Okay, I know that I talk a lot about how hard it is to find books that talk about gender. A lot of people find it hard to believe that there aren’t any books about gender identity that challenge society’s ideas about the gender spectrum and instead show that we live in a world that is mostly made up of two things: men and women We have a hard time being seen as valid and present in this world if we don’t fit into one of the two boxes that make up the world. But the good news is that there is still hope, and there are people writing to fill this gap.
Understanding and society’s obsession with rigid categories can make talking about gender identity difficult. If a person isn’t immediately identifiable as one thing or another, it seems like society has no idea what to do and goes crazy. This is why we talk about gender identity so much: Gender-nonconforming people are always looked at as weird and different because they don’t fit in. Then add issues of race, class, and sexuality, and we’ve got a whole lot of problems that make it hard for us to live comfortable and safe lives.
Fiction Books About Gender Identity
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
One of the best-known works of queer literature is Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. It’s a novel about gender and identity that stands out from its peers. The book Orlando looks like a look at a world where the binary is infinitely more flexible, a world where gender boundaries are broken. This is what Woolf, who thought gender was a constraint on everything from her career to her love life, thought about when she read it. Orlando is one of the most important books we have about gender because it has a protagonist who changes sex in the middle of the book and talks about relationships with people of both sexes. It even has a single “they” pronoun.
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
While this book is mostly about lesbian relationships in Victorian London, many of its characters use drag to talk about gender. With the help of her lover, Nan starts performing in drag. She also starts acting like a man outside of the theater. It’s very likely that it’s a comment on gender as a performance and learned trait, as well as how felinity and masculinity work in the world.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
A lot of people don’t like this book because it isn’t #ownvoices and because the main character, Cal, is intersex. Middlesex also talks about immigration, culture, and family, but the main focus is on Cal’s discovery of their gender identity and their coming of age. Cal (or Callie) is born and raised as a woman. Later, he adopts a male identity and appearance, and he has sex with people of all different genders. Definitely a book you don’t want to miss, but you might want to read it with an open mind.
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
When it comes to books that look at gender, Left Hand of Darkness is the best one. A futuristic world with ambisexual people is a good place to look at how people from more traditional gendered societies interact with people from a more idealized gender-neutral world. It also thinks about what the world would be like if there were no gender roles. This is a great example of sci-fi mixed with social commentary.
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg
On top of the story of the famous London thief Jack Sheppard, who is renamed AFAB in the book, is another story about a transgender professor who is trying to verify the found manuscript about Sheppard. The book isn’t just about being trans, but also about how trans people and people of color have been erased from history.
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
This is a classic book that talks about butch identity and the blurred lines between masculine and feminine. During the book, the main character, Jess, is found dressed in her father’s clothes. Her parents find her and send her to a mental health ward. Eventually, she finds a group of people who are supportive of her as a queer, a drag queen, or a butch. They help her learn how to navigate the world, and later, she starts taking testosterone and acting like a man (and even later, stops this process and lives gender-neutral). Trauma still happens, but Jess and her community fight for their rights and validity at the same time. They also have to deal with love and relationships.
George by Alex Gino
As a result, George is probably one of the most important books about gender because it tells the story of a child who has a hard time figuring out who they are and how to deal with it. It is also written for kids, with the goal of helping them understand gender presentation at a young age. The main character in the story is called AMAB, and she has a hard time being seen as her true self, Melissa. I think this book was a big part of a new wave of books written for young people. It helps young people who are having problems with gender to feel like they aren’t alone and important.
Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz
Lizard Radio uses sci-fi themes to talk about gender fluidity and the rules that society puts on people who don’t fit into the male/female box. Its main character, Kivali, feels like she has to hide and fit in, but she is becoming less and less able to do so. However, Kivali lives in a society that has very high standards for its citizens, and the pressure to meet them is very strong. This is a great story for people who don’t want to be exposed to their true selves, and who want to live in a world that is more open.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
In this book, McLemore’s usual lush and fantastical prose is used to look at gender through magical realism and carefully researched cultural markers. Trans character Sam is one of the main ones in the book; he has been raised as a boy as part of the tradition of “bacha-posh,” in which families without sons raise their oldest daughter as a boy until she is old enough to get married. It’s a beautiful story about friendship and love, and most of all, how people who aren’t like them help each other and work together.
Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
Girl Mans Up is a book about a young person who is fighting for their worth and respect. The protagonist is a butch lesbian. Her parents and other people say Pen looks like a man all her life. As she gets older, Pen gets more negative feedback from both her parents and other people. The book talks about gender expectations and performance, and how these expectations can have an impact on someone who doesn’t fit into a certain box. It’s a story about not giving up on yourself, and about knowing who you are even when other people want you to be someone else.
Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman
Another book about an intersex person. This one is about AMAB Alex, who decides to start acting more feminine, which causes problems when she moves to a new school. This brings up problems that many trans/gender-nonconforming young people have as they try to live in society. The fight for rights that other people take for granted because of how important gender markers are on birth certificates, licenses, and other things turns into a war. When Alex goes to school, she has to deal with her parents. Her parents don’t support her decision to be a woman, and this causes tension in the family. In the end, this might be upsetting to some people, but it’s important in the way it shows a protagonist who just wants to be liked.
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
Kristin, the homecoming queen, finds out that she has androgen insensitivity syndrome, which is an intersex condition, after a painful try at having sex. Krissy’s social life changes when her condition is known, which is something that happens to a lot of queer/gender-nonconforming kids. But this allows her to make new friends and figure out who she is on her own. In this story, gender and the body are explored, as well as the important distinction that sex and gender presentation are two very different things that don’t always match up the way society thinks they should. It’s a hopeful story.
How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity ed. Michael Cart
The stories in this anthology are written by some of the best authors in the world, like David Levithan, Jennifer Finny Boylan, Emma Donoghue, Francesca Lia Block, and Gregory Maguire. They all deal with issues of queerness and gender identity. Everybody can find a story they like in an anthology. The stories in this collection range in genre and theme, but each one talks about how LGBTQ+ people want to be accepted and how they have to fight for that.
NonFiction Books About Gender Identity
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Judith Butler
Judith Butler’s book is a classic in the fields of feminist, gender, and queer studies. It includes some of the most important ideas that have changed how we think about sexuality and gender over time. Butler criticizes how sex and gender are made up in society, and he takes an intersectional approach. He says that gender expression is different from biological sex, and that expectations of gender vary from culture to culture. This book is very theory-heavy, but it is very important.
Female Masculinity by Judith Halberstam
In this paragraph, I want to say that Jack Halberstam now goes by the name Jack Halberstam because he uses both masc and femme pronouns. The book is still called “Judith.” This book talks about how society thinks about masculinity and how people show their gender, especially when it comes to lesbians and trans people. The book talks about tomboys, butches, and drag kings, as well as passing, society’s rules about gender, and how to be different.