November 12 – 19 is Transgender Awareness Week and November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance that honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. Here are a selection of books that raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people and address issues these communities face.
Struggling for Ordinary
Media and Transgender Belonging in Everyday Life
By Andre Cavalcante
From television shows like Orange is the New Black and Transparent, to the real-life struggles of Caitlyn Jenner splashed across the headlines, transgender visibility is on the rise. But what was it like to live as a transgender person in a media environment before this transgender boom in television? While pop culture imaginations of transgender identity flourish and shape audience’s perceptions of trans identities, what does this new media visibility mean for transgender individuals themselves?
“Struggling for Ordinary makes important contributions to media studies and LGBTQ scholarship. As part of media studies, reception studies strives to see audiences as individuals rather than nameless monoliths, and Cavalcante’s research takes care to present specific, contextualized perspectives.” —Popmatters
Does Gender Matter?
By Heath Fogg Davis
Beyond Trans pushes the conversation on gender identity to its limits: questioning the need for gender categories in the first place. Whether on birth certificates or college admissions applications or on bathroom doors, why do we need to mark people and places with sex categories? Do they serve a real purpose or are these places and forms just mechanisms of exclusion? Heath Fogg Davis offers an impassioned call to rethink the usefulness of dividing the world into not just Male and Female categories but even additional categories of Transgender and gender fluid. Davis, himself a transgender man, explores the underlying gender-enforcing policies and customs in American life that have led to transgender bathroom bills, college admissions controversies, and more, arguing that it is necessary for our society to take real steps to challenge the assumption that gender matters.
“Davis’s solution-oriented Beyond Trans is a necessary voice in current debates about the administration of sex and transgender identity. From the infamous bathroom bills to cis citizens’ objection to financing the medical expenses of trans military personnel (the specter of which Donald Trump backhandedly invoked during his transgender ban tweets), to women’s colleges determining that sex-segregation and defining the boundaries of womanhood were necessary to a feminist project of education, Davis’s book offers applicable solutions and applies the knowledge gained from the positionality of trans, intersex, and non-binary viewpoints.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
The Trans Generation
How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution
By Ann Travers
Based on interviews with transgender kids, ranging in age from 4 to 20, and their parents, and over five years of research in the US and Canada, The Trans Generation offers a rare look into what it is like to grow up as a trans child. From daycare to birthday parties and from the playground to the school bathroom, Travers takes the reader inside the day-to-day realities of trans kids who regularly experience crisis as a result of the restrictive ways in which sex categories regulate their lives and put pressure on them to deny their internal sense of who they are in gendered terms.
“Given that trans children are subjected to harassment, bullying, and systemic lack of support, there’s no better time than now to have this book as a resource.” —Bitch Magazine
Growing Up Queer
Kids and the Remaking of LGBTQ Identity
By Mary Robertson
Growing Up Queer describes how young people navigate queerness within a culture where being gay is the “new normal.” Using Sara Ahmed’s concept of queer orientation, Robertson argues that being queer is not just about one’s sexual and/or gender identity, but is understood through intersecting identities including race, class, ability, and more. By showing how society accepts some kinds of LGBTQ-identified people while rejecting others, Growing Up Queer provides evidence of queerness as a site of social inequality. The book moves beyond an oversimplified examination of teenage sexuality and shows, through the voices of young people themselves, the exciting yet complicated terrain of queer adolescence.
“Illuminating . . . Robertson examine[s] how youth today form queer identities. This accessibly written inquiry will be of interest to queer readers, sociologists, and gender studies enthusiasts alike.” —Publishers Weekly
The Lives of Trans Men at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
By Emily Skidmore
In True Sex, Emily Skidmore uncovers the stories of eighteen trans men who lived in the United States between 1876 and 1936. Despite their “unexceptional” quality, their lives are surprising and moving, challenging much of what we think we know about queer history. By tracing the narratives surrounding the moments of “discovery” in these communities – from reports in local newspapers to medical journals and beyond – this book challenges the assumption that the full story of modern American sexuality is told by cosmopolitan radicals. Rather, True Sex reveals complex narratives concerning rural geography and community, persecution and tolerance, and how these factors intersect with the history of race, identity and sexuality in America.
“True Sex explores the varied histories of American trans men long before that designation even existed. Reviewing newspapers and the literature of the field then known as “sexology,” as well as census data, court records, and trial transcripts, Skidmore weaves a tale of American gender that’s far more complex than many might think, one that reveals that [gender] has never been a fixed reality.” —Timeline.com
The Life and Death of Latisha King
A Critical Phenomenology of Transphobia
By Gayle Salamon
The Life and Death of Latisha King examines a single incident, the shooting of 15-year-old Latisha King by 14-year-old Brandon McInerney in their junior high school classroom in Oxnard, California in 2008. The press coverage of the shooting, as well as the criminal trial that followed, referred to Latisha, assigned male at birth, as Larry. Unpacking the consequences of representing the victim as Larry, a gay boy, instead of Latisha, a trans girl, Gayle Salamon draws on the resources of feminist phenomenology to analyze what happened in the school and at the trial that followed. In building on the phenomenological concepts of anonymity and comportment, Salamon considers how gender functions in the social world and the dangers of being denied anonymity as both a particularizing and dehumanizing act.
“Undertakes exactly the kind of parsing, original thinking, attention to detail, and care for its subject that the act of violence at the story’s core aimed to hollow out. Salamon’s combination of courtroom reportage and phenomenological thinking feels fresh here, as her book bends the conventions of academic discourse to witness enmeshed bodies moving in real time space and time.” —Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts