Pride Month reading list

—Elsa Ordahl

June is Pride Month and we are celebrating with a reading list to recognize the LGBTQ+ community’s accomplishments and dedication to justice and progress.

The Trans Generation and Beyond Trans highlight the challenges of daily life as a trans child and trans adult. Both books take a hard look at social challenges and the legalistic exclusions that prevent America from being truly inclusive. In the same vein, Struggling for Ordinary examines how these issues are made manifest in the media and how media and technology can be a conduit for members of the trans community to find inclusion. In a sobering account of an instance of horrible violence, The Life and Death of Latisha King investigates how gender and its function and role in culture can result in transphobic violence. An unexpected correlation causes hope in Coming Out of Communism as discriminatory laws have had a paradoxical effect in Eastern Europe and have instead created more organized activism and an increased persistence for change. Unlikely heroes emerge in Queer Nuns, as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence engage in social justice work on four different continents on behalf of queer communities. The Gay Marriage Generation details the incredible shift in perception towards gay marriage and how its legalization became a reality through generational change.


A groundbreaking look at the lives of transgender children and their families

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. Ultimately, the book is meant to open up options for kids’ own gender self-determination, to question the need for the sex binary, and to highlight ways that cultural and material resources can be redistributed more equitably. The Trans Generation offers an essential and important new understanding of childhood.

“In this insightful evaluation of the lives of transgender kids, the author closely examines schools, spaces (especially bathrooms and locker rooms), parents, and healthcare.  The book is…an important addition to the growing body of transgender literature.” —Booklist

What can the killing of a transgender teen teach us about the violence of misreading gender identity as sexual identity?

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. Interdisciplinary in both scope and method, the book considers the violences visited upon gender-nonconforming bodies that are surveilled and othered, and the contemporary resonances of the Latisha King killing.

The Life and Death of Latisha King is no ordinary true-crime narrative, but a hard-hitting philosophical investigation into gender and its cultural depiction.” —Foreword

Goes beyond transgender to question the need for gender classification.

Beyond Trans pushes the conversation on gender identity to its limits: questioning the need for gender categories in the first place. Heath Fogg Davis examines four areas where we need to re-think our sex-classification systems: sex-marked identity documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses and passports; sex-segregated public restrooms; single-sex colleges; and sex-segregated sports. For anyone in search of pragmatic ways to make our world more inclusive, Davis’ recommendations provide much-needed practical guidance about how to work through this complex issue. A provocative call to action, Beyond Trans pushes us to think how we can work to make America truly inclusive of all people.

“In another major book about our current gender moment, Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter? Heath Fogg Davis, a professor of political science at Temple University and a transgender man, makes the argument that the modern trans rights movement shouldn’t be so heavily invested in integrating trans and gender-nonconforming people into our existing gendered institutions. Instead, Davis suggests, we should use the so-called ‘transgender tipping point’ to explode our bureaucratic definitions of gender altogether.” —BuzzFeed News


An engaging look into the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, queer activists devoted to social justice

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence make up an unlikely order of nuns. Self-described as “twenty-first century queer nuns,” the Sisters began in 1979 when three bored gay men donned retired Roman Catholic nuns’ habits and went for a stroll through San Francisco’s gay Castro district. Today, with more than 83 houses on four different continents, the Sisters offer health outreach, support, and, at times, protest on behalf of queer communities. Melissa M. Wilcox argues that serious parody offers potential uses and challenges in the efforts of activist groups to work within communities that are opposed and oppressed by culturally significant traditions and organizations – as is the case with queer communities and the Roman Catholic Church.

“A serious study of serious parody.  Melissa Wilcox shows how the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have combined a certain lightness of being with a definite seriousness of purpose to create performative politics and religious practices that open onto a very different world than the one in which we find ourselves.  Wilcox brings a scholarly richness and wonderful intelligence to the Sisters’ stories, offering a lesson about how to live in times when parody is the best, if not the only, way to communicate with any seriousness.” —Janet Jakobsen, Claire Tow Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Barnard College, Columbia University

An in-depth look at the role of media in the struggle for transgender inclusion

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? Deeply rooted in the life stories of transgender people, the book uses everyday circumstances to show how media and technology operate as a medium through which transgender individuals are able to cultivate an understanding of their identities, build inhabitable worlds, and achieve the routine affordances of everyday life from which they are often excluded.

Struggling for Ordinary chronicles the complexities of transgender media experiences and challenges commonplace assumptions about how audiences are influenced by media. Dedicated to giving trans voices and experiences a generous space, Cavalcante compassionately details how trans folk participate in queer worldmaking. This book serves as a model for other scholars working with underrepresented populations.” —Isaac West, author of Transforming Citizenships: Transgender Articulations of the Law

The generational and social thinking changes that caused an unprecedented shift toward support for gay marriage

How did gay marriage—something unimaginable two decades ago—come to feel inevitable to even its staunchest opponents? While older generations grew up imagining gays and lesbians in terms of their behavior, younger generations came to understand them in terms of their identity. Over time, as the older generation and their ideas slowly passed away, they were replaced by a new generational culture that brought gay marriage to all fifty states. An intimate portrait of social change with national implications, The Gay Marriage Generation is a significant contribution to our understanding of what causes generational change and how gay marriage became the reality in the United States.

“At the very moment attitudes toward gay marriage began to change rapidly, Peter Hart-Brinson interviewed people from multiple generations to assess the shifting meanings surrounding gay marriage. While quantitative studies allow us to track these changing attitudes in a simplistic way, most barely scratch the surface of what remains a complex issue for many. With his insightful analysis of his qualitative data, Hart-Brinson breaks through this surface and does a deep dive into the metaphors people use to think about gay marriage. In doing so, he helps us to understand why resistance to gay marriage remains steadfast, even in the face of growing consensus.” —Thomas J. Linneman, author of Weathering Change: Gays and Lesbians, Christian Conservatives, and Everyday Hostilities

How homophobic backlash unexpectedly strengthened mobilization for LGBT political rights in post-communist Europe

Combining an historical overview with interviews and case studies in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, Conor O’Dwyer analyzes the development and impact of LGBT movements in post-communist Eastern and Central Europe. O’Dwyer argues that backlash against LGBT individuals has had the paradoxical effect of encouraging stronger and more organized activism, significantly impacting the social movement landscape in the region.

“As unfettered populism and nationalism shake the core of liberal democracies, this book is needed more than ever, because it provides a sliver of hope in times of great peril for the most vulnerable among us.” —Phillip M. Ayoub, author of When States Come Out: Europe’s Sexual Minorities and the Politics of Visibility

Elsa Ordahl is an intern at NYU Press and a student at St. John’s College.

Feature image: Pride Parade, Portland, Oregon by Another Believer. CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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