Question: Genderqueer Literature

John Moore asks…

Could people recommend any novels featuring genderqueer characters or themes? Thank you :D

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on August 6th, 2012 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 24 comments »

24 Responses to “Question: Genderqueer Literature”

  1. tigr

    Many of these I found through the Genderfork book recommendations (and there might be more on the Genderfork collection at Amazon), others I first encountered elsewhere:

    (links go to betterworldbooks, which I think is more worthy of support than the default of Amazon.)

    And finally something I’m currently ploughing through: Robin Hobb’s books — apparently you MUST read them all in order (so I was told very vehemently by a good friend of mine), so start with ‘Assassin’s Apprentice’, work your way through The Farseers trilogy, then the Liveship Traders, to finally arrive at the Tawny Man trilogy (which I think is the one with the genderqueer in) :) currently at ‘Assassin’s Quest’ (Farseers 3), and enjoying it very much.

    All of these I absolutely love! Maybe I’ll be able to think of more later:)


    tigr replied:

    Aah I forgot the first book with a (rather literally) genderfluid protagonist I’ve ever read (how could I!!): The Revenants <3


  2. oddboyout

    “Tipping the Velvet” by Sarah Waters
    “The Passion” and “Written on the Body” by Jeanette Winterson
    “The Sand Child” by Tahar Ben Jelloun


  3. Lear

    I have to point out that Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters are lesbian writers.. their novels are definitely about lesbians.


  4. Becky

    The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich (love it– wrote my undergrad thesis on it)

    Sacred Country by Rose Tremain (haven’t yet read this one myself)

    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (I know I read this one, but I can’t remember it super well)

    the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin (various queer themes and characters, including a few who are trans or genderqueer. These books were great friends to me in high school.)

    Orlando by Virginia Woolf (really interesting– took me a little more time to sink my teeth into than some others on this list and some other Woolf I’ve read, though)

    The Twyborn Affair by Patrick White (fascinating, well-crafted book)

    Annabel by Kathleen Winter (also fascinating and well-written!)

    Those are just a couple off the top of my head– I’m pretty sure I’ll think of more. Are you looking specifically for genderqueer books or is more explicitly trans content of interest too? The ones above are a mix–


    tigr replied:

    How could I’ve forgotten “Orlando”!… though I still haven’t managed to actually read it (more than the first couple pages) — so yeah, seconding the a-bit-hard-to-get-into -.-


  5. fluffy

    Ursula LeGuin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness”

    Also, not to toot my own horn (okay, totally to toot my own horn), but my own webcomics (at often have gender-related issues involved, especially “Unity” and its spinoff series.


  6. Cricket

    “Lockpick Pornography” by Joey Comeau, is described as “a genderqueer adventure story.” I’ve only read an excerpt, but it was quite cool. Plus I love Comeau’s writing and comics in general.


  7. Ari

    Seconding the Robin Hobb rec.

    I haven’t read Passion or Tipping the Velvet, but Written on the Body is definitely a genderqueer book.


  8. Brian

    I have to second “What Happened to Lani Garver.” It’s for young adults, but it’s brilliant for young adults and up. “Tipping the Velvet” has strong gender play if it’s not strictly genderqueer.


  9. ME

    I’m going to second “Orlando”- I have read it, and it’s incredible. Stick with it through the first couple chapters and it gets much easier. Also, it gets FUNNY. In the third chapter or so Woolf really starts to satirize the biographer’s voice, and it’s hilarious. Happy reading!

    Also, The Well of Loneliness(Radclyffe Hall), while a lesbian story goes into gender questions as far as I’ve heard.

    Thanks so much for the list, persyns! :)


  10. happeningfish

    Seconding “Left Hand of Darkness”. Oh, oh oh it’s wonderful and I just read it about a month ago.

    It’s science fiction, where a male human is the first ambassador on a planet where humans are genderless. They only display gender when they’re sexually active, and they never know if they’re going to be male or female every time that happens.

