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The 10 Best Transgender History Books You Should Have Read Already By Now!

The 10 Best Transgender History Books You Should Have Read Already By Now!

Literature and writing are powerful. Much more powerful than many people realize. Only through the diligent watching and documenting of the authors, muses, and poets of the past can we know anything about our history other than what we can dig up out of the ground. And this is why reading the best transgender history books is so important!

Digging things up and studying them wouldn’t be much use unless we can use books and writing to document our findings!

With that said, it becomes incredibly clear how important it is for the people of modern times to feel inspired, to know that they are not alone, and to know that people just like them have been pushing for change for as long as society has been as we know it now.

Without our records of the past, there would be no way for us to know how far we have come, the mistakes that we’ve buried in the past, and what exactly we need to do to better ourselves from how things used to be.

Transgender History Books - best Transgender History Books - Best Books for Transgender History - Books on Transgender History

The transgender community possesses a long history of struggle and difficulty with making a peaceful life in a judgmental world, and the stories of the leaps and bounds made by trans pioneers are crucial building blocks to the steps that we still need to keep making today ensure that no people on earth are kept away from others or from their true selves by gender.

Not only is documenting transgender history important for progress as we move on into the future and make new steps in accepting, but doing so also offers respect and honors to those who have fought in the past.

Those who continue to fight today, and most of all, those who have lost their lives or lived the wrong lives due to the hateful discrimination and violence often targeted toward transgender individuals.

Let us read on and venture into the pages of the past and the brave tales of humble origins that they hold. The best transgender history books await: 

Batter my heart, transgender’d god, for yours

is the only ear that hears: place fear in my heart

where faith has grown my senses dull & reassures

my blood that it will never spill. Show every part

to every stranger’s anger, surprise them with my drawers

full up of maps that lead to vacancies & chart

the distance from my pride, my core. Terror, do not depart

but nest in the hollows of my loins & keep me on all fours.

My knees, bring me to them; force my head to bow again.

Replay the murders of my kin until my mind’s made new;

let Adam’s bite obstruct my breath ’til I respire men

& press his rib against my throat until my lips turn blue.

You, O duo, O twin, whose likeness is kind: unwind my confidence

& noose it round your fist so I might know you in vivid impermanence.

Batter My Heart, Transgender’d God by Meg Day
Queer Literature

Don't have time to read them all? Why not try listening to them? Audible is a great platform for listening to audiobooks because it offers a wide selection of books, including bestsellers and exclusive content. With Audible, you can listen to your favorite books on-the-go, whether you're commuting, working out, or doing household chores.

The Audible app also has features like adjustable narration speed, a sleep timer, and the ability to create bookmarks, making it easy to customize your listening experience. Additionally, Audible offers a membership program that gives members access to a certain number of audiobooks per month, making it a cost-effective option for avid listeners. 

A great resource for people who want to maximize their time and make the most out of their daily activities. Try a free 30-day trial from Audible today, and you'll get access to a selection of Audible Originals and audiobooks, along with a credit to purchase any title in their premium selection, regardless of price (including many of the books on this list!) 

For ebook lovers, we also recommend Scribd, basically the Netflix for Books and the best and most convenient subscription for online reading. While they have a catalog comprising over half a million books including from many bestselling authors, for some of the books on this list, you'll still have to purchase individually - either as a paperback or eBook to load on your Kindle - due to publishing house restrictions. 

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Before We Were Trans by Dr. Kit Heyam Ph.D

Before We Were Trans: A New History of Gender is precisely what the title states – a new way of looking at the norms that we as a society are used to perpetuating, letting lead our lives and determine how we see other people, yet never dare to challenge.

Showcasing and taking up the hand of countless gender warriors across the world no matter how they live, what they identify as, or from which time they hail Before We Were Trans takes the binary that we all know and think that we understand under a microscope of acute critical thinking and experience drawn from the real world around us, and brings its certainty to question.

