Bruce Parker

Out Magazine's Ten Essential Transgender Titles

Filed By Bruce Parker | March 16, 2008 9:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Christine Jorgensen, daphne scholinski, gender outlaws, Gore Vidal, Jackie Kay, kate bornstein, last report on the miracles at little no horse, leslie feinberg, louise erdrich, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Myra breckinridge, Out, Out Magazine, paisley currah, read my lips, richard juang, riki anne wilchins, shannon price mentor, stephen whittle, stone butch blues, sublime mutations, susan stryker, transgender, transgender books, transgender law, transgender rights, transgender studies

This is the first of a series of posts about this month's transgender issue of Out Magazine, I wanted to list the books that they argue are essential reading and then add a few of my own to the list.

1. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

This book is always on everyone's top list of transbooks. I love Leslie Feinberg but think that this book is hard to read and a little too dark to be the best Transgender 101 book.

The other nine books plus some additions from me are after the jump.

2. Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich

3. Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein

This book is a lot of fun and a good read.

4. Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography by Christine Jorgensen

5. Read My Lips by Riki Anne Wilchins

This book is fun as well and Riki has really interesting ways of understanding and articulating her identity. It is worth checking out.

6. Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal

This is the strangest book on the list to me. It just doesn't belong.

7. Trumpet by Jackie Kay

I read this book last year and really got into it. It was fun, easy to read and very well done.

8. Sublime Mutations

I had never heard of this book but it sounds really interesting.

9. The Transgender Studies Reader edited by Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle


10. The Last Time I Wore a Dress by Daphne Scholinski

I am ashamed to admit I own this book but haven't read it yet.

My additions...

1. S/HE by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Minnie Bruce Pratt is the partner of Leslie Feinberg and a very accomplished writer, poet and activist in her own right. This collection is an interesting mixture of poetry and personal narrative. It talks a lot about crossing gender lines, the blurry lines between gender and sexuality and finally the experiences of loving a transgender individual. I highly recommend it for everyone but particularly partners of transmen who are struggling.


2. Transgender Rights by Paisley Currah, Richard Juang and Shannon Price Mentor.

This book is a wonderful introduction to literature about the transgender social movement. I find myself revisiting it over and over; when I was in Indiana working with the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance, we went so far as to buy a copy for each member of the board and other important leaders in the community.

I am curious about how many of the twelve books named above folks have read?

What books would you add?

Anyone you would take off the list?

Expect a few more posts from me about this issue of OUT this week.

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I wonder why thier list didnt have S/He, i love that book.
The Sublime Mutations was a good book as well. Check it out.
Thanks for the list

Wow - that's a pretty craptacular list from Out Magazine. I haven't seen the magazine...any idea who compiled the list?

There's a topic here on Bilerico from a couple of months ago with essential transgender titles that was much better. And I'm with you on Myra Breckinridge - WTF? I think I'd also say the same thing about the Little No Horse book, although it does look interesting. Essential reading though? No.

Honestly, after seeing this list I'm not feeling too good about how the trans community is portrayed/covered in this issue. Guess I better go check it out before I say anything else.

Bruce Parker Bruce Parker | March 16, 2008 11:40 PM


Yea. I thought it was pretty bad as well. I talk more about the issue throughout this week. :)

Let me know what you think about the rest of the issue.


Whipping Girl: A Transgender Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano is a great read. I highly recommend it.

Fanny is right. Julia serano's "Whipping Girl" is IMHO the best of the lot. and I have read about half of them. It is easy to follow, intelligent, insightful. A must read!

The only book on the subject that I have read, and it is on the list, is "Read My Lips".

I enjoyed it though it is kind of dated by now, and the gender theory part of it is very thought provoking. I have heard good things about Kate Bornsteins books but haven't gotten around to reading them.

Generally, I do not read much on the subject, I guess it is kind the feeling that, I am living it, so why bother. Most of the material is pretty much, 'been there, done that, where's my t shirt?' One of the reasons I enjoyed Riki's book was that it covered more gender theory, than being a biography of someone going through transition.

Hrm... craptacular indeed.

Although some off the lesser-known ones look interesting, there's definitely far more essential books.

There's Helen Boyd's two books, "My Husband Betty" and "She' Not the Man I Married," both of which do a good job of mixing the personal with the theoretical -- and which give voice to partners, who are all too overlooked.

Likewise, Jamison Green's "Becoming a Visible Man" is a must-read. Jenny Boylan's memoir "She's Not There" is at first-glance an "easy read" that's good for folks who don't want heavy reading, yet it covers a lot of good ground.

And I'll third the recommendation for "Whipping Girl."

Becky Juro's list of 10 Books Every Transperson Should Read is a much better list apparently.

I remember when you gave me my copy of Transgender Rights, by the way. Still have it too.

Jennifer Finney Boylan's book, She's Not There, should be on both lists. It's very well-written and provides a level of insight into the experience few others have done.

i enjoyed "she's not there", too - and boylan is quite a speaker as well. no one brought up donna rose' book. any reviews?

There are several books that need to be mentioned, but I will mention just two. Leslie Feinberg's book "Transgender Warriors" is excellent, a must read. I'm not a big fan of YATAs (Yet Another Transsexual Autobiography,) but Donna Rose's book, "Wrapped in Blue" is marginally fine. (giggle) (Donna will probably read this post.)

