Rebecca Juro

10 Books Every Transperson Should Read

Filed By Rebecca Juro | December 18, 2007 11:09 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: literature, transgender, transsexual

Since we have the gay boy list and the lesbian list, here's my transgender list. These are the non-fiction transgender-relevant books that have meant the most to me personally, but I know there are others which should be on this list, so please add your own choices in the comments!

(H/T to Michael Crawford for the suggestion).

1. True Selves - Widely considered THE book on the topic, this is the book my therapist insisted I buy and read the day I came out to her, and once I had, it was easy to understand why she did. If you've got questions about transsexuality or know someone who does, this book is an absolute must-read.

2. Transgender Warriors - A true classic. Leslie Feinberg's history of transgender expression will teach you that not only aren't transgender identity and expression new things, as some like to believe, but transgender people have a history as long and as rich as any other subgroup of humanity. If you're simply looking to learn more about transpeople and our place in history, you will get that in spades. If you're trans, you'll also get something else: The understanding that you, as a transperson, are a part of something not only far greater than yourself and the community we know today, but also an heir to a rich and vibrant cultural history, that you are not, and never have been, alone in the world. I read this at a time when I was very depressed and looking for answers, and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say reading this book probably saved my life.

3. Read My Lips: Sexual Subversion and the End of Gender - Riki Wilchins' first book is an awesome read, particularly of you are newly-out transperson wanting to learn more about where you stand socially and politically. Although originally published 10 years ago, much of this book remains strikingly relevant today. If you're looking to become an activist and help make the world better for gender-variant people, or even if you already are and want to be a better one, you need to read this book.

4. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States - A deeper examination of the modern history of transsexuals in America than found in "Transgender Warriors", this book explores the development of the modern American transgender community and culture through Christine Jorgensen, Dr. Harry Benjamin, and how transsexuals have fit into American society and culture over the last half-century.

5. The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male - Wanna get pissed off? What to know what some so-called "feminists" really think about us? Then this is a must-read. Janice Raymond contends that transsexual women are really men trying to invade women's space to enforce their vision of a patriarchal system upon women. No, really, I'm not kidding. And female-to-male transsexuals? They don't really exist, they're all really lesbians in denial. As nutty as this sounds, this book did considerable damage to the political and social acceptance of transsexuals when it was published. Raymond's "research" is credited with being largely responsible for Johns Hopkins University shutting down its gender identity program in the early 80's and is still cited today by those in opposition to transgender equality and acceptance.

6. Queer Theory, Gender Theory: An Instant Primer - This one is fairly heavy stuff but a good read. Riki Wilchins deftly blends postmodern gender theory with illustrative examples from hir own life and from LGBT and transgender social and political history to make these concepts accessible to the average reader. By no means an easy or casual read, it's well worth the effort.

7. Gender Outlaw - Kate Bornstein has to be the most entertaining writer ever to take on the topic of gender. Bornstein is all at once funny, thoughtful, incisive, provocative, and most definitely thought-provoking. This one is a true classic, and for damn good reason. If you're exploring your gender or would like to, you won't be able to put it down.

8. Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink and Blue - This is a collection of speeches and articles by Leslie Feinberg, in which ze defines hir own perception of gender identity and expression and hir vision of the future for transpeople. Also included are the words and short portraits of community icons such as Craig Hickman, Sylvia Rivera, and RuPaul. While those familiar with Feinberg's other works may find some of this familiar, it's an excellent overview of hir vision of our community and our place in the world.

9. My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely - Another fun romp through the wilds of gender with Kate Bornstein. Just as engaging and entertaining as her first, "Gender Outlaw", this book is indeed a workbook, not only offering more great reading but also exercises which the reader can do to further their exploration of their own gender. No matter of you've been questioning your gender for ten minutes or ten years, this one will really make you think.

10. Becoming a Visible Man - Part autobiography, part social and political exploration of transgender and particularly female-to-male transsexual identity, and part call for transpeople to live openly, honestly, and passionately, this book by transactivist and educator Jamison Green is an excellent read for anyone, and an especially good choice for FTM transmen looking for something that speaks directly to them and about their lives.

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What?! Where is Serano's Whipping Girl?!

In all honesty, I didn't include it because I haven't read it yet. If you have, please comment on it!

Looks like I have some reading to do great list I only have heard about Transgender warriors and from the review I read it was a good one to read.

"She's Not There" By Jennifer Boylan
That was a great read especially the Afterword.

