This November, Transgender Awareness Week (November 11-17) and Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20) comes on the heels of our current administration’s ban on military service for transgender individuals, along with his latest efforts to remove legal protections afforded by federal civil rights law. Raising visibility of the issues facing transgender people is even more important now, as transgender kids are increasingly vulnerable to bullying, violence, self-harm, and suicide; and library staff and educators working with young people can and should be aware of how to support them.
For many of us, this means exploring our own biases and rethinking some of our ingrained ideas about sex and gender identity, which can be a difficult task. I’ve gathered some resources below–books, videos, websites, and even a webcomic–that can help adults working with youth become more knowledgeable and understanding, and therefore better able to offer support, resources, and empathy to our transgender patrons. For excellent fiction and nonfiction to offer to transgender, nonbinary, and questioning teens, follow thesetwo links to past YALSA Hub articles.
November 14-20 is Transgender Awareness Week and November 20 is International Transgender Day of Remembrance. Transgender Awareness Week helps raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and helps to address the issues the community faces. Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day set aside to memorialize those who have been killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.
This is a great time to highlight new books that celebrate the transgender experience. 2016 has been a positive in year in publishing as we have seen more voices from the transgender community, and more representation of transgender and gender non-conforming characters in literature. There have thrillers and romances, explorations of identity and coming of age, and books for younger readers as well as teens. Here are 11 titles published this year to note:
Told through alternating voices, this British novels follows the story of two transgender teens. Leo Denton has just transferred to new school where he hopes to be invisible, especially as being transgender. David Piper hasn’t come out yet as Kate, and has only confided in two friends. After a couple of bullying incidents where Leo stands up for David, they fall into a somewhat reluctant friendship. After discovering what they have in common, the information gets out to the school, causing Leo to flee.
Set in Portland, OR, Dylan, who struggles with being abnormally big, and abnormally hairy, breaks his leg after falling off his roof. Since he is often teased about his size and hair, and at school called, “Beast,” this is seen as possibly not an accident, and Dylan has to attend a therapy group for self-harmers. There he meets the beautiful Jamie who he seems to see him for who he truly is. After he starts falling in love with her, he learns that she is transgender. Continue reading 2016 Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Books for Teens
November 20th marks Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to remember those who have been killed because of their gender identity or expression. While there are not yet many children’s and young adult books featuring transgender characters, here are a few books that can be used in a display or program.
Picture books are a great way for a person to engage briefly with an idea, and most are written for children, so the language is accessible to a wide variety of people.
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. This story of a blue crayon who is mistakenly labeled “red” is a great way to introduce young children to a character who doesn’t fit the label s/he’s been given.
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. This is the picture-book biography of Jazz Jennings, a transgender teen who publicly came out when she was still in kindergarten.
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis. This story of a boy who enjoys sparkly, pink things is another way to introduce the idea of being gender-nonconforming in an accessible format.
Be Who You Areby Jennifer Carr. This picture book is the story of Hope, a fictional character who was born Nick and comes to the realization that she is, in fact, a girl.
Rough, Tough Charleyby Verla Kay. This is an account of Charley Parkhurst, a California stagecoach driver who was discovered, upon death, to be a woman who had been living life as a man.
Nonfiction books can provide information, especially when readers are reluctant to search online in fear that someone may see what they’ve been searching for.
Transparentby Cris Beam. Beam profiles four transgender teens at a school for transgender students in Los Angeles. This narrative nonfiction has been described as carefully written and sensitive to a sensitive topic.
Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews. Arin tells the story of his transition and life as a trans teen in this autobiography.
Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill. Katie, who at one time was dating Arin, tells her side of the story in her transition as a transfeminine teen.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (2015 Stonewall Honor Book). This collection of photographs and interviews with transgender and gender-noncomforming teens is another easily accessible way for those who are not familiar with the concept of being transgender to take a brief walk in another person’s shoes.
My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein. Hands-down this was the most recommended book when I asked those in the trans* community to identify books that would be helpful to teens and those who work with teens.
Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein. While this book doesn’t focus singly on issues affecting the transgender community, it is true that transgender people have a higher rate of suicide than their cisgender counterparts. This book is a list of suicide alternatives, some silly and some serious.
Earlier this year, TIME magazine made history by putting Laverne Cox on its cover, declaring that America is in the midst of a â€œTransgender Tipping Point.â€ While many would argue we’re not quite at that point yet, given the long way we still need to go to achieve the equal rights, protection, and respect transgender people deserve, there is no denying the definite increase in visibility and support of the this community. Indeed, the past year alone has seen Laverne Cox not only on the cover of TIME magazine but also the first openly transgender person nominated for an Emmy, Barney’s unveiled a trail-blazing spring ad campaign featuring 17 transgender models from all walks of life, and Comic Con had its first panel devoted exclusively to transgender issues…and that’s just in popular culture.
On the legal front, Washington state just opted to provide transgender-inclusive healthcare for all public employees, the Department of Labor is now including transgender workers under its non-discrimination policy, and Maryland passed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Progress indeed and heartening news for anyone who advocates for and supports equal rights and social justice.
As someone who works with youth, it’s equally exciting that this increase in visibility extends to young adult literature. Indeed, YA has been ahead of the curve. Luna, the first YA book to feature a transgender protagonist, was published over a decade ago to wide critical acclaim. In the ten years since then, the number of novels with transgender characters have been slowly but steadily increasing (for a well researched list of titles, see Talya Sokoll’s booklist published in YALS and Malinda Lo’s list on her tumblr â€œDiversity in YAâ€.) Which leads us to 2014, where in YA as well as larger society, there is a noticeable shift in terms of sheer visibility and volume. That said, I’ll focus the rest of my post on recently published and soon-to-be-published books that feature characters of all genders.
I was lucky enough to attend the Stonewall Awards Brunch this year at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas and saw Kristin Cronn-Mills accept her award for Beautiful Music for Ugly Children (2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults). She spoke passionately about the need for allies, about the power of music to transcend differences, and the need for cisgendered people to take the initiative to educate themselves about the transgender experience. (Interestingly, hers was the not the only book focused on gender identity issues to win a Stonewall Award this year, Lori Duron also won for her memoir Raising My Rainbow.)
If you haven’t read Beautiful Music for Ugly Children yet, the book tells the story of Gabe, who is in the early stages of transitioning, much to the dismay of his family. He finds solace in his passion for music and with the help of his close friend and elderly neighbor, John, becomes a DJ on the local radio station. His sudden rise to local fame as a DJ results in a number of confrontations that result in both tragedy and redemption. What I enjoyed most about Cronn-Mills’ novel is the fact that it does not solely revolve around Gabe’s gender identity. It’s obviously at the heart of the novel but, equally so, is his passion for music. In that sense, he felt more fully developed as a character–lending the novel a depth often lacking in other books about trans teens. Continue reading Transgender Teens Take Center Stage