As we search for those special gifts this time of year, books may provide the perfect answer – especially if you, your family, or friends are working through transgender issues. For trans children or children of transgender relatives, books help to show an understanding of gender and what it means to be trans. Young adults will find positive role models with whom they can relate. For parents and adults, books offer a source of guidance and support.
Listed here are some of the many books available that may be especially suitable for gift-giving. The age recommendations are merely guides.
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall (Greenwillow Books, 2015). This is a wonderful book to share with any child. There is no mention of gender or of being trans. Simply, it is the story of a blue crayon mistakenly labeled as red. Many young readers will make the connections. (Any age)
Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship by J. Walton (Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books, 2016). The title says it all. A great evening read aloud. (Preschool through grade 2)
Who Are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and Naomi Bardoff (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016). A simple, caring, and direct intro to gender – what it is and what it may mean to each of us. (Preschool through early grades)
Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah Hoffman and Ian Hoffman (Albert Whitman & Company, 2014). This is the story of a gender-expansive boy who desperately wants to wear a dress to school. Jacob experiences the pain so many young transgender children must face to ultimately be themselves. Fosters discussions of gender, identity, and self-confidence. (Preschool through grade 2)
I am Jazz by Jazz Jennings (Dial Books, 2014). The real-life story told by a young transgender girl. A great way to start the discussion. (Grades 1 or 2 through 5 or 6).
For young adults
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings (Ember, 2017). Follow the journey of Jazz as she encounters the difficulties of not only being a teen, but also being transgender through adolescence. (Grades 5 – 10).
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky (Disney-Hyperion, 2016). Sixth-grader Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever. On the inside, Grayson knows ‘he’ is a girl – but everyone sees Grayson as a boy. This is a story of struggle and pain to which any transgender child can relate – a story of an unexpected friend and the strength of a caring teacher. (Grades 4 through 8)
The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey (HarperCollins, 2016). Twelve-year-old Shane is like any other boy at his school and everyone sees him as such. Yet, Shane is keeping a huge secret that if revealed may change everything – Shane is a transgender boy who has socially transitioned. If his friends and teammates discover the truth how will his life change? Another perspective on the transgender experience. (Grades 4 through 8)
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (Balzer-Bray, 2016) Gender is not just male or female – one’s identity can be dynamic and anywhere along the gender spectrum. Riley identifies as gender-fluid – anywhere and everywhere across the spectrum. A refreshing and unusual look at the many challenges of yet another aspect of being trans. (Grades 8 through 12)
Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015). There are few transgender memoirs for and about teens – this is one that will take the reader along the perilous road of being trans and what it really means to be “normal.” (Grades 8 through 12)
Being Emily by Rachel Gold (Bella Books, 2012) The story of Chris, a high school senior (who becomes Emily) and Clair, a friend who helped her along the way. Not only do we see the transition of Chris to Emily, but we also witness a transformation in Claire and Emily’s parents – a story of struggle, pain, and hope. (Grades 9 and up)
For parents and other adults
The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie A. Brill and Rachel Pepper (Cleis Press, 2008). Useful and especially easy to read. This is definitely one of the “go to” books for anyone working with transgender youth.
The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens by Stephanie A. Brill and Lisa Kenney (Cleis Press, 2016).
The Trans Partner Handbook: A Guide for When Your Partner Transitions by Jo Green (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017). Partners and spouses are often overlooked in the tumultuous time of a transition. Here is a guide to help partners try to understand what is happening as they are also drawn into the transition of a significant-other and, indeed, a transition of their own. Contains numerous accounts from others who have travelled this journey offering advice and support.
True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism – For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals by Mildred L. Brown and Chloe Ann Rounsley (Jossey-Bass, 2003). This is truly a classic – although written in 2003 it remains quite relevant as a book to share with family and friends of anyone about to transition. It puts into words many of the things we might find difficult to express ourselves.
Laura Anderson is an educator, author, researcher, parent, and granddad. Her years teaching in public school classrooms as male provided the foundation for her more recent role educating future teachers. Living female for the past decade, she has come to appreciate the privileges she once held– both male and cisgender– privileges now replaced with the fulfillment of living as her true self.
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