What does it say about me when I've read more books on this list of the three book lists you all put up today?

Which one was your favorite? Not the most informative or the one with the most facts, but the readability factor. I've not read any of these and thought maybe I'd pick one up over the holidays.

Janis Walters | December 19, 2007 7:34 AM

Becky, thanks for compiling this list. Some great books on transitioning at work are two guides by Janis Walmoth, "Transsexual Workers: An Employer's Guide" and "Working With Transsexuals: A Guide for Coworkers". Also, Sheila Kirk's book, "Medical, Legal and Workplace Issues for the Transsexual." Robin already mentioned Jenny Boylan's book "She's Not There" which is also a must read.


My only disagreement would be with Sticky Riki's book. For activism? Save the $, start a blog, don't sell out.

For a replacement to round out a list o' 10? Here are some thoughts: Max Wolf Valerio's 'Testosterone Files'; Aleshia Brevard's 'The Woman I Was Not Born to Be'; or Georgina Beyer's 'Change For the Better.'

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | December 19, 2007 9:47 AM

This list is awesome. Thanks Rebecca.

The other 2 lists (gay and lesbian) had sex books at number one. I would mention one here if I could think of any.

I feel that Julia Serano's book does take trans issues (at least for transwomen) to the next level.

Hi Rebecca. Thanks for this list. I've read the Bornstein and Feinberg books, but I'm glad to have others to add to my collection.

To Sword . . . You know, it was unintentional to put a sex book at the top of the lesbian list. It was a pretty randomly ordered list. But maybe it wasn't so random afterall. Hmmm . . . something for me to think about. :^)

There's a lot of trans-relevant books I didn't include because I haven't read them yet. I don't recall ever actually hearing of a book specifically covering transgender sex...I do wish there was one, I'd certainly read it.

There are some great choices here...perhaps a much larger list is in order?

Y'know Kat, I've gotten over the whole Riki/GPAC thing. It was almost a decade ago, and we have far more important things to concern ourselves with these days. In addition, I tend to separate Riki the author from Riki the activist. Regardless of what I may think of some of her political choices and actions over the last decade, I still consider hir an amazing, gifted writer, and those are rare and precious in our community.

Not only all that, but it was reading Read My Lips and going to hear Riki speak in person as a newly-out transwoman in the late 90's that helped me to understand why I had to care about more than just myself. In short, Riki Wilchins made me want to be a transactivist and to do what I do. Regardless of what I may think of some of hir choices, I'll always credit and honor hir for that.

Bil, if you're looking for readability, I recommend "Gender Outlaw" by Kate Bornstein as a first book. It's the most entertaining and most accessible of the bunch, especially for someone who isn't a transperson themselves.

And now, I think it's pretty clear that I need to get Julia Serrano's book asap...

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | December 19, 2007 12:13 PM

I also did not intentionally include a sex guide as the first on my list of books for guys. The list is randomly ordered.

Rebecca, I am thinking there is an opportunity for you to write a sex guide for transperson. This could be your Oprah moment.

I'm surprised no one listed any of P. Califia's books on any of the 3 lists. I'm found his material (both pre and post transition) to have been very valuable.

I have only read a couple of the books on the list.
i have transgender warier. I felt that most of what i have read and heard didn't apply to me. When i met Riki Wilkins three years ago i was certain i was different then the TG crowd.

i have always thought of my transgender life like my partially sighted life a birth defect that should be corrected to the limits of the state of the medical arts, not something to build a life around.

For those who do i am happy for you that you have found the place that feels like home to you.
For me being lesbian is a bigger slice of my life then my paleotransgender life ever was.

Take care

Sue Robins

Great list as somebody who dabbles in writing fiction with TG and Bi themes its nice to see what’s out there as a TG person but most of the list seems to be more of the academic type but I will be putting them on my to read list.

If any one cares my pen name is Caty the Ghost and my blog with my stories are found on .

Great list Becky and I'd also like to add these books:

Stone butch blues, by Leslie Feinberg
was the first book I ever read with a transman theme. It was very good!

She's not the man I married, by Helen Boyd is also a fantastic read and I also enjoyed, Wrapped in Blue, by Donna Rose.

A second for Helen Boyd's "She's Not the Man I Married" (as well as her first book, "My Husband Betty"), both of which look at trans and gender issues from a partner's perspective.

Julia Serano's "Whipping Girl" is another must-read -- particularly in light of some of the LBG Vs. T tensions as of late. Serano looks at how devaluation of femininity (even among many feminist) shape society's attitudes toward trans woman, as well as gender and sexuality as a whole.

