Isis changing the sex of Iphis. Engraving by Bauer for a 1703 edition of Metamorphoses.

Transgender literature is a collective term used to designate the literary production that addresses, has been written by or portrays people of diverse gender identity.[1]


Representations in literature of transgender people have existed for millennia, with Ovid's Metamorphoses (written in the year 8 CE) containing some of the earliest accounts.[2] In the twentieth century, it is notable that the novel Orlando (1928), by Virginia Woolf, is considered one of the first transgender novels in English and whose plot follows a bisexual poet who changes gender from male to female and lives for hundreds of years.[3]

Beyond Orlando, the twentieth century saw the appearance of other fiction works with transgender characters that saw commercial success. Among them is Myra Breckinridge (1968), a satirical novel written by Gore Vidal that follows a trans woman hellbent on world domination and bringing down patriarchy. The book sold more than two million copies after publication, but was panned by critics.[4]

Many publication that foregrounded transgender individuals and their experience were memoirs. Perhaps the earliest example is Man into Woman (1933), by Lili Elbe. Other acclaimed memoirs written by trans people include Gender Outlaw (1994), by Kate Bornstein; Man Enough to be a Woman (1996), by Jayne County; and Redefining Realness (2014), by Janet Mock; among others.[5][6]

Transgender literature emerged as a distinct branch of LGBTQIA+ literature in the early twenty-first century, when the number of fiction works focused on trans experience saw a pronounced growth and diversification. This was accompanied by a greater academic and general interest in the area, as well as a process of differentiation from the rest of LGBTQIA+ literature. In recent decades, more books than ever have been written by transgender authors with an intended audience of transgender readers.[7]

Susan Stryker’s Transgender History: The Root’s of Today’s Revolution, revised edition published 2017, is a guide to the general history of American transgender culture. Both the original and revised editions are short books, but they provide a good overview of transgender history. Stryker covers topics from terminology to social movements. This book can be a good introduction to transgender culture and a guide for those unfamiliar with the LGBTQIA+ community and culture.[8]

In 2020, Dutch-born Lucas Rijneveld, who is non-binary, won the International Booker Prize with his novel The Discomfort of Evening.[9]

In Spanish

Camila Sosa Villada, author of Las malas (2019)

Among the best known works trans literature in Spanish language are: Hell Has No Limits, a novel by Chilean José Donoso published in 1966 whose protagonist is Manuela, a trans woman who lives with her daughter in a deteriorated town called El Olivo;[10] Cobra (1972), by Cuban writer Severo Sarduy, that uses an experimental narration to tell the story of a transvestite who wants to transform her body;[5] and Kiss of the Spider Woman (1976), a novel by Manuel Puig in which a young revolutionary called Valentín shares a cell with Molina, who is presented as a gay man but who during their conversations implies that his identity might be of a transgender woman, as its shown in the next passage:[11]

– Are all homosexuals like that?
– No, there are others that fall in love among themselves. Me and my friends are women. We don't like those little games, those are things homosexuals do. We are normal women that have sex with men.

In recent years, many books in Spanish with transgender protagonists have garnered commercial and critical success. In Argentina, one of the most famous examples is Las malas (2019), by Camila Sosa Villada, which won the prestigious Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize.[12] The novel, inspired by the youth of the author where she narrates the lives of a group of transgender prostitutes working in the city of Córdoba, became a critical and commercial sensation, with more than eight editions in Argentina alone and translations to many languages in the first year of publication.[13] From recent Ecuadorian literature, one example is Gabriel(a) (2019), by Raúl Vallejo Corral, a novel which won the Miguel Donoso Pareja Prize with the story of a transgender woman that falls in love with an executive and faces a discriminatory society in her attempt to become a journalist.[14]

In children's literature

According to a 2015 NPR story, hundreds of books featuring transgender characters have been published since 2000. Although a vast majority of them tend to be targeted to a teenage audience, these publications also consist of picture books for younger children.[15]

Transgender teenage girl Jazz Jennings co-authored a 2014 children's book called I Am Jazz about her experience discovering her identity.[16][17][18] Scholastic Books published Alex Gino's George in 2015, about a transgender girl, Melissa, who everyone else knows as George.[15] Unable to find books with transgender characters to explain her father's transition to her children, Australian author Jess Walton created the 2016 children's book Introducing Teddy with illustrator Dougal MacPherson to assist children in understanding gender fluidity.[19][20] Additional books listed by The Horn Book Magazine include:

In the past few years, transgender women have been finding publishers for their own picture books written for transgender kids. Some of these books include:

Further reading

Stryker, S. (2017). Transgender history (Second edition): The Roots of Today’s Revolution. Seal Press.

