This piece originally appeared in the blog of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and appears here with their permission.
Written by Julia Gardiner, Senior Library Services Assistant, Clifton Branch Library
Violence against trans and gender-diverse people frequently overlaps with other axes of oppression prevalent in society, such as racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, and anti-sex worker sentiment and discrimination. Since 1999, when trans activist Gwendolyn Smith started the Trans Day of Remembrance in honor of Rita Hester killed in 1998, also known as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), takes place every November. It is a day on which those trans and gender-diverse people who have been victims of homicide are remembered. Started in the U.S., TDoR is now held in many parts of the world. (transrespect.org)
In honor of the 34 trans people, many of them Black trans women, who have been murdered in 2020, the Library’s LGBTQIA+ Planning Committee put together a list of resources that center on the trans experience.
Books About the Trans Experience
Author C. Riley Snorton identifies multiple intersections between Blackness and transness from the mid-19th century to present-day anti-Black and anti-trans legislation and violence. Drawing on a deep and varied archive of materials—early sexological texts, fugitive slave narratives, Afro-modernist literature, sensationalist journalism, Hollywood films—Snorton explores how slavery and the production of racialized gender provided the foundations for an understanding of gender as mutable.
In this 2019 guide, trans youth activists Owl and Fox have stepped in to answer everything that trans teens and their families need to know. With a focus on self-care, expression, and being proud of your unique identity, the book is packed full of invaluable advice from people who understand the realities and complexities of growing up trans.
This collection presents essential writings of Black poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, an influential voice in 20th-century literature. Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change.
Essays, commentary, comic art, and conversation from a diverse group of trans-spectrum people who live and believe in barrier-breaking lives, including Julia Serano, Andre and Luis Gutierrez-Mock, Amir Rabiyah, R. Lucas Platero Méndez, Joy Ladin, Quince Mountain, Kyle Lukoff, Ryka Aoki, and more.
Still a very important and unique work almost 15 years after being published, Hello Cruel World provides guidance for suicidal teenagers. Transgender author Kate Bornstein shares personal emotional struggles, discusses bullies, identity, and freedom, and provides 101 activities teens can use to cope and keep themselves alive.
A sort-of-true coming-of-age story about a young Asian trans girl, pathological liar, and kung fu expert who runs away from her parents’ abusive home in a rainy city. She finds her true family in a group of larger-than-life trans femmes. When one of their number is brutally murdered, the protagonist joins her sisters in forming a vigilante gang to fight back against the transphobes, violent johns, and cops that stalk the area. And when things go terribly wrong, she must find the truth within herself in order to stop the violence and discover what it really means to grow up and find your family.
In this 2018 autobiography, the author explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl throughout her life as she endures acts of cruelty and aggression in response to gender performance; for being too feminine as a boy, later not being feminine enough, and how as an adult she must make daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak.
A 2020 candidate for the Maryland Senate, and first transgender person to speak at a national convention (2016), the author filled this 2018 memoir with sections such as “This is the world we will help build,” “I’m transgender,” and “One Step Closer to Justice.”
This accessible guide provides transgender readers with insight about what steps to take when thinking about coming out, including how to answer questions that friends and family might ask and considerations involved in gender transition. For trans allies, it is a useful tool to understand how to be supportive of a loved one during their journey to express their gender, and to learn how to fight back against transgender discrimination at school and in their community.
A collection of personal essays that debunk many of the myths and misconceptions that people have about trans women, femininity, and the broader subjects of gender and sexism. This second edition includes what has changed in trans activism between the original release in 2007 and this 2016 edition, chronicles how the book came to be, and adds some clarifying edits.
Written by the grandmother of a trans child, this text identifies four important components to becoming an ally to the gender-expansive child: listening, imagination, empathy, and courage. Informed by experience as a British social worker, the book combines biography and parental advice with the important topics of safety, labels, bigotry, societal politics, and forgiveness.
In this humorous coming-of-age tale, Bond raises issues about LGBTQ adolescence, parenting trans/queer children, and bullying. Mx Justin Vivian Bond is a trans-genre artist living in New York City. As a performer both on and off Broadway, Mx Bond has received numerous accolades winning an Obie (2001), a Bessie (2004), a Tony nomination (2007), the Ethyl Eichelberger Award (2007), the Peter Reed Foundation Grant, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant for Artists.
Ranging from children and seniors to the historically disenfranchised and white members of the U.S. military, these documentaries focus on the experiences of trans people making lives in a world that is often antagonistic.
Released in 1990, this documentary about New York City’s ballroom scene in the 1980s. Made over seven years, it offers an intimate portrait of a culture offering sustenance in a world rampant with homophobia, transphobia, racism, AIDS, and poverty. There has been controversy over aspects of how the documentary was filmed, which viewers should keep in mind.
