Bookshelf: Best Non-Fiction Transgender Books

By Diane Anderson-Minshall

Originally published on Advocate.com November 20 2011 2:15 PM ET

As everyone memorializes Transgender Day of Remembrance this weekend, it’s easy for folks to forget that transgender people aren’t just victims, their lives are as complex and nuanced and varied as everyone else’s. Since there are too many brilliant transgender novels to list here (like Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues, T Cooper’s Some of the Parts), we stuck to non-fiction that both educates and entertains. We left out some brilliant books about gender variance (S. Bear Bergman’s Butch is a Noun and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s Nobody Passes) and three books that should be on every collegiate shelf: The Riddle of Gender by Deborah Rudacille; Transgender Rights by Paisley Currah, Richard M. Juang, and Shannon Price Minter; and The Transgender Studies Reader by Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle. What’s left is a bevy of must-reads for anyone who cares about gender equality and social justice.The Testosterone Files ($11, Seal)
One of the more riveting memoirs by transgender individuals, Max Valerio Wolf's 2006 Testosterone Files
is raw and aggressive account of the Native American Latino Sephardic
poet and performer's journey from lesbian-feminist to transgender man (a
viewing of Raging Bull at 23, plays a role in his coming
out).What Valerio does, that raises more than eyebrows, is talk honestly
about his new politically incorrect sexual desires, his growing
distance from women, and the overall construction of maleness in our
culture.THE TESTOSTERONE FILES X200 | ADVOCATE.COMWhipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity ($11, Seal)
Not
just a memoir, Julia Serano's Whipping Girl is more like a manifesto by
the transgender lesbian activist and professional biologist. Whipping
Girl
documents Serano's experiences and her growing awareness that a
widespread cultural abhorrence of femininity shapes our attitudes to
towards transgender women.WHIPPING GIRL X200 | ADVOCATE.COMThe Lives of Transgender People ($28, Columbia University Press)
Recognizing
a critical need for greater perspectives on transgender life, authors
Genny Beemyn (director of the Stonewall Center at the University of
Massachusetts, Amherst) and Susan Rankin (an associate professor at The
Pennsylvania State University) analyze one of the largest surveys ever
conducted in the U.S, of trans women and men, crossdressers, and
genderqueer individuals. Studying nearly 3,500 participants for The
Lives of Transgender People
, the authors track the formation of gender
identity across individuals and groups, beginning in childhood and
marking the "touchstones" that led participants to identify as
transgender. The Lives of Transgender People also uncovers the toll that
bias, violence, and economic disenfranchisement takes on individuals,
even in a day and age where a transgender person can headline a reality
TV show.THE LIVES OF TRANSGENDER PEOPLE X200 | ADVOCATE.COMTransparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers  ($12, Mariner Books)
When
lesbian journalist Cris Beam moved to Los Angeles, she decided to
volunteer at a school for gay and transgender kids. The move was
life-changing for Beam who found herself involved with a group of
transgirls — Foxxjazell, Dominique, Christina, and Ariel — who let her
witness their fascinating, sometimes heartbreaking, but always defiant
lives. Transparent is easily one of the best books about trans lives
written by an author who doesn’t identify as transgender.TRANSPARENT X200 | ADVOCATE.COMSex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism ($27, Cleis)

Califia's
meticulously researched Sex Changes tackles the lives of early
transgender pioneers as well as modern trans activists and looks at
everything from biology and sociology to politics. Anything by this
sex radical therapist is frank and provocative and Sex Changes is no
exception. SEX CHANGES TRANSGENDER POLITICS X200 | ADVOCATE.COMTransgender History  ($9, Seal Studies)

Trans
author Susan Stryker's primer covers American transgender history from
the mid-twentieth century to today with chapters on transsexualism
post-World War II and the impact of the 1970s of identity politics.
Transgender History also includes major speeches, bios, and excerpts
from transgender memoirs.TRANSGENDER HISTORY X200 | ADVOCATE.COMJust Add Hormones: An Insider's Guide to the Transsexual Experience  ($15, Beacon)
After
42 years of life as a straight woman, author Matt Kailey began living
as a man (thanks in no small dose to testosterone, surgery, and some
good therapy). In Just Add Hormones, Kailey offers an insider's perspective
on life as a trans man (from pronouns to packing), but it's his analysis
of these experiences that makes it worth a read.JUST ADD HORMONES X200 | ADVOCATE.COMShe’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband  ($15, Seal)
Helen
Boyd's first memoir, My Husband Betty, introduced the world to her and
her cross-dressing husband and her own concerns about whether the man
she married is a cross-dresser or a transgender woman just waiting to
transition. In She’s Not the Man, the funny, sometimes infuriating
follow up, Boyd deftly explores the role of gender in her own marriage
and culture at large and gives us a thinking straight girl's treatise on
the complex world of gender identity.SHE'S NOT THE MAN I MARRIED X200 | ADVOCATE.COMBecoming a Visible Man  ($25, Vanderbilt)
One
of the leading transgender activists in the world, Jamison Green's
earnest autobiography offers a brilliant analysis of the multiple
challenges of social transition written by a man that for over a decade
has provided educational programs for corporations, colleges, and cops,
among others. Becoming a Visible Man is a must-read for many folks
(especially trans men and the people who love them) and the threads on
Green's life as a lesbian parent prior to coming out as trans will be
riveting for many readers. BECOMING A VISIBLE MAN X200 | ADVOCATE.COMThe Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals  ($12, Cleis)
Lesbian
author Rachel Pepper and Stephanie A. Brill teamed up to create this
guidebook, the first of its kind to look at the unique challenges facing
families with children who are gender-variant or questioning. It
includes extensive research and real information on laws and psychology
and while it looks at gender from birth to college, the authors tackle
questions many parents ask at some point in their lives including, "Is
this just a phase?"THE TRANSGENDER CHILD X200 | ADVOCATE.COMTransgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman  ($23, Beacon)
Leslie
Feinberg, author of Stone Butch Blues, has been a part of the
transgender movement since the pre-Stonewall days and she uses her
considerable knowledge to talk about social perceptions of gender,
cross-dressing, and the body. But Transgender Warriors is at its best
combining historical facts (ever hear of Rebecca and Her Daughters, the
band of crossdressing mid-century Welsh revolutionaries?) with the modern
reality of gender non-conforming lives.TRANSGENDER WARRIORS X200 | ADVOCATE.COMShe’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders  ($10, Broadway)
Anna
Quindlen probably stated it best when she said, “Probably no book I’ve
read in recent years has made me so question my basic assumptions about
both the centrality and the permeability of gender, and made me
recognize myself in a situation I’ve never known and have never faced.”
That’s because Jennifer Finney Boylan’s She’s Not There is a
witty, moving, and occasionally frustrating exploration of Boylan’s self
discovery and the trajectory from man to woman. It’s little wonder this
memoir became a best-seller.SHE'S NOT THERE X200 | ADVOCATE.COMGender Outlaw  ($11, Vintage)
Kate
Bornstein is a lesbian trans woman who likes to say she’s a gender
outlaw for breaking the laws of nature. Combining memoir, cultural
criticism, and her own dramatic writing, Gender Outlaw explains why
folks don’t understand the difference between gender and sexual
orientation, how gender is a cultural construct, and why fighting the
gender binary is a mandatory mission for many.