Reading List for International Transgender Day of Visibility

March 31st is International Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual event dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide.

Here is our reading list of books about transgender or gender non-conforming characters.

 

The Boy & the Bindi by Vivek Shraya, illustrated by Rajni Perera (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016) Ages 4-8

In this beautiful children’s picture book by Vivek Shraya, author of the acclaimed God Loves Hair, a five-year-old boy becomes fascinated with his mother’s bindi, the red dot commonly worn by South Asian women to indicate the point at which creation begins, and wishes to have one of his own. Rather than chastise her son, she agrees to it, and teaches him about its cultural significance, allowing the boy to discover the magic of the bindi, which in turn gives him permission to be more fully himself.

Beautifully illustrated with hand paintings by Rajni Perera, The Boy & the Bindi is a joyful celebration of gender and cultural difference.

From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea by Kai Cheng Thom, illustrated by Kai Yun Ching and  Wai-Yant Li (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017) Ages 3-8

In the magical time between night and day, when both the sun and the moon are in the sky, a child is born in a little blue house on a hill. And Miu Lan is not just any child, but one who can change into any shape they can imagine. The only problem is they can’t decide what to be: a boy or a girl? A bird or a fish? A flower or a shooting star? At school, though, they must endure inquisitive looks and difficult questions from the other children, and have trouble finding friends who will accept them for who they are. But they find comfort in the loving arms of their mother, who always offers them the same loving refrain: “whatever you dream of / i believe you can be / from the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea.”

In this captivating, beautifully imagined picture book about gender, identity, and the acceptance of the differences between us, Miu Lan faces many questions about who they are and who they may be. But one thing’s for sure: no matter who this child becomes, their mother will love them just the same.

Jack (Not Jackie) by Erica Silverman, illustrated by  Holly Hatam (Little Bee Books, 2018) Ages 4-8

In this heartwarming picture book, a big sister realizes that her little sister, Jackie, doesn’t like dresses or fairies — she likes ties and bugs! Will she and her family be able to accept that Jackie identifies more as “Jack”?

Susan thinks her little sister Jackie has the best giggle! She can’t wait for Jackie to get older so they can do all sorts of things like play forest fairies and be explorers together. But as Jackie grows, she doesn’t want to play those games. She wants to play with mud and be a super bug! Jackie also doesn’t like dresses or her long hair, and she would rather be called Jack.

Readers will love this sweet story about change and acceptance. This book is published in partnership with GLAAD to accelerate LGBTQ inclusivity and acceptance.

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Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, written by Isabelle Malenfant (Groundwood Books, 2014) Ages 4-8

Morris is a little boy who loves using his imagination. He dreams about having space adventures, paints beautiful pictures and sings the loudest during circle time. But most of all, Morris loves his classroom’s dress-up centre — he loves wearing the tangerine dress. But the children in Morris’s class don’t understand. Dresses, they say, are for girls. And Morris certainly isn’t welcome in the spaceship some of his classmates are building. Astronauts, they say, don’t wear dresses. With warm, dreamy illustrations Isabelle Malenfant perfectly captures Morris’s vulnerability and the vibrancy of his imagination. This is a sweetly told story about the courage and creativity it takes to be different.

 

A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers (Algonquin Young Readers, 2018) Ages 10-13

Twelve-year-old Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher loves possibilities: the possibility that she’ll see whales on the beach near her new home, the possibility that the trans­gender boy she just met will become her new best friend, the possibility that the paparazzi hounding her celebrity father won’t force them to move again. Most of all, Nat dreams of the possibility that her faraway mother misses her, loves her, and is just waiting for Nat to find her.

But how can Nat find her mother if she doesn’t even know who she is? She abandoned Nat as a baby, and Nat’s dad refuses to talk about it. Nat knows she shouldn’t need a mom, but she still feels like something is missing, and her questions lead her on a journey of self-discovery that will change her life forever.

 

The Disappearing Boy by Sonia Tilson (Nimbus Publishing, 2017) Ages 9-13

Thirteen-year-old Neil MacLeod feels like a fish out of water. He’s trying to adjust to his new life in Ottawa, but it’s half a continent away from his friends in Vancouver, not to mention a whole lot colder. Even worse, his mother still refuses to tell him the truth about the father he’s never met.

After being forced into an awkward visit with a grandmother he never knew existed, Neil stumbles across a clue to his father’s identity, and begins to unravel the mystery with some help from his new friend Courtenay. When he uncovers a shocking secret, and the truth about his unconventional family sinks in, Neil decides to run away, all the way to his grandfather’s horse farm in New Brunswick.

A sensitive and moving story about growing up, The Disappearing Boy teaches us that every family is different, and love is never as simple as it seems on the surface.

 

Rez Runaway by Melanie Florence (Lorimer, 2016) Ages 13 and up

Raised on a reserve in northern Ontario, 17-year-old Joe Littlechief tries to be like the other guys. But Joe knows he’s different — he’s more interested in guys than in any of the girls he knows. One night Joe makes a drunken pass at his best friend Benjy and, by the next morning, everyone on the rez is talking about Joe. His mother, a devout Christian, is horrified, and the kids who are supposed to be his friends make it clear there’s no place for him in their circle, or even on the rez. Joe thinks about killing himself, but instead runs away to the city. Alone and penniless on the streets of Toronto, Joe comes to identify with the Aboriginal idea of having two spirits, or combining both feminine and masculine identities in one person. He also begins to understand more about how his parents have been affected by their own experiences as children in residential schools — something never discussed on the rez. And he realizes he has to come to terms with his two-spiritedness and find people who accept him for who he is.

What Makes You Beautiful by Bridget Liang (Lorimer, 2019) Ages 13 and up

Logan Osborne knows he likes boys, but has not come out to his family or at school, and no one knows that he likes to sometimes wear girls’ clothes and makeup. When he starts at a school for the arts he finds a wider range of gender and orientation being accepted. Logan is attracted to Kyle, who has gay dads. But Kyle is straight. Logan finds he doesn’t like the way gay boys treat him, and a disturbing hookup with a boy who is fetishistic about Logan’s half-Asian background makes Logan even more confused about what he wants and who he is.

Encouraged and supported by his friends at school, Logan experiments with nail polish and more feminine clothes in public. Logan begins questioning his gender and decides to use ‘they’ pronouns while trying to figure things out. Logan meets a classmate’s chosen mother, who is a transgender Chinese woman, and begins to come to terms with their gender identity. Realizing they are not a gay boy, but a transgender girl, Logan asks for people to call them Veronica. As a girl, does Veronica stand a chance with Kyle?

 

Jazz Jennings: Voice for LGBTQ Youth by Ellen Rodger (Crabtree Publishing, 2017) Ages 9-12

Jazz Jennings is one of the first young people to speak publicly about her experiences as a transgender individual. Overcoming incredible struggles as a young transgender person, Jazz now uses her platform to make a difference in the LGBTQ community. A vocal advocate for equal rights, she co-founded the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation — all before the age of 15.