Are there fictional transgender characters

Trans * and nonbinary reading tips

We recently published an essay on the fact that heroes sometimes have to be given up. And in keeping with this, we may sometimes have to admit to ourselves that we don't have to indulge in the books of our own childhood and youth forever if they are problematic in many places.

There are now more diverse worlds and stories, be it in science fiction and fantasy for adults, as young adult novels or as children's books, comics and educational literature. Books written by trans * or nonbinary authors in which trans * and nonbinary characters are a given.

By the way, the book blogger and bookseller Linus Giese helped us in the search for books that we can recommend - thank you very much! Among other things, Linus wrote the great and helpful list of children's books without gender stereotypes. In addition, he recently wrote an article about the lack of diversity in publishing houses and the resulting insensitive or incorrect handling of trans topics, which shows very nicely the problems that arise when writing only about and not with trans * people.

What about the representation?

In fact, the representation of trans * and nonbinary topics and characters was not easy for a long time, because publishers often lacked the courage to different characters and stories. Ray Stoeve recently published a long article in English on whether this has changed in the young adult sector and to what extent. They come to the conclusion that fortunately there are now more books by trans * and nonbinary authors with just such main characters and that the audience's desire for own voice stories is also growing. In the meantime, novels about trans * and nonbinary characters are also being published by some major publishers. Nevertheless, other areas of the queer spectrum are represented much more strongly, and even within the published novels that she has followed up, there is again a lack of diverse representation in other points, for example the balance between white figures and figures of color. And behind the scenes, too, among the publishing staff and editors, there are too few trans * and nonbinary people and too few BI_PoC. In the end, however, says Stoeve, it is much easier for trans * and nonbinary teenagers to find themselves in young adult novels these days. Incidentally, Ray Stoeve has a master list of authors who write as Own Voices on trans * and nonbinary topics.

Furthermore, the mere fact that trans * and nonbinary characters are finally being represented does not stop there, for there are harmful and flawed ways of doing this as well. We found another long article in which Clarence Harlan Orsi looked at various young adult novels with trans * and nonbinary topics and asked himself: What do these books say about life, everyday life and the problems of trans * / nonbinary Teenagers? It is often the case that the protagonists' identity plunges them into trouble or represents their only struggle in their teenage years. Often entrenched ways of thinking and clich├ęd images (such as the compulsion to use the wrong toilets) are reproduced again and again. In some novels, trans and nonbinary protagonists have to be superhumanly good and flawless to make up for their difference. In short: Often the protagonists' suffering about their identity is in the foreground and shapes the whole story, instead of being just one aspect of a plot and characterization. Orsi would like more courage for the "second generation" of trans * and nonbinary young adult novels - books with a supportive environment, with protagonists with many mistakes and facets, books in which every word is not explained to the reader in minute detail, because by now one can perhaps simply assume that all terms such as queer, trans or non-binary have something to do with it. He wishes that the canon of stories that is forming doesn't cement the same images over and over again in our heads.

Trans * and nonbinary: 10 book tips

We have selected 10 books for you in which trans * and nonbinary identity play a role. Some of them are fantastic works, others are set in the real world, there are novels and comics and anthologies. We hope there is something for everyone.

Kisses for jet is a recently published comic-of-gender graphic novel by Joris Bas Backer. Located in a boarding school in the nineties, the main character Jet not only has to settle in a strange environment, but also has to deal with the search for his own identity.

A review and an interview on the graphic novel can be read or heard on Deutschlandfunk.

Buy from Amazon *: Paperback

Pet is a fantastic young adult novel published in 2019 with a black trans girl in the lead role, written by the black nonbinary author Akwaeke Emezi. Protagonist Jam lives in a world in which adults tell her there are no more monsters and quickly realizes that this is not true. In an interview, Emezi said that they created the utopian world where black trans * teenagers can safely live in hopes that it will one day become a reality.

Buy from Amazon *: Paperback - Ebook

With When I became Amanda (Original: If I was your girl) by Meredith Russo (German by Barbara Lehnerer) a young adult novel was published that represents a milestone: It is the first YA novel by a trans author and with a trans protagonist, and also shows a trans woman on the cover. The book itself is a comic-of-age novel about a fresh start and first love.

Buy from Amazon * as an ebook.

A trans Latinx protagonist who wants to show his family that he too has what it takes to be a real Brujo (witcher), a helpful cousin and a ghost that never leaves him alone - these are the elements that make up the debut novel Cemetary Boys is knitted by Aiden Thomas. Like protagonist Yadriel, Aiden is trans, queer and Latinx. The book will be published in September 2020.

Buy from Amazon * as a paperback or ebook.

For Dreadnought* by April Daniels it would be advisable to consult the content warnings before reading, because the superhero novel by April Daniels addresses many painful experiences that trans * people have to make. The protagonist Danny is a young and not yet outed trans woman who suddenly gains superpowers and has to fight many fights - against super villains and those around her. In the second volume, Sovereign, there is also a genderqueer character. April Daniels is a trans woman.

Buy as paperback or ebook on Amazon.

The Tensorate series so far comprises four novella-length volumes and comes from JY Yang. They are from Singapore and are queer and non-binary. In the fictional world outlined in the novels, children are not assigned a gender at birth and all people can later choose a gender identity for themselves. The Silkpunk novels are about war, rebellion and fate in a world that is both spiritual and technically highly developed.

Buy all 4 books as ebooks from Amazon *.

The young adult novel When the moon was ours by Anna-Marie McLemore won several prizes, including the Otherwise Award. The book is a fairytale magical-realistic story about a trans boy and a queer Latina, about secrets, family and gender identity, into which a lot of Latin American folklore has flowed. McLemore is a queer Latinx writer.

No Man of Woman Born is a collection of short stories by Ana Mardoll, in which xie tells a wide variety of fairy tales and fantasy stories from a genderqueer and non-binary point of view. Most of them are related to binary coded prophecies, as the title suggests. In this anthology, trans and non-binary protagonists take their fate into their own hands and well-known stories are reinterpreted.

Maiden, Mother, and Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes is a short story anthology edited by Gwen Benaway of fantastic stories penned by trans and nonbinary femme authors, which was funded by Kickstarter in April 2020 and which had explicitly set itself the goal of gaining the little-heard voices of trans / nonbinary femme author to encourage people in the fantastic. The collection contains 10 short stories.

You haven't had enough yet?

Then have a look around - there are various English-language lists with book recommendations that we have selected for you.

And if you still have tips for us and our readers: write them to us in the comments!

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  • Lena Richter is an author, editor and translator, mainly in the role play area. In the Genderswapped Podcast, she and Judith Vogt talk about role play from a feminist perspective.

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