Seven new trans books for summer reading.
Trans literature that goes beyond the coming-out story or transition narrative is seeing something of a boom at the moment.
Paul Takes the Form of A Mortal Girl – Andrea Lawlor
Honestly, this book is queer excellence. It’s the story of Paul, who bartends in a gay bar in a US town in the 1990s, studies queer theory, has a dyke best friend, goes to lesbian festivals and has a lot of sex.
This book doesn’t tell you about gender so much as it gives you a ride through gender fluidity – because Paul switches genders throughout. If you read one book on this list it has to be this one.
I’m Afraid of Men – Vivek Shraya
This is an emotional and sometimes painful read on a trans woman’s history with men and masculinity. It’s also darkly funny and very accessible and I want to make every anti-trans feminist read it, because the way Shraya perceives gender demonstrates the very obvious alliance between all women, trans and cis, against violent patriarchy.
It’s also short – more a long essay than a book – so can be read in one go, and then passed on.
Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman – Laura Kate Dale
This is the first memoir by someone who lives at the intersection of being queer, trans and on the autism spectrum. Dale explores the nuances of those three identities with clarity and it’s an eye-opening read – have you ever thought about what it would be like to try and pass as feminine when your sensory sensitivities prevent you from enjoying the feel of make-up on your face? Because I hadn’t.
Out July 18 – preorder it now!
Life Isn’t Binary: On Being Both, Beyond, And In-Between – Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker
Gender aside, so much of how we think, talk and argue about the world falls into binary categories. Good or bad. Left-wing or right-wing. Win or lose. But this way of thinking is so rigid and actually so unhelpful – life is nuanced, folks.
Barker and Iantaffi show how thinking about gender in a non-binary way leads to thinking about our approach to life, our emotions and our bodies in a less binary and more nurturing, rounded way. This is the least “beach read” of these books, but the most likely to have a lasting impact on your thinking. Break the binary!
Trans Love: An Anthology of Transgender and Non-Binary Voices – Freiya Benson
Full disclosure: I haven’t read this yet, but that’s because the strapline is “this book is for anyone who has loved, who is in love, and who is looking for love” and I am in a firmly anti-love, pro-solitude place at the moment.
However, it looks like a beautiful read – trans voices telling trans stories, and it’s actually not only about romantic love, but about platonic love, familial love and self-love, too. Trans people navigate love in ways that are as unique as everyone else’s, but we don’t hear about them often enough, so this is a timely book.
Diary of a Drag Queen – Crystal Rasmussen
If you’re imagining that a drag queen’s diary would be crude, hilarious and full of stories about sex, drugs and clubbing, then you’d be absolutely right. Also: an instructive and comprehensive deconstruction of class, wealth, politics and gender in the UK.
Freshwater – Akwaeke Emezi
This is a surreal read in the best possible way. The story follows a Nigerian girl, Ada, as she grows up with a fractured self – she is full of spirits, literally, and they kind of grow stronger and begin to consume her as she grows older.
I’ve never read anything like it; it’s as close to a spiritual exploration of what gender dysphoria feels like as I can imagine a work of fiction being.