Whether you’re newly questioning your gender, have known you’re nonbinary for a while and want to settle your roots deeper, or even if you’re cis and looking to learn more about how to support and respect your friends outside the binary, books are a great way to start. Different people need different kinds of maps when they set out exploring, so we’ve gathered 15 varied and easy-to-jump-into self help, personal essay, poetry, and memoir titles to send you on your way…
EXPLORE THROUGH SELF-HELP BOOKS
How to Understand Your Gender: A Practical Guide for Exploring Who You Are
by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker
“Have you ever questioned your own gender identity? Do you know somebody who is transgender or who identifies as non-binary? Do you ever feel confused when people talk about gender diversity?“
This down-to-earth guide is for anybody who wants to know more about gender, from its biology, history and sociology, to how it plays a role in our relationships and interactions with family, friends, partners and strangers. It looks at practical ways people can express their own gender, and will help you to understand people whose gender might be different from your own. With activities and points for reflection throughout, this book will help people of all genders engage with gender diversity and explore the ideas in the book in relation to their own lived experiences.
Trans Power: Own Your Gender
edited by Juno Roche
“All those layers of expectation that are thrust upon us; boy, masculine, femme, transgender, sexual, woman, real, are such a weight to carry round. I feel transgressive. I feel hybrid. I feel trans.”
In this radical and emotionally raw book, Juno Roche pushes the boundaries of trans representation by redefining “trans” as an identity with its own power and strength, that goes beyond the gender binary. Through intimate conversations with leading and influential figures in the trans community, such as Kate Bornstein, Travis Alabanza, Josephine Jones, Glamrou and E-J Scott, this book highlights the diversity of trans identities and experiences with regard to love, bodies, sex, race and class, and urges trans people – and the world at large – to embrace a “trans” identity as something that offers empowerment and autonomy.Powerfully written, and with humour and advice throughout, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of gender and how we identify ourselves. (Publisher’s copy)
Life Isn’t Binary: On Being Both, Beyond, and In-Between
by Alex Iantaffi, Meg-John Barker
A truly original and insightful guide to reflecting on how we view and understand the world we live in and how we all bend, blur or break society’s binary codes.
Much of society’s thinking operates in a highly rigid and binary manner; something is good or bad, right or wrong, a success or a failure, and so on. Challenging this limited way of thinking, this ground-breaking book looks at how non-binary methods of thought can be applied to all aspects of life, and offer new and greater ways of understanding ourselves and how we relate to others.
Using bisexual and non-binary gender experiences as a starting point, Life Isn’t Binary addresses the key issues with binary thinking regarding our relationships, bodies, emotions, wellbeing and our sense of identity and sets out a range of practices which may help us to think in more non-binary, both/and, or uncertain ways. (Publisher’s copy)
Beyond the Gender Binary
by Alok Vaid-Menon, with illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky
“Gender is not what people look like to other people; it is what we know ourselves to be. No one else should be able to tell you who you are; that’s for you to decide.”
In Beyond the Gender Binary, spoken word poet Alok Vaid-Menon challenges the world to see gender not in black and white, but in full color. Taking from their own experiences as a gender-nonconforming artist, they show us that gender is a malleable and creative form of expression. (Publisher’s copy)
Gender: A Graphic Guide
by Meg-John Barker, with illustrations by Jules Scheele
“The way gender is socially constructed in the time and place that we live is part of what shapes our lived experience, but it’s not the whole story, and different people relate to gender in different ways.”
In this illustrated journey of gender exploration, we’ll look at how gender has been ‘done’ differently – from patriarchal societies to trans communities – and how it has been viewed differently – from biological arguments for sex difference to cultural arguments about received gender norms. We’ll dive into complex and shifting ideas about masculinity and femininity, look at non-binary, trans and fluid genders, and examine the intersection of experiences of gender with people’s race, sexuality, class, disability and more.
Tackling current debates and tensions, which can divide communities and even cost lives, we’ll look to the past and the future to ask how might we approach gender differently, in more socially constructive, caring ways. (Publisher’s copy)
Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression
by Iris Gottlieb
“By not playing by gender rules, we move away from gender being necessary and toward everyone living life unabashedly and unafraid in the body they want, loving whom they want and dressing how they want.”
