Every year, staggering numbers are entered into the statistics documenting the murder of trans people across the globe. Transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, face some of the world’s most vicious violence compared to other marginalized groups. Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, often abbreviated to TDOR, a day we use to commemorate the lives lost to and endangered by bigotry. This day is the culmination of Transgender Awareness Week, a week that seeks to promote education on issues facing the trans community, particularly issues of violence and discrimination.
Image via Webster Journal
TDOR is a solemn holiday, one that is not so much celebrated as it is commemorated. Of course it is a time to show your pride and reclaim the labels which have been thrust onto you by unkind spectators, but it is predominantly a time to step back and shine a light on those who have been lost. Here at Bookstr, we would like to extend our condolences to the families (both blood and chosen) and friends of the lives lost this past year, which, in 2018, currently amount to 22 documented cases (as opposed to cases which may be obscured by faulty reporting, given that many victims are misgendered on their legal records) so far in the United States alone. A full list of those lost, courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign, can be found at the end of this article.
As TDOR is also a time to remember our trans ancestors who paved the way before us, and since our job at Bookstr is, of course, to provide you with premium literary content, I suppose now would be an excellent time to reflect on the contributions that trans people have made to literature.
Here is a selection of works written by trans authors for your enjoyment and hopefully, education.
Little Fish, by Casey Plett
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In this extraordinary debut novel by the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love, Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather—a devout Mennonite farmer—might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, having other problems at hand, but as she and her friends struggle to cope with the challenges of their increasingly volatile lives—from alcoholism, to sex work, to suicide—Wendy is drawn to the lost pieces of her grandfather’s life, becoming determined to unravel the mystery of his truth. Alternately warm-hearted and dark-spirited, desperate and mirthful, Little Fish explores the winter of discontent in the life of one transgender woman as her past and future become irrevocably entwined.
Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity, by C. Riley Snorton
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The story of Christine Jorgensen, America’s first prominent transsexual, famously narrated trans embodiment in the postwar era. Her celebrity, however, has obscured other mid-century trans narratives—ones lived by African Americans such as Lucy Hicks Anderson and James McHarris. Their erasure from trans history masks the profound ways race has figured prominently in the construction and representation of transgender subjects. In Black on Both Sides, C. Riley Snorton identifies multiple intersections between blackness and transness from the mid-nineteenth 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 attends to how slavery and the production of racialized gender provided the foundations for an understanding of gender as mutable. In tracing the twinned genealogies of blackness and transness, Snorton follows multiple trajectories, from the medical experiments conducted on enslaved black women by J. Marion Sims, the “father of American gynecology,” to the negation of blackness that makes transnormativity possible.
Revealing instances of personal sovereignty among blacks living in the antebellum North that were mapped in terms of “cross dressing” and canonical black literary works that express black men’s access to the “female within,” Black on Both Sides concludes with a reading of the fate of Phillip DeVine, who was murdered alongside Brandon Teena in 1993, a fact omitted from the film Boys Don’t Cry out of narrative convenience. Reconstructing these theoretical and historical trajectories furthers our imaginative capacities to conceive more livable black and trans worlds.
Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man, by Thomas Page McBee
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In this groundbreaking new book, the author, a trans man, trains to fight in a charity match at Madison Square Garden while struggling to untangle the vexed relationship between masculinity and violence. Through his experience boxing—learning to get hit, and to hit back; wrestling with the camaraderie of the gym; confronting the betrayals and strength of his own body—McBee examines the weight of male violence, the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes, and the limitations of conventional masculinity. A wide-ranging exploration of gender in our society, Amateur is ultimately a story of hope, as McBee traces a new way forward, a new kind of masculinity, inside the ring and outside of it.
In this graceful, stunning, and uncompromising exploration of living, fighting, and healing, we gain insight into the stereotypes and shifting realities of masculinity today through the eyes of a new man.
If I Was Your Girl, by Meredith Russo
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Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.
But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.
Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?
