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Stuff for the Teen Age, LGBT@NYPL

Books About Transgender Issues for Teens


Monoceros Unicornu, Einhorn; Capricorns Marin, Meer Steinbock; Monoceros Unicornu, Einhorn. Image ID: 1130009

With the coming out of Caitlyn Jenner, the lauding of actress Laverne Cox, shows on ABC Family and Amazon as well as many, many other things, transgender people are in the middle of a truly historic moment. They are moving from the fringes of society to front and center—ready or not. You have to be very brave and courageous to show the world your true self. However, all these positive news stories doesn’t mean that some people aren’t still confused or angered by what it means to be transgender or what it means for their own gender identities. They need to find true understanding through authentic stories and personal experiences. Twenty years ago, when I was in college, someone I’d grown up with transitioned from female to male. I was puzzled at first, mainly by the mechanics of it and how it would all work, but I realized that it actually made complete sense. He’d always seemed more male than female to me anyway and now his outside was just finally going to match who he  was inside. I couldn’t begin to imagine that and so in the end it was very easy for me to accept him.

Teen literature spends a good proportion of its existence taking on tough topics, shedding light on what it means to be different and how we strive to become our most authentic selves. So it should come as a surprise to no one that teen lit has been showcasing the courageous, true and fictional, stories of transgender teens, teens struggling with gender identity and teens interacting with transgender friends and family members for years. Here are just a few (as in a lot) of what I found on NYPL shelves. As you read, remember this quote by poet e. e. cummings,

"To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman
Raised as boy and on hormones, Alex is actually intersex (someone whose anatomy or genetics at birth do not correspond to the typical expectations for female or male). When he starts a new school he decides instead that he is going to live as girl. 

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
Living a smal Missouri town and still reeling from a bad break-up, 18 year old Logan  finds love and connection with Sage, a new girl in town who has a big secret. 

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kriston Mills-Conn
Gabe is a boy who was designated a female at birth. As he struggles to come out to his family and friends about his true self he finds acceptance behind the mic as a radio D.J.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (nonfiction)
Interviews with six transgender and gender neutral teens as they speak openly and honestly about their experiences and journeys. Includes several NYC teens.

Convict's Candy by Damon Meadows
A transgender teen is arrested and sent to federal prison one week before a scheduled sex reassignment surgery. Still classified as male she ends up being housed with male inmates.

Every Day by David Levithan
Every morning A wakes up in another 16-year-old body. Sometimes a boy. Sometimes a girl. Every race. Every sexual identity. A has learned never to get too attached. Then A falls in love with a girl—but how do you build a relationship when every day you occupy a different physical self?

Freakboy by Kristin Clark
Told in free verse and three points of view, we get Brendan, a high school wrestler struggling with his gender identity, his girlfriend Vanessa, a fellow wrestler struggling to be accepted by the boys on the squad and Angel, a transgender college student who tries to help him find acceptance and understanding.

Happy Families by Tanita Davis
Twins Ysabel and Justin share their conflicted feelings as they struggle with their father's decision to live as a woman. 

I Am J by Cris Beam
J, born Jenifer, has never felt like a girl and wants to live as a boy. When his best friend rejects him and his parents struggle to understand him, he runs away to begin a new life and try to become who he really is. 

Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde
When her mother abandons Elle in a NYC apt, she is befriended by her neighbors Frank and Molly. Elle promptly gets a crush on the kind and wise Frank but learning that he's transgender turns her world upside-down.

One in Every Crowd by Ivan Coyote
Stories and autobiographical essays about growing up, struggling with family, gender identity and all told in a funny, matter-of-fact voice. 

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
Grady was a "never-quite-right" girl so he changed his name and started living as a guy. As he attempts to live his new self he struggles with varying degrees of acceptance from his friends, family and classmates. 

Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill (nonfiction)
Katie grew up a boy in Oklahoma but always felt like a girl. In high school, she began her transition to female and began living as a girl. She recalls all the pain and bullying that followed as well as the joy she felt finally living as her true self and making new friends who accepted her.

Some Assembly Required: The Not-so-secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews (nonfiction)
In this memoir, 17 year old Arin recalls his journey of transitioning female to male. He discusses learning what being transsexual meant, his suicide attempts and finding acceptance and love with his girlfriend Katie Hill (see above).

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince (nonfiction)
Liz refuses to conform to a single gender identity. She's a girl who likes to wear what boys wear but that doesn't mean she doesn't identify as a girl or is a lesbian.  She just is who she is.

Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voice by Kristin Conn-Mills (nonfiction)
Along with honest interviews with transgender teens and adults, the author explains the language, history, insurance issues and politics of being trans and what it means to be a part of the transgender community.

What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci
The new kid on Hackett Island defies description. Who is she? Where does she come from? Is she a boy or a girl? Does it matter? Lani is tormented and bullied by classmates but Claire decides to befriend this intriguing new person and it's a friendship that will change how Claire sees the world. 

