To celebrate Trans Awareness Week (November 13-19), we’ve asked a few of our authors why trans literature is so important today, and what it means to them to publish trans literature.
Harry Nicholas is the author of A Trans Man Walks into A Gay Bar, a memoir shining a new light on the complex intersections of gender identity, sexuality, sex and queerness.
Book bans are often rooted in the claim that they’re ‘protecting children’. But book bans benefit no-one. In fact, I’d go so far to say that book bans are actively harmful – dangerous even. If a LGBTQ+ young person doesn’t see themselves in stories or literature – what message does that send? That they’re the only one? That they’re wrong and should be shamed? That they’re inhuman, perhaps.
Instead, books offer possibilities. They offer freedom and exploration and open our eyes to new worlds. A lonely teen feeling they’re the ‘only one’ who is queer, can suddenly realise there is a whole group of others like them ready and willing to welcome them home. These books don’t make people gay, bi or trans, but rather offer community and understanding once people realise this for themselves, and help them not to feel so alone. And what a beautiful thing that is.
Teddy G. Goetz, MD, MS, is the author of Gender is Really Strange, a science-based graphic medicine comic examining the complexity of gender.
The present moment is not notable for the presence of trans folks. Gender expansivity is neither new, nor a fad–we have always been here and we will always be here. The present moment is notable for the profound visible ignorance and hate that we are subject to every day. Misinformation and disinformation about gender, bodies, and identities is often easier to find than reputable science and representative stories. As an out trans/non-binary physician, I consider it my responsibility to educate and affirm–inside and outside of the clinic. Providing authentic narratives and accurate information about trans experiences is a profound honor and privilege. We are beautiful and deserve the opportunity to flourish.
Laura A. Jacobs, LCSW-R is the editor of Surviving Transphobia, an anthology by transgender and gender nonbinary celebrities and experts on endurance during times of severe hostility.
Trans literature is rebellion. Each piece is a “fuck you” to the people who would make us invisible, to the bigots, to those who want an uncomplicated world in which we outside cis/heteronormativity do not exist.
Even our pleasure is revolt: in a culture so focused on hate, how essential is it that we celebrate joy!
We have an obligation to share. Please write your stories – in blogs, books, poems, zines, graphic novels, scripts, and more – and outline both your suffering and your euphoria. Through our words we collectively exclaim: “We exist! This is who we are! Join us or oppose us, we are here, we are trans and nonbinary and genderqueer, and you’d better get used to it!”
Owl (Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir) and Fox Fisher are the creators of the Trans Teen Survival Guide, among other books that educate and celebrate trans lives.
As a trans masculine individual from the UK, it’s both disheartening and somewhat expected to witness the Trans Teen Survival Guide being targeted by far-right religious extremists across the pond in Florida and closer to home, potentially in Ireland. It’s saddening to see people so afraid of letting others discover and understand more about themselves. The book offers valuable information and affirmations that can greatly benefit people exploring their gender, yet its content instil fear in certain individuals. This situation clearly demonstrates that we have a considerable distance to cover in establishing a society where everyone can freely be themselves without the looming threats of discrimination or censorship.
If young trans and queer people don’t see themselves represented, they are more likely to suppress their identities and suffer poor mental and physical health as a result. Hiding and suppressing who you are is absolutely soul destroying, and it’s incredibly backwards and ironic that those wanting to ban these books do so under the pretence of wanting to protect children, when in fact they are actively harming children and forcing them to hide away in shame and fear.
It’s so important that LGBTQ+ young people have access to books that tell queer stories or which detail what queer life can look like. As a trans person who came out later in life, I am deeply disturbed by the removal of supportive books from school shelves, particularly in Florida. As someone who experienced the damaging effects of Section 28 in the UK, I know firsthand how vital education and support are for the LGBTQIA+ community. Growing up during a time when being different was deemed shameful and perverse, I struggled with a lack of understanding and vocabulary regarding my identity. This led to feelings of guilt, shame, and poor mental health.
Banning books with LGBTQIA+ themes echoes the actions of the Nazi book burners, who destroyed significant texts 90 years ago. The current ban is a blatant disregard for freedom of expression and a targeted attack on the LGBTQIA+ community. It is crucial that we push back against conservative and restrictive forces and protect valuable resources like the Trans Teen Survival Guide. These books aim to help and support people in need, providing a safety net that empowers individuals to be proud of who they are, free from discrimination and censorship.
It’s hugely important that young people see themselves represented in libraries and are able to see books and content that reflects their experiences. If you don’t see anyone like you growing up, or only see negative depictions, you’re going to internalise that guilt and shame, and suppress who you are. That’s hugely damaging to people’s mental health – so having these types of books available is about support and well-being.
There needs to be an understanding that these campaigns are meant to limit the freedoms of people, and that they should never be accepted. The biggest fight we can do is to share our love, and our lives. Make more books, share them with those around us. Gift them to those that need them. If they take them away from libraries we create our own, because they can never take away who we are, no matter what they censor or legislate against.
There appears to be a concerted effort to limit the freedom and visibility of LGBT+ across the world. Many countries are suffering a backlash with the rise of far-right sentiments and political parties, and I definitely think that as our visibility and acceptance has increased, those that don’t want LGBT+ to be visible and happy have also become louder. We’re living in really polarising times, and I definitely think there has been an escalation.
It’s not a surprise sadly, as our books have also been targeted by far right religious extremists in America as well. It’s obviously incredibly sad and frustrating that people are so afraid of allowing people to have the possibility of seeing themselves represented or learn more about themselves. In the end all our book does is give people information and affirmations, and the fact this causes so much fear with certain people shows us that we truly have a long way to go in order for everybody to be able to live freely and be themselves.
The reason we made our book in the first place was because we never saw ourselves represented, and never got the information and affirmations we needed to have a happy childhood. We wanted to offer that to others, and it’s incredibly sad that people will actively cause harm and suffering to children because of their own bigotry and fear towards things they don’t understand.
Most of these groups push the same myths over and over again – that books about LGBTQ+ youth are “grooming” children or they’re deemed “pornographic”. It’s the same old story that has never been true. My brother struggles to get his kid to eat vegetables. How on Earth would he convince someone to be LGBT+ when they’re not? It just doesn’t make any sense, because surely we’d all be cis and straight if it was about influence, as that’s what pushed upon us literally everywhere. Why would people make life harder for themselves if they didn’t have to?
To celebrate Trans Awareness Week, head to our site for 20% off of all our trans and non-binary books and resources! Enter the code “TRANSAWARENESS20” at checkout to receive the discount.