Want to learn more about trans people? Suggestions from a non-binary babe

Two important non-fiction books have come across my desk in the last few months and I felt it was a great opportunity to share my take on them together.

I’m non-binary (or genderqueer). I have never felt wholly woman or wholly man, and is something I’ve felt but not quite understood for my entire life. I’ve explored various transitioning options, but right now I’m happy with a binder on my dysphoric days and people not referring to me as a lady/girl/woman, though I’m fine with she pronouns. Important aside note: this varies with every single person, so be sure to ask them!

The last few years have been a very interesting time for trans rights. You may remember a few years ago Laverne Cox graced the front cover of Time magazine, with the phrase “The Transgender Tipping Point” alongside her. This was 2014; Cox was a trans woman playing a trans character on Orange is the New Black and Caitlin Jenner had just announced that she would be transitioning. This was a time of hope, of visibility.


In the last twelve months, it has felt like acceptable discrimination towards trans women in particular has escalated in the UK. It has felt, in watching from the sidelines, that much of the trans-exclusionary discourse has been allowed to continue as though it was a legitimate topic of discussion, as though debating someone’s personhood is okay. I’m not going to link to the fundraiser by disgraced former Labour Party members, but this article goes into a little detail of what’s been happening, for example, within a political party that is support to stand up for the oppressed. Meanwhile, the media has continued to pit trans exclusionary feminists against trans women on talk shows in some misguided and dangerous effort for the sake of balance. Paris Lees refers to the current wave of violence towards trans people as an epidemic.

One way you can support trans people is through buying work from trans creators, but also by reading about them, educating yourselves on their lives and the issues they face daily. For this, I would immediately direct your attention to two books: Trans Like Me by CN Lester and Trans Britain edited by Christine Burns.


Trans Like Me is a mixture of memoir and writing about the current climate around trans people. Lester, who is non-binary, has created an informative introduction to issues surrounding trans people without ever being patronising. While trans people may be familiar with much of the introductory topics Lester provides, I suspect that much of the information about current issues for trans people will be new to many cis people.

As a non-binary person, I found reading Lester’s struggles with presentation and their frustrations at the limitations of hormonal therapy — to be personal here, a major factor in not taking hormones for me was wanting to maintain my singing voice, the same as Lester.

It is an affirming, emotional book that made me cry multiple times.


Trans Britain is a very different but complementary book to Trans Like Me; a historical anthology, including essays from individual people telling their own story within the major eras of trans history in the UK. Burns sets the scene by dividing the book into three distinct sections, and introducing them to the climate of that era, providing a reader with an overview that places the following essays within a clear cultural context.

The chapter on non-binary people was an essential learning process for me, seeing how we fit into the historical trans movement. I’ve only really began to understand myself as non-binary, knowing that I’ve always been “other” than the binary gender options, and this chapter in particular made me feel so much more connected to myself.

This is a book of mini-memoirs, and the story of a history that is still unfolding.

Trans Like Me: UK (Hive) // International (Book Depository)

Trans Britain: UK (Hive) // International (Book Depository)

These are both a great place to start. This thread I did for Trans Day of Remembrance has a number of recommendations from genres beyond non-fiction, so no matter what your reading style is there’s something for you to read. If young adult fiction is a favourite of yours, there are a number of trans main characters in the novels reference in this list.

Have you read either of these books? Do you have any recommendations? Tell me in the comments!

New releases from Walker Books to look forward to

Since my blog and poor internet connection conspired to swallow this post in the recent past, this is two weeks later than it was supposed to be. But ho hum, technology full of weasels can only get me down for so long. I was very lucky to get a spot at the Walker Books young adult preview evening for 2018. You might have caught my live tweets during the evening, but I thought I’d go into more detail here about the books in order of release date.

Settle down, because this is a multi-media presentation including several high quality book trailers. Fancy. Okay let’s go!


First up was How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, pitched as Mean Girls meets The Craft. The Salem witch trials takes the centre stage in this teen drama, plus creepiness and swoony romances and I am extremely here for this. We were reliably informed that it includes an inconveniently attractive ghost. Here’s the summary:

Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

Also it has a book trailer with surprisingly high production value, which is wild; you can watch it here. I’m fully expecting to enjoy this, based on my deep love for The Graces by Laure Eve. You can find out more about Adriana Mather herself in this intro video.