I’ve Got A Time Bomb, by Sybil Lamb
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The year is 286. The city of Morteville has been flooded by a devastating hurricane but Sybil D’Lye has never been happier. She’s making out with girls, squatting an abandoned mansion, and looting every pharmacy within wading distance. Everything’s going swimmingly until the night Sybil is beaten with a pipe and left for dead. Though doctors are able to reconstruct her skull, her mind is altogether another matter. Thus begins her incredible and unbelievable journey, looking for love among the loners, losers, and leave-behinds in the forgotten corners of Amerika. Based on a true* story. *Guaranteed minimum 88% true content by weight!
She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, by Jennifer Finney Boylan
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When she changed genders, she changed the world. It was the groundbreaking publication of She’s Not There in 2003 that jump-started the transgender revolution. By turns hilarious and deeply moving, Boylan – a cast member on I Am Cait; an advisor to the television series Transparent, and a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times — explores the territory that lies between men and women, examines changing friendships, and rejoices in the redeeming power of love and family.
She’s Not There was one of the first works to present trans experience from the perspective of a literary novelist, opening a door to new understanding of love, sex, gender, and identity. Boylan inspired readers to ask the same questions she asked herself: What is it that makes us—ourselves? What does it mean to be a man, or a woman? How much could my husband, or wife, change—and still be recognizable as the one I love?
Boylan’s humorous, wise voice helped make She’s Not There the first bestselling work by a transgender American–and transformed Boylan into a national spokeswoman for LGBTQ people, their families, and the people that love them. This updated and revised edition also includes a new epilogue from Jenny’s wife Grace; it also contains the original afterward by her friend, novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo.
“Love will prevail,” said Boylan’s conservative mother, as she learned about her daughter’s identity. She’s Not There is the story that helped bring about a world in which that change seems almost possible.
Histories of the Transgender Child, by Julian Gill-Peterson
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With transgender rights front and center in American politics, media, and culture, the pervasive myth still exists that today’s transgender children are a brand new generation—pioneers in a field of new obstacles and hurdles. Histories of the Transgender Child shatters this myth, uncovering a previously unknown twentieth-century history when transgender children not only existed but preexisted the term transgender and its predecessors, playing a central role in the medicalization of trans people, and all sex and gender.
Beginning with the early 1900s when children with “ambiguous” sex first sought medical attention, to the 1930s when transgender people began to seek out doctors involved in altering children’s sex, to the invention of the category gender, and finally the 1960s and ’70s when, as the field institutionalized, transgender children began to take hormones, change their names, and even access gender confirmation, Julian Gill-Peterson reconstructs the medicalization and racialization of children’s bodies. Throughout, they foreground the racial history of medicine that excludes black and trans of color children through the concept of gender’s plasticity, placing race at the center of their analysis and at the center of transgender studies.
Until now, little has been known about early transgender history and life and its relevance to children. Using a wealth of archival research from hospitals and clinics, including incredible personal letters from children to doctors, as well as scientific and medical literature, this book reaches back to the first half of the twentieth century—a time when the category transgender was not available but surely existed, in the lives of children and parents.
Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution, by Susan Stryker
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Covering American transgender history from the mid-twentieth century to today, Transgender History takes a chronological approach to the subject of transgender history, with each chapter covering major movements, writings, and events. Chapters cover the transsexual and transvestite communities in the years following World War II; trans radicalism and social change, which spanned from 1966 with the publication of The Transsexual Phenomenon, and lasted through the early 1970s; the mid-’70s to 1990-the era of identity politics and the changes witnessed in trans circles through these years; and the gender issues witnessed through the ’90s and ’00s.
Transgender History includes informative sidebars highlighting quotes from major texts and speeches in transgender history and brief biographies of key players, plus excerpts from transgender memoirs and discussion of treatments of transgenderism in popular culture.
Confessions of the Fox: A Novel, Jordy Rosenberg
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Jack Sheppard and Edgeworth Bess were the most notorious thieves, jailbreakers, and lovers of eighteenth-century London. Yet no one knows the true story; their confessions have never been found.
