Late night urgent reader’s advisory
August 18, 2018 7:54 PM   Subscribe

I can’t think of any novels about trans people that aren’t about transitioning. I’d like to read a novel about a trans protagonist with a different central drama, even if it’s not very good. I’d settle for a novella or a short story. Are there any?
posted by blnkfrnk to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
In the Tensorate series (fantasy/speculative fiction) by J.Y. Yang (they/their), every character is effectively trans as every person begins life non-binary and then chooses and affirms their gender later in life (anywhere from ages 3 to 20+). The Black Tides of Heaven deal with one character's decision of when/if to transition; the rest don't.

Binnie's Nevada -- cannot speak to quality, just heard it recommended for this exact reason.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:08 PM on August 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would heavily recommend Andrea Lawlor's Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl, a strange picaresque, where a charachter kind of changes gender at will, as she broke stumbles through the midwest and San Fransciso, very funny, very sexy, and a completely radical way of figuring out what trans might mean. Sort of like Kathy Acker does Orlando.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:19 PM on August 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just finished Jacqueline Carey's Starless - the main character is nonbinary and genderfluid. Some time is spent over course of the novel dealing with his feelings about gender and presentation, but the majority of the book is about dealing with a world-threatening fantasy apocalypse.
posted by darchildre at 8:28 PM on August 18, 2018

When the Moon Was Ours is magical realism with trans main characters, but their transition is not the point. There is another character whose past transition comes up later...but generally, isn't the focus of the story.
posted by assenav at 9:13 PM on August 18, 2018

Yoon-Ha Lee's Raven Strategem and Revenant Gun have a prominent POV trans male character, who holds one of the main three plotlines in the first book. You should probably read Ninefox Gambit first (main characters not technically trans but... close).
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:34 PM on August 18, 2018

The Days of Anna Madrigal. It's the last novella in the Tales of The City.
posted by fshgrl at 9:42 PM on August 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

YA novel If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo has flashbacks, but the main action is Amanda at a new high school, senior year.
posted by readinghippo at 10:14 PM on August 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

What about a person whose gender is ambiguous? I really enjoyed Symptoms of Being Human. It deals with the protagonist having some family issues because of being genderfluid/noncomforming. I thought it was great.
posted by bookworm4125 at 10:44 PM on August 18, 2018

Courtney Milan's Hold Me is a pretty delightful romance with a trans woman protagonist. Apart from the romance plot, Maria is trying to figure out what to do with her life after finishing university. There's an excerpt at the link.
posted by escapepod at 10:57 PM on August 18, 2018

The craft series by max Gladstone has two novels about Kai, whose transitive is discussed only once in passing as an example to illustrate an unrelated practice.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 11:58 PM on August 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

little fish - casey plett
fierce femmes and notorious liars - kai cheng thom
small beauty - jia qing wilson-yang

they're all books which explore the experience of being trans rather than it being incidental but aren't really about transitioning. little fish and small beauty are realist type literary fiction and fierce femmes is more magic realism
posted by mosswinter at 1:04 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Meanwhile, Elsewhere – sci fi anthology, by trans & gq authors
posted by fritillary at 1:10 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't know if it counts as trans, and you may know them well anyway, but the people in Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness and Mary Gentle's Golden Witchbreed are gendered only at certain times of their lives (normal for their respective planets).
posted by huimangm at 5:43 AM on August 19, 2018

Seconding Casey Plett, who also has a fucking stellar collection of short stories.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:04 AM on August 19, 2018

The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion features trans characters and is written by a trans author, Margaret Killjoy (the best name).

It’s a novella and features elements of fantasy and horror but is firmly set in the here and now. Highly recommended.
posted by Werod at 6:23 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Emma Bull’s Bone Dance is a post apocalyptic sci-fi where the main character is nonbinary, though that word isn’t specifically used. It’s also a great novel. Be warned that there is a rape scene, but it is not graphic and imho the aftermath is handled very well and respectfully.
posted by brook horse at 6:30 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto, has a central character who is trans. She describes her transition briefly during the story, but the plot doesn’t focus on that particular aspect. It’s a fantastic book.
posted by sucre at 8:02 AM on August 19, 2018

I can't speak to the quality as I haven't read it, but The House on Half Moon Street is a murder mystery set in the nineteenth century with a trans detective.
posted by Ballad of Peckham Rye at 8:29 AM on August 19, 2018

"A Gift from the Culture" by Iain M. Banks has this.

In several other books of the Culture series are trans characters, as gender adjustment is an ordinary choice to members of the civilization.
posted by nickggully at 8:57 AM on August 19, 2018

I have written a very good novella about a trans guy in his early 40s who transitioned 20 years ago, and his biggest problem is that he has a crush on the guy down the hall. It is free at Smashwords. I live a super trans-adjacent life (my partner is a trans guy in his early 50s who transitioned more than 20 years ago, some of our kids are trans, man of our friends, etc), and I pride myself that I have written an extremely accurate book about one variety of trans guy. Also it is very funny, and also it is very moving. Yes, it is a romance novel but you will enjoy the characters and the writing is very good, if I do say so myself, which I am not afraid to do because it's true.

The blurb goes:

Kevin’s been single for almost two years, and he's more than ready to find someone new. The trouble is, he's hung up on his unattainable new neighbor, Tyler, who is a good fifteen years younger, six inches taller, and ten times more beautiful than Kevin. Even worse: so is Tyler's boyfriend Ryan.

Tyler has just been broken up with again, but that's OK. In no time at all another gym bunny will be along to fuck him, date him, and dump him. He's been on this train so many times he knows all the stops by heart. But then an energetic little guy with no fashion sense moves in down the hall, and Tyler’s train goes right off the rails.

Features: a cisgendered flamboyant fashion god with shampoo-commercial hair and an unironic affection for fairy figurines; a trans guy with an enormous and excessively affectionate family and a very troublesome cat; snarky yet supportive friends; flirtatious strangers; one too many ex-boyfriends; several cups of tea; a minor misunderstanding; a tragic misunderstanding; home-brewed beer; the novels of Jane Austen; and, in a surprise appearance late in the book, Ukrainian folk dancing.
posted by Orlop at 4:49 PM on August 19, 2018

I am not really looking for “that’s just how it is with this species/planet,” which didn’t occur to me at first— I guess I should clarify that I’m looking for regular humans, but nonhuman protagonists are still interesting and I’m still going to accept those answers and try them out!
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:58 PM on August 19, 2018

The protagonist of An Unkindness of Ghosts is gender-nonconforming.
posted by torridly at 7:27 AM on August 20, 2018

The second book in CB Lee's Sidekick Squad series, Not Your Villain, has a trans protagonist. Some stuff about being trans comes up a bit naturally, but it's not Bells' main story in the book.
posted by diffuse at 7:10 AM on August 21, 2018

Small Changes Over Long Period of Time was nominated for best novelette Hugo for this year's awards, and features a trans man protagonist. The story was written by a queer and trans author and is particularly good. . . Only caveat would be that it is definitely PG-13 if not R-rated. . The nudity and sex does add to the story, but it may not be one you'd want to share with, say, a 10-year-old.
posted by ElisaOS at 10:26 AM on August 22, 2018

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