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.
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!