Buy How to Hang a Witch: Hive // Book Depository


Next up was Scythe by Neal Shusterman; digital networks in place of government control life except death, which is in the hands of Scythes. The only way to die is to be gleaned by a trained Scythe. When two teenagers are chosen to be apprentice Scythes, they learn that their final task will a fight to the death. This sounds absolutely wild. I’m really lucky that Walker Books sent me a copy of this after the event, and it turns out this is the start of a series, with Thunderhead coming out in August. My immediate vibe from this is it would be really enjoyed by fans of The Bone Season or perhaps Gilded Cage. And look, another book trailer!

Buy Scythe: Hive // Book Depository


Landscape with Invisible Hand from M. T. Anderson continues the sci-fi theme but, slightly unusually for YA, is a novella. The story follows benevolent invasions by aliens like granite coffee tables, mixed with a lot of strange humour and explores art truth and colonisation. After the invasion goes south and Adam is left poor, he and his girlfriend Chloe decide to create a pay-to-watch tv show of 1950s style dates.

Buy Landscape with Invisible Hand: Hive // Book Depository


We’re also being treated to some cute recovers this year! To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy and film deal, Walker have released these stunning completely black covers. I’ve not read this series yet (I know, I know) and I’m so glad I get to start with these stunners now.

The Knife of Letting Go: Hive // Book Depository


Walker have also started releasing the Magnus Bane short stories by Cassandra Clare in these cute little individual hardbacks. So far they’ve released The Midnight Heir and The Course of True Love is out this month. They’re a really cute size, pocket sized really, and would make a great gift for Cassie Clare fans. I only just started reading her books last year, but beautiful queer Magnus is basically the reason I read them.

All of those are already out, so now it’s time to get hyped for the future releases!


Flying Tips for Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughran has been on my radar for the last few months, simply because queer romance is what I’ve been waiting for in the recent trend of circus themed books. Twins Birdie and Finch Franconi are stars of the trapeze in their family circus, but when Birdie has an accident, Hector Hazzard joins Finch to form a boy-only double-act to save the business. And of course, emotions happen.Set in Northern Ireland and discusses homophobic bullying, alongside trying to save the family business and discovering secrets. Excited for some queer romance, lads. My hands were shaking a little when I found this in my bag because it sounds so great.

Preorder (publishes 1st March): Hive // Book Depository


Next is a book I’ve not heard a lot about yet, but am excited to read. The Goose Road by Rowena House is set in 1916 in France. When Angélique hears news of her father’s death on the frontlines, she promises to keep her family farm running until her brother returns from the war. But in order to keep the promise, she will have to journey across France, accompanied by a flock of geese. The Bookseller have described it as “Gorgeous historical novel … An impressive debut with a tenacious heroine.”

Preorder here (publishes 5th April): Hive // Book Depository

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Slightly dodgy picture of the screen but this is the UK cover

Coming in May ready for to be your poolside read is The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson. Originally published in the US, The Wonder of Us follows two best friends, recently separated when one family moves to Germany, who reunite to travel Europe… though they’re pretty mad at each other right now. This immediately makes me think of Keris Stainton’s One Italian Summer and Remix by Non Pratt.

Preorder here (releases May): Hive // Book Depository

I did a shriek when the next book got announced — no cover art to share just yet as it’s too far in the future — but the sequel to Girl Out of Water is FINALLY coming this summer. I absolutely loved Nat Luurtesma‘s first novel about Lou, a former swimmer who coaches a team of boys in synchronised swimming for a national tv competition. Lou Out of Luck follows Lou and her family struggling with poverty while she works through her first relationship. Luurtesma’s writing is hilarious and heartfelt, and I am really happy to see more working-class characters in literature.

Preorder here (releases June): Hive // Book Depository

I had the real joy of snagging a ticket to Angie Thomas’ appearance in London next month, where I hope she’ll talk more about her next book, On the Come Up. Thomas’ second novel returns to Garden Heights with a story about an up and coming teen rapper.

Preorder here (releases June): Hive // Book Depository


And finally, the last book we got to hear about I have already demolished. White Rabbit Red Wolf is a thriller about spies, maths and mental health, from YA author and mental health advocate Tom Pollock. You can read my review of this exciting, brilliant book here.

Preorder here (releases 7th June): Hive // Book Depository

Thank you to Walker for hosting such a wonderful night and providing us with books, drinks and good food — never before have I eaten a spherical chicken kiev, what an experience.

Which books are you looking forward to most?