Seeing Gender is an of-the-moment investigation into how we express and understand the complexities of gender today. Deeply researched and fully illustrated, this book demystifies an intensely personal—yet universal—facet of humanity. Illustrating a different concept on each spread, queer author and artist Iris Gottlieb touches on history, science, sociology, and her own experience. This book is an essential tool for understanding and contributing to a necessary cultural conversation, bringing clarity and reassurance to the sometimes confusing process of navigating ones’ identity. (Publisher’s copy)
A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns
by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson
“Practicing gender neutral pronouns is both an exercise in language and a chance to grow as a more empathetic and respectful communicator. And nothing is as cool as being an empathetic and respectful person.”
Archie, a snarky genderqueer artist, is tired of people not understanding gender neutral pronouns. Tristan, a cisgender dude, is looking for an easy way to introduce gender neutral pronouns to his increasingly diverse workplace. The longtime best friends team up in this short and fun comic guide that explains what pronouns are, why they matter, and how to use them. They also include what to do if you make a mistake, and some tips-and-tricks for those who identify outside of the binary to keep themselves safe in this binary-centric world. (Publisher’s copy)
EXPLORE THROUGH PERSONAL ESSAYS, POETRY, AND MEMOIR
Non-Binary Lives: An Anthology of Intersecting Identities
edited by Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker, and Kat Gupta
“Non-binary people come in multiple forms, shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and ages… we come from various communities, countries, histories, and families… our communities are more vibrant and nourished when they embrace the diversities within them.”
Our gender identity is impacted by our personal histories; the cultures, communities and countries we are born into; and the places we go and the people we meet. But the representation of contemporary non-binary identities has been limited, until now.
Pushing the narrative around non-binary identities further than ever before, this powerful collection of essays represents the breadth of non-binary lives, across the boundaries of race, class, age, sexuality, faith and more. Leading non-binary people share stories of their intersecting lives; how it feels to be non-binary and neurodiverse, the challenges of being a non-binary pregnant person, what it means to be non-binary within the Quaker community, the joy of reaching gender euphoria. This thought-provoking anthology shows that there is no right or wrong way to be non-binary. (Publisher’s copy)
Gender Explorers: Our Stories of Growing Up Trans and Changing the World
edited by Juno Roche
“I believe that children who are questioning and exploring their gender are the gender bosses that we all so desperately need. I believe that they are our future.”
In this life-affirming, heartening and refreshing collection of interviews, young trans people offer valuable insight and advice into what has helped them to flourish and feel happy in their experience of questioning their gender and growing up trans. (Publisher’s copy)
“I sent a copy of my ultrasound picture to my mom, inside a card. “How do you think she’ll feel?” my boss asked. “Surprised,” I said… “I just don’t think she thinks of my as the kind of person who carries a baby.”
As a nonbinary, transmasculine parent, Krys Malcolm Belc has thought a lot about the interplay between parenthood and gender. Giving birth to his son Samson clarified his gender identity and allowed him to project a more masculine self. And yet, when his partner Anna adopted Samson, the legal documents listed Belc as “the natural mother of the child.”
By considering how the experiences contained under the umbrella of “motherhood” don’t fully align with Belc’s own experience, The Natural Mother of the Child journeys both toward and through common perceptions of what it means to have a body and how that body can influence the perception of a family.
Spectrums: Autistic Transgender People in Their Own Words
edited by Maxfield Sparrow
“I used to think “I’m just weird, I just don’t belong anywhere,” before I realized who I was.”
Solely written by autistic trans people from around the world, this vital and intimate collection of personal essays reveals the struggles and joys of living at the intersection of neurodivergence and gender diversity. Weaving memories, poems and first-person narratives together, these stories showcase experiences of coming out, college and university life, accessing healthcare, physical transition, friendships and relationships, sexuality, pregnancy, parenting, and late life self-discovery, to reveal a rich and varied tapestry of life lived on the spectrums. With humour and personal insight, this anthology is essential reading for autistic trans people, and the professionals supporting them, as well as anyone interested in the nuances of autism and gender identity. (Publisher’s copy)
by Danez Smith
“i want to say something without saying it
but there’s no time. i’m waiting for a few folks
i love dearly to die so i can be myself.
please don’t make me say who.”
