The best LGBTQIA+ YA books on coming out and coming of age

Why am I passionate about this?

Allan D. Hunter came out as genderqueer in 1980, more than 20 years before “genderqueer” was trending. His story is autobiographical: the story of a different kind of male hero, a genderqueer person's tale. It follows the author from his debut as an eighth grader in Los Alamos, New Mexico until his unorthodox coming out at the age of twenty-one on the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque. 


I wrote...

GenderQueer: A Story from a Different Closet

By Allan Hunter,

Book cover of GenderQueer: A Story from a Different Closet

What is my book about?

Derek’s a girl. He wasn't one of the boys as a kid. He admired, befriended, and socialized with the girls, always knew he was one of them, despite being male. That wasn't always accepted or understood, but he didn't care—he knew who he was. Now he's a teenager and boys and girls are flirting and dating and his identity has become a lot more complicated: he's attracted to the girls. The other girls. The female ones.

This is the story of a different kind of male hero—a genderqueer person's tale. It follows Derek from his debut as an eighth grader until his unorthodox coming out at the age of twenty-one.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story

Allan Hunter Why did I love this book?

Jacob Tobia’s genderqueer coming-out story is the first real genderqueer memoir to be published and carried by a mainstream press.

He’s passionately serious about it but also entertaining and funny, and he makes the concept ‘genderqueer’ easy to understand. He’s a good teacher. And by having already previously come out as gay, he underlines the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity. 

By Jacob Tobia,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sissy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"Transformative ... If Tobia aspires to the ranks of comic memoirists like David Sedaris and Mindy Kaling, Sissy succeeds." --The New York Times Book Review

A heart-wrenching, eye-opening, and giggle-inducing memoir about what it's like to grow up not sure if you're (a) a boy, (b) a girl, (c) something in between, or (d) all of the above.

"A beautiful book . . . honest and funny."--Trevor Noah, The Daily Show
"Sensational."--Tyler Oakley
"Jacob Tobia is a force." --Good Morning America
"A trans Nora Ephron . . . both honest and didactic." --OUT Magazine
"A rallying cry…


Book cover of Stone Butch Blues

Allan Hunter Why did I love this book?

Leslie Feinberg’s story is a powerful response to the notion that simply discarding sexist gender expectations ought to be enough. Feinberg’s main character Jess was still a young adult when modern feminism exploded onto the scene in the 1970s but Jess isn’t merely androgynous or resisting sexist limitations. She’s butch.  

By Leslie Feinberg,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Stone Butch Blues as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published in 1993, this brave, original novel is considered to be the finest account ever written of the complexities of a transgendered existence.

Woman or man? That’s the question that rages like a storm around Jess Goldberg, clouding her life and her identity. Growing up differently gendered in a blue--collar town in the 1950’s, coming out as a butch in the bars and factories of the prefeminist ’60s, deciding to pass as a man in order to survive when she is left without work or a community in the early ’70s. This powerful, provocative and deeply moving novel sees Jess…


Book cover of Gender Queer: A Memoir

Allan Hunter Why did I love this book?

Kobabe is a person who doesn’t recognize herself in any of the available identities.

Definitely one of the different ones... Lesbian? Transgender man? Nothing that’s out there and available to choose from seems to fit. This book really encapsulates what it’s like to have to weave your identity yourself instead of being able to get it ready-made. 

By Maia Kobabe,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Gender Queer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia's intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family…


Book cover of Birdie and Me

Allan Hunter Why did I love this book?

Here’s a story focused on a gender-atypical main character where the book isn’t about being genderqueer or being nonbinary or whatever.

Birdie’s gender characteristics are just there, the same way that a book set in Manhattan can have Manhattan in the foreground without being a book about Manhattan. I like the way that being gay and being trans are discarded as not really applicable to Birdie without some other replacement identity being pushed forward instead.

By J. M. M. Nuanez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Birdie and Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

An emotional and uplifting debut about a girl named Jack and her gender creative little brother, Birdie, searching for the place where they can be their true and best selves.

After their mama dies, Jack and Birdie find themselves without a place to call home. And when Mama's two brothers each try to provide one--first sweet Uncle Carl, then gruff Uncle Patrick--the results are funny, tender, and tragic.

They're also somehow . . . spectacular.

With voices and characters that soar off the page, J. M. M. Nuanez's debut novel depicts an unlikely family caught in a situation none of…


Book cover of Queen Called Bitch: Tales of a Teenage Bitter Ass Homosexual

Allan Hunter Why did I love this book?

In this autobiographical sketch, the author describes being assumed by people he meets on Grindr to be either a drag queen or a trans woman.

He is neither; Princess WaWa is femme. It’s different. The passion of his life is Derek Island, his romantic obsession. But caring about someone, or even caring about the outcome, is frightening when your primary way of coping with how life treats you is to refuse to care. 

By Waldell Goode,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Queen Called Bitch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A loud-mouth, black, gay teenager struggles to find himself in rural America. After having realized his inability to attend his top-choice school, Waldell Goode embarks on a journey to reevaluate why the grand departure appealed to him in the first place. He learns that as much as he can control his nonexistent love life, there are other factors that aren’t as easily mutable. He comes to terms with his peculiar relationship with his mother, the inevitable heartbreak in store for him no matter how hard he’s tried avoiding it, and the voice of God, in all her beguiling glory.


You might also like...

Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

By Felice Picano,

Book cover of Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

Felice Picano Author Of Six Strange Stories and an Essay on H.P. Lovecraft

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author

Felice's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Bold, funny, and shockingly honest, Ambidextrous is like no other memoir of 1950s urban childhood.

Picano appears to his parents and siblings to be a happy, cheerful eleven-year-old possessed of the remarkable talent of being able to draw beautifully and write fluently with either hand. But then he runs into the mindless bigotry of a middle school teacher who insists that left-handedness is "wrong," and his idyllic world falls apart.

He uncovers the insatiable appetites of a trio of neighboring sisters, falls for another boy with a glue-sniffing habit, and discovers the hidden world of adult desire and hypocrisy. Picano exits his boyhood sooner than most, but with this sense of self intact and armed with a fuller understanding of the world, he is about to enter.

Controversial when it first came out, Ambidextrous was burned on the docks of London in 1989 by Her Majesty Inland Service and decried by many. This reprint, with a Foreword by the author, discusses its banned book history and how it has become a classic depiction used by professionals involved in modern childhood studies.

Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

By Felice Picano,

What is this book about?

Bold, funny, and shockingly honest, Ambidextrous is like no other memoir of 1950s urban childhood. Picano appears to his parents and siblings to be a happy, cheerful eleven-year-old, possessed of the remarkable talent of being able to draw beautifully and write fluently with either hand. But then he runs into the mindless bigotry of a middle school teacher who insists that left-handedness is "wrong," and his idyllic world falls apart. He uncovers the insatiable appetites of a trio of neighboring sisters, falls for another boy with a glue-sniffing habit, and discovers the hidden world of adult desire and hypocrisy. Picano…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in LGBTQ+ topics and characters, coming of age, and coming out?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about LGBTQ+ topics and characters, coming of age, and coming out.

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