Five Books for Transgender Day of Visibility

I always have mixed feelings about today. Don’t get me wrong, this is so much better than when all trans people had was a day of mourning and everybody else had a pride day, an awareness day, or even just a plain old day, but I never really look forward to TDOV all that much. Oh, it’s needed. We are decades behind where we need to be in terms of rights and freedoms, but I long for the day when our visibility is entrenched and normalised. When we’re about as remarkable as seeing a white guy in a Marvel movie, because we’re as everpresent, everyday and bland as there being a white guy in a Marvel movie.

(Sssssh, I can dream…)

So when TDOV rolls around, I try and lose myself in that idea. That there’s a new film at the cinema with a trans guy as the hero. That I could open any book and have a really good chance of finding a trans man in its pages. And even better, that those movies and books aren’t biographies or documentaries, but stories. That we get to be the heroes of fiction, instead of always being relegated to the non-fiction shelf (but that’s a topic for another day).

So on TDOV, I pick up an old favourite. A book with a trans guy front and centre, and without the angst and drama that, quite frankly, we already get plenty of in real life. I have a small set of books that I come back to over and over, and all for trans guys doing their thing, being allowed to do their thing, and their identity being thoroughly unremarkable. Sometimes those are books I’ve written, and sometimes they’re books I wish I’d written.

So without further ado, here are the books I wish I’d written, and escape into when TDOV rolls around.

Top of the list is Gabriel D. Vidrine’s On A Summer Night. This is a young adult novel of a trans boy going off to summer camp, and I loved it for having a trans kid who was sure of himself. Casey knows who he is. And where I am at the moment (jolly old England, what-ho) trans kids aren’t allowed to be sure of themselves. Everything is set up aggressively against them, because being trans and being a child? Never happens! So to escape into Vidrine’s work and silence all those lies was a real breath of fresh air. Is it a perfect book? No. Is it the greatest literary masterpiece I’ve ever seen? Nah. It’s a sweet coming of age romance where being trans isn’t a problem, and that’s exactly what I needed.

Then there’s Jenn Polish’s Lost Boy Found Boy and this book is just wow. I’m not a huge science fiction fan when it comes to books (I’ll binge-watch TV and film science fiction like it’s going out of style, but not so much the books for some reason) but this one just blew me away. Not only is Polish’s writing just incredible, but the worldbuilding and how the truth about what was happening was teased out was just masterful. I know I’m being quite vague on this one, but I don’t want to spoil anything. And for a trans boy to be allowed to take centre stage in a story this like? Well, it made my heart happy.

Then along came Long Macchiatos and Monsters, a novella by Alison Evans of Ida fame. I will very happily read literally anything Evans publishes, but this story holds a special place in my heart. The story itself is absolutely nothing special. It’s a tiny little romance, and that’s about it. What’s special is who it happens to. We talk about needing more diverse fiction, more diverse movies, more inclusivity, more-more-more, but we very rarely talk about how. And that can lead to some of those hideously harmful or morbidly embarrassing screw-ups that Hollywood is so damn good at, after which someone who clearly hasn’t been paying attention says, “I’m glad we’re having this conversation!” like the conversation wasn’t going on years before they announced their doomed project to the world. Ooh, I’ve digressed. Back to the point. This story is like a toolkit of how to write diversity with respect, humour, authenticity, and most of all, humanity. It was real. It felt real. I loved every minute of getting to real, complicated people with all these different facets as to who they were overlapping one another and affected all the other labels in play. It was glorious, and everyone should try this one out.

The Song of the Faerie Prince by Tay LaRoi was a surprise love. It’s a fantasy novel where it turns out that faeries do exist, albeit hidden in secret from humans, a la Artemis Fowl. Not usually my cup of tea, to be honest. Add a romantic subplot and I really wasn’t all that interested but I’d heard good things, so I thought why not? And boy am I glad I did. Because not only is this very well-built as a fantasy world, but the love interest being a trans teenager totally accepted by his peers and getting on with life like any other kid? Bonus. I was so there for that. He’d come out, started a social transition, and here we are with these faery shenanigans and the lead having a crush on him like none of that was a problem and no big deal ever needed to be made. Exactly how I wish it had been for me. (Minus the faeries.)

And then last but by absolutely no means least, E. E. Ottoman’s The Craft of Love. A quiet historical romance set in the USA, this was a really nice look at how trans people did and could exist way back when, especially before medical transition had gathered steam. Again, it’s no big deal (a theme in this list!) and the revelation flows by naturally without any huge drama or nasty consequences. This is lovely, affirming story that we come with a history and we have always existed, going about our lives in the background of world events since time immemorial.

And there you have it! Five stories in which trans men get to be the hero, get to be loved, get to be messy, get to just be. Which, ultimately, is what I want TDOV to one day achieve.

Is there a book with a trans hero that you love? A book that you escape into when it all gets a bit much? Or do you prefer the books where the trials and tribulations of being trans take centre stage, and get defeated in the end? Let me know! After all, the pile for next year always deserves to be bigger.