How much do we know about gender, and why do we simultaneously lament the effects of gender segregation while letting it define our society in such a rigid way?

Before We Were, Trans brings academic research and cultural writing to a level that is easily accessible, understandable, and interpretable without any prior interest or research, making it an invaluable resource for reliable trans history and the answers to the questions we’ve all been asking.

The author of the book, Dr. Kit Heyam, is a trans history scholar and awareness trainer, and his deeply personal experience with the subject shows through every step of Before We Were Trans. This book has something to teach to even the most knowledgeable trans people and allies and is a strong start to this list as a whole!

Before We Were Trans by Dr. Kit Heyam Ph.D - Best Transgender History Books

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Trap Door by Reina Gossett, Eric A. Stanley, and Johanna Burton

Held by many as a must-read for anyone interested in studying trans history and dissecting the modern issues trans people face, Trap Door is a little more textbook-like than the other best transgender history books on this list but brings a gripping punch with it nonetheless, as it delves into the crucial topic after crucial topic in a series of well-edited essays and personal accounts. 

A major focus of Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility is exploring the world’s obsession with the point where increased trans pride, accessibility to necessary medical and social services, and openness lead to an increase in hate crimes and discrimination, and how race and other social factors affect this.

Brutally honest and fearless in exploration, Trap Door tackles these topics without shame and right at their base, exposing the most harmful out of all the societal systems that trans people experience friction from.

Trap Door’s researched-based structure does nothing to take away from the raw emotion and personal experience locked away within its pages, either. Instead, the opposite is true.

The touching, heartbreaking nature of its tales of mistreatment, discrimination, and societal injustice could touch deep into the heart of any person on earth, and each chapter of Trap Door is enough to leave one thinking about their place on earth for hours to come.

Why do things have to be like this – the book asks – and why does society’s politics allow it to remain the same way when the negative effect is clear? 

Trap Door by Reina Gossett, Eric A. Stanley, and Johanna Burton - Best Transgender History Books


Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

We all know that going through puberty is hard. It’s a time of new thoughts, feelings, and experiences, all packed into a time where more is expected of you than ever using progress and learning.

On top of that, however, imagine how hard things can get when you throw the normal pains of growing up together with the undeniable knowledge that you are transgender in a society that tells us to do everything but trust ourselves and the way we feel about the body we spend every day living in?

Incredibly talented photographer and author use Beyond Magenta to make use of her considerable skills, interviewing six transgender or gender-neutral teens to show the world exactly how difficult things are for those who ‘dare’ to fight against the pain and daily struggle that society’s invasive impression of their gender brings.

In a time where the political debate over the subject of trans youth is stronger than ever, and while the voices we hear day-to-day are often those of the ones who would make uninformed decisions to restrict the freedoms of the same young people, they are claiming to protect, Kuklin’s work is an irreplicable step forward in trans activism.

The most personal and in touch of all the books in this list, especially given that it gives strength to young people and showcases their experiences so that everyone around the world may see them, Beyond Magenta is the heart-touching end-all account of the trans youth experience.

Beyond Magenta Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin - Best Transgender History Books

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The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice by Shon Faye

The Transgender Issue is a powerful book rooted deep in progressive activism and packed to the brim with cutting-edge logic, analysis, and enough easily-digestible information to make any head turn.

In Faye’s opinion, and as she goes on to explore in great detail in The Transgender Issue, transgender people’s fight and daily struggle is a crucial example of a sickness in our society that affects much more than gender alone.

Why are certain things condoned all across the world, while other, smaller, personal issues, such as a person being transgender, are regarded as such a threat when these things are very clearly not?

Drawing from her own experiences as a trans woman, Faye brings deep-rooted hidden issue upon deep-rooted issue to light with every page, exploring every problem with a solution. Trans rights mean more than just the freedom of gender expression – they are a cornerstone in a free society, and their absence is a red flag in a dysfunctional one that stunts the healthy growth of its people. 

