LGBTQ Summer Reads

It’s summer (although in San Francisco it always feels like fog), and I’ve been reading! Here’s a taste of what’s been on my bookshelf this season.

Queer Books for the summer
…for the avid Transgender Queer Reader

Second Son, by Ryan Sallans

Second Son, by Ryan Sallans
Second Son, by Ryan Sallans

I met Ryan at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference about a month ago. He took the time to carefully listen as I stumbled and rambled on, explaining how he is one of my “gender heroes,” from the first time I saw him in Gender Rebel, to the amazing transgender advocate and speaker he is today. Patiently nodding as I asked him for advice on how I can achieve my dream of doing that full-time, he exuded genuine care and compassion.

I see Ryan’s achievements and feel so proud for him. Yet through “Second Son” he shows us he is just as fearful and insecure as anyone else. It is truly humbling. Reading his story gave me much to think about – about gender, being trans, but also relationships and life in general. Above all, it left me feeling that this journey is not an easy one, but you should always keep moving forward.

Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children

Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children

This collection of essays and stories came out just a few months ago. It is refreshing to see another book about transgender people (especially youth) that doesn’t address the person themselves but rather those around them who are affected by their transition, and whose lives often change just as much.

To be honest, I bought it in hopes of having my mom finally read something about this topic. The issue hasn’t been addressed much on the blog, but my mom is the pebble in my shoe when it comes to acceptance by my friends and family. While I’ve come to terms with the fact that she might never come around, I don’t think I’ll ever give up trying, at least ever so slightly.

Transgender 101, by Nick Teich

Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue
Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue

This one I got for my dad. Despite claiming his reluctance for getting involved in any sort of community advocacy, through various twists of fate he has become an activist of sorts in our hometown. Not only does he attend PFLAG meetings regularly, he also helped start the first Jewish PFLAG group in Mexico City.

My dad is infinitely proud of me, and as such talks about me all the time to many different people. The problem is that, as well intentioned as he is, he doesn’t necessarily understand everything yet. Trans-something, biological essentialism, gender expression, pronouns – it just all goes over his head. With my terrible impatience at attempting to explain anything to him, I figured a solid introductory book could work wonders.

The author, Nick Teich, whom I know as an organizer of Camp Aranu’tiq for transgender youth, was also at Philly Trans Health. He promised that this book is meant to be accessible to everyone, even my dad. Following the family Jewish value of thriftiness, I’ll read the book before gifting it to my dad, and I’ll let you know how high my hopes remain.

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves

The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes to their Younger Selves
The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves

I’m a winner! This book came in the mail – for free – because I won a giveaway over at Sally’s Bibrary blog. If you love reading queer books, head over there and check out her lists and reviews. There is mounting anticipation to crack open this hefty hardcover and absorb that fresh new-book smell. Thanks again Sally!

Gender Born, Gender Made

Wait, didn’t I read this book like a year ago? That’s right, but it’s one of the few remaining physical books I have (they’re all in my Kindle nowadays) and I need to show off my books somehow! Besides, I’ll be going to the Gender Spectrum Conference this weekend, and I figured it’d be a good opportunity to recap some of the highlights before the impending gender immersion.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by emily danforth

What an enjoyable read! While I’d love to sit down and write a thoughtful review that would do it justice, it’s too much of a burden. So go ahead and enjoy other reviews instead.

Room, by Emma Donoghue

Halfway done with another excellent book. So far I haven’t been able to finish it because it gives me nightmares (any book that arouses true emotion in me is a capital-G-Good book). This means I can’t read it in little bits at night, like I usually do, and would need to take an extended period of a few days to focus and plow through it. I started it on my flight back from Philly, perhaps I’ll finish it on my next flight to Seattle.

What’s In Your Bookshelf?

Read anything interesting lately? Have a couple of “to-read” books piling up? Share it in the comments! Remember to check out my endless LGBTQIA books list, which just got updated as well.

33 thoughts on “LGBTQ Summer Reads

    1. Le Clown – can you believe I still have no clue what that is? I know, it makes me look extremely out of touch with general society. What do you think – should I jump on this bandwagon?

      1. NN,
        I wouldn’t. Seriously, it’s been my flavour of the week joke. From what I read, it’s Twilight PLUS sodomy. (I’m such an idiot).
        Le Clown

        1. HAHAHAHA! In that case….

          PS: I did not know vampires actually sparkled, I just thought it was a joke, till someone told me it’s for real.

          1. Maddox,
            If only “sparkling” vampires would have made the whole thing somewhat interesting…
            Le Clown

    1. The Trans 101 book looks very promising, and you’re supporting the community of transgender advocates and educators (which is why I made it a point to buy the paperbacks and not the digital version).

  1. I’m currently reading Kate Bornstein’s new book “A Queer and Pleasant Danger”, and I can’t recommend it highly enough! It’s her memoir, so large parts of it are about her time in Scientology, her family, etc. but it’s all informed by her queerness, and her writing is just incredibly engaging. 🙂

  2. I just recently finished Transitions Of The Heart, and bought my son The Letter Q which he is enjoying a lot. He also really liked Chaz Bono’s book Transition. Most recently i’ve been reading books on eating disorders. Second Son is next on my list.

