Summer Reads 2022: Our Top 12 Gender-Inclusive Books for Queer Youth & Allies That Take Us Beyond the Binary

Summertime is a fantastic chance to uncover the many inspiring stories about gender diversity. Wherever you are in your understanding or self-exploration—we can all learn something new about the spectrum of identities that make up this vibrant community!

It can also be a great time to rest and reinvigorate your spirit if you’re in need of comfort while on your path to living authentically.

To help you on your way, we’ve compiled a top 12 list of books by various genderqueer and allied authors from Canada and around the world. We feature titles offered in English or French, and some that are available in both languages—all of which have been lovingly crafted to teach, inspire, and transport you on your journey!

What makes a book gender-inclusive?

Gender-inclusive books share informed and compassionate stories about trans, non-binary, Two-Spirit, intersex, agender, gender-fluid, and other gender-expansive real-life people or fictional characters. 

These books are anchored in the understanding that a person’s gender identity and expression are naturally limitless—in other words, how a person identifies or expresses themselves goes far beyond what we’ve been taught about gender roles and the binary construct of man or woman. 

Passionate gender-diverse and allied authors alike are working to uplift critical narratives and build awareness about gender issues affecting the community. They uphold gender-affirming practices, like being mindful of the language they use to describe people’s lived experiences and related concepts—and represent everyone in a respectful and accurate way.

Why does representation matter?

Media representation matters because it validates gender-diverse experiences by providing a relatable example. That example encourages folks to connect with others who are like them, build community, and empower themselves to live their truth. 

Basically, representation is that hopeful spark that fuels journeys—the whisper that says, “keep going, you’re not alone”. 

Whenever stories are shared with mainstream audiences, historically excluded communities become more visible and resistant to being overlooked. That’s because, as the general public learns more about gender-diverse folks, they realize they’re among the people they already know and love.

Why should I brush up on gender topics?

Reading in your spare time can help build social and emotional skills like empathy, introduce youth to the power of storytelling, and nurture a commitment to lifelong learning. 

If you’re spending your summer break at home, reading is also a great way to stimulate your mind and breathe new life into your daily routine. 

Learning about gender diversity is an act of personal and community empowerment that allows you to learn on your own terms and expose yourself to new ideas. It can even transport you to other worlds and nourish your heart in ways you never thought possible.

What if I struggle to read?

July is Disability Pride Month, and while some people are able to devour a book in one weekend, many of us find it difficult to sustain attention till the very last page—even if we start off plenty excited to dive in.

Thankfully, there are many ways to read and take in information, so don’t let the conventional way keep you from seeking out or enjoying the experience. Sometimes, all it takes is finding a way that works for you. 

Pro-tips: Audiobook streaming apps allow you to listen to narrated books (often by the author themselves!) so you can just lay back on your beach towel with your headphones on—or, while you do those dreaded chores. Or, use an e-reader to electronically customize your reading session. 

Does your mind drift, leaving you to read the same sentence over and over again? White or brown noise apps, or focus music apps that filter out high frequencies, can help take the edge off and keep your mind more engaged. 

Alternatively, why not pick up a book that is already in an accessible format? Like a collection of poetry, comic strips, or a quick reference guide? Or, channel your inner artist with an interactive colouring book filled with educational and inspiring thought prompts to spark your joy. What if we told you we’ve included all of these here—and more—to help you nourish every part of your amazing self? Because we did!

At It Gets Better Canada, we recognize that knowledge is power—and empowering yourself to fit your learning style is another fantastic step toward self-acceptance and living your truth.

So without further ado—let’s go find your next literary adventure!

hands holding up books
What's the T? book cover

What’s the T?: The Guide to All Things Trans and/or Nonbinary
by Juno Dawson
A reference guide
Ages: 14+

This is a very thorough and uplifting resource for all gender-diverse youth who want to learn more about their identity or expression. It’s also a must-read for anyone looking to learn and support queer youth of all ages, including allied parents and teachers. 

