Summary List Placement
Representation in literature is important: books are an insight into understanding the lives, experiences, and emotions of others. Novels that embrace and celebrate differences in gender help us better understand ourselves and each other. And while literature has only recently expanded to include more non-binary and transgender characters, these new stories are diverse and honest.
To choose these book recommendations, I read reviews from transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer reviewers who hailed these stories as important must-reads. They each encapsulate a different gender experience — some joyful and some heavy, but all of them real, genuine, and important. From romantic comedies to fantasy novels, trans and non-binary representation in literature is growing, and we hope you’ll love these books.
The 21 best books with non-binary and transgender characters
‘The Death of Vivek Oji’ by Akwaeke Emezi
by Akwaeke Emezi (button)
When Vivek’s mother opens her front door one morning in Nigeria, she finds her grown child wrapped in colorful cloth, dead on her front step. As the family tries to unravel the mysteries and secrets of their child’s life, the reader is along for the journey, learning about Vivek’s relationships and identities as the family does. This is such a brilliantly written novel, a story that unfolds in a way that slowly fills your heart as you read about Vivek’s life.
‘Detransition, Baby’ by Torrey Peters
“Detransition, Baby” is about three people — transgender and cisgender — whose complex and unconventional relationships convene over a baby. When Amy detransitioned and became Ames, his relationship with Reese fell apart. Thinking he was infertile from years of hormone therapy, Ames finds Katrina, his lover, pregnant and struggling to decide what to do. While Ames sees an opportunity to offer Reese the baby she always wanted, a messy and complex web of womanhood, motherhood, gender, and sex constructs this sassy, candid, and heartfelt story.
‘Nevada’ by Imogen Binnie
by Imogen Binnie (button)
“Nevada” is a story that has been cherished by trans readers for the punk-rock way the main character, Maria, navigates the nuances of being a transgender woman, beyond the tired language of doctors and therapists. When Maria discovers her girlfriend cheating, her life begins to unravel and she sets off on a new journey: Newly single, newly unemployed, working through past trauma, and coming into her own as a trans woman. This book aptly expresses the difficulties of being transgender that are not always part of the conversation.
‘Jonny Appleseed’ by Joshua Whitehead
This is an Indigenous coming-of-age story about Jonny, a Two-Spirit, Indigiqueer person. Joshua Whitehead explained Two-Spirit (2SQ) as a “celebration of the fluidity of gender, sex, sexuality, and identities, one that is firmly grounded within nehiyawewin (the Cree language) and nehiyaw world-views.” Trying to make a living off the reservation, Jonny becomes an online sex worker. With one week before he’s due to attend his grandfather’s funeral, he must emotionally, mentally, and physically prepare to return home. This profound story embodies the spirituality and beauty of Indigenous storytelling while embracing queerness.
‘Confessions of the Fox’ by Jordy Rosenberg
A Novel’ (button)
In this historical fiction novel, Jack Sheppard is a legendary thief and jailbreaker from the 18th century. In the present, Dr. Voth finds a manuscript — dated 1742 — that tells the story of orphaned “P” who wishes to live as “Jack.” Dr. Voth scrambles to authenticate the manuscript, which seems to follow P as P is sold into servitude, falls in love with a sex worker, discovers queer subcultures, has continuous run-ins with the police, and finally becomes Jack Sheppard. This novel explores an intriguing niche between revolutionary historical fiction, academia, and contemporary literature.
‘Little Fish’ by Casey Plett
This debut novel from Casey Plett, an award-winning fiction and science fiction transgender author, is another incredible story that won the Lambda Literary Award and the Firecracker Award for Fiction. It follows Wendy Reimer, a 30-year-old trans woman who finds evidence that her late grandfather may have also been transgender. While dealing with a series of personal problems with her friends, Wendy also sets out to unravel the history and the secrets of her grandfather’s life. As Wendy’s past and future intertwine, she also navigates difficult topics such as alcoholism, sex work, and class. This novel is a testament to incredible character development as Wendy’s story is brought to life through Casey’s writing, known for her particularly realistic dialogue.
