Exploring the subject of gender is something that can be tricky to get to grips with, but while there's a few celebs out there who are willing to talk about their own experiences, and some lovely folk on the internet who're happy to openly chat about it all, your book shelf is also a great place to turn.
There's been a huge growth in amazing YA books that tackle LGBTQ+ issues over the past couple of years, so make use of some of the awesome authors out there and check out these 12 inspiring books, which brilliantly tackle gender through trans, queer and questioning characters.
1. Being Jazz: My Life As A (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
At the age of five, Jazz transitioned to life as a girl, with the support of her parents. A year later, her parents allowed her to share her incredible journey in her first Barbara Walters interview, aired at a time when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. A documentary, YouTube channel, picture book, and her own reality TV series all followed, making her one of the most recognisable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults. In her remarkable memoir, Jazz reflects on these very public experiences and how they have helped shape the mainstream attitude toward the transgender community.
2. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Two boys. Two secrets. David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he's gay. The school bully thinks he's a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long.
3. What I Was by Megan Rosoff
Toward the end of his life, H looks back on the relationship that has shaped and obsessed him for nearly a century. It began many years earlier at St. Oswald's, where the young H came face-to-face with an almost unbearably beautiful boy living by himself at the edge of the sea. H insinuates his way into Finn's life, stalking him with perfect patience until an unlikely friendship is kindled,. Their friendship deepens, offering H both the freedom and the human connection that has always eluded him, but in a world of conformity, can one eccentric idyll be allowed to survive?
4. Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman
What do you do when everybody says you're someone you're not? Alex wants change. Massive change. More radical than you could imagine. Her mother is not happy, in fact she's imploding. Her dad walked out. Alex has turned vegetarian, ditched one school, enrolled in another, thrown out her clothes. And created a new identity. An identity that changes her world. And Alex—the other Alex—has a lot to say about it. Alex As Well is a confronting and heartfelt story of adolescent experience—of questioning identity, discovering sexuality, navigating friendships and finding a place to belong.
5. Every Day by David Levithan
Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl. There's never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. It's all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with - day in, day out, day after day.
6. Debbie Harry sings in French by Meagan Brothers
Johnny's had kind of a tough life so far, and he's always been a bit of a freak. His goth look usually includes black nail polish and a little mascara.When he discovers Debbie Harry, the lead singer of Blondie, he not only likes her music but realises that he kind of, sort of, wants to BE her. He'd like to be cool and tough and beautiful like her. He'd like to dress like her. He's not gay, at least he doesn't think so. So what does it mean? And what should he tell his amazing new girlfriend?
7. Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt
The inspiring true story of a transgender girl, her identical twin brother, and an ordinary American family's extraordinary journey to understand, nurture, and celebrate the uniqueness in us all. When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys, they thought their lives were complete. But it wasn't long before they noticed a marked difference between Jonas and his brother, Wyatt. Jonas preferred sports and trucks. Wyatt liked princess dolls and playing Little Mermaid. By the time the twins were toddlers, confusion over Wyatt's insistence that he was female began to tear the family apart.
8. If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
This is a story about a trans girl written by a trans woman, with cover art that also features a trans model. More of this, please. Amanda is keeping a secret. There's a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she's determined not to get too close to anyone. And then she meets Grant Everett. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But she's terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it. Because the secret that Amanda's been keeping? It's that she used to be Andrew.
9. One In Every Crowd by Ivan E. Coyote
This one is a collection of stories drawn from the author's own life, about growing up, about fitting in or not fitting in, about fairness and courage and bullying and standing up to bullies, about pain and loneliness and falling in love, and mostly about accepting and honouring our own and other peoples' differences. In particular, its trans characters struggle with everything from deciding which label best fits them to choosing which bathrooms to use.
10. Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz
Do you want to read a dystopian novel with a genderqueer protagonist who may or may not be part lizard? Well, duh. Kivali has never fit in. As a girl in boys' clothes, she is accepted by neither tribe, bullied by both. Abandoned as a baby wrapped in a T-shirt with an image of a lizard on the front, Kivali found a home with nonconformist artist Sheila. But Kivali has an escape: her unique ability to channel and explore the power of her animal self - she has Lizard Radio. Will it be enough to save her?
11. What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They're deeply, hopelessly in love. But when they're separated for their first year of college, reality is very different to expectation. Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, meets a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, but Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship. As distance and Toni's shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide - have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?
12. Annabel by Kathleen Winter
In 1968, a child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor fully girl, but both at once. Only three people are privy to the secret: the baby's parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbor and midwife, Thomasina. Though Treadway makes the difficult decision to raise the child as a boy named Wayne, the women continue to quietly nurture the boy's female side. And as Wayne grows into adulthood within the hyper-masculine hunting society of his father, his shadow-self, a girl he thinks of as "Annabel," is never entirely extinguished