Breaking the Binary: Novels about Teens Who Transcend Binary Gender Identity

“I’m so glad you guys have books about gender-ish stuff!”  – One of my regular teen patrons, after telling me thought she might be gender fluid.


There are many different gender identities that fall in between or outside of the male-female binary. In the past couple years, I’ve had quite a few teens (and parents of teens) come to me looking for books about being transgender and/or gender non-conformity.  A few of these teens are trans, a few are gender fluid, and a few are simply questioning.


As allies, it’s important for us to be well-versed in the many ways gender identity is expressed, and to strive to provide books reflecting that diversity. Thankfully, this is becoming easier every day as more and more diverse books are being published. Since June is Pride Month, it’s a great time to examine your collection to make sure it contains materials that help raise awareness about teens who transcend binary gender identity. Here are just a few suggestion to get you started:

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Eighth grader Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy on the outside. When she meets Dunkin, a boy struggling with Bipolar Disorder, they slowly learn to show each other their true selves.


The Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Riley is a gender fluid teen who is struggling to fit into a world that does not understand non-binary gender. Further complicating things are Riley’s politician father, and the kids at school who can’t handle not knowing Riley’s biological sex. At a therapist’s suggestion, Riley starts writing a blog, but when it goes viral, Riley must decide whether or not to make their secret public.


When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

In this lyrical work of magical realism, Sam and Miel, both outsiders, have grown up loving and protecting each other. Miel knows that Sam wasn’t born a biological male, and Sam accepts the roses that grow from Miel’s wrists, and paints moons around town to calm her fears. When the Bonner sisters learn that Miel’s roses might be magical, they threaten to destroy Sam and Miel’s special bond.


Girl Mans Up by M.E. Girard

16 year old Pen is a girl who looks like a boy. She’s fine with it, but everyone else is uncomfortable–especially her Portuguese parents and her best friend who doesn’t always get it. Her parents want her to dress like a girly girl, but her friends want her to be one of the guys. Can’t she just be Pen?


Tomboy by Liz Prince

This graphic novel memoir is about Liz’s life as a tomboy. Growing up, she always preferred boy clothes and never had any interest in stereotypical  girly things like princesses, but she still identified as a girl. Liz explores all the different ways someone can “be a girl” challenging traditional notions of femininity.

I’m just scratching the surface with this short list. What are some of your favorite books about gender non-conforming teens? Please share in the comments!


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