In July, I took part in a readathon called Transathon, which encouraged readers to seek out and celebrate books by transgender, non-binary and genderqueer authors.
In recent weeks, there has been a lot of hate speech directed at transgender people online. As part of the literary community, it seems to have been particularly rife.
I believe it is always important to seek out stories from people whose lives are or have been different to your own.
At this present time, as a cis woman, I think it’s especially important that I use this space to uplift the voices of transgender and non-binary people and that I make a conscious effort to champion and celebrate their written work.
I took a class at university called The Politics of Sex and Gender. During our first class, we were told some basic information about gender and about the difference between sex and gender. It is exceptionally unfortunate that, despite living in the same city at the time, JK Rowling did not receive this same education. If you’d like to understand the impact of her essay, I would encourage you to check out Jamie Raines’ video where he responds to the points made.
It was with excitement, intrigue and a desire to understand gender on a deeper level, that I signed myself up to this readathon.
The host, Ocean @oceansofnovels, did a brilliant job of fostering a sense of community throughout the readathon. They also shared helpful resources, information, links to charities to support and reviews from other bloggers.
Ocean also created a reading bingo card for participants, to help them stay focused throughout.
The whole readathon was brilliant and I do hope it’s run again next year.
Throughout the month I picked up so many great books. Some books taught me a lot about the history of transgender people’s rights; some books gave me insight into the emotions involved in gender identity and transformation and other books celebrated transgender people’s joy.
Here I’ve highlighted my favourites among the books I read during #Transathon, in the hope that I might encourage others to pick these books up in the future.
All information here is accurate at the time of posting, to the best of my knowledge. However, please do your own due diligence when it comes to author names and pronouns. If I have misrepresented any of the authors here, please do let me know and I will update this piece.
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg (he/him)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Atlantic Books (UK) and One World (US)
Publication Year: 2018
Confessions of the Fox is a brilliant and intellectually challenging novel set in 18th century London. This dual-narrative novel is truly a work of genius.
Rosenberg simultaneously introduces us to two central narrators, Jack Sheppard, a real historical figure and the most notorious thief and jail-breaker in London at the time; and Dr Voth, a transgender male academic living in 2018 who has discovered a manuscript which tells Jack’s story in a way it’s never been told before.
The novel explores themes of policing, imprisonment, the definition of criminality, the right to ownership of your body, the fetishisation of transgender people’s bodies, gender transformation, power dynamics in academia, the white-washing of history, and so much more.
I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. Read my full review.
Content warnings: slavery, imprisonment, references to racism, a description of sexual violence in the footnote on p268, sex work, top surgery by an unlicensed individual, blood, descriptions of sex, and descriptions of violence against bodies that some readers may find disturbing.
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver (they/them)
Genre: Young Adult (YA)
Publication Year: 2019
I Wish You All the Best is exactly the kind of young adult novel I like.
It explores topics that you rarely see elsewhere in YA literature, yet that we know are so important.
It is a complex book about growing up amidst a family breakdown, it’s about discovering your sexuality and gender identity, all while dealing with school pressures and mental health anxieties.
It’s also, at its heart, a slow-burn love story between two characters: one who is male and one who is non-binary. The love story gave me all the warm, fuzzy and joyful feelings and I really liked both central characters, Ben and Nathan, right from the off.
I think I Wish You All the Best is a book that every school and public library should stock a copy of.
A quote from Becky Albertalli on the front of the book says: “This book will save lives.” I do agree and feel all the more strongly that it’s essential reading for all (young adult) readers.
I would have loved to read I Wish You All the Best when I was aged 14-17. And at (almost) 27, I still absolutely loved reading it.
Content warnings: mental illness (depression, anxiety, panic attacks), domestic violence, parental abandonment (family breakdown), homophobia and misgendering.
I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya (she/her)
Publisher: Penguin Books (Canada) and Prentice Hall Press (UK)
Publication Year: 2018
In this short non-fiction book, Shraya put words to experiences and emotions that I have had, in a way that I’ve never been able to.
I’m Afraid of Men is an excellent account of male dominance and misogyny, the ways in which each of us is complicit in upholding structures that maintain this status quo, and a call to action for us to step up and challenge toxic masculinity in all its forms.
This book is essential, and one that I think everyone should read.
Content warnings: references to threats of violence, sexual assault (unwanted physical contact in a nightclub), homophobia and transphobia.
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe (e/em/eir)
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Year: 2019
This graphic memoir was a deeply personal book about the author’s personal experiences of discovering eir gender and sexual identities.
It was also highly insightful about the biology of gender and I liked the way that the author weaved in the books and other media e were consuming as e explored eir identities.
I liked the illustration style and I generally found this a very accessible and insightful read.
Content warnings: body dysmorphia, misgendering.
Our Lives Our Words: Telling Aravani Life Stories edited by A. Revathi (she/her), tr. unknown
Genre: Non-Fiction (Anthology)
Publisher: Yoda Press
Publication Year: 2011
A lot of the literature I had read up until this point focused on British, American and Canadian people’s experiences of gender, so I was glad to widen my reading and find some translated literature.
Through reading Our Lives, Our Words, I learned a lot about transgender and non-binary peoples’ experiences of life in India. In particular, I gained insight into their treatment historically and the way things have improved and/or changed over time. I’m grateful that the contributors to this collection chose to tell their stories and I’m glad that these stories were translated into English.
I really liked that this collection was organised thematically, around such themes as family, education, work, etc. This made it accessible, easy to follow and also allowed me to dip in and out; taking my time to understand and process each person’s experiences.
This anthology was a short but highly impactful read and I would recommend it to others interested in learning about perceptions of gender outside of the British/American/Canadian narrative.
Content warnings: sexual violence (including sexual violence against children), sex work, violence, blood, descriptions of surgery (on one occasion, surgery by an unlicensed individual), transphobia, exploitation, family breakdown.
Here’s the full list of books that I read during Transathon:
- IT FEELS GOOD TO BE YOURSELF by Theresa Thorn and Noah Grigni (Children’s Book)
- LUMBERJANES: An Infernal Compass by Lilah Sturges and Polterink (Graphic Novel)
- PASS ME BY, Book 1: Gone Fishin’ by Kyle Simmers and Ryan Danny Owen (Graphic Novel)
- CONFESSIONS OF THE FOX by Jordy Rosenberg (Historical Fiction)
- I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST by Mason Deaver (YA)
- I’M AFRAID OF MEN by Vivek Shraya (Non-Fiction)
- AMERICAN BOYS by Soraya Zaman (Portrait Collection)
- LORD OF THE BUTTERFLIES by Andrea Gibson (Poetry)
- DEATH THREAT by Vivek Shraya (Graphic Novel/Memoir)
- THE PERVERT by Remy Boydell and Michelle Perez (Graphic Novel)
- GENDER QUEER by Maia Kobabe (Graphic Memoir)
- OUR LIVES, OUR WORDS: Telling Aravani Life Stories edited by A. Revathi, translator unknown (Non-Fiction Anthology)
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Are there any other books written by transgender, non-binary or genderqueer authors that you’ve read and enjoyed? I’d love to hear your recommendations!