There are other books that are not considered "Transgender Books," but they paint an interesting picture of early America. Books like "Deborah Samson alias Robert Shurtliff Revolutionary War Solder," "The female marine;: Or, Adventures of Miss Lucy Brewer" (her autobiography) and "Cathy Williams: From Slave to Female Buffalo Soldier" are some of my favorites.

Yeah Bil - that's the post I was thinking of. Thanks for the link. :)

I'll third or fourth Whipping Girl. That book more than any other I'd read so far changed my perspective on my place in the world and gave me a whole new trans-relevant vocabulary.

I'll also second My Husband Betty for the reasons Lena mentioned.

She's Not There is probably the best autobiography I've seen that'd be entertaining to a cissexual reader. My mom and sister-in-law really enjoyed it. Dhillon Khosla's Both Sides Now is also a very good autobiography (FtM). I haven't read Donna's book yet since I also got kind of burnt out on the autobiographies but I still plan on picking it up some day.

I too find Julia Serano's "Whipping Girl" to be one of the most helpful books on the subject. It encouraged me to understand many aspects of my own life/gender in new ways. Easily worth as much as five years of therapy!

My number two read: "Transgender Rights."

Regarding "Myra Breckinridge": avoid the film version at all costs! Unless you have a perverse desire to be stupefied-to-death.

The trouble with lists is that even though you're linking trans-themed works, the intended audiences or approaches might be altogether different, so at times, it's like comparing apples to oranges. The best book for families, spouses, co-workers, etc. would be True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism--For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals (Mildred Brown, Chloe Rounsley). But to someone who is trans, the book is boring as hell, because it's telling us stuff we already know.

Other decent books not yet mentioned:
-- The Riddle of Gender (Deborah Rudacille), notable for being one of the earliest books to delve into both the science-in-infancy (endocrine disrupting chemicals) and a thorough look at the community and its old guard / new guard (HBS / deconstructionist) divisions in the context of trans history and activism.

-- Gender Outlaw (Kate Bornstein), for blurting out some of the things that (perhaps some / not all) trans folks sometimes have difficulty admitting to themselves, let alone say out loud.

-- Orlando: A Biography (Virginia Woolf), for being one of the first to effectively challenge gender roles and assumptions.

I agree with everyone above about how underwhelming the list is; and I agree with the suggested additions.

I would also like to suggest that another imperative addition is "How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States" by Joanne Meyerowitz.

Sorry, I briefly slipped on forgetting that Gender Outlaw was on the list.

I agree with everyone above about how underwhelming the list is; and I agree with the suggested additions.

I would also like to suggest that another imperative addition is "How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States" by Joanne Meyerowitz.

Bruce Parker Bruce Parker | March 17, 2008 1:28 PM

You know what is funny. I am a litle scared to criticize books on here because I am like did the author become a contributer and I missed it or is that person a reader.

I loved Boylan's book and enjoyed Helen Boyd's. Helen is a big inspiration to me even though we construct our stories and identities as partners of transpeople in really different ways.

Whipping Girl is another of the books that I have picked up that haven't made it off of my shelf yet.

bruce, pick it up! it is delightful!

Here's some othe books that they missed on transgender issues with some flava.

'Hiding My Candy' by The Lady Chablis
The Lady Chablis' fascinating autobiography

'Transparent' by Cris Beam
A recent book in which some of the people profiled are Black and Latina

'Honey Honey Miss Thang: Being Black Gay and on the Streets' by Leon Pettiway

Don't let the title fool you, the people that are talking in these narratives are transgender

'A Finer Specimen of Womanhood' by Sharon Davis
An African-American transwoman tells her story.

FWIW, the post inspired Helen Boyd to post her top 10+ list (with capsule reviews) over at her blog.

Which reminded me, I'd second her recommendation of "Butch Is A Noun" S. Bear Bergman (who identifies as an assigned-female at birth trans butch).

And while it's too insider to be essential reading for the general public, Reid Vanderbergh’s "Transition and Beyond" should be required reading for anything transitioning -- and "transitioning" mean it in Vanderbergh's sense of it's "a process of consciously acting on the knowledge of not resonating with the assigned birth gender, and doing something about it." While much of the book does focus on people who are socially/surgically transitioning, I found much of it equally applicable to folks -- like myself -- who aren't interested in doing either, since Vanderbergh's focus isn't about whether one should transition or not, it's about figuring out what it takes to satisfy your very own personal set of conditions to be happy in this world in ways that acknowledge one's trans-ness. I personally found many of Vanderbergh's thought useful on my own journey to becoming both an out-in-public and publicly out crossdresser.

Carrie Wooten Carrie Wooten | March 18, 2008 5:37 PM

I'm sad to see that Trumpet made the list and even sadder that Bruce recommends it as a good read. I read it a year ago and was deeply disappointed at the extremely superficial and romanticized way the author constructed their relationship.

A great beginners (students seems to do well with it) book for those who have not thought about gender before let alone transgender is Kate Bornstein's My Gender Workbook.

Darren Tate | May 26, 2008 6:05 PM

Some trans books that I would recommend:

FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society (sociology)

by Aaron Devor;

Trans/Forming Feminisms (collection on trans and feminist politics) ed. Krista Scott-Dixon;

Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexuals (sociology)
Sex Change, Social Change
both by Viviane Namaste;

Iduna, have been blue for charity, and
a day in the life of p., ( all poetry)
by Kari Edward;

Wanting in Arabic (poetry) by Trish Salah;

Masculinities Without Men? (theory) by Bobby Noble;

The Testosterone Files (memoir) by Max Wolfe Valerio;