Before We Were Trans: A New History of Gender | Other writing

My first trade book, Before We Were Trans: A New History of Gender, is out now in the UK and North America!

Before We Were Trans is a global history of gender nonconformity. It tells the stories of people who don’t fit into modern and/or Western trans categories – but who nonetheless show us that gender has never been fixed, essentialised, or unchallenged. It’s also about history, and how we can do history in a more humane, ethical and anti-racist way.

“[an] astute, self-aware and riveting study…“Before We Were Trans” is a book that moves far beyond mere representation by managing to be both intellectually rigorous and exciting to read. It makes for a vital contribution to our understanding of gender variance and its place in social and political history, all around the world.” (New York Times)

Before We Were Trans provides much needed context, nuance, and breadth to our understanding of human gender diversity
throughout history and in different cultures.” (Julia Serano, author of Whipping Girl and Sexed Up)

“This is such a searing, reflexive read – in conversation with the likes of Shon Faye, Akwaeke Emezi and Leslie Feinberg – that needs to be in everyone’s hands expeditiously.” (Paula Akpan, journalist)

“A beautiful, brilliant, lively book that weaves together fascinating and moving examples with thoughtful analysis. Both heartfelt and rigorous, entertaining and scholarly, Before We Were Trans invites us to expand our sense of communities – past and present – in welcoming ways, rather than contracting them and policing their borders.” (Meg-John Barker, author of Gender: A Graphic Guide)

“A genuine breath of fresh air – a radical and necessary invitation to rethink who we are, have been, and can become.” (CN Lester, author of Trans Like Me)

“In-depth research and personal stories tie Before We Were Trans up into a true treat for the mind.” (Jamie Windust, author of In Their Shoes)

“This book, beautifully researched and astutely written, feels so prescient in this time in which our trans identities are being aggressively challenged as if we are a contemporary aberration. Iterations of transness have been here for as long as we have been walking, breathing, and loving, we have constantly explored the spaces of gender. I felt exquisitely anchored reading this wonderful book.” (Juno Roche, author of Queer Sex and Trans Power)

Before We Were Trans enlarges our understanding of trans histories and highlights the beauty, complexity, and contradictions of doing historical work.” (Hugh Ryan, author of The Women’s House of Detention)

You can order in the UK in all formats here – or from all good bookshops, including Leeds’s own queer indie bookshop, The Bookish Type. You can order in the US as a hard copy or ebook here, or as an audiobook from Libro.fm here!

For any enquiries about Before We Were Trans – or if you’d like to discuss commissioning a trans writer to write about trans rights or trans history – please get in touch via my agent, Holly Faulks at Greene & Heaton (hfaulks@greeneheaton.co.uk) in the first instance.

Other writing

As well as academic publications, I’ve contributed articles about queer history to online magazines including NOTCHES and The Public Medievalist, and published a chapter about trans inclusivity in libraries:

‘“It was necessary”: taking Joan of Arc on their own terms’, Shakespeare’s Globe Blog (08/08/2022)

‘How Museums Hide Women’s and Queer Histories in Plain Sight’, The Public Medievalist (12/12/2019)

‘Making gender visible in museums: a new approach’, Gender & Culture Archive (Genus & Kulturarv) (12/06/2019)

‘Creating trans-inclusive libraries: the UX perspective’, in User Experience in Libraries: Yearbook 2018, ed. by Andy Priestner (UX In Libraries, 2018), pp. 36-51

‘York Lesbian Arts Festival, 2000-2008: “It was like we took over the city…”’, Queer Beyond London (24/05/2017)

‘Maleficent favourites: seductive bewitchment at the English court’, NOTCHES: remarks on the history of sexuality (29/11/2016)

‘Rainbow plaques: mapping York’s LGBT history’, NOTCHES: remarks on the history of sexuality (23/07/2015)

Beyond penetration: rethinking the murder of Edward II’, NOTCHES: remarks on the history of sexuality (24/03/2015)