Reading Trans Joy

Like any identity, existing in the world as a transgender individual is inherently complicated. It’s hard to see yourself at all when you aren’t represented anywhere in media – or when the representation ranges from tragic to outright harmful. While there is value to be found in sharing the stories of trauma and prejudice that affect trans lives every day, there’s just as much solace to be found in the stories that we tell about transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming folks that don’t actively center around that hurt. Here are some of our favorite books that celebrate the pride, joy, and euphoria of being trans:

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho - This is my favorite depiction of transness in fantasy right now. While Tet Sang’s gender identity is nebulously identified – trans-masculine, certainly, but with the opportunity to be interpreted as solely transgender or perhaps nonbinary – his journey of self discovery and the support he has from the people in his life ring meaningfully to me every time I reread this book.

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages edited by Saundra Mitchell - While this one encompasses a broader span of identities, I will never this passage in the opening story: ‘His mother, back in Alsace, had christened him with a girl’s name, though he had since forgiven her for that. . . . His heart had been a boy’s heart, throwing itself against his rib cage with each set of white gloves for mass. I called him his true name, Léon, the one he’d chosen himself.’ Léon was the first trans character I’d ever read in a book before and he’s stuck with me to this day for that.

May the Best Man Win by Zr Ellor - You know the story. The cheerleader and the football star fall in love, grow up, and probably get married or something. Well, turns out the cheerleader comes out as a trans man during senior year and is bent on becoming Homecoming King. This lovers-to-exes-to-nemeses-to-lovers-again story is absolutely delightful.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas - Yadriel is determined to prove that he’s a brujo, a male witch, when he comes out as trans. It’s going great, more or less, until he accidentally summons a ghost. This one is funny when it needs to be – Yadriel and Julian are so messy together – but also heartfelt and true to the core of what it’s like to be trans.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender - Felix is a young, black, trans masc person exploring and discovering his identity through art as they attempt to navigate life. Although Felix faces challenges, Felix discovers who they are and who their friends are as they stand up for Felix in the face of adversity.  

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee - Noah Ramirez thinks he's an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There's just one problem--all the stories are fake. When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah's world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn't have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah's life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah's feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn't quite the same as finding love on the page.

This is Our Rainbow:  16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby - A collection of queer stories, some of them trans, all of them filled with hope and joy.  From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories by a variety of authors.

Magical Boy (Vol. 1) by The Kao - Descended from a long line of Magical Girls tasked with defending humanity from a dark, ancient evil, Max, an average high school trans boy, wonders if he can take on his destiny, save the world and become the new Magical Boy.  A fun filled adventure graphic novel with found family and outrageous costume changes.