Many trans, non-binary, and other gender-diverse people of all ages call it a go-to resource for comprehensive and inclusive sex ed—one that many wish they’d had when they were figuring things out. 

Juno Dawson (she/her) is warm, funny, and uncensored as she educates and empowers youth to authentically navigate today’s world. With this one, you’ll get valuable unfiltered and practical advice about labels, identities, coming out, sex, relationships—and so much more. 

Check out Dawson’s equally useful offering called This Book Is Gay about the wider 2SLGBTQ+ experience.

Disintegrate/Dissociate book cover

Disintegrate/Dissociate
by Arielle Twist
A collection of poetry
Ages: 16+

This is the first book by Arielle Twist (she/her), an Indigenous artist, writer and sex educator. She shares her personal experiences and thought-provoking insights as a Cree, Two-Spirit, and trans woman in Canada.

Her writing style is short, accessible, and beautifully impactful as she explores a full range of emotions. She writes about intersectionality and the different parts of her identity while creating a hopeful future through a legacy of struggle and colonization. 

The main theme is grief, and overcoming anger to choose a path towards healing and softening one’s spirit.

This book won the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Emerging Writers (Writers’ Trust of Canada) and the Indigenous Voices Award. Check out Twist’s other published work with Xtra Magazine and Them.

The Best of Assigned Male book cover

The Best of Assigned Male
by Sophie Labelle
A comic strip collection
Ages: 13+

This is a print compilation of French-Canadian trans comic book author, cartoonist, and public speaker Sophie Labelle’s (she/her) wildly popular and inspiring webcomic—which also includes some never before seen stories! 

The Assigned Male series follows Stephie, a trans girl, and her group of queer friends as they juggle school, family, relationships, and experiences of being trans. It’s a well-balanced read—light and funny, yet unapologetically assertive—as it explores the journey of discovering and embracing your gender identity while building your chosen family.

Check out Labelle’s full collection exploring gender identity and personal empowerment—and many other spectacular offerings in both French and English at www.serioustransvibes.com.

Les genres fluides: De Jeanne d'Arc aux saintes trans book cover

Les genres fluides: De Jeanne d’Arc aux saintes trans
by Clovis Maillet
A reference guide
Ages: 16+

French historian and trans author Clovis Maillet (he/him) investigates cases of trans identities during the Medieval Era while exploring the religious, social, and biological implications of the times. 

The author challenges conventional thought that gender identities and expression are modern concepts and chronicles how they have indeed always existed. He shows us that the world has produced notable trans figures throughout history—even at a time when society was largely dominated by Christianity.

We recommend this French read for its educational insights and the validating experience of tracing trans history far beyond current issues.

Spectrums: Autistic Transgender People in Their Own Words book cover

Spectrums: Autistic Transgender People in Their Own Words
edited by Maxfield Sparrow
A collection of short stories
Ages: 17+

Each chapter in this book is a personal story told by an autistic trans person from around the world. 

It explores intersectional experiences of being trans and neurodivergent, the joys, and challenges. It also offers intimate insight on a variety of topics, including coming out, college and university life, access to healthcare, and navigating friendships and relationships.

Each contributor shares in their own unique style and voice—be it through poems, recalling specific memories, or sharing first-hand accounts of their journeys of gender self-discovery and affirmation. 

We recommend this one for anyone at the intersection of gender diversity and neurodivergence, and their allies, as it highlights the importance of being seen, heard, and validated for your entire human experience.

Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression book cover

Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression
by Iris Gottlieb
A graphic guide
Ages: 12-17

This important book provides a thoroughly researched and illustrated examination of how we currently understand the complex nature of gender.

It uses history, science, feminism, and the author’s own ongoing personal journey as a trans man who uses she/her pronouns (“for now”, as she writes) to illustrate various concepts ranging from the #MeToo movement to how the gender binary was imposed through colonization.

We recommend this book as an essential self-education tool—and a great way to start a dialogue with loved ones.

