Focus on Transgender Pride
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I am so lucky to have two remarkable children. I love them and they love me, they love each other, and we all enjoy each other’s company. And now that they are adults, I don’t have to worry about them like when they were little.
Well, if you agree with that, you don’t have adult children.
My son Alex is a paramedic-firefighter; when he’s not saving other people lives, he’s running into burning buildings. Though I am so proud of him I could practically burst, that’s not the sort of activity that causes comforting and relaxing thoughts.
My daughter Ashley came out to me as transgender a little over a year ago. At 24, she had already accepted the fact that she was really a woman, and she has been kind with her mother’s and brother’s efforts to use her correct name and pronouns.
There have been many high points for her in this last year. Family and friends who have accepted her for who she really is. A kind and encouraging judge who made Ashley’s new name and identity official. The HR department at Red Wing Shoes that smoothed her transition at work. Teachers at school who tell her she is “confident” and “a leader.” New friends who never have to think about what name to call her.
And cute clothes!
But, along with her transgender friends, Ashley knows that every day holds the threat of running into persistent discrimination—even hatred—from other people. Governments try to take away basic human rights and religions ban them from buildings of worship. In many states, they live in fear of being fired, evicted, beaten up, or disowned; even in Minnesota, which has prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity since 1993, Ashley was harassed by the management of the store where she used to work. It’s no wonder that over 40% of young trans people have attempted suicide, a rate almost nine times higher than the overall population.
Again, this mother’s heart is a battleground of love and pride and worry.
Below you will find fiction books with transgender characters and nonfiction books that answer questions about gender identity. Most were published in the last year. For more titles and to read my earlier post on Ashley’s coming out, click here. And to read my Mackin Community post on LGBTQ Pride Month with a list of books on the other members of the LGBTQ+ community, click here.
If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you’re a young LGBTQ person and need to talk to someone, call The Trevor Project’s 24-hour crisis hotline for youth at 1-866-488-7386.
If you are a transgender person of any age, call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings (ill. by Shelagh McNicholas). 9780803741072. Penguin. 2014. Gr 1-3.
Teenager Jazz Jennings shares her story of being born a boy, but knowing that she was a girl. After finding out from a doctor that Jazz is transgender, her parents and friends help her transition to life as a girl, which makes her happier and more confident.
Introducing Teddy by Jess Walton (ill. by Dougal MacPherson). 9781681192109. Bloomsbury Children’s. 2016. Gr PK-1.
When a Teddy bear named Thomas wants to be called Tilly instead, he bravely shares his feelings with his human friend, Errol. Errol cares only that the bear is his friend. They join their friend Ava at the park and the three play happily together.
It Feels Good to Be Yourself : A Book about Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn (ill. by Noah Grigni). 9781250302953. Henry Holt. 2019. Gr 1-3.
This illustrated guide to gender identity will help children gain a better understanding of the ways people experience their own gender and to help them feel more comfortable identifying who they really are.
Jack (Not Jackie) by Erica Silverman (ill. by Holy Hatam). 9781499807318. Little Bee Books. 2018. Gr PK-3.
Susan loves her baby sister, Jackie, but as Jackie grows older and behaves more and more like a boy Susan must adjust to having a brother, Jack, instead.
Jacob’s Room to Choose by Sarah & Ian Hoffman (ill. by Chris Case). 9781433830730. Magination Press. 2019. Gr PK-2.
Jacob, wearing a dress, and Sophie, in a button-down shirt and khaki slacks, happen to arrive at the school restrooms at the same time. Both wonder which room they should use, and both are bullied because of what they are wearing. The teacher finds out and leads a lesson in treating everyone with respect, even if they are different.
Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. 9780763690458. Candlewick Press. 2018. Gr PK-3.
A young boy named Julián dreams of being a mermaid after seeing three women on a subway with mermaid-like gowns. He dresses up at home and his supportive abuela then takes him to a parade of other people dressed like him.
When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff (ill. by Kaylani Juanita). 9781620148372. Lee & Low Books. June 2019. Gr PK-3.
Aidan, labelled a female at birth, is sure that he is not a girl, so his parents help him fix the things that didn’t feel right—his clothes, his room, his name. Now he is going to be a big brother, and he wants to make sure that his new sibling feels loved—no matter what.