The Transgender Issue is a true landmark in trans history analysis, as well as a go-to book for how we should set our heads when looking to step into the future and whatever it might hold for us. After all – the state of the world is in the hands of the people that populate it, and if anyone is going to begin a change, and make it so that there is less hate out there, then it will be us.

The Transgender Issue An Argument for Justice by Shon Faye - Best Transgender History Books

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Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadows by Christine Burns

Published in 2018, shortly after Time magazine declared 2014 a ‘tipping point’ in trans rights issues, Trans Britain dissects the validity of the thought that the ‘trans issue’ is a modern discussion and the assumption that things are easier for trans people now than they ever were. 

What came before the age of ‘acceptance’ (intentionally placed in quotes) that we live in now, and how ‘accepting’ is today’s age?

After all, the very basics of life necessary to make the lives of trans people equal to those of cisgender people – medical care, political justice, and equal rights in employment – are still matters of great conjecture and struggle, so how can things possibly be better on the societal side of things?

As Trans Britain discovers through a set of professionally-executed interviews, essays, and explorations of media vs. reality, the bad-faith assurance that trans people are receiving ‘special treatment’ in the 21st century is as bad-faith as it seems, and it always has been.

Burns works with those who were there from the beginning of the trans rights movement in Britain and worldwide to get to the bottom of the issue and to discover exactly how much things have changed over the year. 

Is the so-called ‘trans issue’ almost at a point of resolution like the media claims are coming to pass, or are we merely cusping the precipice of a much more frightening iceberg that goes much deeper than we can hope to fathom?

Trans Britain Our Journey from the Shadows by Christine Burns - Best Transgender History Books

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Histories of the Transgender Child by Jules Gill-Peterson

We’ve all seen sensationalist news articles, rants on national television, and outrage on social media. Issues related to transgender rights and representation see a flood of hate and controversy already, but the fire only gets hotter when involving youth in the mix.

That’s a problem and a catalyst that pushes the frontier of conflict away from the main issues facing trans rights and into the battleground of heated argumentation and irrationality.

The main arguing point of those taking a conservative stance on the issue? Claiming that recognizing signs that a teenager is transgender, allowing them the medical care they need, and allowing them to self-identify is somehow a modern issue instituted as part of a larger ‘agenda’ somehow propagated by transgender individuals seeking equal rights.

‘Trans people are corrupting the youth’, they cry, ‘And back in old times, this was not an issue.’ 

That first notion is easily dismissible, but doing away with the second is an obstacle not tackled by many. In truth, however, it is even more of an incorrect prospect than most of the other untrue assumptions made about trans people in sensationalist media. 

Histories of the Transgender Child tackles all of this and more, going back to the very root of the relationship between ‘the trans issue’ and youth in general to dispel the notion that there is anything ‘new’ or ‘influenced’ at all about experiencing discomfort and dysphoria with gender roles and societal expectations manifesting themselves during and before the onset of puberty.

Histories of the Transgender Child by Jules Gill-Peterson - Best Transgender History Books

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Is Gender Fluid?: A Primer for the 21st Century by Sally Hines

Gender is one of the strongest social rules that we as a planet live by. It’s one of the things we identify with about ourselves; it’s how we define how we should dress, the people we should seek out to have relationships with and even the kind of bathroom we use.

It is, however, how we judge others, assume things about them without taking their actual personality into account, and even a weapon used to restrict the freedoms of those who would ‘dare’ bend the rules.  

But what if the rules were always meant to be bent? What if the gender binary as we know it was simply a falsely rigid construct put together by society, and if freedom to define ourselves as individuals the way we see fit was just around the corner?

What if all the hate, the separation, and the arguing that we as a society center around gender while forcing people to identify as and be categorized as one specific sex was entirely unnecessary?

The intelligent, on-point, and meticulous approach, Is Gender Fluid takes the issue head-on. Professor Sally Hines’ voice is a caring, experienced one, grounded with years upon years of knowledge on the subject, and her study in this book is backed by an incredible catalog of other works on transgender topics.