Reid Vanderburgh's excellent "Transition and Beyond," while aimed at therapists working with trans clients, and quite accessible and has got great insights about reaching self-acceptance that are useful for people across the trans spectrum. Reid, a trans man himself, reframes the critical question as not one of: "should I transition (or not)" but rather one of: "what do I need to do to make a satisfying life for oneself that respects/acknowledges one's trans-ness."

J.J. Allen's "Man in the Red Velvet Dress" does a good job at looking at crossdressers, especially those who tend toward the "party t-girl" end of things, who are often overlooked by other books.

Jamison Green's "Becoming a Visible Man" is well worth reading -- and not just by trans men. Green offers lots of wisdom.

Finally, while not a "trans" book per se, Steven Seidman's "Beyond the Closet: The Transformation of Gay and Lesbian Life" (which I'm still reading) offers a good look at the "closet" and how its changed over the years -- as well as how people actively reacted to it (instead of being just victimized to it). While Seidman focuses on gays and lesbians, many of the observations seem apropos to trans people, especially the numerous crossdressers who make up the "dark matter" of the trans universe.

To be redundant, Serano's "Whipping Girl" is excellent. This was the book that really gave me confidence to be who I was and also taught me a lot.

"Transgender Rights," edited by Paisley Currah and others, was very interesting and tackled trans issues from many different angles. It's pretty recent, 2005 I think, so excluding recent ENDA excitement, it is up to date. The book covers the history of the movement, relevant court cases, and a look at the political aspects of the movement as well. I definitely recommend.

Thanks for the list and comments, my reading list just got a bit longer.

Thanks for doing this, Rebecca!

Here's another vote for Reid Vanderburgh's "Transition and Beyond," Jenny Boylan's "She's Not There," and both of Helen Boyd's books.

My Gender Workbook? Really? It seems redundant to include this fluff piece on top of Wilchin's book. How about something of substance.

At the top of the list should be the recent, but historic, tome The Transgender Studies Reader edited by Stryker and Whittle. Mostly because it includes pieces by most of the writers that you suggested.

Maybe also something by Pat Califia like Sex Changes as a positive response to the virulent poison of Raymond.


As I said at the top of the list, this list is the 10 trans-relevant books that have meant the most me personally, not necessarily the best or the most important ever. I also know it's by no means a complete or even thorough list, which is why I asked for people to add to it in the comments.

Also, as I mention above, some books didn't make the list simply because I haven't read them yet. The Transgender Studies Reader is one of those. I've heard good things but haven't read anything from Pat Califa as yet.

So many good books, so little time (and money)...

I have a question about the title. Should I really read all those? I hate to admit this but I avoid reading transgender books like the plague. Of course, I went through a phase during my coming out (1-2 years ago) of reading several and found validation in many of them but I reached a point where I didn't want to think about it anymore. I just got tired of it all. Maybe after another 5 or 10 years of not thinking about it (more accurately thinking about it less) I may go back and read the rest, but it's going to be a while.

Great book list, I have read a few of them. I want to say the movie X Men, is very reflective to the trans movement and if you take the word mutant out, and put in Queer, it makes the movie real versus science fiction.

Not a good Queer .com

First off, very interested to read some of these books. I recently made friends with a girl who by guess-work and stumbling upon her job application for a job i was working at i believe to have been orignally biologically male. She hasnt told me anything alluding to this and has actually seemingly placed stories in her past that make her seem completely biologically female. It makes no difference to me, honestly. I love her more than anyone and she is one of my very best friends. Still, i was wondering if anyone had any reccomended reading for the non-trans person to learn more about the trans world? I am very interested as the girl i mentioned above is the second trangender friend i have made.

Now in response to Lee iacuzzi's comment...X-men is fascinating to me. I watched both the cartoons when i was little, read a bunch of the comics and saw the movies at their midnight releases. This series/comics/movies were truely, truely what shaped my search for tolerance. I saw from an early age how people could be prosocuted, hunted and hurt for something that wasnt their fault to begin with. As a white, straight, brown-haired brown-eyed girl with an average build, average intelligance i am about as far from being any kind of minority as there is, but i grew up with this concept of tolerance and love for everyone no matter if they were different from me, and i really credit much of this to my exposure to x-men!

I know this is an old post but I felt the need to point out that there is now an e-book called "The FTM Sex Guide" available at this site
Hopefully those who were interested in the topic can find this.