George by Alex Gino. 9780545812542. Scholastic. 2015. Gr 4-6.
Though most of her peers see George as a boy, she thinks she is really a girl on the inside. When the class presents the play “Charlotte’s Web,” George isn’t allowed to try out for the role of Charlotte, so George’s best friend, Kelly, comes up with a plan for George to be Charlotte and show everyone who she really is.
The Pants Project by Cat Clarke. 9781492638094. Sourcebooks. 2017. Gr 3-6.
Though everyone sees Liv as a girl, he knows himself to be a boy. And when his new school requires all girls to wear black knee-length skirts every day, Liv knows he has to do something about it. With the help of a new friend, Liv launches the Pants Project, and if he can change the principal’s mind, he can change his own life.
MIDDLE SCHOOL TITLES
As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman. 9781945820069. Iron Circus Comics. 2017. Gr 6-8.
Charlie Lamonte is stuck on a girls-only Christian youth backpacking trip designed to teach a lesson on pioneering women. But being queer and the only person of color, Charlie feels left out—until she meets the secretly transsexual fellow camper, Sydney.
Gender Identity : Beyond Pronouns and Bathrooms (Inquire & Investigate) by Maria Cook. 9781619307568. Nomad Press. 2019. Gr 7-9.
Profiles of LGBTQ activists, gender and gay/lesbian history, research and project ideas, and personal stories help students understand the social, political, and emotional issues that face people who are questioning their gender identity.
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky. 9781484723654. Disney-Hyperion. 2014. Gr 6-8.
Transgender high school student Grayson Sender struggles with the urge to live openly as a girl, the identity he is inside. Support from unexpected places helps him embrace his true identity.
Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart. 9780553536744. Delacorte. 2016. Gr 6-8.
Lily Jo McGrother, who identifies as a girl even though born in a boy’s body, makes friends with Norbert “Dunkin” Dorfman, a boy with bipolar disorder. That is bad enough for his social life, but he is also hiding a terrible secret that makes things much worse. Only Lily Jo and Dunkin’s friendship has the power to change their lives.
My Life as a Diamond by Jenny Manzer. 9781459818316. Orca. 2018. Gr 4-8.
Caz lives for baseball. He loves everything about it and has a great arm. When his family moves from Toronto to a suburb of Seattle, one of the first things he does is try out for the local summer team. He’s thrilled when he makes it, but also nervous because back in Toronto, Caz used to be Cassandra, a girl. When a player on a rival team reveals Caz’s secret, he’s worried that he’ll lose the support of his team.
The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey. 9780062427663. Harpercollins. 2016. Gr 5-7.
Shane loves pitching on his baseball team, writing graphic novels, and spending time with his best friend Josh. But nobody knows that Shane is transgender—that he was assigned female at birth but identifies as a boy. And when someone at school threatens to expose Shane’s secret, he must find a way to ignore the hate, accept himself, and show the world what his identity means.
Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker. 9780451479402. Penguin. 2019. Gr 5-8.
After her father died, Zenobia moved to Maine to live with her aunts. She is transgender and is glad to be able to live openly as a girl. She is an expert coder and hacker, and when someone breaks her school website and posts hateful messages, she knows she can solve the mystery.
HIGH SCHOOL TITLES
And She Was by Jessica Verdi. 9781338150537. Scholastic. 2018. Gr 9-12.
Dara has lived a sheltered life with her single mom, Mellie, but when she digs up her birth certificate, she finds two strange names listed as her parents. She discovers that the name listed under “father” is really Mellie, who had a sex change after Dara’s real mother died. Confused and hurt, Dara sets out with her best guy friend, Sam, on a road trip to meet the extended family she never knew she had.
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson. 9780374302375. Farrar Straus Giroux. 2016. Gr 9-12.
David has never felt like he fit in, and often finds himself the target of bullies. When Leo, the new kid at school, sticks up for him one day, the two become friends. And they soon discover they have more in common than they ever imagined. Leo used to be a girl, and David wants so badly to transition to become a girl, but fears how his family and friends might react. Together, they travel the rocky road of being teens who are trying to find their own version of normal.
Birthday by Meredith Russo. 9781250129833. Flatiron Books. 2019. Gr 9-12.
Best friends Morgan and Eric share the same birthday. But Morgan has a secret that he is afraid to tell anyone, even Eric. Though Eric will have to know someday, because Morgan knows that inside he is really a girl.
