not to mention that her dead twin brother who was used to helped create her male form is hanging around as a vengeful ghost).

 An awesome series and rather creepy at times. Until near the end of the second book, our main character is Tobin, with her as Tamir for the whole of the last book.

Llynn Flewelling is best known for her gay male fantasy, the Nightrunner Trilogy, which begins with Luck in the Shadows.

The Butterfly and the Flame by Dana De Young
 In 2024, America has become a terrifyingly oppressive theocracy, in which being gay is a crime and marriage isn't something women can refuse. This places 15 year old Emily (and her family) in a very difficult position when a marriage is arranged for her, as she was born a boy.
So she flees with her brother across a dystopian fantasy of social justice, freedom and conflict, chased by bounty hunters, in an attempt to escape to the wider world.

True stories
Mom, I Need To Be A Girl by Just Evelyn
A true story about a transgender teenage boy, from the perspective of her mother, and how she transitions into a girl.

Less than clear cut: Intersex, Cross Dressing and Gender Identity
Books that aren't exactly about 'obvious' FtM or MtF transgender teenagers, but cover cross dressing, gender identity and intersexuality.

Gender 'confusion' and being intersexed 

Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman
Brought up as a boy, Alex was born intersexed, and has always known she is a girl. When she reaches 14, she stops taking testosterone and comes out as herself, much to the dismay of her parents. 

The Last Time I Wore A Dress by Daphne Scholinski
A somewhat painful memoir written by a girl who acted too 'boyish' and ended up in an asylum at the age of fifteen - where she was diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder and forced to act more girly. Not an easy read, and probably more for adults.
Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin
An interesting speculative science fiction book for older teens about a happily heterosexual girl who literally becomes a heterosexual boy for four days of every month. As he/she starts growing up, both sexes/siblings come into conflict, as the male version decides he doesn't want to stay hidden away anymore.
Jack & Jill's story is continued in Recycler.

Pantomime by Laura Lam

A magical steampunk novel about a noble girl that runs away and changes her identity, to join a circus (and about her life before that). There she become he, starts figuring out their identity, falls in love - and discovers that magic might run in their blood. Not entirely an easy novel, it is entertaining and sympathetic. The protagonist does not settle on a gender, and is definitely bisexual.

Kenny is a misfit and confused - a sweet kid who doesn't fit in, is ullied at school and is worried about being kicked out by her dad's girlfriend (her dad is in prison) when she reaches 18. Then a girl gets murdered next door and she starts obsessing over that. Meanwhile, she's binding her chest and confused about both her sexuality and her gender. A complex story with a vulnerable protagonist and some great characters.
What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci
The population of Hackett Island is not kind to those who are different, and newcomer Lani Garver is very different. An androynous person who is never confirmed as male or female and resists labels, Lani rescues the narrator Claire from the vicious spiral of her life - and triggers a terrible negative reaction from the locals.
Fool for Love by Lisa Lees (2005)
Two high school girls meet at a summer camp and fall in love. Except 'girls' isn't quite the right word, as the pretty and dress wearing Jami is intersexed, the butch Carys is genderqueer, and neither feels quite comfortable being seen as a girl.

Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff
A beautiful, poetic and painful story about Kid, a teenager of unknown gender and sexuality who gets kicked out of home and moves into the world of the street and punk music, becoming friends with strangers and falling in love with Scout (also of unspecific gender). It is loosely based around the destruction of a historic Brooklyn warehouse in 2006/

 Cross-dressing/ transvestitism 

 Boy2Girl by Terence Blacker 
When Matthew's cousin, Sam, comes to stay, he is challenged to dress up as a girl for the first year of school. Only he turns out to be really good at it. Somewhat farcical, with shallow characters and not much of a plot, it's also a good book for younger teens to get used to issues of gender identity (Grade 7-9).

The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams 
A book for younger teens (Grade 6–8), this story is about the slightly wacky hijinks that ensue when Dennis, lead football scorer with a miserable family life, indulges his secret interest in fashion and dresses up as a girl for school. Illustrated by Quentin Blake.

The Death-Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean
A delightfully fun adventure for Grades 5-8, featuring the wise and funny cross-dressing Steward Duchesse, who befriends the main character, fourteen year old Pepper as he runs away to sea and through a variety of different careers, trying to stay ahead of his prophesied death.

Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers
Johnny's a goth kid with a history of alcoholism and family tragedy. After ending up in the hospital, he's sent away to a new school and a supportive uncle. There, his girlfriend helps him understand his fixation on the singer Debbie Harry, and he explores his interest in cross-dressing and drag (among a lot of other issues). A story of love and music.
 Crossing Lines by Paul Volponi
High school jock Adonis lives for football. But when a new boy called Alan arrives at school, wearing lipstick and wears dresses, he becomes good friends with Adonis' sister and ends up a target for the football team. Adonis is forced to come to terms with alternative lifestyles and decide where he stands.


How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity 
Twelve short stories of identity, sexuality and gender, including three transgender stories (in both directions).

 Kicked Out
An anthology of true stories from LGBTQ teenagers who were kicked out of home and forced to live on the streets.

Love and Sex: Ten Stories of Truth.
 Ten short stories that tell a more realistic side to love, including a lesbian who crushes on a transwoman ("The Welcome" by Emma Donaghue)

On the Fringe edited by Donald R. Gallo
Stories about high school and outsiders, bullying and loners. Includes “Standing on the Roof Naked” by Francess Lantz, about a genderqueer teenage girl.

OMGQueer edited by Katherine E. Lynch and Radclyffe
This anthology includes a very accepting story about a girl with an FtM friend, and a story about an androgynous 'girl' and her friend, a Swop (someone who effectively switches genders at will), who one day becomes androgynous as well and they fall in love. The description states that it covers "Lesbian. Gay. Bisexual. Transgender. Questioning. Intersex." and it partly lives up to that promise (unfortunately, the rest of the stories are gay or lesbian. But they're mostly very well written). 
Read the full review.

Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie
Includes a range of sexualities and cultures. The most relevant to this list is the coming out story "Different: My Experiences as an Intersexed Gay Boy," by S. Asher Hanley


  1. Amazing list. I'll have to read some of these books!

  2. A very useful reading list and we're delighted that our 'f2m;the boy within' is included. My website has discussion notes, book trailer, Youtube clip of Australian-NZ booklaunch via Skype etc and link to co-author Ryan Kennedy's website and to Ford Street Publishing

  3. If you like manga and anime, check out Ouran High Host Club. It's about a girl who has to dress as a boy to pay off a debt she incurred at her first day of a rich school, but her overall attitude seems to be genderqueer (she states a few times, "Boy or girl? What does it matter?") Also, her dad's a professional crossdresser. It's a pretty cool slice-of-life type story, and the characters' self-awareness of their medium makes it highly enjoyable. And you can watch all the episodes free on Funimation's website, so that's a bonus.

  4. The Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce is a very good one with FTM although it isn't techinically a book ABOUT being transgendered. the summary is copied from the website directly
    Alanna of Trebond wants to be a knight of the realm of Tortall, in a time when girls are forbidden to be warriors. Rather than give up her dream, she and her brother--who wants to be a mage, not a knight--switch places. She becomes Alan; Thom becomes a student wizard in the school where she would have learned to be a lady.

    The quartet is about her struggle to achieve her goals and to master weapons, combat, polite behavior, her magic, her temper, and even her own heart. It is about friendships--with the heir to the throne, the King of Thieves, a wise and kindly knight--and her long struggle against a powerful enemy mage.

    1. Ha, yeah, Tamora Pierce books are always a bit annoying when it comes to these lists - there are some much more overt LGBTQIA characters in her most recent ones, but many of her books fall far too easily into 'book that happens to have a minor LGBTQIA aspect that a lot of people know about'.

      I have read the original Alanna series (multiple times) and it's not really trans at all. It would fit under the crossdressing category though!

      But thanks, I should reread her books and decide which ones actually fit.

  5. Also would like to point out the book Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
    a true story about an intersexed person brought up as a female and coming into his body and his mind. A very good book, basically an epic as it traces several generations of the main character's family leading up to his/her existence.
    following is quoted from the summary the amazon page provided
    "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license...records my first name simply as Cal."

    So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

    1. Ah yes, that one! I've never actually read it, I should do that.