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz | 1 Minute Reviews

It has taken me so long to write about my love for this novel, because I feel like I’m still breathing out. This novel is a held gasp, a subtly growing tension.

Ari is an angry young Latino man growing up in Texas in the late 1980s. He has a brother his parents refuse to talk about, his sisters have moved away, and he is (mostly) friendless and bored. In order to cope with his frustrations, Ari takes to the swimming pool, where he meets Dante Quintana. Dante is sincere, intelligent and confident in his Mexican identity, and Ari is instantly drawn to him. Can their friendship and Dante’s openness free Ari from his pain?


This is a stunning novel. The prose is particularly sparse, and often focussed almost entirely on the dialogue between the characters. The book is split up into six sections, and the individual chapters are generally quite short, often more like vignettes of single pages.

I really love the way their romance is born of friendship, a slow burn that feels so true to the characters, especially Ari who struggles to understand his own hopes and desires. In relation to the book and his own experiences, Sáenz talked about sexuality to NPR here.

I feel that Ari’s anger will resonate with many young people, especially young men. Sáenz explores anger critically, the way it squashes Ari’s other emotions, and equally interrogates some of the toxic aspects of masculinity.

Since its publication in 2012, Aristotle and Dante has won plenty of well-deserved awards, including the Stonewall Book award for LGBT fiction and the Lambda Literary Award. Also, I have just found out that the audiobook is read by Lin Manuel Miranda!?

In 2016, Sáenz announced he is working on the sequel, There Will be Other Summers, which picks up immediately after Aristotle and Dante. In the meantime, he has recently released The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, which is currently top of my reading list.

Sáenz is a fascinating writer, both a poet and a writer of young adult fiction. I want to leave you with this poem, To the Desert, which I like to think is written by Ari for Dante.

Get it here: Hive (UK) // Book Depository (Int)

What to read next:

Solitaire by Alice Oseman (& all her other creations) | 1 Minute Reviews

Alice Oseman is one of the most interesting voices in UK young adult fiction right now, and one of my favourite creators across the board. This started as a review of Solitaire, but has quickly descended into a celebration of the magical stuff that Oseman creates. Stick with me.

I’ve previously spoken about Radio Silence, her second novel, and I had been saving Solitaire in some form of protectionism, determined to make sure I always had one spare (yes I know this is weird, okay). I realised I had to get over this, and just let myself enjoy it. So I did. And I did.


Tori Spring is a dry witted cynic, who spends most of her time being sarcastic on the internet – here is her tumblr set before the start of the novel (yes really). But one day, Tori comes across the mysterious Solitaire and their public demonstrations – are they a group of pranksters, or are their motives more sinister? And why do they seem to always turn up when Tori is around? Not only is she dealing with a shadowy organisation, but she seems to have gained a friend in Michael Holden, possibly the most colourful positive antithesis to her. Are the rumours that dog Holden true? Will Tori and Michael get the root of Solitaire before something really bad happens?

strongly considering getting this on a tshirt

Solitaire is Oseman’s debut novel, released while she was still a teenager, written in her bed after school and partially inspired by the first series of Skins. I absolutely loved this book. Tori is a great character; fiercely protective of her younger brother Charlie and his care, while also unable to see her own needs. She is witty and complex, and utterly relatable to depressed struggling teenagers. And Michael Holden is just the cutest little perfect bean in the whole world. I’m sorry, it’s true.

I love this picture of Michael and Tori ❤

What I didn’t know before was that her novels are all set in the same universe, with shared characters and settings. Not only that, but Oseman draws fan art of her characters, which has since evolved into Heartstopper, a comic all about two of my favourite characters from Solitaire, Tori’s brother Charlie and his boyfriend Nick. I’ve been a Patreon backer since Alice launched it but hadn’t read it until November because of the whole not reading Solitaire, saving art so that there’s always some more etc etc. But what I’m saying is you must must must read Solitaire then go binge Heartstopper, which is the story of how Nick and Charlie got together. Oseman has stated that she intends to produce a book of Heartstopper in the future and has already created a short comic which you can pick up a digital copy of here.

She also has two ebook novellas that follow on from Solitaire which you can get here – Nick and Charlie and This Winter. I sincerely hope that her publishers publish these in hard format in the future!

You can also go find out which of Alice’s character is most like you in this handy quiz. I was surprised but very happy to discover I was Charlie Spring, and Tim got Tori. Almost as good as us getting Narlie.

ALSO, Alice does commissions, and did my new Twitter avi. Commission her here!

