Books can be illuminating portals into the experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming (GNC) individuals. The list below — which highlights titles by and about the trans and GNC community — is divided into sections by audience age, and alphabetized by author’s last name. Books by #OwnVoices authors are denoted with a star.
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
A little boy shows his class the power of the little orange dress. With gentle humor, author Baldacchino debunks all the shoulds and shouldn’ts of children’s behavior merely based on the number of x-chromosomes.
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Across her stupendous watercolor, gouache, and ink spreads, Love captures the transformative power of being seen. With his grandmother’s unconditional affirmation, young Julían’s daydreams become spectacular reality in Broadway actor Love’s triumphant author/illustrator debut.
*When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
When Aidan, a transgender boy, learns he’s going to be a big brother, he helps his parents prepare for the newest addition to their family in the most welcoming ways. Lukoff’s author’s note reveals that parts of his own story are “very much like Aidan’s.”
Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee, illustrated by Naomi Bardoff
Inspired by the work of Gender Spectrum, a non-profit group dedicated to creating gender sensitive and inclusive environments for children and teens, this colorful book explains bodies, how we express ourselves, and identities in easy-to-understand language for all ages.
*The Boy and the Bindi by Vivek Shraya and illustrated by Rajini Perara
A young boy curious about his mother’s bindi finally receives his own, which connects him with generations past, inspiring him to embark on a journey of empowered discovery. Indian Canadian musician/filmmaker/writer Shraya, a transgender woman, deftly explores difference and self-acceptance, the subversion of gender expectations, and the power of “making sure I don’t hide / Everything I am inside.”
*Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker
For spunky middle-schooler Zenobia July, a fresh start in a new home and new school with new friends means she’ll finally be able to live as her authentic self. Bunker herself is transgender; she’s one of two openly transgender women elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in November 2018!
*Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
Transgender teen activist/reality TV star Jazz Jennings, who voiced her gender identity at 2, who became a transgender icon at 5, shares her first 15 years. The middle-grade companion to her picture book, I Am Jazz.
Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby
At 12, Finch has had plenty of struggles. Her father left, her mother died, she lives with her stepfather, who, less than year after losing her mother, gave Finch a stepmother. Finch has always been a girl, but the parents she’s got left don’t seem to understand. Luckily, nearest neighbor Maddy — and her menagerie of rehabilitating wildlife — is exactly the support Finch needs to be her true self.
Wandering Son (multi-volume series) by Shimura Takako, translated by Matt Thorn
A groundbreaking graphic series from Japan about two middle-school friends coming-of-age: Nitori who wishes he could be a girl and Takatsuki who wishes she could be a boy. Creator Shimura treats both protagonists’ journeys of self-discovery with gentle honesty.
*Trans Mission: My Quest to Grow a Beard by Alex Bertie
YouTube star Bertie – who’s British and transgender — shares his coming out with unflinching honesty, raw vulnerability, sharp insight, and quite a bit of gentle humor. Unusual is the addition of a chapter from Bertie’s mother, who intimately shares her POV as the mother of a transgender son.
*Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Children in the town of Lucille are told there are no monsters. But there are monsters. And Jam — guided by Pet, who crawls out of her mother’s painting — will hunt and expose the monster lurking in her best friend’s home. That Jam’s transgender identity is treated as a factual nonevent is a refreshing approach to character diversity.
*Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman
Ghost Hawk descends on a California-bound stagecoach and kidnaps Grace, a Georgian trans woman escaping Confederate conscription. Delightful hijinks and adventures ensue. Gillman is an award-winning creator of “positive queer and trans comics for younger readers,” and her Wild West escapade is enhanced with intriguing glimpses into little-known transgender military history.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out written and photographed by Susan Kuklin
Six transgender and gender nonconforming teens speak out — candidly, vulnerably, openly — about their diverse experiences. Kulkin’s photographs are especially revealing.
