Book reviews: Several books about transgenderism

As I mentioned last week, I have recently learned that I have a transgender daughter. Because I'm an academic at heart, as soon as she told me this, I began hunting up and reading books on the subject. Because I'm cheap, I've been working on what's available at the library, on ebooks because I'm lazy and didn't want to walk up to the library in the rain. One thing jumped out at me: the library really needs to update the collection in this area. I was able to find virtually nothing (aside from memoirs, which aren't really what I was looking for at this point) less than 8 years old. Most seemed to date from about 2012. Here's a quick run-down on what I found, and what might or might not be helpful.


Title: My Child is Transgender: 10 Tips for Parents of Adult Trans Children
Author: Matt Kailey
Publication Info: Tranifesto Publishing, 2012. 28 pages.
Publisher's Blurb:
Your adult child has come out to you as transgender and is considering, or has already begun, a transition from male to female or from female to male. What do you do now? This short, accessible guide is aimed at parents of transitioning adult children, offering ten tips to help you navigate one of the most challenging, and ultimately rewarding, times in your life. It is also helpful for other family members and loved ones looking for guidance.

My comments:
This is short and to the point, and does what the blurb says: it offers a good starting point for a parent or other loved one of a transgender person. As you might expect, some of the information is outdated, but since most of this is about how to understand and accept what your (adult) kid is going through, that's less of an issue than with some other books.


Title: Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue
Author: Nicholas M. Teich
Publishing info: Columbia University Press, 2012. 160 pages.
Publisher's Blurb:
Written by a social worker, popular educator, and transgender man, this well-rounded resource combines an accessible portrait of transgenderism with a rich history of transgender life and unique experiences of discrimination. The first guide to treat transgenderism as a distinct topic of study, this text moves beyond mere anecdote and recommendations for clinical practice to legitimatize transgenderism in society and culture.

Chapters introduce transgenderism and its psychological, physical, and social processes. They describe the coming out process and its affect on family and friends; the relationship between sexual orientation and gender and the differences between transsexualism and lesser-known types of transgenderism; the characteristics of Gender Identity Disorder; and the development of the transgender movement. Each chapter explains how transgender individuals handle their gender identity, how others view it within the context of "normal" society, and how the transitioning of genders is made possible. The book features men who become women, women who become men, and those who live in between and beyond traditional classifications. Written for friends, family members, students, and professionals, this resource works as a stand alone text for social work and gender studies courses as well as a supportive text for sociologists, psychologists, and clinical practitioners. A special focus on issues affecting transgender youth, along with a glossary of key terms and helpful resources, makes this an ideal guide for younger audiences as well as those invested in their care.

My comments:
I get the feeling that this is a pretty important book, and it has a lot of good, clear information in a fairly compact form. Again, since it was published more than 10 years ago, a lot of what was said feels dated and possibly inaccurate, particularly things about legal and insurance issues, which have changed a lot in the last decade. Still, it was worth looking at.


Title: Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community
Edited by Laura Erickson-Schroth, Co-author Tobi Hill-Meyer
Publication Info: Oxford University Press, 2014. 672 pages.
Publisher's Blurb:
There is no one way to be transgender. Transgender and gender non-conforming people have many different ways of understanding their gender identities. Only recently have sex and gender been thought of as separate concepts, and we have learned that sex (traditionally thought of as physical or biological) is as variable as gender (traditionally thought of as social).

While trans people share many common experiences, there is immense diversity within trans communities. There are an estimated 700,000 transgendered individuals in the US and 15 million worldwide. Even still, there's been a notable lack of organized information for this sizable group.

Trans Bodies, Trans Selves is a revolutionary resource-a comprehensive, reader-friendly guide for transgender people, with each chapter written by transgender or genderqueer authors. Inspired by Our Bodies, Ourselves, the classic and powerful compendium written for and by women, Trans Bodies, Trans Selves is widely accessible to the transgender population, providing authoritative information in an inclusive and respectful way and representing the collective knowledge base of dozens of influential experts. Each chapter takes the reader through an important transgender issue, such as race, religion, employment, medical and surgical transition, mental health topics, relationships, sexuality, parenthood, arts and culture, and many more.

Anonymous quotes and testimonials from transgender people who have been surveyed about their experiences are woven throughout, adding compelling, personal voices to every page. In this unique way, hundreds of viewpoints from throughout the community have united to create this strong and pioneering book. It is a welcoming place for transgender and gender-questioning people, their partners and families, students, professors, guidance counselors, and others to look for up-to-date information on transgender life.

My Comments:
This is a total compendium, and I am glad to see that the library has invested in at least a few paper copies of the updated (2022) edition. This isn't meant to be read straight through, but is a reference work for whatever a trans person (or their people) might want or need to know at any given time. I will probably get my daughter a copy of it. 

Because this book is meant to provide resources and information about legal and medical issues, it does need to be kept up to date--the 2014 edition (all that was available as an ebook through the library) doesn't reflect things like the improvements in insurance coverage under Obamacare, nor more recent research on the possible connections between autism spectrum disorders and gender dysphoria (a matter of some interest to me as my daughter is also on the spectrum). I would like to see what the newer edition has to say on quite a few subjects.

This is the book you need if you or someone close to you is at any stage of being trans, from wondering on. The narrative voice is a constant reminder that it is by and for trans people: whatever aspect or sub-group of trans persons is being discussed, the pronoun used is "we."


In summation:
I'm getting a good list of books to read, and am also getting a much greater understanding of what it means to be be transgendered. I'll keep reading, and perhaps do some advocating for the Seattle and King County libraries to update the collections.


©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2023
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  1. If you want to get a bit academic/theoristy about transgender issues, check out Whipping Girl by Julia Serrano and The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. The latter one especially manages to be a pleasure read while also being educational.

    1. Thanks, I'll take a look. I'm definitely prone to getting academic about things :D

    2. Neat-o. Your daughter lucked out to have a studious, accepting person as a mother!


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