Why We Have Trans* Books Recommendations at MD Trans*Unity

At some point of restlessness in developing the transunity.net site, I decided I’d dump the trans* book list I created in my Goodreads account into a database. I have to admit, I’m a serial offender when it comes to creating book lists for web sites I’ve administered. There’s still one sitting at TheBiCast I made when I co-hosted and administered the site  as evidence of this behavior.

I believe a well curated list of books is useful for us in our journeys of discovering our core selves. I statements. When I started the coming out processes with my partner back in the ’90’s, books gave me language in telling me who I was so I could have her understand. While I kinda knew, thought I knew, tried living in the world in ways I was not, books called me on my “stuff”. They helped me formulate the first words of truth about myself and my history as I began sharing my truths with my partner.

Even as a child, the library and the limited medical books in my house gave me my first words to define gender and sexuality.  While the words transsexual and transvestite were used among adults, the concepts never made it in positive ways into the hardscrabble neighborhoods I grew up in. Concepts of having a gender not within the fe/male dimorphic weren’t in books yet. My only understanding of third genders were restricted to plants, the rare blue crab at a feast, and ancient deities. People with intersex conditions (using today’s language, not the language I saw in the ’70’s) were actually hidden or when rarely acknowledged, paraded around and displayed as ‘Freaks’.

In fact, so much of what a learned about sexuality and gender made me understand myself another freak. One Saturday Night, Weekend Update decided to make a joke about transsexual tennis player Dr Renee Richards. A lesson taught that trans people were to be mocked. My own family and my friends make jokes which mocked gays,  bisexuals, and trans people. This ‘male socialization’ does real harm to children who don’t fit the cisgender hetreosexual male model.

So books have always been a place I turned to. Even today I read tons. Lots of gender theory, some of it so dry, it takes forever to process. Fiction because I love stories and love telling them myself. Memoirs because the trans memoir was for many decades the only form of writing available to transgender people. Memoirs also provide me role models to emulate as I walk my own transitioning path. These authors teach how to reveal own own truths to ourselves and the world. They can also help us in creating our own road maps as we move through the process of change.

Recently, I’ve added young adult fiction and children’s books to the database. My early interest was in reading them to write them. I wrote children’s stories for my own boys bedtime. When I began to read the best YA trans fiction published, I realized I had teen stories of my own that, cleaned up of trauma, might be useful to teens today. And I have help in the group finding the best trans children’s and YA lit to curate here.

I need this assistance because so often, YA as a genre has been one mainly for youth of means. What gets promoted is often written by great writers who aren’t trans or closely connected to us. There’s some very well researched, well written fiction for cisgender audiences more than for trans ones. That’s why finding #OwnVoices YA, written by and for trans people, becomes needed work. Because they are of us and for us, finding many of the titles in the library can be difficult if not impossible. The very books which speak to young gender nonconforming youth are kept away from them. As I receive both children’s and YA fiction to add, I find many are not available in the library systems of the DMV. It’s frustrating and an opportunity to make suggestions. I use Overdrive on the web to suggest these books to our local library systems and suggest others do as well.

This is a work constantly in process. We are reading and adding books all of the time. Help with finding hidden gems is always welcomed. We invite you to take a look at what’s in our book recommendations and suggest to us what great trans*books we’ve missed.