*Birthday by Meredith Russo
Through life’s dramatic changes, Eric and Morgan have shared every birthday together. Morgan’s mother is dead, his father has shut down; meanwhile, Eric’s seemingly perfect family is imploding. At 13, Morgan desperately needs to tell Eric, “I want to be a girl.” Eric wants to know who Morgan really is — especially who Morgan is to him.
*If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
New girl Amanda — born Andrew 19 years ago — escapes the abuse and violence of her hometown to start anew with her father, who she hasn’t seen in six years. New school, new friends, maybe even new love … if only her secret stays safe.
Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith
Chris arrives to spend a summer with his aunt in rural North Carolina after surviving a brutal attack back home in Rochester. Maia, his nearest neighbor, is reeling from the sudden death of her older sister and caught between two grieving parents who still acrimoniously live together four years after their divorce. Chris and Maia’s almost bike-into-car crash reluctantly sparks a collision of emotions that morphs into falling in first love.
Beast by Brie Spangler
Hirsute, comparatively behemoth Dylan might have sort-of-maybe fallen off his roof — on purpose. At mandatory therapy, he meets quirky, smart, enigmatic Jamie. Their initial antagonism soon turns to genuine friendship, then quickly moves toward more — but Dylan somehow missed something Jamie revealed to the whole group, so what’s gonna happen when he finds out?
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
Angela’s announcement about his transition to Grady as a high school junior leaves both his family and friends divided. Author Wittlinger creates Grady’s world with deft accuracy, filled with contemporary details and all-too-real situations.
*She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Originally published in 2003, activist/professor/author Boylan’s bestselling memoir chronicling her transition from James to Jenny was updated in 2013. With the growing awareness of the transgender community, Boylan’s memoir is even more resonating today.
The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper
Just about everything you ever wanted/needed/hoped to know about raising a transgender child is available in this indispensable guide for all families and institutions that include transgender members. Also see: The Transgender Teen.
In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi
At 76, feminist writer Faludi’s (Backlash) father went to Thailand and returned to Hungary as Stefánie, all the while insisting she was “still [Faludi’s] father.” In trying to understand this new identity, Faludi examines her father’s history as Holocaust survivor, U.S. immigrant, husband, father, Hungarian returnee — and how her reincarnations shaped the woman she became.
*Trans Like Me: Conversations for All of Us by CN Lester
British musician and trans rights activist Lester affectingly uses personal life experiences of coming out and living an authentic life to illuminate wider issues of acceptance, understanding, and inclusion. Lester channels history to connect trans communities from past to present, while drawing on pop culture to underscore the immediacy of contemporary nonbinary identity.
OP: Original Plumbing: The Best of Trans Male Culture edited by Amos Mac and Rocco Kayiatos
A San Francisco zine turned national print publication, Original Plumbing is 10 years young. Founders Mac and Kayiatos collect their “favorite moments from each issue,” compiled between striking fuschia covers, filled with so much color, life, and love. “Needless to say, there is not just one way to be a trans man.”
Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt
Jonas and Wyatt were born identical twin boys, but by toddlerhood, Wyatt knew she was a girl. Their mother Kelly supported Nicole unconditionally; father Wayne’s understanding took longer. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nutt edifies readers with history, science, medicine, and law, deftly exposing the family’s challenges without demonizing the ignorant, fearful, at times downright nasty naysayers.
Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children edited by Rachel Pepper
Journalist/author/therapist Pepper “focus[es] on the emotional experience of mothers, highlighting the parallel process that parents go through along with their transitioning child” because “no one feels this change as acutely as mothers.” Pepper’s mothers are as diverse as their gender nonconforming, nonbinary children — who vary from age six to 60!
Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity by Arlene Stein
Award-winning, gay journalist Stein follows the remarkable journeys of four young people, who each had their top surgery on the same day by the same Florida surgeon. Together, the diverse challenges, choices, and outcomes for these four individuals — three of them trans, one of them a gender-bending butch lesbian — create an inclusive collage of the vast spectrum of the contemporary transgender experience.