The most recommended gender variance books

Who picked these books? Meet our 21 experts.

21 authors created a book list connected to gender variance, and here are their favorite gender variance books.
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Book cover of Histories of the Transgender Child

Simon Joyce Author Of LGBT Victorians: Sexuality and Gender in the Nineteenth-Century Archives

From my list on showing that trans people have always existed.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an academic researcher interested in this topic but also one of the people who gets demonized in conservative media: the parent of a transgender child. I want my daughter to know that similar people have existed in history and that lawmakers are wrong to claim that we’re in a scary new world when we advocate for respect and the rights of trans people. While doing that advocacy work, I’m alarmed by positions within the LGBTQI+ movement echoing right-wing ones, including what’s known as “gender critical feminism.” My book argues a positive case for coalition in the face of pressures to fracture along distinct lines of sexuality and gender identity. 

Simon's book list on showing that trans people have always existed

Simon Joyce Why did Simon love this book?

As a parent (and a researcher), I’m so happy this book exists! It’s the best response to the argument that trans kids are new and, therefore, how we raise them is dangerously experimental. Where Gill-Peterson finds such kids historically is mainly in medical archives, where treatments were directed mostly at intersex children, many of whom we’d see as trans. She shows a fascination with the “plasticity” of the body in the early twentieth century, although predictably, possibilities for transforming bodies were viewed differently across racial lines. The best counter to conservative attacks, though, is his research into Val, a 1920s teen in rural Wisconsin who went to school as the gender she affirmed and had negotiated agreements about things like which bathroom she could use, over which we’re fighting a century later!

By Julian Gill-Peterson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Histories of the Transgender Child as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking twentieth-century history of transgender children


With transgender rights front and center in American politics, media, and culture, the pervasive myth still exists that today's transgender children are a brand new generation-pioneers in a field of new obstacles and hurdles. Histories of the Transgender Child shatters this myth, uncovering a previously unknown twentieth-century history when transgender children not only existed but preexisted the term transgender and its predecessors, playing a central role in the medicalization of trans people, and all sex and gender.

Beginning with the early 1900s when children with "ambiguous" sex first sought medical attention, to the…


Book cover of Crossing: A Transgender Memoir

John Horgan Author Of Mind-Body Problems: Science, Subjectivity & Who We Really Are

From my list on mind-body.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been baffled by everything, especially myself, for as long as I can remember. In my late 20s, after years as a wandering hippy poet, I decided that science is our best hope for answers, and I became a science journalist. The mystery at the heart of science—as well as religion, philosophy, and the arts--is the mind-body problem. In a narrow, technical sense, the mind-body problem investigates how matter generates the mind, but it really asks: What are we, what can we be, what should we be? Below are some of my favorite books touching on these questions.

John's book list on mind-body

John Horgan Why did John love this book?

Sex is an essential part of who we are. What determines our sexual preferences? Do they stem primarily from nature or nurture? Deirdre McCloskey, an eminent economist, is especially qualified to answer these questions. She began her life as Donald, who was married and in his 50s when he realized that he was really a she and became a woman. Crossing, a memoir of McCloskey’s agonizing, exhilarating transformation, is a fascinating deep dive into sexual identity.

By Deirdre N. McCloskey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year

"I visited womanhood and stayed. It was not for the pleasures, though I discovered many I had not imagined, and many pains too. But calculating pleasures and pains was not the point. The point was who I am."

Once a golden boy of conservative economics and a child of 1950s privilege, Deirdre McCloskey (formerly Donald) had wanted to change genders from the age of eleven. But it was a different time, one hostile to any sort of straying from the path--against gays, socialists, women with professions, men without hats,…


Book cover of Too Bright to See

Jules Machias Author Of Both Can Be True

From my list on young adult and middle grade transgender stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a trans parent of a trans teen. (I didn’t do it on purpose. It just worked out that way.) I’m always looking for books by trans authors that accurately reflect transgender experiences at every life stage, but particularly during middle school and the teen years. The books I’ve selected are my favorites because they’re authentic—and because they let readers learn difficult, complicated lessons through fiction. When I’m not writing books, reading books, editing books, or eating books for dessert, I’m caring for my disabled dogs, dirt-biking with my kid, or drawing near an open window with a mug of green tea and some lo-fi beats.