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 14.54.42

And, on top of all this, Alice has just announced the cover for her third book, I Was Born For This, which I am extremely here for.


Anyway, going back to Solitaire, you can get it here: Hive (UK) / Book Depository (Int)

What to read next:


Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan | 1 Minute Reviews

I have talked before about missing out on a generation of YA novels that appeared around me being a teenager up until my mid twenties, a time when I got the least reading in my life done due to work, school and crushes.

David Levithan is one of those authors that falls into the hole, and is something I’ve been meaning to explore more after reading his charming queer co-write with Nina LaCour, You Know Me Well.

boy meets boy.PNG

I decided to go deep into his backlist to find a book that he wrote solo — he often writes with LaCour, John Green and Rachel Cohn — and decided to choose Boy Meets Boy, a story about falling in and out of love.

Paul is gay, and open about it. He’s known it his whole life, and that’s fine, while his best friend Tony has to hide his sexuality from his religious parents. He’s experienced kissing the straight boy Kyle, who inexplicably has started talking to him again, and he’s desperately trying to cope with the fact his other best friend Joni is falling in love with completely the wrong guy. At a friend’s gig at a local bookstore, he meets Noah, the mystery boy of his dreams and he falls fast. But things soon get extremely complicated; will Paul survive his first heartbreak?

This is a book that set out from the outset to present an ideal, a world where kids can be who they are, open about their gender and sexuality in ways that they perhaps were not actually able to be in 2003. I’m totally here for it. There’s still plenty of teenagers in their small towns, wishing and hoping for a future life where they can have a whole group of queer friends, feel safe in being who they are openly, and I think this book is the hope that many of them need.

However, this novel has in its fifteen years of shelf life dated a little, especially in how Infinite Darlene is described as drag queen when it appears that actually she’s more of a trans woman, as she appears to permanently live as Darlene. Saying that, Darlene is a character generally treated with utmost respect and is possibly one of my favourite characters I’ve read in a while — bossy, forthright and always on the mark.

This is a bubblegum of a ya novel; adorable and sweet and painful in all the right ways. A story of hope and possibilities and things to come, as all upbeat young adult novels should be.

Get it here: UK (Hive) / International (Book Depository)

What to read next:

Queer, A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele | 1 Minute Reviews

Here’s the thing: I’m queer in a number of ways. I’ve known I was attracted to multiple genders for a long time, but good old childhood shaming and being called “Lizzie the Lesbo” was enough for me to squash that side of me until I reached adulthood and eventually felt safe enough to think about it. I’ve known I was not a girl and not a boy either for my whole life, existing in the in-between and struggling with intermittent social and physical dysphoria. It was only in my late twenties that I started to find the words for this, having finally met other genderqueer, trans and nonbinary people.

Part of my own coming out was through learning about queer politics, and in turn theory. But I’m going to be really honest with you here — I did not understand a lot of it. When I say understand, I don’t mean politically align with. I mean the language was so often complex, so very different from the English I speak or have heard throughout my life, that I would be thrown off entirely.

There’s been discussions around this on Twitter, quite rightly pointing out that academic language can be alienating for people, particularly working class people who haven’t studied humanities. The amount of times I’ve had to google words like “hegemony” and “praxis” in order to understand a sentence are innumerable.

The same thing has happened to me with feminist theory. I have tried quite a few times to read works by Nancy Fraser, or sections of Judith Butler’s writing, or even try and access philosophy through a beginner’s course, and I never managed to get very far. Until today.


A few weeks ago, myself and Alice were walking through Soho, talking about the DIVA book conference she’d recently been to and how revelatory it was that an event devoted to queer female literature was not protested any more. We got onto the topic of Section 8, the problems of a discourse centring around “always knowing” about your own queer identity, and a few other connected topics. She mentioned Queer, A Graphic History to me, and I decided there in the rain in Soho that we would march to the bookshop and I’d buy it.

I’m really pleased to say that having read Queer, A Graphic History I actually think I have a handle on theory! Barker takes the reader through the evolution of queer theory and the main contributors, right up to the present day and the futures directions of study that are developing. Thanks to Scheele’s wonderful illustrations, concepts are broken down simply, faces given to mysterious names and summarised quotes attributed to those faces.


As I suspected, I knew a lot of these fundamentals of queer theory — intersectionality, gender perfomativity, the black feminists who correctly challenged much of the original white thinkers — but I didn’t have the faces, the names, the language behind the concepts. Never again will I shrink when I hear someone attribute a concept to Lacan or Foucault, because I now have a loose understanding of their positions and a Scheele portrait to put their name to.

