Nonfiction November Week 3: Diversity & Nonfiction (Transgender)

Week 3: Becca from Lost in Books asks: What does diversity in nonfiction mean to you? Is it about the topic or theme of the book? Or is it the race or ethnicity of the author? Do you have any recommendations for diverse nonfiction books? Are there any topics that you’d like to see written about and/or read more widely?

I’ve mentioned before that, to me, reading diversely means being brought into the experiences of characters who are different from me. Sometimes this means temporarily setting aside my own lens in order to experience/understand another culture, race, gender, etc. (A Diverse Reader and Her Pilgrimage to Literary Wabi-Sabi).

Since the Transgender Day of Remembrance takes place this week (November 20), I thought I’d feature nonfiction titles that focus on the trans experience: I’ve included a few books I’ve already read (the Helen Boyd and Jennifer Finney Boylan memoirs), as well as books sitting on my TBR list thanks to recommendations by trans friends.

All titles below are #ownvoices (marked with an *) with the exception of Helen Boyd’s books.

Image Map


My Husband Betty and She’s Not the Man I Married by Helen Boyd
Helen Boyd is the wife of a transgender person, and I feel these two titles really need to be paired together. My Husband Betty is about being married to a crossdresser. She’s Not the Man I Married, published four years later, focuses on her spouse’s possible transition to living as a woman full-time, and how that would affect their relationship and other aspects of their life together. The books have been criticized for too narrowly portraying the trans community, but you know … they’re memoirs. They’re based on her own experiences, and she thoughtfully and deeply explores many of the emotions that spouses of trans people have.

* She’s Not There and Stuck in the Middle with You by Jennifer Finney Boylan
I just love Jennifer Finney Boylan. She’s intelligent, sensible, level-headed; and her compassion just shines through everything she writes. Her memoirs are encouraging and incredibly thought-provoking. She’s Not There is her memoir about coming out and transitioning when her children were young. Stuck in the Middle with You, published last year, explores the role and influence of gender roles in parenthood, from her own perspective (her boys now grown) as well as through the voices of a number of well-known writers she interviewed.

Essay Collections

* Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
This is a collection of essays that “confronts and challenges the very notion of belonging” and “seeks to eliminate the pressure to pass.” The author sets out to ask the question, “What lies are people forced to tell in order to gain acceptance as ‘real’.”

* Gender Outlaws by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman
This is a collection of “essays, commentary, comic art, and conversations from a diverse group of trans-spectrum people who live and believe in barrier-breaking lives.” The comic art aspect especially caught my attention, but I really love that this book makes a specific effort to include a variety of people on the trans spectrum.

* The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You by S. Bear Bergman
In this collection of essays on gender and identity, Bergman “shows us there are things you learn when you’re visibly different from those around you.” Goodreads user Nancy says in her review: “Some of these piece should be mandatory reading if you’re a human.” Sold!

For Deeper Reading

* Transgender History by Susan Stryker
This is a “chronological approach to the major movements, writings, and events of transgender history” in the United States, covering about a one-hundred year span. It puts the struggle of the trans community in context with what was going on in the world around them. It includes a reader’s guide, as well as a pretty significant list of suggested nonfiction for further reading.

* Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community edited by Laura Erickson-Schroth
This is a huge, comprehensive resource about the diverse experiences along the trans spectrum. Each chapter covers an important transgender issue (such as race, religion, employment, relationships, parenthood, and more). It incorporates hundreds of personal perspectives from the community, and since it was just released this year, the information is up-to-date.