The best books on trans liberation

The Books I Picked & Why

The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice

By Shon Faye

The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice

Why this book?

It’s great to hear the voices of the UK’s latest generation of trans activists, and Shon’s book – passionate, factual, well-researched – exemplifies the best of their work. Her compelling writing sets out the lived realities of trans life in the twenty-first century, from youth to old age: a clear, cold wind of reality, epitomising today’s urgent call for trans equality and dispelling media mythologizing. Shon reviews work, family, housing, healthcare, the prison system (in which any of us could be remanded while wholly innocent of any crime), the way the T relates to the rest of LGBTQ+ and the relationships between trans and feminist communities. This is a must-read for everyone interested in social justice.


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The Gender Creative Child: Pathways for Nurturing and Supporting Children Who Live Outside Gender Boxes

By Diane Ehrensaft

The Gender Creative Child: Pathways for Nurturing and Supporting Children Who Live Outside Gender Boxes

Why this book?

The first trans child we know of to self-identify and receive affirmative medical care was Ewan Forbes, whose mother accessed early testosterone treatments for him in the 1920s. A hundred years later, when I’m asked by parents for one book to understand the how’s and why’s of trans kids, Diane’s is my go-to recommendation. Based on her own real-life clinical experience, she sets out a spectrum of gender diversity, and shows how parents can support their children’s explorations and decisions.

Key to this is letting children define their own social presentation and activity, for as she puts it, ‘if we want to know a child’s gender, it is not for us to say but for the child to tell’. Diane demonstrates that this approach allows both child and parent to identify whether their gender expression is ‘insistent, consistent, and persistent’, in other words, the direction in which the child’s exploration will take them. Compassionate, wise, and accessible, this is high-priority reading for parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, doctors, legislators, and everyone associated with the care of children and adolescents – including the children themselves. 


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Confessions of the Fox

By Jordy Rosenberg

Confessions of the Fox

Why this book?

Jordy’s astonishing page-turner is so much more than the ‘zingy romp’ its cover blurb claims for it (though it is also pretty ‘zingy’). Where to start? A beleaguered academic finds a manuscript showing that eighteenth-century London super-thief Jack Sheppard was a trans man embroiled in an attempt to acquire an early preparation of testosterone. At once a bitter satire on the crushing of academic freedom by university management’s turn to corporate capitalism, an attack on the ruthless brutality of Big Pharma, a meditation on the problematics attending historical research, a clarion call for trans voices to be heard on their own terms, and a wonderfully textured historical thriller, the book defies classification as much as its hero refuses it. Is it magical realism? Or trans activism? Or political comment? Yes is the answer.


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A Practical Guide to Transgender Law

By Robin Moira White, Nicola Newbegin

A Practical Guide to Transgender Law

Why this book?

From crime to punishment, and this comprehensive guide to the facts of UK trans people’s legal protections (and their absences) is calm and authoritative. At a point when the press and media are filled with smoke and mirrors about trans rights, Robin and Nicola, both practising barristers (‘trial attorneys’ in the US) set out the current rights and responsibilities affecting areas such as education, healthcare, asylum, prisons, media, and sports.

Crucially, they include a chapter asking ‘Are Gender-Critical Views a Protected Belief?’ (they are if you keep them to yourself but aren’t if you express them at work). At the same time, the fact that such a book is needed underlines the grim truth that trans lives are not equal lives, that they aren’t able to rely on the same protections given to cis people, and that they cannot afford the insulated ignorance about the law which the rest of British society enjoys. Sobering reading, whether you are trans or cis.


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Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity

By Julia Serano

Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity

Why this book?

Every list should have a classic, and Whipping Girl is a classic in spades. Written for a mainstream audience in 2007, but still vibrantly relevant to today’s trans lives, it brought the terms ‘cissexual’ and ‘cisgender’ into the mainstream, and introduced crucial concepts, such as ‘cissexual privilege’ and ‘trans misogyny’. Julia does brilliantly the difficult balancing act required to make complex ideas easily accessible to a general readership and covers a wide spectrum of debate. It’s a tour de force, and a favourite of mine when thinking or teaching about LGBT social justice. 


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