    1. It’s great to hear your son reading these books. I am always so happy to see that more and more YA queer-themed books come out every year. When I was teen I didn’t even imagine books like this could exist.

    1. That and “Miss Timmins’ School for Girls” have been the best novels of this year for me. And they are both first time authors, so there’s a lot to look forward to.

  3. “I Am J” is a fantastic YA book with a trans-man as the main character and other LGBTQ characters somewhat sprinkled throughout. It does a nice job addressing the complexities of the parent-child ‘coming out’ process, the practicalities of medical procedures, etc.

    1. I’ve heard of it, and actually want to do a compilation post of memoirs/biography type books, as I’ve recently discovered more of them.

  4. I’m just now re-reading Parrotfish. I love Grady’s exploration of his gender non-binaryness – and his humour. It’s weird that as a trans tomboy I find more empathy in many trans man coming-out stories, since most trans woman novels follow the “I longed to be beautiful” pattern.

    I’m also reading (again) The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula Le Guin – about non-gender seen through the eyes of a male visitor to that culture. And a clumsy-but-endearing oldie on a similar theme, Venus Plus X, by Theodore Sturgeon.

    1. Interesting that you identify more with transmasculine stories. I guess I feel the same, in the sense that I don’t really see myself in “genderqueer” stories, and find more comfort in very binary trans experiences -especially youth – for some reason.

      I’ll check out the other book you mentioned, thanks for the suggestion!

  5. Erm, and sorry in advance if this is considered spam, but my knowledge about gender-neutral people is so damn low, it’s close to the Earth’s core.
    You see, I’m writing a novel, well more like it’s writing itself, and my main character doesn’t really see his/her/zher self as any gender. And I’m having pronoun problems. Big ones.
    I’m aware gender-neutral pronouns exist, but since it will be written from a first person point of view, I’m having issues. How does one address him/herself? And how should other people address the character? Using a singular ‘they’ all the time might become too forced, and I don’t want that, not one bit.
    Taylor (the character) wasn’t written to be gender-neutral, the character wrote itself, sort to speak. I don’t know if that makes sense.
    What are the main ‘buzz’ words/actions? Things I should avoid or things the character would react negatively to. (For example, being told ‘Good job, dude’ at work)
    Could you recommend some books or sites that could be helpful?
    I apologize once again if this is bothersome and please delete this if it’s considered harsh or negative in any way. Have a wonderful day!

    1. In my experience, using “they” does become tedious and awkward, but this has only been writing non-fiction journalism type articles, not narratives. There are many ways in which you can refer to someone without gendering them (my girlfriend has become an expert).
      – Use their name
      – Refer to them with a descriptor like “that person” or “the tall student”
      – Use gestures, like ((head nod)) towards person, or pointing.
      As mentioned, using a first or second person narrator can also work, or at least make it much much easier pronoun-wise. It can also make it easier for the character to explain their own gender, as it may not be evident without internal thoughts.

      I recommend you read blogs from gender-neutral people to get a sense of what bothers us, what delights us, and generally our experience with the world.

    2. (Comment received via Tumblr, posting publicly)

      I don’t know if it helps much, but I on daily basis when not using I, use a lot “we” although it may be a bit confusing and have the same problem as the singular they.

      As for what may bother the character it really depends on the character, ey might not bother with dude as many use it on a neutral way anyway, but may take gal/guy on a certainway. Somehow while the sex of the character might not be mentioned or important I think is sort of an important question, are they totally neutral in everything? or do they have certain leanings? Or do they mix things a bit? Do they go by dysphoria? what type, social dysphoria? body dysphoria? have they modified their bodies? would they? Do people in ther enviroment know? if so what’s their opinion on it? What be the impresion of people who don’t know ey? What does the character think about it? is ey read more as a male or female? how do they wear their hair? How do you see them as kid? (because I do have a bunch of gender neutral character and while on some I don’t much info about their plumbing so to say, there’s one who as a child was distinctly a lil girl with no problems to wearing dresses and playing with with dolls but that liked cars and action movies best who turned out to be neutrois later in life and is mostly read as a very charming pretty guy who sometimes is a bit flamboyant (for fun) (since most time he dresses on a masculine yet sort of androgine way) although they like fiddling with dresses and stuff for the sake of playing with the mind of other people -bit of a manipulator, yes-

      So it all really depends on the character and with how much they feel comfortable with and their likes dislikes and the enviroment they have, acepting? problematic? how do they deal with it? Do they hide? do they play? What colors do they prefer? Do they avoid a color in particular? Introverted? Extroverted? Serious? Playful? when it comes to love and attraction do they have a preference? Or do they don’t care?

  6. I, me, my, and mine are all appropriate. I don’t use any of the they/their or other gender-neutral formats in reference to myself in my own mind (I am myself). When it comes to how others refer to me, though, I prefer they/them or sometimes xir/hir (it depends on the person I’m talking to and their relationship with me – be they aquaintence, friend, lover, whatever). Even when people know my pronoun preference, they won’t always comply (narrow-minded family members are notorious for this) and will instead deliberately label me by my birth sex. This can be frustrating, hurtful and can leave you with a sense of betrayal. How others pronoun the gender-neutral character in question depends on how they feel about gender and their respect for the gender-neutral.

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