See also


  1. ^ Karlsberg, Michele (2018-06-21). "The Importance of Transgender Literature". San Francisco Bay Times. Archived from the original on 2018-06-21. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  2. ^ Haldeman, Peter (2018-10-24). "The Coming of Age of Transgender Literature". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2018-10-24. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  3. ^ Winterson, Jeanette (2018-09-03). "'Different sex. Same person': how Woolf's Orlando became a trans triumph". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2018-09-03. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  4. ^ Athitakis, Mark (2018-02-23). "Saluting 'Myra Breckinridge' on its 50th anniversary". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2018-02-23. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  5. ^ a b Jacques, Juliet (2015-10-21). "Top 10 transgender books". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2015-10-21. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  6. ^ Beemyn, Genny (2021). "Autobiographies". In Goldberg, Abbie E.; Beemyn, Genny (eds.). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Trans Studies. pp. 65–67. doi:10.4135/9781544393858.n21. ISBN 9781544393810. S2CID 264784608.
  7. ^ Rollmann, Hans (2015-09-27). "How Do You Define the Genre of Trans Literature?". PopMatters. Archived from the original on 2020-09-22. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  8. ^ Stryker, Susan (2017). Transgender History: The Roots of Today's Revolution (2nd ed.). Seal Press. ISBN 9781580056892.
  9. ^ Flood, Allison (2020-08-26). "Marieke Lucas Rijneveld wins International Booker for The Discomfort of Evening". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2020-08-26. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  10. ^ Martínez Díaz, María (2011). "El transexual en El lugar sin límites: monstruosidad, norma y castigo" (PDF). Revista Humanidades (in Spanish). 1: 1–15. ISSN 2215-3934. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  11. ^ Moralejo, Juan (2017-11-27). "El beso de la mujer araña: literatura, sexo y revolución en Puig". La Izquierda Diario (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2016-11-29. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  12. ^ "La argentina Camila Sosa Villada obtuvo el Premio Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz". Infobae (in Spanish). 2020-11-03. Archived from the original on 2020-11-02. Retrieved 2020-11-02.
  13. ^ Smink, Verónica (2020-09-04). "Es curioso que se peleen por quién recibe primero mi libro, cuando eternamente a las travestis nos han dicho que somos brutas, que no tenemos cultura". BBC (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2020-09-23. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  14. ^ García, Alexander (2019-07-01). "Raúl Vallejo aborda la otredad en 'Gabriel(a)'". El Comercio (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2019-07-02. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  15. ^ a b Ulaby, Neda (August 27, 2015). "George Wants You To Know: She's Really Melissa". NPR. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  16. ^ Rothaus, Steve (June 25, 2014). "Jazz Jennings, a 13-year-old trans girl, reads from her upcoming children's book (with video)". Miami Herald. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  17. ^ Graff, Amy (September 22, 2014). "Jazz Jenning's new children's book tells transgender story". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  18. ^ Herthel, Jessica (September 5, 2014). "Why I Wrote a Book About a Transgender Child". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  19. ^ Bausells, Marta (August 12, 2015). "The transgender teddy bear teaching children about friendship and identity". The Guardian. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  20. ^ Akersten, Matt (October 16, 2015). "Transgender Teddy will teach kids about gender fluidity". Archived from the original on October 17, 2015. Retrieved October 20, 2015 – via
  21. ^ Flynn, Kitty (June 29, 2016). "Out of the Box: Transgender lives". The Horn Book Magazine. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  22. ^ CBC Books (July 20, 2018). "From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea". CBC. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  23. ^ Gay Star News (October 18, 2017). "How this book is helping trans children discover their identity: Queer transsexual dyke Amy Heart reflects on the power of transgender literature". Gay Star News. Archived from the original on July 25, 2018. Retrieved July 24, 2018.