Until now. Reeling from heartbreak, a scholar named Dr. Voth discovers a long-lost manuscript—a gender-defying exposé of Jack and Bess’s adventures. Is Confessions of the Fox an authentic autobiography or a hoax? As Dr. Voth is drawn deeper into Jack and Bess’s tale of underworld resistance and gender transformation, it becomes clear that their fates are intertwined—and only a miracle will save them all.
Writing with the narrative mastery of Sarah Waters and the playful imagination of Nabokov, Jordy Rosenberg is an audacious storyteller of extraordinary talent.
Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility (Critical Anthologies in Art and Culture), edited by Reina Gossett, Eric A. Stanley, and Johanna Burton
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The increasing representation of trans identity throughout art and popular culture in recent years has been nothing if not paradoxical. Trans visibility is touted as a sign of a liberal society, but it has coincided with a political moment marked both by heightened violence against trans people (especially trans women of color) and by the suppression of trans rights under civil law. Trap Door grapples with these contradictions.
The essays, conversations, and dossiers gathered here delve into themes as wide-ranging yet interconnected as beauty, performativity, activism, and police brutality. Collectively, they attest to how trans people are frequently offered “doors”―entrances to visibility and recognition―that are actually “traps,” accommodating trans bodies and communities only insofar as they cooperate with dominant norms. The volume speculates about a third term, perhaps uniquely suited for our time: the trapdoor, neither entrance nor exit, but a secret passageway leading elsewhere. Trap Door begins a conversation that extends through and beyond trans culture, showing how these issues have relevance for anyone invested in the ethics of visual culture.
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- Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, 42, was found dead in her home on January 5 in North Adams, Massachusetts. Steele-Knudslien organized and produced the Miss Trans New England and other pageants, and was loved and known by many in both the local and national trans community.
- Viccky Gutierrez, 33, a transgender woman from Honduras was stabbed and had her body set ablaze inside her Los Angeles home on January 10. Friends described her as “a young trans Latina immigrant woman whose warm smile would give anyone comfort.”
- Celine Walker, 36, was fatally shot in a hotel room on on February 4 in Jacksonville, Florida. It was not known for several days that Walker was trans because local police claimed to not refer to victims as transgender. Investigators are still looking for a suspect in her death.
- Tonya Harvey, 35, was fatally shot on February 6 in Buffalo, New York. A friend of Harvey’s expressed her condolences on Facebook, writing: “I knew her since I started transitioning, she was so sweet and loving.” Police have confirmed they are looking into the incident as a possible hate crime.
- Zakaria Fry, 28, went missing in New Mexico in mid-January. Her body was later found 40 miles outside of Albuquerque on February 19. Albuquerque Police arrested and charged Charles Spiess with two open counts of murder. Fry’s loved ones shared condolences on Facebook with one friend saying: “You were my older sister. You took care of me and loved me like family. I’ll forever love you. I’m sorry.”
- Phylicia Mitchell, 45, was shot and killed outside her home on February 23 in Cleveland, Ohio. On April 10, Cleveland.com reported that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Gary Sanders. Sanders was charged with aggravated murder in Mitchell’s death. Her longtime partner, Shane Mitchell, described her as “funny and kind” and that “everyone loved her.”
- Amia Tyrae Berryman, 28, was fatally shot at a local motel on March 26 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Few details are known about the crime, and police report they have no suspects or persons of interest at this time.
- Sasha Wall, 29, a transgender woman of color, was fatally shot on April 1 in Chesterfield County, South Carolina. The FBI is assisting with local investigators, and are analyzing phone records and collecting DNA evidence. Donovan Dunlap, a friend of Wall’s, expressed condolences on Facebook, writing, “I will miss you my beautiful sister. I cannot sleep, I hope they find who did this.”
