This year Merriam Webster announced that “they” is the 2019 word of the year. “They” is used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is non-binary or whose gender is intentionally not revealed. People have been identifying with non-binary gender identities for millennia by cultures and societies around the world. LGBTQIA+ YA authors have done a better job than most at recognizing the necessity of featuring LGBTQIA+ characters, including non-binary, in a respectful and supportive way. Below are just a few titles to get you started:
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Symptoms of Being Human is about Riley, a charming funny teen with conservative parents. Riley is a typical teen struggling through the normal stuff teens deal with in high school. However, there is the added difficulty that Riley is gender fluid; something only Riley’s psychiatrist knows. Somedays Riley wakes up feeling more like a girl and some days Riley wakes up feeling more like a boy.
To work through the current stresses of life, Riley’s doctor suggests choosing an activity to “stop thinking about you so much.” Reluctantly Riley tries blogging as Alix as an outlet. When the blog unexpectedly goes viral, with negative and positive side effects, Riley experiences both support and attacks.
Symptoms of Being Human is a great place to start if terms like gender fluidity and non-binary gender identity are something you’re interested in knowing more about but are unfamiliar to you. It’s the kind of book that holds your hand through the process of understanding something new.
A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni
Now here’s one for you graphic novel readers out there. A Quick & Easy Guide to They/ Them Pronouns is an informative, shortish graphic novel guide to gender neutral pronouns. The authors Bongiovanni, a genderqueer artist, and Jimerson, a cisgender male, are best friends. They teamed up because Bongiovanni was tired of people not understanding gender neutral pronouns.
This graphic novel will explain what pronouns are, why they matter, how to use them and what to do if you make a mistake, among other things. It’s funny, short and full of real life scenarios.
Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
Contemporary fiction and graphic novel nonfiction are well and good, but I prefer fantasy. Mask of Shadows is right up my alley. It’s the first in a series about Sal, a thief who is competing to enact revenge. Sal lives in a post-magic world that relies on scribes, apothecaries, knights and the like.
Having a gender fluid main character in a fantasy is not super common. It’s breath of fresh air to a genre that can feel like every “big hit” is a rehash of the same old thing. Sal’s gender fluidity also opened the door for more diversity in the series.
Linsey Miller does a great job of creating a great plot and interesting characters. The writing is beautiful and the book is filled with a good balance of dark and light imagery that is very satisfying.