Jessica's Transgender Library

As a person who used to be more into books than real people, I've read about more than acted upon my transgenderism over many years. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

Some interesting works of fiction involving characters who change their gender include:

  • Virginia Woolf's "Orlando" about a long-lived person who starts out as an Elizabethan nobleman and ends up as a modern (well, 1928) woman. This one is Literature.

  • Alan Friedman's 1974 "Hermaphrodeity" (yep, I've been reading about/ avoiding acting upon this for over 40 years) about the complicated life of a hermaphroditic Harvard student/anthropologist/activist, with lots of interesting history of sex and Cambridge scenery woven into it.

  • John Varley's science fiction short stories and novels starting with the 1976 short story "Picnic on Nearside" about a future where people change back and forth between genders. I read that story when it first came out and thought, "Wow! That's a future where I want to live!" The short stories have been collected in "The John Varley Reader." "Steel Beach" is a novel in the series which deals at length with a lot of gender change issues.

  • Edward Swift's 1978 novel "Splendora" is about a person who has left a small town as a man and returned as a woman (in stealth mode) to be the town's librarian. It's an interesting novel of small town characters with some interesting gender-related twists.

  • Chris Bohjalian's 2000 novel "Trans-sister Radio" takes place in Vermont and does a pretty good job of laying out the complications which ensue when someone in a social network changes their gender. This is a good entry book for people without much experience of people changing their gender.

  • Sophie Labelle has compiled a number of her web cartoons about a young but very aware trans girl into "Down With the Cis-tem" and self-published it on Etsy. I think that it offers quite a lot of insight into how people perceive gender.
And for non-fiction:
  • Joanne Herman's "Transgender Explained For Those Who Are Not" is a good starting place in print. I bought several copies to loan to friends.

  • Grace Ann Stevens' "No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth" (Lexington, MA: Graceful Change Press 2014) and Dorie Clark's "Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future" (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2013) look at identity and self-branding from psychotherapeutic and business points of view. Both are by friends; I argued ideas with Grace for years before we transitioned and have known cis-gendered Dorie for years and followed her Harvard Business Review blogs about personal branding.

  • "The Lives of Transgender People" by Genny Beemyn and Susan Rankin (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011) is a scholarly consideration of mostly transwoman.

  • Reid Vanderburgh's "Transition and Beyond: Observations on Gender Identity" (self-published, 2011) is more from the transmale side, but with lots of examples.

  • "Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community", edited by Laura Erickson-Schroth (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), is an encyclopedia of transgender life and theory, a bit big to plow through, but useful for answers to questions. The compiler is a cis-gender psychologist, but many trans people contributed to the text.

  • Reverend Sarah Carpenter-Vascik's "Religion, Faith, and the GLBT Community: A ground level view from a faithful exile" (Denver: Outskirts Press, 2012) looks at the Bible as a source of support rather than contradiction of LGBT life.

  • "Letter For My Sisters: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect", edited by Andrea James and Deanne Thornton (Oakland, CA: Transgress Press, 2014), is somewhere between nonfiction and autobiography, offering advice from post-transition trans people that they learned in the process.

    And for autobiography:

    • The first transexual autobiography I read was Canary Conn's 1974 "Canary," which I re-read several times. It came out in paperback in 1977, I was living alone at a time when, looking back, I maybe should have transitioned.

      And then there is a 25-year gap living as a person who was referred to in my presence by some of my best friends as one of the least self-aware people they knew...

    • Dierdre McCloskey's 2000 "Crossing," is an interesting story by a well-known economist of her transition at the University of Chicago. It is written in a somewhat strange style, with maybe a few too many details of the changes in her life, though I can identify with some of them.

    • Jenny Boylan's "She's Not There" came out in the fall of 2003 between my first and second gender therapy appointments and simultaneously scared me and reassured me that I was not alone. Jenny, a professor at Colby College in Maine and rock musician, has been a role model for me as she transitioned within her existing life the way I am, instead of starting fresh, which has in the past been what people did when they transitioned. Her second memoir, "Im Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted", came out in 2008 and conveys more awareness of her social and (mostly past) family context. Jenny's third book, "Stuck in the Middle with You" came out in paperback in 2014 and discusses her spouse and two boys (who are now off in college) more than the first two.

    • Helen Boyd's 2003 book "My Husband Betty" might be helpful for significant others. Her second book in 2007, "She's Not the Man I Married" hit pretty close to home as my situation evolved and is more sypathetic to significant others of trans people.

    • "Crossing Sexual Boundaries," published in 2005 and edited by Ari Kane-DeMaios and Vern Bullough, collects brief autobiographies which show both the range and similarity of the transgender experience.

    • Alice Novic's 2005 "Alice in Genderland" was the first TG book I read after I met its author. Parts of her life were very close to mine and parts quite different. She's definitely not a model of who I want to be, but her life is interesting.

    • Janet Mock's "Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, & So Much More" (New York: Atria Books, 2014) has been the first memoir by a trans woman of color and talks about quite a different reality than the middle class professionals who wrote most earlier memoirs.

    • Katie Rain Hill wrote "Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition"( New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014) at the age of 20. It takes a lot of living to have enough for a memoir at 20, but after transitioning from male to female as a teenager in a small town in Oklahoma, she does. I met her over dinner a month after the book came out, and her life was even worse than the book portrays, but she is a wonderful (and gorgeous) human being.

      Arin Andrews wrote "Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen" (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014) at the same time as Katie's book, and in fact was dating her when they got the book offers. His life is two years shorter than Katie's, he's going the other direction, and his experiences before and after transition are very interesting as he deals as much with sexual orientation (pretty much every possibility) as with gender identity. I liked the fact that this is as much about relationships as it is about his gender(s).

    -Jessica Mink