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo. 9781250078407. Flatiron Books. 2016. Gr 9-12.
Amanda tries to fit in at her new school, to make friends and find her place. However, there is a secret reason she transferred to her new school, one which if others found out she doesn’t know what would happen. Then she meets Grant, a boy unlike any other. She lets him into her life more and more, yearning to share her past—but worrying, if Grant finds out Amanda used to be Andrew, that he won’t be able to see past it.
Miles Away from You by A.B. Rutledge. 9781328852335. HMH. 2018. Gr 10-12.
Eighteen months after Vivien, his beloved transgender girlfriend, slipped into a coma after a suicide attempt, Miles begins healing while photographing her empty shoes against the stark landscapes of Iceland.
Super Late Bloomer : My Early Days in Transition by Julia Kaye. 9781449489625. Andrew & McMeel. 2018. Gr 9-12.
The author presents a collection of black-and-white comic strips she drew to document the joys and struggles of transitioning from a man to a woman, and to capture the complexities of gender dysphoria.
Trans Mission : My Quest to a Beard by Alex Bertie. 9780316529037. Little, Brown. 2019. Gr 9-Adult.
Transgender YouTuber Alex Bertie reflects on his transition journey from being labeled female at birth, his realization at fifteen that he is a transgender man, to coming out to his friends and family. As he attempts to biologically transition, Bertie talks about prejudice in the healthcare system and the societal pressures he struggles to either conform to, or rebel against.
Beyond Gender Binaries : The History of Trans, Intersex, and Third-Gender Individuals (History of the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement) by Rita Santos. 9781538381267. Rosen. 2019. Gr 7-12.
This illustrated history covers the LGBTQ+ rights movement in cultures around the world.
Modern Herstory : Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History by Blair Imani. 9780399582233. Ten Speed Press. 2018. Gr 9-12.
Celebrate seventy women and nonbinary individuals who have impacted societal change over the last century.
A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities by Mady G & J.R. Zuckerberg. 9781620105863. Limerence Press. 2019. Gr 9-12.
This simple, illustrated guide to queer and transgender identities covers topics such as sexuality, gender identity, coming out, and relationships. Included are interviews, worksheets, and examples.
A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni & Tristan Jimerson. 9781620104996. Oni Press. 2018. Gr 7-12.
This graphic guide helps readers to make sense of non-binary gender pronouns, such as when individuals wish to be referred to as “they” or “them” even though these don’t seem to make sense. It offers advice for what to do if one mistakenly “misgenders” someone who prefers non-binary pronouns in the workplace.
She/He/They/Me : For the Sisters, Misters, and Binary Resisters by Robyn Ryle. 9781492666943. Sourcebooks. 2019. Gr 9-12.
The author, a sociology professor, discusses gender as it has been manifested in various races and cultures throughout history.
Trans Teen Survival Guide by Owl & Fox Fisher. 9781785923418. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2018. Gr 9-12.
This guide presents advice, guidance, and encouragement for transgender teenagers on coming out, embracing their identity, and dealing with the unique struggles and problems that may come with hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery.
Transgender Rights : Striving for Equality (In the Headlines). 9781642820638. New York Times Educational Pub. 2019. Gr 7-12.
This collection of articles, appearing in The New York Times over the years, highlights the fight for transgender rights in America.
ADULT/HIGH SCHOOL TITLES
Becoming Nicole : The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt. 9780812995411. Random House. 2015. Gr 10-Adult.
Explore the transformation of Wyatt Maines from a boy to Nicole Maines, and how this transformation affected her identical twin brother, her parents, her family relations, and her hometown.
Flocks by L. Nichols. 9780999193525. 2018. Secret Acres. 2018. Gr 10-Adult.
The author shares moments from his life growing up in a conservative Christian family as a transgender boy who had been assigned female at birth. Presented as a graphic novel, the author highlights how he found himself in the darkest place and found acceptance, love, and even faith.
Trans Like Me : Conversations for All of Us by C.N. Lester. 9781580057851. Seal Press. 2018. Gr 11-Adult.
The author draws on cultural reporting, recent research, and her own experiences to offer a history of the trans community. She discusses dysphoria, violence against trans people, gender affirming surgeries, and the struggles trans people face.
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