Eight Science Fiction and Fantasy Books that Crush Gender Stereotypes

Science fiction and fantasy books are all about widening horizons and exploring new worlds. But sometimes, in that rush to explore, one of the biggest worlds of them all is overlooked: our own sense of self. Here are some science fiction and fantasy books that explore not just the stars outside, but internal gender identity.


Larque on the Wing by Nancy Springer

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The Gender-Bender: Sex Change

All Larque Harootuninan's problems are inside her head—the bigger problem, however, is that they don't stay there. Larque has an ability that she can't control: she turns her thoughts into real life manifestations. Soon, Larque discovers that only when she changes herself into a gay man is she finally able to come to grasp with who she is.

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The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

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The Gender-Bender: Androgynous Humans

Genly Ai is sent to the planet Winter to request that they join the conglomerate of worlds called the Ekumen. But Winter is a planet unlike any Genly has ever seen, where the people are neuter most of the lives, and can interchangeably become male or female, but only at specific times. And Genly must learn to trust them if he wants to survive.

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Every Day by David Levithan

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The Gender-Bender: Transgender Spirit

A lives just like everyone else—but no one else lives like A. Each day, A unwillingly enters the body of another person—whether a man or woman, drug-addict or priest—and becomes them for the day. But A doesn't mind. That is, until the day he meets Rhiannon, a person he wants to spend the rest of his life with—if only she can return the love for someone who changes every day.

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Jack Strong by Walter Mosley

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The Gender-Bender: Multiple Gender Identities in One Person

Jack is frightened: he's woken up in a hotel room without his memory and already he's killed two men. But worse, he has memories of other people inside him: a cheating wife, a priest, a vicious mob man, a timid child, and many more. They are memories that he can't turn off, memories that threaten to take over who he is—that is if he can ever understand who "he" really is.

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Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

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The Gender-Bender: Gender Neutral Spaceship-Human

Breq comes from a world where she is both human and also part of a larger collective AI that ran the spaceship Justice of Toren. Breq doesn't even think in terms of gender for herself or anyone else. She calls everyone "she" merely for the sake of convenience. But what she is thinking about is answers to who she was—and who she needs to kill.

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Mission Child by Maureen F. McHugh

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The Gender-Bender: Cross-dressing

Janna is a refugee from a once lost colony of Earth. But soon, Janna (a woman) disguises herself as Jan (a man) in order to find work. Lost and unsure in this new world she has entered, Janna becomes unsure of who she really wants to be: Janna, or Jan?

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Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler

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The Gender-Bender: Pregnant Men

Humans and insect-like aliens called the Tlic live together in this future. But Tlic do more than just live with humans: they impregnate human males, placing their eggs inside them to grow their Tlic offspring in a process the human males don't always survive. It is a process that the young boy Gan might learn more about than he ever wanted to know.

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Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff

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The Gender-Bender: Multiple Gender Identities in One Person

Andrew Gage has never been the same since his father murdered for him. Andrew's soul died in the aftermath, and was split into hundreds of derived personalities from Aunt Sam the artist to Adam the teenager that all live inside Andrew Gage's head. When Andrew Gage meets Penny Driver, another person full of multiple souls, their many souls decide to help one another—and discover a wholeness they no longer have.

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