Homie is Danez Smith’s magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family—blood and chosen—arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is the exuberant new book written for Danez and for their friends and for you and for yours. (Publisher’s copy)
by Maia Kobabe
“Some people are born in the mountains, while others are born by the sea. Some people are happy to live in the place they were born, while others must make a journey to reach the climate in which they can flourish and grow. Between the ocean and the mountains is a wild forest. That is where I want to make my home.”
In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma of pap smears.
Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity–what it means and how to think about it–for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere. (Publisher’s copy)
Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home
by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
“I was happiest when I didn’t have a body. I had been all body, all gender for a while. I needed some time off from having a body in order to figure out what kind of relationship I would have with one when I got back to it.”
In 1996, poet Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha ran away from America with two backpacks and ended up in Canada, where she discovered queer anarchopunk love and revolution, yet remained haunted by the reasons she left home in the first place. This passionate and riveting memoir is a mixtape of dreams and nightmares, of immigration court lineups and queer South Asian dance nights; it reveals how a disabled queer woman of color and abuse survivor navigates the dirty river of the past and, as the subtitle suggests, “dreams her way home.” (Publisher’s copy)
by Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon
“I realize that the English language is sadly devoid of names for people like me. I try to cut the world some slack for this every day. All day… But the truth is that every time I am misgendered, a tiny little sliver of me disappears… all those slivers add up to something much harder to pretend around.”
Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon are accomplished, award-winning writers, musicians, and performers; they are also both admitted “gender failures.” In their first collaborative book, Ivan and Rae explore and expose their failed attempts at fitting into the gender binary, and how ultimately our expectations and assumptions around traditional gender roles fail us all.
Based on their acclaimed 2012 live show that toured across the United States and in Europe, Gender Failure is a poignant collection of autobiographical essays, lyrics, and images documenting Ivan and Rae’s personal journeys from gender failure to gender enlightenment. Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, it’s a book that will touch LGBTQ readers and others, revealing, with candor and insight, that gender comes in more than two sizes. (Publisher’s copy)
by Nevo Zisin
“I don’t identify with the words female or male. They are not my words. The space in which I have felt gendered female and transitioned to gendered male has been in the ways people have treated me.”
Meet Nevo: girl, boy, he, she, him, her, they, them, daughter, son, teacher, student, friend, gay, bi, lesbian, trans, homo, Jew, dyke, masculine, feminine, androgynous, queer. Nevo was not born in the wrong body. Nevo just wants everyone to catch up with all that Nevo is. Personal, political and passionate, Finding Nevo is an autobiography about gender and everything that comes with it. (Publisher’s copy)
OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES
- Life Outside The Binary: Nonbinary Transgender Information Centre
A resource centre for nonbinary people and their allies, focused on providing resources to nonbinary people and youth, nonbinary visibility, support for friends and family, and creating a safe and inclusive space.
- Trans Student Educational Resources
A youth-led organization dedicated to transforming the educational environment for trans and gender non-conforming students through advocacy and empowerment.
- Trans Lifeline
Providing trans peer support for our community that’s been divested from police since day one. Run by and for trans people.
- Genderqueer & Nonbinary Identities
Providing awareness, information, and resources for genderqueer, non-binary, questioning, and gender non-conforming people and their allies.
A platform amplifying nonbinary experiences through personal stories & art.
Bon voyage, gender explorers!
Bren Frederick (she/her) is a disabled bisexual and genderfluid activist, former bookseller, and founder of the Bi Pan Library. Bren lives in WA state with her partner, their two
children cats, and a suffocating number of bookshelves.
Some links in this post are affiliate links, which support the Bi Pan Library’s operation at no additional cost to you. Read more about the Bi Pan Library’s affiliate relationships here.