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5 Books to Better Understand Queer and Trans Identities and Issues

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Rebecca Joines Schinsky

Chief of Staff

Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the executive director of product and ecommerce at Riot New Media Group. She co-hosts All the Books! and the Book Riot Podcast. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaschinsky.

Pride Month kicks off this Saturday, but it’s never too soon to start the parade. Whether you’re looking for books to help you better understand LGBTQ+ issues or recommendations to hand to folks in your life who could use a little help, we’ve got you covered with a starter pack of picks for readers of all ages.

The Book Riot community is rich in experience and perspective, and I know y’all have recs to share as well. Shout out your own favorite books for understanding queer and trans life in the comments.

If you’re pretty new to the idea of the gender identity spectrum or want to have a conversation about it with someone who is just starting out, It Feels Good to Be Yourself by Theresa Thorn and Noah Grigni is just as helpful for adult readers as it is for kids. It starts from the premise that “Some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between,” and prompts readers to explore their own gender identities. Thorn and Grigni also provide vocabulary to help readers discuss gender identity in a respectful and compassionate manner. How we talk about things matters, and this is an excellent resource for laying the groundwork.

Moving on up for tweens, teens, and adults who want to understand and communicate with teens and tweens (and, really, with anyone), Juno Dawson’s This Book is Gay provides a funny, frank, informative guide to all the things you may wondered about LGBTQ+ life but hesitated to ask. How do you come out? How do you meet people to date? How does gay sex work? Pitched for young readers, it’s also an invaluable resource for parents, educators, and other adults who want to show up for the queer folks in their communities.

Deepen your understanding with A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities by Mady G and Jules Zuckerberg, which delves into sexual identity, coming out, gender identity, relationships, and more. This creative, interactive resource includes comics, interviews, worksheets for personal reflection, and tons of examples. As anyone who’s had to explain to a well-meaning relative that, “We don’t say that anymore” knows, the language around gender and sexuality is constantly evolving. It can be confusing, and folks are often scared of saying the wrong thing. This book is for them, and for all of us who seek to celebrate the queer community’s ongoing expansion and liberation. You may also want to pick up A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns and A Quick & Easy Guide to Asexuality.

Schuyler Bailar was the first transgender NCAA athlete to compete in Division I sports when he chose to swim for the Harvard men’s team. Now, far-right activists are using the presence of trans people in sports as a wedge issue to drive anti-LGBTQ legislation and erase trans people from public life. In He/She/They, Bailar explores, as the subtitle promises, how we talk about gender and why it matters. He uses his own story to illustrate fundamental concepts and draws on science and history to bust common myths about trans life and provide fact-based arguments for acceptance, advocacy, inclusion, and gender-affirming healthcare. Wherever you are on the journey to understanding trans identities, issues, and advocacy, He/She/They will support you in having better, deeper conversations and connections.

Gender Euphoria book cover

Hearing people’s stories is one of the best ways to develop empathy and understanding. Many discussions of gender identity and trans issues focus exclusively on the experience of gender dysphoria, so Laura Kate Dale created the Gender Euphoria anthology to create a more holistic picture. In the collected essays, 19 writers share the experiences that affirmed them as trans, non-binary, agender, gender fluid, and intersex and led to the feeling of gender euphoria. These stories are a compelling reminder of how powerful and important it is for all of us to feel seen and valued as ourselves—to be met where we are—and they offer hope and inspiration for LGBTQ+ folks and allies who are working to create that world.

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