Barker has also provided a resources section at the back with accessible further reading on sexuality and gender, and queer theory, which is incredibly useful as so often I pick up a book and fall into the inaccessible language pit.

Queer, A Graphic History is an informative, affirming, hopeful and essential read for anyone who wants to know more about queer theory, politics and activism. However, irrespective of your own identity, Queer is also a great introduction to examining binaries and biases in our daily lives and media. This is a thoughtful and powerful book to spend an afternoon reading and a lifetime acting upon.

Interested? Get it here: Hive (UK) / Book Depository (Int)

What to read next:

Dr MEG-JOHN BARKER is a writer, therapist, and activist-academic specialising in sex, gender and relationships. Meg-John is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University and a UKCP accredited psychotherapist, and has over a decade of experience researching and publishing on these topics including the popular book Rewriting the Rules. @megjohnbarker

JULIA SCHEELE is an illustrator, graphic facilitator and comic book artist. She runs One Beat Zines, a feminist zine collective and distributor. @juliascheele

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley & being non-binary/genderqueer

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a bit of a Robin Talley stan, having fallen deeply in love with Lies We Tell Ourselves and worked through her four novels since then.

What We Left Behind is Talley’s second novel and, if you’d go by the GoodReads reviews, somehow the most controversial, due to featuring a nonbinary character who questions their pronouns and place on the gender spectrum throughout the book. As a nonbinary person, I was curious about some of the reviews and decided to pick up a copy myself.


After meeting at a high school dance, Toni and Gretchen have been virtually inseparable through high school, as hopelessly in love as the day they met. But when plans for college go awry, the couple find themselves pulled apart to different towns, whereupon both Toni and Gretchen begin to grow into themselves.

Gretchen rediscovers her love for New York and gains a sassy blunt best friend to explore it with. Toni discovers their university’s LGTBQ society and, upon finally meeting other genderqueer and trans people, starts to question what they know about themselves. As they learn more about themselves, Gretchen and Toni grow further and further apart. Will they manage to stay together?

In the same way as Talley’s other straight-contemporary YA Our Own Private Universe, there is definitely an educational bent to this narrative, making it a useful book for younger queer readers in particular.

What We Left Behind shows the progression of Toni and Gretchen in discovering and understanding not just what it means to be queer yourself, but to be part of a wider LGBTQ+ community, to be a part of that history. Talley does some interesting playing around with typical confusions of baby queers – I particularly liked Toni’s feeling of being so overwhelmed by pronouns that they choose to just remove them completely from their language.

This is also a heavily character based novel, with barely a straight in sight (and when they are present, sometimes the descriptions are not the most complimentary). I think for queer kids growing up without a chosen family, this aspect of the novel could be the light at the end of the tunnel – as they say, it gets better.

But let’s talk about the controversy, and some light spoilers ahead my friends. As Toni realises they are more masculine than they thought, they switch their name spelling to Tony and begin using he/his full time, as he tries to work out whether he is a masc non binary person or a trans man. Some people have felt this is not the right way to represent genderqueer people, and I’m here to say I don’t necessarily agree with that viewpoint. While yes, I 100% agree that some people falsely see non binary/genderqueer identities as a stepping stone along to trans binary, sometimes it does happen. Or even, people remain non binary but change their names, pronouns and begin physical transitioning to accompany this. Ash Hardell’s Youtube channel explores this quite a lot through a number of videos, often including other guest stars who are nonbinary or genderqueer.

Let’s talk personal here – I’m nonbinary, assigned female at birth, and I’ve considered top surgery and hormones, and the only reason I’m definitely not doing the latter is because I think the loss of my singing voice as is would crush me more than the dysphoria which I hope my new gc2b binder is going to sort out. I’ve considered top surgery, quite strongly, for the last year. However, my dysphoria is tied up with some other body image things right now so I’m going to give myself time. But, none of this makes me a trans man either. You can be whatever kind of non-binary you want to be, and if that leads you down the road to a binary identity, well that’s okay too.

I’ve been thinking about posting this review since I read the book a few months ago, realising that in talking about the book and the controversy itself it makes sense to demonstrate where I’m coming from. I’m not saying that the feelings that other genderqueer people got reading this book are invalid either, but I wanted to share a positive review of this book from a non binary person’s perspective.

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next: