It’s a tough time to be a trans and/or queer Harry Potter fan. Xoài has a written a beautiful, generous response to J.K. Rowling’s transphobia as someone who grew up with and was transfixed by the series’ magical stories. After you’ve read Xoài’s essay, I’ve got more suggestions for you. We’ve already covered eight great trans fantasy novels; for this month’s Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbrarian, I’m sharing a list of eight trans-friendly and trans-inclusive fantasy books that Harry Potter fans specifically will love.
This Is How You Fly by Anna Meriano
Ellen Lopez-Rourke is a 17-year-old vegan feminist hoping to spend her last summer after high school with her two besties Melissa and Xiumiao before they go their separate ways for college. But when she’s grounded for the whole summer by her (sometimes) evil stepmom, the only thing she can convince her parents to let her do is join the local Quidditch team. Quidditch is all-genders, full-contact, and it’s like nothing Ellen has ever done before. But as Ellen gets pulled further into the inclusive Potter fandom world of her Quidditch team, it feels like her friends get further and further away. This loose Cinderella retelling — complete with a missing “slipper”/cleat — is friendship-focused, but there’s also dashes of romance, social justice, fandom, and family drama.
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
Anyone up for a murder mystery set in a magical school, by a non-binary author no less? Ivy Gamble is a private investigator who is called to look into a death at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages. Her sister Tabitha, who got all the magic in the family, happens to be a professor there. (This dynamic might remind you of the mother of a certain Boy Who Lived and her ordinary sister). The story is a delicious, detailed investigation into sibling rivalry and the chosen one trope epitomized in Harry Potter, as well as a mystery plot that has been compared to Tana French. If you like books that play with common fantasy tropes, this one is for you! Also don’t miss Gailey’s new YA about queer teen witches, When We Were MagicM/em>.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
If you want to die of queer teen wholesomeness and witchiness, Mooncakes is the book for you. Nova Huang is a teen witch with hearing aids who works at the bookshop of her two grandmothers — that’s right, she’s got queer grandmas. She also investigates supernatural events in their autumny New England town. One night, while following up on reports of a white wolf in the woods, she stumbles upon Tam Lang, her childhood crush, battling a demon. They are a werewolf, and have been wandering for years as a result, unable to find a home. As Tam and Nova rekindle their childhood friendship — and perhaps romantic love — they will also have to battle the dark forces trying to steal the magic of the wolves. A graphic novel with delightful artwork, Mooncakes is the perfect warm cup of cocoa of a magical YA book.
The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag
The first book in a graphic novel fantasy middle grade trilogy, The Witch Boy is about 13-year-old Aster. In Aster’s world, girls grow up to be witches, boys grow up to be shapeshifters. But Aster hasn’t shifted … and he’s fascinated by witchcraft. Then there’s a mysterious danger to the other boys. Aster is sure he can help: as a witch. With the help and encouragement from Charlie, a girl from outside his community who also doesn’t conform to gender norms, Aster becomes brave enough to try practising his magical skills. It’s a sweet and heartfelt story set in a world similar to Harry Potter where some people can do magic, but hide it from the Muggles. Ostertag’s art is as lovely as the story, with detailed expressive faces.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
This trans Latinx YA story has been getting a lot of buzz this year, for good reason! Yadirel is tired of trying to get his traditional family to accept his gender. So he decides to prove his brujo skills by summoning the ghost of his murdered cousin to set him free. The ritual works! But it’s the wrong ghost. Julian, the former resident bad boy from Yadriel’s school, is the ghost who has appeared and he is determined not to go quietly into that good night. He’s got unfinished business in the land of the living, and it looks like Yadriel is going to have to help him, whether he wants to or not. But the longer Julian sticks around, the less Yadirel wants him to leave. Gender-affirming magic, finding your truth, queer spooky love, what more could you want?
The Siren and the Sword by Cecilia Tan
Readers who wish the Harry Potter series had been set in college, focused on LGBTQ characters, and included spicy sex scenes are in luck! Set at Veritas, a magical university hidden within Harvard, The Siren and the Sword follows Kyle, who’s considering majoring in erotic magic. To really be a really great sex magician, it’s ideal to be bi. Luckily for him, he is. But there is that little matter of experience, which he thinks he might need in order to become a proficient enough magician in order to fulfil the ancient prophecy he’s recently translated that appears to be about … himself. Other important characters identify along the LGBTQ spectrum, including a major trans character, Master Callendra Brandish, whom Tan explains was inspired by Kate Bornstein.
The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith
In this fun, gentle middle grade fantasy graphic novel, two tween siblings — both assigned male — are caught up in a political coup when their older cousin assassinates the king and the primary heir. As grandchildren of the king in line next for the throne, they are forced to escape the castle. To hide, they disguise themselves as new initiates in The Communion of Blue, a women-only communal society with sacred, magical duties. As they spend time there learning to magically spin the threads of reality, they each have very different experiences. When they are given the opportunity to avenge the wrongs done to their house, one is eager to get back to his old life and the other wants to stay in the life she knows is for her. It’s so wonderful to see trans girl representation in graphic novels and genre fiction for middle grade readers!