    There’s a great story there, but more to the point, the ambassador’s continuous culture shock – which works both ways, since the locals are terribly disturbed by his lack of gender fluidity and the fact that he always seems to be in heat, for lack of another word – is a fantastic study for genderqueer folks. There’s an amazing moment where he’s been there for a long time and is used to seeing no men or women around, but only people, and then he comes into contact with men and women from earth… won’t ruin the moment, but it makes every genderqueer person do celebratory fists in the air.


  11. Becky

    Oh yeah, totally agree with Left Hand of Darkness and What Happened to Lani Garver. Left Hand of Darkness was a high school favorite for me!


  12. Localfreak

    Not…well the first one is kind of novelly, the second is more biography-y.

    ‘Breakfast with Scott’ by Michael Downing is a novel about a gay couple who receive custody of a ‘nephew’ who is potentially gender dysphoric. It’s perhaps a bit too ‘real life family drama’ compared to some other books but it is quite interesting.

    On a more-biography-than-novel there’s also ‘Becoming Drusilla by…someone Beard I think can’t remember which is a real life novel written by a man whose best friend Drew transitions to Drusilla and their friendship.


  13. tigr

    Reading “Breakfast with” in the ‘Recent Comments’ sidebar just reminded me of another one: “Breakfast on Pluto” — I only know the film (which I like very much and definitely recommend!!), but it was first a book. If you do read it, let me know how it was:)


  14. epistemicmurk

    On a related theme: can anyone recommend — or, indeed, think of *any* — books/films/programmes &c. which feature transgender characters whose identity as such isn’t mentioned? Are there films which feature, say, a man who wears dresses without this in itself being a source of drama or humour, or a plot device in any way?


    tigr replied:

    Haven’t watched it yet, but “Kill Your Darlings” was featured on Genderfork with a description which sounds like that…

    Dicebox has genderqueerness in it, but it’s definitely not “about” that. So I think that definitely counts:)

    I guess it’s still a -bit- of a source of drama in Bone Palace, but I felt in a very naturally-floating sense, not as in “ouh if I make this character transgender I can get this and that plot out of it”. Again, it’s not -about- someone’s trans*-ness.

    (If I remember correctly, in Lockpick Pornography it’s like that as well.)


  15. Anonymous

    There’s a young adult book called Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff in which the author does not make the genders of the two main characters known/explicit to the reader. This book is not specifically about their gender identities (although as a part of developing the characters there is a good deal in there about how the world around them interacts with various elements of their gender expressions) but mostly it’s a coming of age, love story, adventure about being young and queer and creative. It’s really good. I recommend it!


  16. Anonymous

    The Sweet in Between, by Sheri Reynolds has a protagonist who, I would say, falls somewhere under the genderqueer umbrella. it’s not the primary plot, but it’s definitely addressed throughout the novel.


  17. Anonymous

    The Farseer trilogy and the Tawny Man trilogy by Robin Hobb. There’s queerness and they’re also the best damn books I’ve ever read
    And the Fool will make you swoon


  18. Duo Spiritus

    Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books deal with a lot of identity based issues, although she hasn’t done a LOT of genderqueer characters the Lioness Quartet features a female who spends 90% of the first three books posing as a man and in her Provost’s Dog Trilogy one of the min characters is Trans*/genderfluid (in our terms, in the terms of Tortall she is “Touched by the trickster god”)


    MelDrake replied:

    I love the Lioness Quartet. I’d say her Protector of the Small series deals with similar themes too.


  19. Gabriel Belthir

    Check out Storm Moon Press. They’re a QUILTBAG publisher who has a special interest in Transtar fiction. They’ve just finished their first genderqueer anthology call (erotica) and they’ve been fantastic so far. Their editors are pronoun-conscious, interested in plot as well as respect. The new anthology’s due out in a few months, featuring genderqueer storylines, characters, and plots.


  20. Tobi

    I am working on genderqueer literature for my master’s thesis and I have identified three that I feel are absolutely genderqueer literary novels.

    Well of Loneliness (1928), by Radclyffe Hall
    Sacred Country (1992), by Rose Tremain
    Stone Butch Blues (1993), by Leslie Feinberg


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