Compendium of Posts on Trans Representation

Trans voices are not heard often enough in the YA community, and when they are it’s not a very large selection of voices. This compendium is my attempt to change that! There are a lot of people out there saying really smart stuff about trans literature of all categories, and I wanted to collect them in one accessible place. These are posts by people I deeply respect, posts that I have learned so much from. Some of the posts overlap on the same points, but they come at them from different angles.

Cisgender people who read and/or write trans YA– please read these posts! Being an ally means more than just reading cis-authored, -edited, and -marketed trans YA books. It means more than writing a story with the exact same narrative that’s been told about us over and over again. What being an ally means to me is listening to trans voices, boosting our thoughts, and centering us in the discussion about our own representation. It’s not always easy to find actual trans people in the literary community, so hopefully this is a helpful starting place!

I’m also collecting posts on topics such as how to write trans characters, books to read while you’re questioning your gender identity, and some interesting interviews. So you can find all that below, too. 😀

Is there a post missing from this list that you’d like to see included? Leave a comment or tweet me at @findmereading!

On Trans Narratives:

“These novels are well positioned to yank at liberal heartstrings, promising both uplifting narratives and the safe nudging of comfort zones. However contemporary the Gender Novel is, though, it’s tapping into a much older form: the epic, with its quests and journeys and brave deeds.”

““Dear cis people who read books about trans characters, who write about trans characters, who turn manuscripts about trans characters into books about trans characters: when do trans lives become too boring for you to read about?”

This question comes out of the number of “trans” books I’ve read with completely interchangeable plots. Just about every book with a trans protagonist or a trans-focused main plot that I’ve read from young adult to “serious” novels ultimately contain the same skeleton: male/female character feels different from their male/female peers and they’re very sad about this and will probably use the phrase “born in the wrong body” at least once; then they find out about “transgendered” people and have angst about their identity; they try to come out to their loved ones and things don’t go well; they begin to transition medically and the story is over. Sure we can swap out details like setting but ultimately we end up with the same story.”

“I’m looking for the life after transition, the other aspirations these characters have, the friends who shape their lives, even the nonsense we all deal with—crappy teachers, hating algebra, escaping from one’s parents for an afternoon, sneaking into an extra movie at the cinema, getting one’s heart broken by that asshole who seemed so great before one went to second base with them. Trans people are not figureheads, tragic heroes, as untouchable as saints, they’re people. We make mistakes and we cry when we break our favorite coffee mug, and we stay up late at night reading terrific books and damn it we want to see ourselves in some of those books. Ourselves, not some person’s simplistic imagining of who we are.”

“If we left it up to The New York Times and David Letterman, transgender people, all, struggle with being the wrong sex in the wrong body. Chances are they know it early on, they suffer tremendous amounts of angst and depression, and they demonstrate their trans-ness by loving every activity ever singled out for the opposite sex, the one they want to be so dearly. And anyone else who feels a bit differently—a person who doesn’t always feel totally female every day, a man who still loves to wear pink, someone who doesn’t feel the need to go on hormones—they become invalidated. They are not authentic transsexual people, or they would be marching in lockstep to the narrative of the greatest biological trick ever hoisted against human beings.”

“For years I had been dipping my toes into trans narratives. I had long considered myself an ally who had an odd amount of common experiences with out-and-proud trans people, who cried too hard at Ma Vie en Rose. I’m deeply grateful to those trans storytellers who laid out their own narratives so that I could see where our experiences overlapped. Most of them were, like me, terrified young millennials posting on their blogs. Few of them could relate to the depictions of trans people we had grown up seeing in the media: classic portrayals of gender-nonconformity as disturbed, sexualized, and freakish. But in their shared experiences, a set of narrative tropes began to emerge—the beats of stories utterly different and far more human than the ones being told in the mainstream.

I finally applied the lens of those real trans experiences to my own life, and that was when my life began to make sense.”

“In fiction, a narrative has come forth that centers on a cisgender character “learning to accept” a transgender character. I call this the “acceptance” narrative– emphasis on the quotation marks. In the past decade or so, this narrative has emerged in YA literature. (Luna by Julie Anne Peters, Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher, and Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde.)”

Writing Trans Characters: How-Tos


“This week, I feel small and scared and utterly incapable of picking up a sword and being a defender.

I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know the answers. I’m not sure that I want to.

And that needs to be okay. Behind each knightly voice there is a person, and we can’t expect people to always want (or be able) to share. We should not expect them to write their life stories any more than we should demand dragons or romance or happy-ever-afters. We have no right to treat identity as a commodity.”

Some fun posts 🙂

Interesting interviews w trans authors:


Is there a post missing from this list that you’d like to see included? Leave a comment or tweet me at @findmereading!