- Karla Patricia Flores-Pavón, 26, was found choked to death in her apartment in Dallas, Texas, on May 9. Dallas Police arrested 24-year-old Jimmy Eugene Johnson III on May 17, charging him with Flores-Pavón’s murder. “It hurts a lot, you were a good-hearted person. Sister, fly high. We will remember you with love. Your beautiful smile will stay with us,” a friend posted on her Facebook page.
- Nino Fortson, 36, was fatally shot in Atlanta on May 13. City police were nearby executing a traffic stop and rushed to the scene, but Forston later died at the hospital, said transgender advocate Monica Roberts.
- Gigi Pierce, 28, was fatally shot on May 21 in Portland, Oregon. When officers arrived they tried to administer aid, but Pierce died at the scene. Police investigators say they believe that Pierce was shot during an altercation with Sophia Adler, who has been charged with Pierce’s murder, according to KGW-TV.
- Antash’a English, 38, was fatally injured in drive-by shooting in Jacksonville, Florida on June 1. On her Facebook page, English described herself as an “independent” transgender woman who “thrives on being the best person” she can be. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has declared an active murder investigation and asks anyone with information to contact their office.
- Diamond Stephens, 39, was found shot to death on June 18 in Meridian, Mississippi. In interviews with a local television station, family members said that Stephens had an “incredible personality.” As is too often the case in the reporting of anti-transgender violence, Stephens was originally misgendered in local police statements and media reports, which delayed our awareness of this deadly incident.
- Cathalina Christina James, 24, was fatally shot in Jacksonville, Florida, on June 24. In an interview with First Coast News, James’ mother described her daughter as having a “big and bold” personality, saying she loved to dance and travel. James is the third transgender woman murdered and the fourth shot in the Florida city this year.
- Keisha Wells, 54, was found dead with a gunshot wound to her abdomen in the parking lot of an apartment complex on June 24, according to Cleveland.com. A longtime friend of Wells described her as “the nicest person ever” but also a “tough cookie.”
- Sasha Garden, 27, was found dead with signs of trauma in Orlando, Florida, early July 19. Originally from Wisconsin, Garden is remembered by loved ones as a “firecracker” who “didn’t hold anything back.” Friend and local transgender activist Mulan Montrese Williams recalls that Garden was a talented and aspiring hair stylist and had been saving money to fund her transition.
- Vontashia Bell, 18, was fatally shot on August 30 in a neighborhood of Shreveport, Lousiana. The Louisiana Trans Advocates organization released a statement condemning the shooting and calling on the city’s leaders to help curb the violence against the trans community.
- Dejanay Stanton, 24, was found with a fatal gunshot wound to the head on August 30, according to media reports. After an autopsy, her death was ruled a homicide and the investigation is ongoing. “Every time you saw her she had a smile on her face,” said LaSaia Wade, executive director of Brave Space Alliance. “She was just trying to live her best life as a young girl.”
- Shantee Tucker, 30, was found with a fatal gunshot wound in the back in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 5. Friends and family honored her life and mourned her death on Facebook, recalling that she was like “another big sister” to them and remembering her “beautiful spirit and fun aura.”
- Londonn Moore, 20, was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in a remote area of North Port, Florida on Sept. 8. Moore is remembered by her family and other loved ones, who described her as “hilarious” and someone who “made everyone laugh all the time.”
- Nikki Enriquez, 28, was one of four women killed in Sept. in what local officials describe as a “serial killing spree” allegedly carried out by an intel supervisor for the U.S. Border Patrol. Enriquez, who also went by the name Janelle, is survived by numerous loved ones that were “sad and in disbelief” at her death. Cousin Veronica Castillo described her as a “very outgoing” person who loved to party and was beloved by the local LGBTQ community.
- Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier, 31, was fatally stabbed and her body left behind an abandoned building by a man with whom she was arguing on October 3 in Chicago. As reported in the Sun Times, Chicago police declared Frazier’s death a homicide after appearing on the scene. She is remembered by friends and loved ones, who said that she will “always be missed.”
Synopses via Amazon.