Her work as a Director of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion at the University of Sheffield has also been indispensable to the trans community.

Is Gender Fluid A Primer for the 21st Century by Sally Hines - Best Transgender History Books


Black on Both Sides by C. Riley Snorton

Gender, sexuality, and race are somewhat connected at the hip, and when fighting oppression upon one of these fronts, challenges to the others come not far behind.

Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity, one of the best transgender history books we have ever read, explores transgender history through this multi-faceted lens – embracing the parallel interests of racial and transgender rights warriors and showcasing the brave work of countless generations. 

First and foremost, the book is the story of Christine Jorgensen – assumed to be America’s first publicly known transgender figure.

After serving in WWII and touring Europe, she took gender issues into her own hands, received the first gender reassignment surgery ever performed in the United States, and went on to live a successful life as a performing artist, actor, and singer. If that doesn’t sound like the life of a true hero, then what does?

But Black on Both Sides doesn’t stop there – scouring back through history and the very earliest texts available on the subject to highlight and unify rights fighters of all kinds. Cross-dressing, tomboys and transvestites – Black on Both Sides leaves no stone unturned and no legend unappreciated in its wide-ranging, well-voiced journey.

After all – transgender people, gender-fluid people and those experiencing racial discrimination are pioneers against the same harmful archetypes that rule our society, and the dissolution of these systems will lead us to have a much more open world for all that lives on Earth.

Black on Both Sides by C. Riley Snorton - Best Transgender History Books

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Female Husbands: A Trans History by Jen Manion

A large arguing point in the minds of those who would pass scorn upon transgender individuals is the age-old statement, ‘but this didn’t use to be a problem’, and the assumption that transgender people being more open in the world is a modern phenomenon.

Little do they know, however, that while it is true that transgender individuals are perhaps learning to be bold in the modern era, this is most absolutely not a time in history filled with more transgender people than any other. 

A well-researched and historically intriguing work, Female Husbands is an exploration of history and an excavation of the very best-kept secrets – the things only admitted to the closest friends, the most understanding spouses, and written only upon paper that was thought to never be under human gaze again. And they were until uncovered by Manion.

As Manion shows, Trans people were always here and present in history.

Not only were they open and able to live freely under their true identity in times of distant antiquity, when social norms were far less established, but they remained prevalent even through the last three hundred years before our century, marrying women, living their lives in the role that society expected them to fill, and often dying that way too.

They were female husbands and male wives – pioneers of trans culture in the modern age forced to live a lie and tell the truth to no one but themselves and the very deepest depths of their hearts. 

Female Husbands A Trans History by Jen Manion - Best Transgender History Books

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Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon

A proud part of the Pocket Change Collective – focused on filling small books with big ideas to fuel great change – Beyond the Gender Binary is a snap-sized but amazing piece of trans and nonbinary research and history, making the logical and revolutionary available and accessible to all ages and levels of academic understanding. 

Beyond the Gender Binary’s ratings are sky-high and for good reason! While the book itself is a short read, the concepts and ideas of change it embraces are some of the biggest of all – making an offer of peace, acceptance, and self-love to readers and the world as a whole.

It is short and sweet but packs a powerful punch against even the strongest harmful myths and ill-informed misconceptions that have plagued the progress of trans rights for much of the modern age.

As the title suggests, Beyond the Gender Binary focuses largely on dismissing the limiting concept of a strict gender binary and encourages self-expression rather than allowing yourself to be defined by the assumptions and expectations of others.

A true hats-off is deserved on Vaid Menon’s part for producing this book, as it is a lovely, engaging, and versatile piece of writing that will make a real difference in spreading positive recognition in a world filled with so much criticism and negativity.

Many of the subject matter in Beyond the Gender Binary cover Alok’s real experiences and are fueled by true, real knowledge of the issue rather than clinical assumptions alone.

Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon - Best Transgender History Books

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