‘Cemetery Boys’ by Aiden Thomas
Aiden Thomas is a queer trans author who has brought a Latinx, paranormal fantasy full of queer romance straight into reader’s hearts. In this novel, we meet Yadriel — a gay, Latinx, trans boy — who successfully summons a ghost in a special ritual after his parents denied his gender. While trying to find the ghost of his murdered cousin, Yadriel accidentally summons Julian Diaz, a past student from Yadriel’s school who’s determined to discover the mysterious circumstances of his death. Together, they set out to find the answers they seek in a momentous adventure that is as unique and refreshing as it is sweet and emotional.
‘Euphoria Kids’ by Alison Evans
In this wholesome fantasy from a non-binary author, we meet three queer friends: Iris, who is non-binary and grew from a seed in the ground; Babs, who is cursed by a witch and is sometimes invisible; and their new trans friend, who hasn’t found his name yet so he’s called “the boy.” This is a contemporary story where the three friends learn magic, navigate school, and discover the threats and promises in the realm beyond. It’s a story of friendship and coming together while becoming ourselves, one that wholly validates queerness in all its magical forms.
‘Mooncakes’ by Suzanne Walker, illustrated by Wendy Xu
by Suzanne Walker (button)
In this graphic novel full of love and magic, Nova is a Chinese-American witch who lives with her two grandmothers and is unexpectedly reunited with her childhood friend Tam, a non-binary Chinese-American werewolf. Each healing from their own pain, Nova and Tam rekindle their old friendship in a story overflowing with diverse characters, wholesome love stories, and witchy vibes. The artistic style adds an added layer to an already adorable story and the colors are aesthetically autumnal and cozy (though this graphic novel is perfect for any time of year).
‘Dreadnought’ by April Daniels
by April Daniels (button)
Danny spent much of her life trying to keep people from discovering she’s transgender. When the world’s greatest superhero, Dreadnought, falls from the sky and passes his powers to her, they transform her body into what she always hoped it would be. Though Danny wants nothing more than to be thrilled by her new self, the judgments and entitlements of her family, friends, and fellow superheroes threaten her happiness while a cyborg threatens the city. This is an exciting mix of queer identity realization and action-packed superhero story, one of a surprising adventure that reminds us that “genetics aren’t destiny.”
‘Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl’ by Andrea Lawlor
of a Mortal Girl” (button)
“Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl” is a unique mix of fantasy, magical realism, historical fiction, and queer literature. Paul is a shapeshifter, transforming his body at will, shifting between genders, identities, and sexualities throughout queer communities in the 1980s and ’90s. Addressing identity, labels, and love, this story is eloquent and unusual with nostalgic ’90s charm and infinite love for the people and places Paul encounters.
‘Felix Ever After’ by Kacen Callender
Felix Love is a 17-year-old Black and trans boy who has never been in love. Along with Ezra, his best friend, Felix is working towards his academic and romantic goals when an anonymous student begins sending him threatening messages after posting old pre-transition pictures and his deadname. Despite the series of complex challenges he faces, Felix embarks on a journey of self-discovery, one that is sometimes fraught with loneliness and at other times gentle and loving.
‘I Wish You All the Best’ by Mason Deaver
All the Best” (button)
Mason Deaver is a non-binary author who captures feelings of anxiety and the complexity of non-binary identity in a story that consciously evokes empathy from readers. “I Wish You All the Best” is about Ben, a non-binary high school senior who’s trying to keep a low profile in school. Ben doesn’t want to come out to anyone else after being thrown out of their parents’ house and forced to live with their estranged older sister. While struggling with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Ben meets Nathan — an outgoing classmate with whom he forms a gentle, genuine friendship.
‘All Kinds of Other’ by James Sie
of Other” (button)
Jack and Jules are both trying to avoid the spotlight. Jules is gay and not sure he wants to be out yet, so he decides to focus on making the basketball team. Jack is transgender and laying low, starting over after a rough experience at his last school. When Jack and Jules meet, the chemistry is undeniable. When secrets from Jack’s past bubble to the surface, the boys are forced to decide to continue hiding or follow their hearts together. This book is often heavy, addressing difficult issues of transphobia, slurs, and misgendering that impact the trans community. While James Sie doesn’t sugarcoat these issues, the plots of love and friendship give the book a heartwarming balance.
