The Year's 10 Best Transgender Non-Fiction Books
Trans literature is expanding at an unprecedented rate thanks, in part, to both a growing mainstream presence of authors like Janet Mock, as well as a strong base in independent presses like Bold Strokes Books, Transgress Press, and City Lights. Futher, self-publishing is becoming a go-to strategy for many trans writers, with sites like Indiegogo giving important collections like Trans Bodies, Trans Selves and Queer & Trans Artists of Color serious boosts.
Quantity is second only to quality. This year, an exciting literary turn away from the more traditional "transition" memoir has seen trans writers like Thomas Page McBee (Man Alive) and Elliott DeLine (Show Trans) pushing the boundaries and forms of creative non-fiction.
The memoir genre itself has seen the kindling of two much-needed convrsations — one about the specific experiences of trans folks of color (Redefining Realness, Queer and Trans Artists of Color) and one about trans parents (Stuck in the Middle With You, Queerly Beloved). Further, trans writers have developed vital resources with a very intentional "by us, for us" attitude, including Letters for My Sisters and the mammoth 600-plus pager Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, the as-yet most comprehensive resource for transgender wellness.
Read on to learn about 10 of this year's best non-fiction titles, ranging from the most pragmatic to the downright lyrical — there's something here for every trans non-fiction reader you know and love.
Famed for his evocative essays on masculinity in the Rumpus, trans writer Thomas Page McBee gives readers a short, poetic piece of creative nonfiction unlike anything yet seen in the trans memoir genre. Carefully avoiding the tendency towards a tell-all, McBee zooms in on his 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.
Dominating the New York Times bestseller list as soon as it hit shelves, Janet Mock's memoir tells the story of the celebrated journalist's early years and young adulthood. Now a well-known public figure and esteemed for giving voice to trans women of color through her #girlslikeus social media campaign, Mock shows us her vulnerabilities, as well as the clear roots of her current strength. This book also offers a great "Trans 201" for cisgender (nontrans) readers who seek more in-depth knowledge about trans rights, healthcare, and the intersections of race and gender-based oppression.
At over 672 pages, Trans Bodies, Trans Selves looks to be the most comprehensive trans resource ever published. The book features more than 200 contributors, and covers topics like the gender spectrum, trans history, health, cultural and social topics, and gender theory. Editor Laura Erickson-Schroth worked with a massive team of trans volunteers over nearly five years, inteviewing trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary folks around the country to include their voices in quotes on nearly every page.
Elliott DeLine has written 3 acclaimed books -- not too shabby for a 26-year-old self-published author! In his first nonfiction work, following his novel Refuse and novella I Know Very Well How I Got My Name, DeLine told the Advocate he became more "autobiographical" and arguably more "scandalous" than ever before. The book "goes there" in a fresh way about trans male sexuality and how trans people are pushed to become 'spectacles,' examining DeLine's experiences with sex addiction, sex work, and navigating the MSM scene, as well as covering a trip West, his dissociative identity disorder, and the struggle to find love, connection, and self-actualization as a non-binary trans person.
"If you could write just one letter to someone who is beginning their gender transition or to your younger, pre-transition self, what would you say?" Letters for My Sisters, edited by Deanne Thornton and Andrea James, asked transgender women this question. The result is a heartfelt collection of advice, confessions, regrets, and triumphs from 35 women — the largest number of contributors to a collection by trans women yet published.
Co-written by Advocate editor-at-large Diane Anderson-Minshall, a cisgender (nontrans) woman, and her husband Jacob, a trans man, Queerly Beloved follows their journey from being together 16 years as a lesbian couple very involved in LGBT media, and then going through Jacob's gender transition side-by-side. The book touches on some fascinating topics only a couple could do justice to, like maintaining love and intimacy over a couple decades, shifting sexuality labels, considering pregnancy, addressing internalized misogyny, and foster parenting.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out ($12, Candlewick)
Photographer and author Susan Kuklin interviewed and photographed six transgender and gender-neutral youth, pulling together the story each teen wanted to tell about realizing their gender identities, coming out, transition, and relationships with family and friends. While several books have illuminated the lives of LGBT youth, this is the first book to focus solely on trans subjects, in an attractive collection that's perfect for a coffee table or your favorite pre-teen's bookshelf.
Stuck in the Middle With You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders ($14, Broadway)
GLAAD cochair and bestselling author of She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders Jennifer Finney Boylan is back with a one-of-a-kind memoir all about parenting (okay, it came out last year, but was just released on paperback!). Including interviews with other parents, Boylan explores her relationship with her two sons as it evolved over the course of her gender transition. The title references the "in between" place she comes to hold as their parent: not quite their Mom, not their Daddy anymore, she's "Maddy" to her two sons —boys who she ultimately sees as becoming better men for having grown up with a trans parent.
For several years, mixed-race queer artist Nia King has been interviewing queer and trans artists of color for her We Want the Airwaves podcast. Having left her own job to make art full-time, King seeks to understand the motivations and passions of other artists, and how this intersects with their racial, gender, and sexual identities. With help from a successful Indiegogo fundraiser and editors Terra Mikalson and Jessica Glennon-Zukoff, King was able to compile fascinating interviews with trans innovators including author Ryka Aoki, filmmaker Kortney Ryan Ziegler, writer Fabian Romero, writer Lovemme Corazón, and more.
Based on their accalimed 2012 live multimedia show, storytellers and musicians Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon explore the lived realities of nonbinary masculinity and "failing" at gender expectations -- both within and without trans communities. In short, conversational chapters interspersed with photos and drawings from their shows, this book not only touches on lesser discussed aspects of trans existence, but lets the reader into the mind of two of contemporary art's brightest nonbinary performers.
Disclosure: Mitch Kelleway is an assistant editor for Transgress Press, however he was not involved with production of any books in this list.