Jules' book list on young adult and middle grade transgender stories

Jules Machias Why did Jules love this book?

This middle-grade book is a beautiful and sensitive portrayal of a child (Bug) who has never felt quite at home with their assigned gender. Bug’s mom, one of the most loving, caring, and supportive parents I’ve seen in fiction about transgender kids, provides a wonderful example of how to handle a trans child’s gender exploration in a nonjudgmental way. I saw a lot of myself in Bug, and I learned even better ways to support my own transgender child. This book is great for anyone who wants to understand the experience of a transgender kid, and for adults looking for examples of how to be a supportive parent or caregiver. 

By Kyle Lukoff,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Too Bright to See 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?

It's the summer and eleven-year-old Bug's best friend Moira has decided the two of them need to use the next few months to prepare. For Moira, this means figuring out the right clothes to wear, learning how to put on makeup, and deciding which boys are cuter in their yearbook photos than in real life. But none of this is all that appealing to Bug, who doesn't particularly want to spend more time trying to understand how to be a girl. Besides, there's something more important to worry about: A ghost is haunting Bug's eerie old house in rural Vermont...…


Book cover of The Beautiful Something Else

Darcy Marks Author Of The Afterlife of the Party

From Darcy's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Book lover Fangirl Mom

Darcy's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Darcy Marks Why did Darcy love this book?

This book is stunningly beautiful, dealing with self-discovery and childhood trauma in a sensitive way. It is joyful and melancholy, filled with found family and love, and one of my favorites of the year.

Sparrow has to be the perfect daughter. If she can control everything, then maybe she can hold their life together, but when Mom spirals out of control despite Sparrow’s best efforts, Sparrow ends up being sent to live with her Aunt Mags.

As Shadow encourages Sparrow to take chances and find out who she is, Sparrow realizes that maybe “she” isn’t quite right, and maybe “he” isn’t either. Whoever Sparrow actually is, it’s time they find out. But whatever they find, they know now it’s not up to them to keep the world on their shoulders.

By Ash Van Otterloo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Beautiful Something Else as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Full of humor and heartbreak, this story about a nonbinary character navigating a binary world is perfect for fans of Alex Gino and Kyle Lukoff.

It’s exhausting trying to be the perfect daughter. Still, getting good grades without making any waves may be the only way to distract from the fact that Sparrow Malone’s mother is on the verge of falling apart. Which means no getting upset. No being weird. No standing out for the wrong reasons.

But when Mom’s attempts to cope spiral out of control, Sparrow is sent to live with Aunt Mags on a sprawling estate full…


Book cover of It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity

Sarah Warren Author Of Stacey Abrams: Lift Every Voice

From my list on to read when you don’t have the answers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’d been a preschool teacher and a children’s author for years before I decided to become a mom. I was pretty sure I’d kill it at motherhood, I mean, I knew all the songs and I had lots of books. I was always up for giving advice to the caregivers at my school, heck, I was the perfect parent before my son was born. I knew everything then. Not anymore. Thank goodness for books. Over the years, my child has asked some tough questions, read on…you’ll see. Do they sound familiar? If so, these books might help you find your footing as you go looking for answers. 

Sarah's book list on to read when you don’t have the answers

Sarah Warren Why did Sarah love this book?

“Why is that dad wearing a dress?”

It wasn’t the first time my toddler commented on someone’s appearance in front of them, but I was convinced that his question sounded like a judgment. We have never left our grocery store so fast. I was angry. He was worried. Had he done something wrong? Yes! Maybe? I didn’t know. Had I? Yes. I wanted my family to be cool with all forms of gender expression, but I hadn’t built the common ground or the vocabulary to make that vision a reality. I’d projected my own fears, ignorance, and self-consciousness onto my child. I blew it. This book gave me words. We don’t assume anything about ourselves or other people anymore. I can see that my son’s curiosity comes from a place of sincerity and positivity. Now, I have the confidence to follow his lead.

By Theresa Thorn, Noah Grigni (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked It Feels Good to Be Yourself as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between.