‘Meet Cute Diary’ by Emery Lee
In this adorable rom-com, Noah is a trans teen with a viral blog — the “Meet Cute Diary” — a collection of perfect trans love stories that has become a beacon of hope for his trans following. When the blog is exposed as fiction, Noah has no way to prove they’re real. His only hope is Drew, who has offered to fake-date Noah as a chance to save the blog. As Noah’s fake feelings for Drew become real, he discovers that dating in real life is far more complicated than the magical stories he wrote for the internet. This is a story about gender, but also the complexities of love and relationships.
‘Symptoms of Being Human’ by Jeff Garvin
Being Human” (button)
Riley is a genderfluid teen who’s still in the closet for many reasons — including a new school, a conservative town, and their father running for Congress. On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts a blog about what it’s like to be a genderfluid teen, which quickly goes viral. When an anonymous commenter discovers Riley’s identity and threatens to expose Riley’s secrets, Riley must choose between the blog and all the good that has come from it or to come out and risk everything. Riley’s voice is that of a brave, thoughtful, and imperfect teenager, creating a powerful novel about gender fluidity.
‘Gracefully Grayson’ by Ami Polonsky
In this emotional YA, Grayson is 12 years old and fully aware of the consequences of releasing her secret: That she’s a girl. Despite the fear of ridicule and rejection, Grayson garners strength from a friend and a teacher to try out for the leading female role in the school play, a chance to let the world see who she really is. This is a vital young adult novel, one that encourages readers to embrace their most authentic identity in the face of adversity.
‘None of the Above’ by I.W. Gregorio
the Above” (button)
“None of the Above” — written by a surgeon and YA novelist — is about a teen who discovers she’s intersex. Kristin Lattimer is a track star with a college scholarship, a super cute boyfriend, and a homecoming queen crown. When she decides to have a physical relationship with her boyfriend, she knows something is wrong and a doctor’s visit reveals that she’s intersex. Kristin outwardly looks like a girl but has male chromosomes, and when her diagnostic secret is leaked to the school, she’s left questioning her identity while dealing with added high school pressure. The difficult aspects of being intersex and realizing a new identity are handled with delicacy, creating a story where the emotions of the characters are easily felt by the readers.
‘George’ by Alex Gino
by Alex Gino (button)
From Alex Gino, a genderqueer author, this middle grade novel about a transgender girl has earned a place in the “Scholastic Gold” line, a title bestowed on bestselling and award-winning middle grade books. This is a sweet story about George, who knows she’s a girl in a boy’s body and fears she may have to keep this secret forever. When the class play is announced to be “Charlotte’s Web,” George wants to play Charlotte but isn’t allowed to try out for the “girl” roles. With third-person narration that immediately introduces George with she/her pronouns, it’s a simple yet powerful story with a message for readers of any age.
‘Zenobia July’ by Lisa Bunker
Zenobia is a young trans girl, newly living in Maine with her aunts and making friends at her new school. When someone posts hurtful memes to the school’s website, Zenobia is determined to solve the mystery with her impressive coding and hacking skills. While this story mainly centers on the mystery plot, it also explores gender with an array of transgender and genderqueer characters including Arli — who uses vo/ven/veir pronouns. Lisa Bunker incorporates a wide and inclusive lens of gender in a story that is also a fun mystery for readers.
‘The Pants Project’ by Cat Clarke
This middle grade read features a young boy, born as a girl, who knows he’s transgender and doesn’t know who to tell or how to tell them. In Liv’s school, the dress code requires girls to wear skirts and boys to wear pants. Liv sets out with Jacob, his new friend, to change the rules so he can wear pants. This novel may be aimed at young readers, but it’s an authentic representation of transgender youth that readers of any age would love.