Spellhacker by M.K. England
This YA science fantasy heist story takes place in a future world Kyrkarta, where magic — aka maz — is no longer a free flowing element available to everyone, but controlled by an evil corporation selling it at a premium. Enter Diz and her three BFFs and their lucrative but very illegal side business of siphoning maz. During what’s supposed to be their last heist, the maz literally blows up in their faces. They’re forced to confront the idea of a previously unknow strain of maz — and a conspiracy that, if solved, could save the world from the spell drought that has been plaguing it. Queerness, especially in terms of queer found family, is front and center in this book. It also has a main non-binary character, as well as bi, chronic illness, and mental health representation. Plus: slow burn romance, plot twists, witty banter, commentary on climate change, and a non-binary author!
Do you have any magical Harry Potter-esque books that are trans friendly and inclusive to recommend? Share in the comments! And don’t forget I am here to answer your lesbrarian questions. Let me know your question in the comments below or send me an email at stepaniukcasey[at]gmail.com.
I liked Magic for Liars!
How about Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway? Cishet white dude here really enjoyed it.
Yes, this one is definitely great too and fits the bill! I’ve recommended it a few times before, which is the only reason it’s not this list as well.
My gender creative young nephew LOVED The Witch Boy when I gave it to him for Christmas a couple years ago.
I really enjoyed the whole Magic University series but I want to warn readers that it’s pretty crazy sauce (and I don’t remember any on page f/f sex – it’s mostly m/f or m/m with maybe one m/f/m). It’s also pretty ambitious in the issues it tackles and I thought some parts were more successful that others. I had a few consent issues with it – one of the main characters committed a dream-world sexual assault that I thought needed more consequences. (in book 2 or 3). And Also CW for child abuse (in the past/ off page).
Will come back with more recs
Thank you for these very helpful notes Cleo! (:
Peter Darling by Austin Chant – queer re-imagining of Peter Pan with a trans main character (#ownvoices)
Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant – alt American western with magic and trans characters. It’s short but the characters and story are well developed. (#ownvoices)
Tensorate series by J. Y. Yang – high fantasy series set in world that’s vaguely like Asia but with dinosaur like creatures, where the children are “they” until (if) they pick a gender.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune – this is more trans friendly – I don’t think there are any specifically trans characters but I’m including it because to me it seems specifically written for queer adult fans of Harry Potter. It’s set in a school / orphanage for magical children with actual out queer people, and there are a lot of riffs on HP.
The Tensorate series is wonderful and has such a cool system of magic
(Can’t stop recommending)
One Dead Vampire by Kris Ripper.
Kind of like a goofier, queer, Californian Sookie Stackhouse – with a very diverse cast of supporting characters, including an nb character. I enjoyed this a lot but I don’t think it’s for everyone. I think it comes down to whether you’re entertained or annoyed by Rocky, the narrator and 20-something queer fativist instagrammer, life coach and unlikely (and not very good at it) amateur sleuth. Read the sample!
The plot is pretty thin. It’s the first in a planned UF queer mystery series and it’s mostly an introduction to Rocky’s wacky hometown, where most of the humans are unaware that their friends and neighbors are supernatural beings. As a human, adopted into a gargoyle family, Rocky has a unique view of both her human and supernatural neighbors.
Lobizona by Romina Garber 💖
Oh, this looks good. Thank you!
Can we… Talk about Earth Sea by Ursula Le Guin? It’s largely considered to be the prototype for Harry Potter, and is probably far superior – depending on who you ask.
From memory there is no explicit trans aspects in these books, but, it’s by Ursula Le Guin, y’know, author of Left Hand of Darkness, speculative fictional universe about a planet on which there is no gender, (which came out in 1969) . I’m not sure if she wrote anything that specifically touched on trans experience or characters. But a lot of her work investigates gender, and queer existence.
Also earth Sea is probably the first scifi/fantasy series not about white people. She’s basically the antithesis of Rowling imho
This series has a huge impact on me growing up. And yes, my vote is that it is far superior to Rowling’s work.
Yeah, I thought of Ursula LeGuin too. I highly recommend the whole Earthsea series, both the original trilogy and the books she wrote later, including the short story collection.
The thing about LeGuin is that while most of her work isn’t specifically queer or trans, I feel like she leaves room for other possibilities to exist.
Yes – Le Guin is one of the few authors who examines various ways of being, as opposed to replicating current norms in an alternative setting!
holy gracious catz am I excited for these!!! I loooove mooncakes and witch boy so much!!
two more to add! i also heartily endorse sarah gailey’s books along with spellhacker and cemetery boys, the latter of which i just finished this week and stayed up all night to finish because it was just so good
into the real by z brewer: not a happy feel good story, please note. quinn is fractured into three genders, three universes, and three dystopias. which quinn is the real one? are any of them? what can they endure in order to be themselves?
miss meteor by tehlor kay mejia and anne-marie mcclemore: childhood best friends chicky and lita, two latina girls (well, one latina girl and one humanized meteor who is read as latina. it’s complicated) team up to enter their town’s annual beauty pageant, which has been won the first 49 times by white girls. featuring a pan MC, a trans boy love interest, beautiful friendships, and a garden of cactuses that have birthdays assigned by star sign. one of the authors IDs as nonbinary!
I made a spreadsheet of HP alternatives, and this post has given me great things to add. Thanks for that!
Anyone can view it here:
i enjoyed the Alex McKenna series by Vicki-Ann Bush. There are two out now, and two more planned to be released. The story centers around a psychic teen who communicates with ghosts and who also happens to be trans.