The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities
Stories, poems and essays by young writers in their teens and early 20's about love, first kisses, family, identity, friendships and more.
How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity
Well known YA authors including David Levithan, Jaqueline Woodson, Gregory Maguire, Francesca Lia Block and others write stories about the diverse, complex, beautiful and gloriously ordinary lives of gay, lesbian and transgender teens.
London Reign by A.C. Britt
An androgynous, inner city teen struggles with gender identity, an abusive family, a tumultuous love triangle and the mean streets of Boston and Detroit.
None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio
After an awkward sexual encounter with her boyfriend, Kristin, a homecoming queen, learns that she is actually intersex (see definition above) throwing her whole life and identity into disarray.
Pantomime by Laura Lam
A historical fantasy that has the aristocratic Iphigneia Laurus running away to the circus transforming herself into male trapeze artist Micah Grey. He keeps this dangerous secret until he meets aerialist Aenea and falls in love.
Wandering Son, vol. 1 by Takako Shimura
In this manga series, Shuichi, a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino, a girl who wants to be a boy, become friends in junior high school, where they tackle problems such as gender identity, love, social acceptance, and growing up. They know what they want they just don't know how to get it.


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Thank you, NYPL, for supporting transgender youth. I love the NYPL! And with love and respect, I have a few comments on this article. 1) I get where you are coming from when you say it is brave and courageous to be yourself. But in a way this makes me feel like the regular life of transgender people is being turned into "inspiration" for the delectation of cisgender (non-transgender) people. There are a lot of things about people that can be misunderstood by others--is it brave and courageous to have Down Syndrome, or be a Chinese-American person, or to be bisexual or pansexual? Or are you just being alive, and other people around you are freaking out about it, whether by discriminating against you or valorizing how brave you are, when all you are trying to do is (for example) buy a bagel? 2) I was confused by all the feminine pronouns (she/her) used in talking about the college friend. I thought your whole point was that your friend is a man, a transgender man? But I don't know him, so maybe he wants to be referred to as "she" and "her." 3) In the description of "Alex As Well," you talk about male and female body parts. I haven't read this book, but it sounds great. Also, this may sound surprising for people who haven't had a chance to learn much about transgender or intersex topics before, but there are no male or female body parts. :) Genitalia aren't what make someone male or female. :) Ditto the description for "None of The Above." 4) Continuing on this theme, with the description of Kristin Mills-Conn's book, the narrative of "boy trapped in a girl's body" (or vice versa) is the easiest narrative of being transgender for people to grasp, but it's a little reductive because it brings us back again to the idea that it is your body parts that decide your gender. There is no specific thing that transgender people have to do to "become" a gender. 5) Damon Meadows book is another one I never read, but a lot of people find the term "pre-op transsexual" really makes them grind their teeth and cry, because again it implies that there is an operation or procedure that transgender people have to do that will make them legitimately be a certain gender, and until then it's just aspirational or inauthentic. Not so! 6) So excited that you picked One in Every Crowd by Ivan E. Coyote! Totally love that book. And it's not every day that a list of books about transgender topics includes a book by a person who is transgender, so that makes me really happy. :) 7) Also love that you included London Reign by AC Britt! Nice to see a writer of color included on the list. Also I think it is NYPL who is brave and courageous for listing, and shelving in the YA section, a romance novel that is full of graphic sex. Show no fear, NYPL! Keep on doing what you do. Sorry to offer a lot of nit-picky comments about language choice, but hey, you guys love words. And I know you understand how much power they have, especially when it's people in power talking about you, and especially when it's about youth. <3

Trans book list

Thank you for posting this list! It's interesting that most of these books are about ftm trans people, while in the world there are more mtf. I wonder if there aren't as many written about mtf or if publishers don't think there is interest? Regardless, an opportunity for someone.

Response to <3

Sorry to take so long to respond! 1) I fully understand that transgender people are just living their lives but choosing to live authentically without fear of repercussions or what other people think I do think is brave (for anyone really). Sometimes just getting through the day for all of us can be brave. I think what I meant sincerely however, is that most people choose the easy way to live and not the hard way. Many people choose to live a lie rather than take the steps to live authentically, so to me that is brave. I also think that in each of these stories presented the characters wrestle with choices and make the braver choice. So is every transgender person "inspiring"? Probably not but if these stories or these characters or getting to know a real transgender person leading a normal life inspires a teen to live their own authentic life - then maybe they could be. 3) In many of the cases, while I read the book to write the annotation I used the publisher's description to inspire me. So while I'm sure you're right about the genitalia, for teens who are coming to the book with no notion of what the difference between "intersex" or "transgender" - I thought it best to keep it simple. That goes ditto for a lot of the book's annotations. Definitely no 2) I refer to my friend as a "she" because I was talking about him pre-op. And pre-op he was referred as a she and her. Now when I refer to him - it's always "he". 3)For a lot of the annotations, while I'd read the books I relied on the publisher's descriptions for inspiration and language choice and what to call the characters. So clearly, the people who write the cover copy for the publishing companies need to brush up on the proper lingo. i'm glad you like the list:) Thank you for commenting.

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