This sweet, straightforward exploration of gender identity will give children a fuller understanding of themselves and others. Written by the mother of a transgender child and illustrated by a non-binary transgender artist, It Feels Good to Be Yourself provides young readers and parents alike with the vocabulary to discuss this important topic with sensitivity.


Book cover of Female Husbands

Simon Joyce Author Of LGBT Victorians: Sexuality and Gender in the Nineteenth-Century Archives

From my list on showing that trans people have always existed.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an academic researcher interested in this topic but also one of the people who gets demonized in conservative media: the parent of a transgender child. I want my daughter to know that similar people have existed in history and that lawmakers are wrong to claim that we’re in a scary new world when we advocate for respect and the rights of trans people. While doing that advocacy work, I’m alarmed by positions within the LGBTQI+ movement echoing right-wing ones, including what’s known as “gender critical feminism.” My book argues a positive case for coalition in the face of pressures to fracture along distinct lines of sexuality and gender identity. 

Simon's book list on showing that trans people have always existed

Simon Joyce Why did Simon love this book?

If you’re wondering in practical ways how to do trans history, Manion’s book is a great place to start. It takes one of the categories that preceded a transgender identity (the name typically given to people affirmed female at birth who identified as men and married women) and reimagines how eighteenth- and nineteenth-century lives might look with the benefit of the tools of our modern politics. The book is boldly inclusive, resisting deciding ahead of time how the category should be defined and who should be ruled in or out. Manion is also a role model in respecting the ambiguities of the past, mostly using neutral pronouns and offering non-judgmental speculations about what these subjects and their partners might have thought at key moments in their courageous and inspiring lives. 

By Jen Manion,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Female Husbands as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Long before people identified as transgender or lesbian, there were female husbands and the women who loved them. Female husbands - people assigned female who transed gender, lived as men, and married women - were true queer pioneers. Moving deftly from the colonial era to just before the First World War, Jen Manion uncovers the riveting and very personal stories of ordinary people who lived as men despite tremendous risk, danger, violence, and threat of punishment. Female Husbands weaves the story of their lives in relation to broader social, economic, and political developments in the United States and the United…


Book cover of Both Can Be True

Lisa Bunker Author Of Zenobia July

From my list on gender non-conforming humans for young readers.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was growing up there were no trans characters in children’s books, and partly because I had no examples I could point to, it took me until my forties to express and claim my gender truth. Now that I am a happily transitioned author, activist, and elected official, I champion middle grade novels by and about gender non-conforming humans because I want today’s trans kids to see themselves in stories. I hope to empower them to lead their best authentic lives from the beginning. I also hope to teach an often uninformed and sometimes prejudiced world to accept gender non-conforming kids as the beautiful healthy humans they are.

Lisa's book list on gender non-conforming humans for young readers

Lisa Bunker Why did Lisa love this book?

I particularly like the dual narration in this 2021 debut, with two characters who challenge gender norms at different levels of intensity as they bond over a secret rescue dog. Daniel is a boy who feels all his emotions intensely, and who has been told over and over that he is too sensitive. Ash cycles through genders, feeling and expressing girl sometimes and boy other times. It’s so good to see a GNC character in a lead role. I also got a hoot out of the graphic elements, which are quirky and original.

By Jules Machias, Jules Machias,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Both Can Be True as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

*An Indie Next List Pick and a Top Ten Rainbow Book for Young Readers!*

Jules Machias explores identity, gender fluidity, and the power of friendship and acceptance in this dual-narrative story about two kids who join forces to save a dog . . . but wind up saving each other.

Ash is no stranger to feeling like an outcast. For someone who cycles through genders, it's a daily struggle to feel in control of how people perceive you. Some days Ash is undoubtedly girl, but other times, 100 percent guy. Daniel lacks control too-of his emotions. He's been told he's…


Book cover of Ana on the Edge

Laurie Morrison Author Of Coming Up Short

From my list on for athletes and non-athletes alike.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved watching and playing sports, and now I love writing about them, too. As a former teacher, I’ve seen firsthand how sporty books appeal to sporty kids. But after publishing my novel Up for Air, which is about a star swimmer, I’ve been struck by how many readers tell me they connected deeply with the main character even though they don’t like sports at all. That made me think about what makes sports stories resonate, and now I look out for books that capitalize on all the most exciting and relatable things about sports while also offering compelling hooks to readers with all sorts of interests.

