It’s the Transgender Day of Remembrance, coming at the end of Transgender Awareness Week. This is a day when we remember the ones we’ve lost, because of the entire queer community, trans people – especially trans women of colour – suffer the most violence. And the rest of us have to remember that, and work to fix it.
Throughout history, humans have told stories to remember the things that are the most important, and to teach others. We need to remember our trans siblings, and some of us need to learn that they exist and matter just as much as the rest of us. So it only feels appropriate to share some incredible reads that feature trans characters.
(I don’t know what it says that I had a far easier time finding books with genderqueer or nonbinary main characters, than characters with explicitly transgender leads.)
I haven’t checked whether these are #ownvoices, because when it comes to gender identity and sexuality, I don’t think it’s okay to demand authors out themselves to justify telling their stories. Take that as you will.The Name of All Things (A Chorus of Dragons, #2) by Jenn Lyons
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Genderqueer MC, secondary trans characters, minor gay character
You can have everything you want if you sacrifice everything you believe.
Kihrin D'Mon is a wanted man.
Since he destroyed the Stone of Shackles and set demons free across Quur, he has been on the run from the wrath of an entire empire. His attempt to escape brings him into the path of Janel Theranon, a mysterious Joratese woman who claims to know Kihrin.
Janel's plea for help pits Kihrin against all manner of dangers: a secret rebellion, a dragon capable of destroying an entire city, and Kihrin's old enemy, the wizard Relos Var.
Janel believes that Relos Var possesses one of the most powerful artifacts in the world―the Cornerstone called the Name of All Things. And if Janel is right, then there may be nothing in the world that can stop Relos Var from getting what he wants.
And what he wants is Kihrin D'Mon.
Jenn Lyons continues the Chorus of Dragons series with The Name of All Things, the epic sequel to The Ruin of Kings.
The Name of All Things is the second book of the Chorus of Dragons series, and focuses on Janel. Janel’s culture recognises biological sex, but only when it comes to actual sex – in the horse-mad land of Jorat, gender-wise, you can be a stallion, a mare, or a gelding (a catch-all term for genderqueer individuals). And although Janel is biologically female and uses female pronouns – she’s a stallion, what the rest of the empire would consider a man.
I’m not 100% sure she’d consider herself trans if someone explained modern Western labels to her – she has the option to change her sex and isn’t interested, but then, plenty of trans people aren’t interested in gender reassignment surgery either; wanting to change your body isn’t a prerequisite of being trans. But she is someone who has to fight to have her gender identity recognised and is misgendered more than once. Honestly, the Joratese gender roles, and how they interact with personal responsibility and honour, is absolutely fascinating, and would make for an epic read even if this book didn’t feature demons, dragons, and a quest to save the universe.
Just…it’s the bad guy on the quest.
You kind of have to read it to get it, and I really recommend you read the first book first!Full Fathom Five (Craft Sequence, #3) by Max Gladstone
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Fantasy
Representation: Trans WoC MC
The third novel set in the addictive and compelling fantasy world of Three Parts Dead.
On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren’t conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods—perfect vehicles for Craftsmen and Craftswomen operating in the divinely controlled Old World. When Kai sees one of her creations dying and tries to save her, she’s grievously injured—then sidelined from the business entirely, her near-suicidal rescue attempt offered up as proof of her instability. But when Kai gets tired of hearing her boss, her coworkers, and her ex-boyfriend call her crazy, and starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear—which will crush her, if Kai can’t stop it first.
Full Fathom Five often comes up on transgender fantasy recs, and for good reason. It’s briefly mentioned that the main character used to have a male body, but this is not a story about being trans: it’s about gods and law-magic, about history and culture and the cruelty of how we deal with people who have no other choice than a life of crime. Full Fathom Five is part of a larger series, in a world where gods trade souls like banks and humans have turned law into magic, but the novel stands alone perfectly, with a rich, Polynesian-inspired setting and layers and layers of plot and magic.
You should read this, and then you should read everything else by Gladstone, especially the rest of the Craft series!The Bone Palace (The Necromancer Chronicles, #2) by Amanda Downum
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bi/Pansexual trans MC, bi/pansexual secondary characters, polyamory, minor trans/nonbinary character
Death is no stranger in the city of Erisén -- but some deaths attract more attention than others.
When a prostitute dies carrying a royal signet, Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and agent of the Crown, is called to investigate. Her search leads to desecrated tombs below the palace, and the lightless vaults of the vampiric vrykoloi deep beneath the city. But worse things than vampires are plotting in Erisén. . .
As a sorcerous plague sweeps the city and demons stalk the streets, Isyllt must decide who she's prepared to betray, before the city built on bones falls into blood and fire.
Like all the other books on this list so far, The Bone Palace isn’t the first book in its series – but it absolutely stands alone; you don’t need to read the prequel or sequel. The PoV switches between a necromancer and the trans lover of the prince, and the latter especially is just an amazing character. I don’t want to say too much because it’ll spoil the surprise, but if you like court intrigue, vampires in the sewers, and assassins – not to mention brilliant queer characters who get the happiest of endings – I really recommend picking this one up!Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Fantasy
Representation: Black trans MC who is selectively verbal, cast of colour
A thought-provoking and haunting novel about a creature that escapes from an artist's canvas, whose talent is sniffing out monsters in a world that claims they don't exist anymore. Perfect for fans of
There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother's paintings and a drop of Jam's blood, she must reconsider what she's been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster--and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption's house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also uncover the truth, and the answer to the question How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?
In their riveting and timely young adult debut, acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi asks difficult questions about what choices you can make when the society around you is in denial.
Pet has made it onto my queer rec lists before, but you can pry it from my cold dead fingers – I’ll always recommend it! This is a stunningly gorgeous book, with beautiful writing that deftly examines the reality of utopia – not in the sense that it’s secretly a dystopia underneath, but in really thinking about what it will/would take to sustain a near-perfect society. Don’t be fooled by the fact that this book is marketed as YA – it’s a lyrical, beautiful book that has plenty to say to adults too.No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Nonbinary and binary trans leads
Destiny sees what others don't.
A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer sister to a cruel dragon. A clever hedge-witch gathering knowledge in a hostile land. A son seeking vengeance for his father's death. A daughter claiming the legacy denied her. A princess laboring under an unbreakable curse. A young resistance fighter questioning everything he's ever known. A little girl willing to battle a dragon for the sake of a wish. These heroes and heroines emerge from adversity into triumph, recognizing they can be more than they ever imagined: chosen ones of destiny.
From the author of the Earthside series and the Rewoven Tales novels, No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven fantasy stories in which transgender and nonbinary characters subvert and fulfill gendered prophecies. These prophecies recognize and acknowledge each character's gender, even when others do not.
Note: No trans or nonbinary characters were killed in the making of this book. Trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides are provided for each story.
Tolkien allegedly wrote Eowyn’s arc because he was annoyed that Shakespeare’s ‘no man of woman born’ referred to a caesarean birth; well, Mardoll saw the potential for ‘no man of woman born’ to be trans and nonbinary. A collection of stories that belongs in the library of any queer fantasy fan!
That’s it from me today. What are your favourite trans fantasy stories?