Celebrate the Trans Rights Readathon 2024: March 22–29

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Rebecca Skyhart and KC Norton are part of the volunteer leadership team of the Trans Rights Readathon. Rebecca is a co-owner of the Be Yourself Bookshop. KC is an author. Learn more about the Trans Rights Readathon and find their tools and graphics on their website

What is the mission of the Trans Rights Readathon? 

Rebecca Skyhart: Given the proliferation of over 500 anti-trans bills in the United States and the pervasive hatred encountered by the transgender community globally, the Trans Rights Readathon aims to serve as a platform and avenue for fundraising in support of trans-affirming organizations. It provides support for the Trans Day of Visibility on March 31. This initiative operates in a decentralized manner, granting our community and allies the autonomy to allocate their donations to preferred organizations. This inclusive approach encourages broader participation and benefits a diverse range of organizations, as opposed to traditional fundraisers that may limit donation options.

KC Norton: The readathon has two main goals: first, to uplift stories and authors from the wide array of identities that fall under the trans umbrella (including nonbinary, two-spirit, genderqueer, agender, etc.); and second, to encourage participants to fundraise for organizations that support these communities. 2023 saw an astonishing number of bills popping up all over the US that specifically targeted this small percentage of the population. It’s part of a growing anti-trans* trend worldwide, which is what inspired Sim Kern to call on the bookish community last year.

Traditional publishing also doesn’t publish a lot of trans* voices, and frequently allocates smaller budgets to marketing these “niche” narratives. Through the readathon, we get to collectively show some much-needed love to both indie and traditionally published titles, and hopefully pave the way for other storytellers.

Why is trans representation in literature an important part of the fight for trans rights? 

KCN: So much of public discourse around trans* issues comes from people who are not part of the community. As a result, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, which can be incredibly harmful on both personal and political levels. Reading trans* stories — especially stories told by trans* authors — can help combat misconceptions and assumptions.

I’d like to think that events like this encourage more cisgender people to support their trans* siblings, and I truly believe that reading encourages empathy. For readers who don’t know anyone from the trans* community, or at least don’t know that they do, having a more accurate point of reference is really helpful. For readers who are part of the trans* community, seeing the vocal support from the bookish community means a great deal. And for the authors telling these stories, events like this can allow them to reach an audience who might otherwise never hear about their work.

RS: Literature plays a foundational role in our lives from infancy, with babies introduced to board books and young children to picture books. These early encounters with literature shape our perceptions of the world and influence our sense of identity. Exposure to diverse representations in literature fosters acceptance of various identities and possibilities. By showcasing narratives of trans joy, literature offers a glimpse into the fulfilling lives that can be led when individuals are empowered to live authentically. By recognizing literature as a cornerstone, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and optimistic future. Imagine if we were given this vision from childhood…

KCN: On a side note, we’ve tried to move away from focusing on trans* authors specifically, in part because it’s invasive and potentially dangerous to ask authors to make their identities public when they aren’t prepared to do so. When readers are putting together their TBRs, we hope that they’ll respect authors’ boundaries and right to privacy.

What are some of the different ways people can participate? 

RS: There are so many possibilities!

  • Choosing a book to read and choosing an organization to donate to

  • Donating to someone else’s fundraiser

  • Matching someone’s donation dollar for dollar

  • Donating as a group, such as book clubs or social clubs that all read a book and raise money together

  • Creating a TBR and sharing about the readathon, even if you’re not donating

Participants can also make their own way to participate. The options are endless.

KCN: The great thing about the readathon is that there are so many ways to get involved! The original idea was that bookish readers and influencers would seek pledges based on the number of books or pages they read during the week of the readathon. People got really creative last year, though. We had something like 2,500 participants from 43 countries, and people found different ways to drive their fundraisers: giveaways, book raffles, fundraising teams, requests for flat donations…because this is a decentralized event, every participant can tailor their approach to see what works for them.

Those who don’t have time to read this week can contribute to one of the fundraisers put together by other content creators. Alternatively, those who don’t have the funds to spare (trust me, we get it!) can focus on reading and platforming books they’ve enjoyed. Even if you only read one book that you wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, you’re participating. And just to be clear, when I say read, I mean whatever’s accessible to you: audiobooks, graphic novels, print books, poetry collections, webcomics, whatever speaks to you. A few authors have even made digital versions of their book available for free upon request. We really want this to be accessible for everyone.

What material does TRR provide for participants? 

KCN: We have a bingo card with an accompanying StoryGraph challenge to help people find a variety of recommendations. While the organizers aren’t offering prizes directly, participants are able use this game as a way to offer prizes to their audience. Our website also provides links to two different databases of eligible books, one of which focuses exclusively on indie authors, and is growing by the day as people send in their titles. We’ve also put together focused recommendation posts which we’re continually posting on our social media accounts. [Rebecca adds: printables for libraries and bookstores.]

Bee in particular (one of our team members) has put together a ton of lovely graphics to make it easy for people to announce their participation and post reading updates. All of those templates are available to the public through our website. For those who don’t know what organization to fundraise for, we’ve linked some resources that can help them find reputable national organizations or search for smaller local orgs. We’ve tried to keep the website simple while making it easy for people to get involved to whatever extent they can.

Is there anything you are especially excited to read during the readathon?

RS: I am very excited to read The Deep by Rivers Solomon, a novella that has been on my TBR for a while. The story unfolds in an underwater society descended from pregnant African enslaved women tossed overboard by slavers, now living peacefully in the depths. The historian, the only one who remembers their horrific past, safeguards their tranquility. Additionally, my family, including my wife and children, are each immersed in their chosen books, and we’re reading as a family. 

KCN: Because 2023’s readathon came together at the last minute, I ended up grabbing the first books I could find. That list skewed heavily toward fiction written by white authors. Thanks to everyone’s amazing recommendations, not only during last year’s even but over the intervening year, I’ve got a much more diverse stack of books on hand this time around.

  • Love After The End is an anthology of two-spirit and indigiqueer short fiction put together by Joshua Whitehead. I am aware that not every two-spirit person considers themselves part of the trans* community, but my understanding is that there are trans-identifying characters and/or authors included in both collections.
  • Samra Habib’s We Have Always Been Here is a memoir that explores both gender identity and sexuality in the context of the author’s experience as a Pakistani Muslim.
  • I already love Kai Cheng Thom’s writing, so I’ve got her essay collection Falling Back in Love With Being Human on standby. I’ve also got a few poetry titles from Alice James Books — Paul Tran’s All the Flowers Kneeling and Candace Williams’ I Am the Most Dangerous Thing.
  • Also, Gabe Cole Novoa’s new book The Diablo’s Curse just released, and I have had to actively restrain myself from reading it until the readathon.

This is obviously a dangerous question for me…I read a lot, and I never want to miss out on a book that sounds interesting. The good news is that even when I don’t finish my delusional 27-book TRR TBR, I can keep going. On the 30th, after the readathon is over, we don’t want people to forget that these books exist. Ideally, we’ll all keep celebrating these books throughout the year and make it easier, and more rewarding, for trans* authors to tell their stories in the future.