Wish Upon a Satellite book cover

Wish Upon a Satellite
by Sophie Labelle
A teen novel
Ages: 13-18

This is another exciting offering by trans Québecois author Sophie Labelle (she/her) (see The Best of Assigned Male above). Her latest release as part of the Ciel novel series chronicles the titular non-binary and neurodivergent character’s teenage adventures.

Ciel is thrown for a loop after an unexpected kiss with their best friend, Stephie, a trans girl. The story touches on gender identity, peer pressure, sexting, and how to navigate dating and relationships in the digital age. 

As mentioned earlier, be sure to check out the author’s amazing full body of work at www.serioustransvibes.com.

We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir book cover

We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir
by Samra Habib
An autobiography
Ages: All ages

Author Samra Habib (they/them) tells their story as an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, where they faced ongoing threats from Islamic extremists before their family fled to Canada as refugees. 

Habib’s early experiences shaped them into believing that revealing their true identity would threaten their safety. They chronicle their struggle to deconstruct this and many other internalized messages, and how their journey allowed them to discover their queer identity and align with their most authentic self. 

The story touches on bullying, racism, poverty, an arranged marriage, queer sexuality, and a life-affirming journey towards feminism and personal empowerment.

Check out Habib’s other important work, including Just Me and Allah, a photography project documenting the lives of 2SLGBTQ+ Muslims.

Le Deuxième Sexe, I book cover

Le Deuxième Sexe, I
by Simone de Beauvoire 
A philosophical essay
Ages: 17+

This classic feminist existential essay from 1949 is by French writer, intellectual, political activist, and social theorist, Simone de Beauvoir (she/her) (1908-1986). 

It examines the very nature of gender and challenges traditional gender roles during a time when they were particularly limiting and reinforced, by stating “You are not born a woman, you become it”. 

Her groundbreaking understanding of women’s oppression and of gender as a societal construct set an important foundation for modern feminism and our understanding of gender issues today.

We recommend this pioneering work all on its own, or as a complement to Le deuxième sexe, II for readers with stamina (it’s 654 pages!). Both are also available in English, as The Second Sex..

The Trans Self-Care Workbook: A Coloring Book and Journal for Trans and Non-Binary People book cover

The Trans Self-Care Workbook: A Coloring Book and Journal for Trans and Non-Binary People
by Theo Nicole Lorenz
An educational and interactive colouring book
Ages: All ages

This highly interactive and useful offering by trans author and illustrator Theo Nicole Lorenz (they/them) is a colouring book, journal, and workbook all in one that celebrates gender diversity, body-positivity and neutrality, and how to handle relationships with friends and family.

Using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness techniques, it also includes practical advice, journaling prompts, and opportunities for self-reflection. 

The author covers many important topics including gender dysphoria and euphoria, coming out, and finding community. The goal of this workbook is to empower readers to embody their truth, practice self-compassion, and improve their overall wellbeing.

We recommend this as a powerful addition to help support trans, non-binary, and other gender-diverse folks in their journeys. Check out Lorenz’s other work at www.theonicole.com

A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns book cover

A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns
by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson
An instructional comic book
Ages: 13-17

This light yet informative read follows Archie (they/them), a genderqueer artist who is tired of people misusing gender-neutral pronouns—and Tristan (he/him), their cisgender best friend who is looking for an easy way to explain gender-neutral pronouns at work. 

Together, Archie and Tristan explain what pronouns are, why they matter, and how to use them. They include practical tips on how to manage mistakes, and how gender-diverse folks can stay safe and well in a cisnormative world.

We recommend this great pocket guide style offering to help create a more gender-inclusive environment, wherever you go!

The Beginner’s Guide to Being a Trans Ally book cover

The Beginner’s Guide to Being a Trans Ally
by Christy Whittlesey
A quick reference guide
Ages: All ages

This book is written by an ally, for allies, with plenty of trans contributors throughout who offer personal insights and experiences to support the well-researched information provided by the author.

It offers practical information on topics such as how to be a true ally, recognizing cisgender privilege, reframing gendered language, using inclusive pronouns, the impact of intersectionality, and debunking performative social norms and gender roles. 

