Beyond the Gender Binary
by Alok Vaid-Menon

Penguin Workshop, Pocket Change Collection, 2020

Review by: by

Alok Vaid-Menon is a gender non-conforming writer, performance artist, and public speaker.  In this brief 64 page pocket guide, they dare the world to see gender not in black and white, but in full color.  Vaid-Menon provides their own perspective and experiences, while also giving poignant responses to common misconceptions about gender non-confirming people.  They show us that gender is a malleable and creative form of expression.  The only limit is your imagination.  

This book is also a quick first-hand look at how society treats the non-binary and trans community.  The reality that many gender non-confirming people cannot go outside without fear of being attacked.  

Quotes from the book:

Society tells us to “be ourselves” but if you listen closely, there is more to that sentence: “until you make them uncomfortable.”  Express yourself using this template under these constraints with this time limit.  Once you cross the line, then you’re “too much” and are put back in your place.


Gender is a story, not a word.  There are as many ways to be a woman as there are women.  There are as many ways to be a man as there are men.  There are as many ways to be nonbinary as there are nonbinary people.  The complexity is not chaos, it just is.  


Imagine how beautiful it would be if the way we navigated the world was about creative expression, not conforming to arbitrary norms.  


I was terrified that when I came into myself, I would lose everything.  Instead, I found myself.  I found the connection I had been searching for my entire life:  people who loved me for me and not my category; beauty in my individuality, not my obedience.

Accessible and compelling, this is a wonderful introduction for those who are just coming to understand the idea of “beyond the binary.”  This book is a good primer to share with family and friends who haven’t explored this topic and want to understand and learning more.  

This  book is recommended for tweens, teens, and adults.

This book review was submitted by Stand with Trans board member Barb Shumer, who is a retired public librarian.

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