Laurie's book list on for athletes and non-athletes alike

Laurie Morrison Why did Laurie love this book?

Ana on the Edge is a powerful novel about figure skating and gender identity that’s equally perfect for figure skating enthusiasts and kids looking for LGBTQIA+ stories. It’s obvious from the first page that the author is a figure skater who knows the sport intimately, but the sparkling skating scenes are just as fun and accessible for readers who watch the occasional Olympic figure skating competition as they would be for insiders. And the most special part of this book is the poignant way it depicts a kid who is figuring out the gender identity that feels right while competing in a very gendered sport. I loved Ana and could not put this book down; I know many readers will feel the same.

By A.J. Sass,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ana on the Edge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Twelve-year-old Ana-Marie Jin, the reigning US Juvenile figure skating champion, is not a frilly dress kind of kid. So, when Ana learns that next season's program will be princess themed, doubt forms fast. Still, Ana tries to focus on training and putting together a stellar routine worthy of national success.

Once Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy new to the rink, thoughts about the princess program and gender identity begin to take center stage. And when Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana doesn't correct him and finds comfort in this boyish identity when he's around. As their friendship develops,…


Book cover of Lakelore

Natalia Hernandez Author Of The Name-Bearer

From my list on queer Latin fantasy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a queer Latinx author and avid reader. Long before I became an author, I was devouring books and losing myself in fantasy worlds. When I got older, I realized how few books in the market looked like me. I didn’t feel represented in the literary world. Now, I create queer fantasy novels that feature strong women of color in sweeping Latin American-inspired settings for future generations. 

Natalia's book list on queer Latin fantasy

Natalia Hernandez Why did Natalia love this book?

Lyrical prose. Nonbinary Latinx teens. A magical world underneath a lake. Neurodivergent rep. What doesn’t this book have? 

I was captivated from start to finish, watching Bastian and Lore navigate their ADHD, dyslexia, sexuality, and identity, and all while the magic world underneath their lake threatens to come up and drown their surface. Can these two teens - who haven’t seen or spoken to one another in years - learn to trust one another and work together to stop it, before it destroys everything?

I really don’t have the words for how captivating this book is, but the colors, descriptions, and magic are so vibrant they pull you right into the heart of the world and the story, and threaten not to let you go.

By Anna-Marie McLemore,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lakelore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

In this young adult novel by award-winning author Anna-Marie McLemore, two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake - but can they keep their worlds above water intact?

Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate.…


Book cover of When the Moon Was Ours

Xan van Rooyen Author Of By the Blood of Rowans

From my list on trans and non-binary characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a genderqueer non-binary person who always felt alone and invisible, it has been incredible to see the change taking place, particularly in YA, as more and more trans and non-binary authors get to tell their stories. Had I been able to read even one of these books as a teen, I might’ve avoided many years of unhappiness. Also, I’ve always been drawn to fantasy and science fiction, perhaps due to my need and desire to escape mundane reality, but I truly love how these genres let the imagination run riot, particularly when authors imagine kinder and more accepting worlds for LGBT+ people.

Xan's book list on trans and non-binary characters

Xan van Rooyen Why did Xan love this book?

Honestly, I could’ve picked any book by McLemore. They are all absolutely stunning. McLemore’s prose is lush and poetic, rich in metaphor and nuance. Their stories have a timeless quality about them at once grounding them in reality and yet offering glimpses of the surreal and ephemeral. When the Moon Was Ours is an incredibly poignant love story between Sam, a Pakistani trans boy, and Latinx Miel who has literal roses growing out of her wrists. This story provided insight into both Pakistani and Latinx culture while weaving a breath-taking tale of love and identity.

By Anna-Marie McLemore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When the Moon Was Ours as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

From the author of The Weight of Feathers comes a young adult novel about a girl hiding the truth, a boy with secrets from his past, and four sisters who could ruin them both.

Recipient of a Stonewall Honor and longlisted for the National Book Award, McLemore delivers a second stunning and utterly romantic novel, again tinged with magic.

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known…