It centres itself on the importance of active listening, letting go of assumptions, and honouring trans folks’ individual needs and boundaries.

This is an important and straightforward read for any lifelong learner, ally, or ally-in-training!

For allied families of young kids and preteens

Today, many queer and allied families are choosing to begin a socially conscious dialogue at home with their children as young as toddlers. Creating an open and accepting home environment from an early age normalizes people of all gender identities and expressions and helps build a more inclusive tomorrow. 

Setting a safe space rooted in unconditional love also encourages children to approach life with curiosity and compassion for others. It also empowers them in their own journey of self-exploration and self-expression—whether or not they’re 2SLGBTQ+.

Here is a short list of books we recommend for children to help support your family’s learning and bring new life to storytime:

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju (Ages: 12+)

The Fabulous Zed Watson! by Basil Sylvester and Kevin Sylvester (Ages: 8-12)

La princesse qui voulait devenir générale by Sophie Bienvenu (Ages: 8-12)

I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings (Ages: 4-8)

Pride Puppy by Robin H. Stevenson (Ages: 4-7)

Calvin by JR and Vanessa Ford (Ages: 4-8)

Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love (Ages: 4-8)

My Awesome Brother: A children’s book about transgender acceptance by Lise Frances (Ages: 3-12)

The Bare Naked Book by Kathy Stinson (Ages: 3-6)

What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg (Ages: 3-7)

Riley Can’t Stop Crying (original French title, Anatole qui ne séchait jamais) by Stéphanie Boulay (Ages: 3-6)

kids reading children's books with rainbows

We truly hope this list serves you well all summer long, and that these incredible literary offerings empower you on your journey toward understanding and affirming your own gender identity and expression, and that of others.

Thanks for reading!

About the Author

photo of Marie-Eve Carrière

Marie-Eve Carrière (she/her) is an Ottawa-based Content Writer. She is an intern at It Gets Better Canada through Humber College’s Professional Writing and Communications graduate program, where she is a two-time Dean’s Honour List student. Recognizing the power of self-advocacy and empowered by ADHD and learning disability diagnoses during the pandemic, she set out to reinvent her 12-year government career into one that aligns with her authentic self. As an intersectional feminist, bisexual, and neurodivergent professional, she uses storytelling and community engagement as tools for social change. She is an outspoken advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ issues and uses her writing to help shape a more informed and compassionate world. Marie-Eve lives with her loving husband and their wonderfully inquisitive son.

Illustration of group moving forward
Artwork created for It Gets Better Canada by Gwen Hovey

It Gets Better Canada is committed to connecting Canada’s 2SLGBTQ+ youth to a better future

Help us uplift, empower, and connect today’s youth across Canada today!

Your donation is eligible for a charitable tax receipt

Support the Movement

Share:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
LinkedIn

GET UPDATES and stay connected with our stories - subscribe to our newsletter.

See more

Related Posts

Transgender Awareness Week Toolkit

Transgender Awareness Week Recognize the day on your platforms – click here to access our social media toolkit.  Together we must continue to uplift and support

Advancing Queer Voices banner

Advancing Queer Voices Panel

Today’s leading queer content creators are transforming TikTok and inspiring 2SLGBTQ+ youth! On October 18, 2022, It Gets Better Canada chatted with three impactful creators:

National Coming Out Day Toolkit

October 11th – National Coming Out Day Toolkit Recognize the day on your platforms – click here to access our Coming Out Day social media

Making it through the fire

Making it through the fire with Owen Unruh I learned very young that I didn’t fit into the mold that had been laid out for

It Gets Better Canada is an official member of the It Gets Better International Affiliate Network.

IT GETS BETTER and IT GETS BETTER PROJECT are trademarks of Savage Love, LLC, and licensed for use on this website by the It Gets Better Project

 

Registered Charity Number 750714297 RR0001

IGB-CSA Canada

White IGBC logo
This website was made possible with the support from It Gets Better Project, a non-profit organization working to uplift, empower, and connect 2SLGBTQ+ youth around the globe.