A chronicle of the extraordinary life of transgender activist and porn pioneer Buck Angel. He survived addiction, prostitution, and suicide, and now tells a moving story of a man’s search for acceptance from his family and the world. Following six years in his life, Mr. Angel is an inspirational story of an unlikely hero.
The majority of the victims of hate-violence homicides in the United States are transgender women. Transgender people of color are six times more likely to experience physical violence from the police. Shelly “Treasure” Hillard, a young African American transwoman, died violently in 2011. She is one of many, and this is her story.
When Jennifer Laude, a Filipina transwoman, is brutally murdered by a U.S. Marine, three women intimately invested in the case; an activist attorney (Virgie Suarez), a transgender journalist (Meredith Talusan) and Jennifer’s mother (Julita “Nanay” Laude). They galvanize a political uprising, pursuing justice and taking on hardened histories of U.S. imperialism.
This film festival favorite follows a group of African American gay and transgender youth in one of Washington, D.C.’s most violent neighborhoods. After being subjected to constant torment and assault, the group formed their own gang for camaraderie and protection.
In Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, the Vida/Sida Cacica Pageant brings together members of the Puerto Rican community to celebrate its transgender participants. I Am The Queen follows Bianca, Julissa and Jolizza as they prepare for the pageant under the guidance of Ginger Valdez, an experienced transgender from the neighborhood. These trans women share stories of their transition, their relatives’ varying reactions, and how they find support from within the community.
Filmmaker Sara Jordenö introduces viewers to some of Kiki culture’s most prominent personalities, going beyond the glamour of the balls to highlight the serious challenges facing queer black and Latino young people. Bringing together heartrending personal stories with incredible displays of creative expression.
Growing Up Coy follows a landmark transgender rights case in Colorado where a 6-year-old transgender girl named Coy has been banned from the girl’s bathroom at her school. Coy’s parents hire a lawyer to pursue a civil rights case of discrimination, and the family is thrust into the international media spotlight changing their lives forever. A timely topic as states across the US battle with this civil rights issue. The film also asks a universal question that every parent may face: How far would you go to fight for your child’s rights?
In Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story, former U.S. Navy SEAL Christopher Beck embarks on a new mission as Kristin Beck. Kristin’s journey in search of the American ideals that she protected has a whole new meaning as she lives her life truthfully as a transgender woman.
Go on an intimate and eye-opening journey inside a new frontier. Told from the perspective of parents, doctors and, most revealing of all, eight transgender kids themselves ranging from ages 9 to 19, FRONTLINE takes a powerful look at this new generation, exploring the medical possibilities, struggles, and choices transgender kids and their families face today.
A moving documentary on what it’s like to be transgender, to grow up in the wrong gender, and to eventually transition to a different sex. A documentary designed to record, share, and celebrate the personal stories of transgender women and men and their stories of struggle, of courage, and of triumph.
The Pearl is a cinematic and intimate profile of four transgender women who come out in their senior years. Set in logging towns in the Pacific Northwest, the visceral, observational story explores what it means to leave behind living as a man.
Members of the transgender community face many barriers when attempting to access health care. Medical providers are not required to learn about transgender people during their schooling, and are often ill-prepared to meet the medical needs of this socially and economically vulnerable population. This short training video is designed to give healthcare providers the opportunity to understand the needs of the transgender community. The film shows a diversity of transgender people speaking about their experiences accessing medical care with a focus on concrete advice and best practices toward improving the skills of healthcare providers.
Though transgender and gender-nonconforming people are increasingly depicted in popular media, most times the actors cast to play them are cis-gendered. The films in this list make up the majority of the exceptions, where trans actors portray trans characters.
Harmony Santana, who plays the teen trans daughter of the film’s protagonist, delivers a powerhouse performance that earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination, making her the first openly transgender actress to be nominated for an acting award in the US. The film addresses a variety of topics affecting the transgender community including transphobia, transmisogyny, sex work, and “pumping” (black market surgery).
This 2015 dramedy features Karren Karagulian, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, and Mya Taylor. Known for being shot entirely on iPhones, and being one of the few movies to feature trans actors playing trans characters
A classic coming of age romcom featuring Michelle Hendley as budding fashion designer and half of a long-time friend pair that may turn into a love triangle in small-town Kentucky; funny, tender, sex positive
A young teen struggling with gender identity and religion begins to use fantasy to escape life in the inner city and finds love and passion in the process. Features Pose’s Indya Moore & MJ Rodriguez
Explores modern “gay” life from the point of view of an artist and activist from ACT UP who lived through early years of HIV/AIDS. Cast includes Alan Cumming, Zachary Booth, Sarita Choudhury, Wilson Cruz, and Mx Justin Vivian Bond.
Features model-turned-actress Hari Nef as one of four leads in a femme-first gory revenge black comedy.