Gender Identity
Teacher Resources

Gender Identity: Beyond Pronouns and Bathrooms

By Maria Cook  
Illustrated by Lex Cornell
What does gender identity mean to you? In Gender Identity: Beyond Pronouns and Bathrooms, middle and high schoolers explore the spectrum of the LGBTQ movement through the lenses of history, media, and culture, with a particular focus on transgender rights and the rights of gender-variant people. Through essential questions, primary sources, and investigative projects, readers develop a comprehensive understanding of the history of the struggle for equal rights for all genders.

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This nonfiction title is just what the title suggests, detailing the various facets regarding gender identity. There are a lot of great features to this title, including brief descriptions of notable transgender figures, a historical timeline of events, infographics, images that break up the text, and fun comics that provide an alternative approach to digesting the information. Other helpful features are a glossary, index, source notes, suggested reading for books and websites, and QR codes that link to relevant material. Recommended 4 stars.”

School Library Connection
Grades 8-12 “Once the terms he, she, gay and straight were all that was required for a discussion about gender and sexuality. Now a plethora of terms exist to helpfully indicate the broad spectrum of genders and sexual orientations which many people are using to better define and express their individual identity. This recognition and acceptance was won by many courageous individuals whose stories, dating back to the 1930s, are told in this title. Still, even today there are cultural norms that limit full acceptance of the true range of gender and sexual expression, especially for people identifying as transgender. Various groups using social media, individual stories, and legal action are working to change laws and attitudes that limit acceptance of individuals who identify as LGBTQ+. Photos, cartoons, and news reports are used to supplement the text. Critical thinking activities encourage readers, individually or in groups, to examine their personal attitudes, and consider how this new information increases their understanding of the range of gender and sexual expression. Recommended

Windy City Times: The Voice of Chicago’s Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans, and Queer Community
"What exactly is gender? How does one determine pronouns, for themselves and others? And why, exactly, is the bathroom debate such a big deal?

Gender Identity: Beyond Pronouns and Bathrooms . . . is a gentle but thorough resource for younger readers looking to define their own identities or understand others, and for adults who want an easy-to-follow guide to transgender history. . . .Gender Identity hits all the important points of transgender history—the life of Christine Jorgensen, the first American to medically transition, as well as the Stonewall Riots, initiated by trans women of color Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson—and supplements with information that isn't as widely known. There's a sober reminder of the demise of Brandon Teena, a young transgender man in Nebraska who was the subject of the Oscar-winning 2000 film "Boys Don't Cry", and more uplifting passages about the rise of social media in helping young trans people feel seen and understood.

Cook's writing is both informative and engaging, favoring short declarative sentences and vivid descriptions. Illustrator Alexis Cornell, a graduate of the prestigious Center for Cartoon Studies, enhances the narrative with a snappy and fun comic strip at the beginning of every chapter. Most significantly, Gender Identity: Beyond Pronouns and Bathrooms encourages communication, respect and acceptance at every turn—and that is perhaps its greatest lesson of all." Read the complete review online.

“. . .Gender Identity provides a chronological narrative, providing the history of relevant issues, individuals’ stories, lawsuits, and social changes over the last century.  . . Well organized information and practical help for students researching significant social issues.”

Publishers Weekly
“This addition to the Inquire & Investigate series provides an interactive exploration of gender identity, gendered societal expectations, and LGBTQ rights. Sections explore gender expression in media and place changing views within the broader context of social history. They also name significant events, figures, and legislation pivotal to the LGBTQ movement from the 1930s onward. Cornell’s comic panels feature characters expressing affirming perspectives on gender identity, while Cook provides vocabulary relating to expression, questions for readers to consider, and suggestions for further investigation. A thought-provoking resource. Ages 12–15.”

From the foreword by Christine Hallquist, first openly transgender major party gubernatorial nominee in the United States
“Maria Cook has done a brilliant job of capturing the important moments and the key leaders in the transgender movement, as well as providing an understanding of the nuance of language and the issues. For anyone who is transgender, who knows someone who is transgender, or simply wants to learn about the transgender movement, this is the book for you.”

Praise for other books in the Inquire and Investigate series:

Comparative Religion: Investigate the World Through Religious Traditions

"The abstractions of religion make it a tricky topic for objective and clear middle-level resources, but this dynamic book manages to be both informative and accessible."

The Holocaust: Racism and Genocide in World War II
Skipping Stones 2018 Honor Award

Terrorism: Violence, Intimidation, and Solutions for Peace
VOYA Magazine
“. . .a good overview of an incredibly intricate and evolving topic, useful for middle-grade and high school history classrooms.”


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Detailed Book Description

What does it mean to think of gender as being a range instead of simply male or female?

Gender Identity: Beyond Pronouns and Bathrooms invites readers to consider the cultural significance of gender identity in the United States and beyond. Middle and high schoolers learn about the history of LGBT rights, with a particular focus on transgender rights and the rights of gender-variant people, while engaging in research activities to help put what they have learned into context. These activities encourage teens to form their own, well-informed opinions about public figures, historical events, and current news regarding gender identity.

Busting the myth that the gender identity movement is a new phenomenon, this book teaches teens about some of the first openly transgender public figures in history, such as Lili Elbe, the first recorded person to ever medically transition in the 1930s, and Christine Jorgensen, who medically transitioned and rose to fame in the 1950s. The stories of activists and other important public figures are highlighted throughout the book and offer plenty of opportunity to connect with the history of the gender identity movement on a human level. From the Stonewall riots to the institution of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, teens will gain a rich understanding of how gender identity fits into culture, past and present.

Readers learn concepts that are crucial to understanding the basics of gender identity, such as how gender identity differs from physical sex and sexual orientation, why drag queens and transgender women are not one and the same (although transgender women can be drag queens!), and the importance of gender-specific and gender-neutral pronouns. Teens also discover works of fiction featuring or starring transgender characters, from television shows to novels to award-winning films.

Gender Identity includes critical-thinking activities and research exercises to encourage readers to dive deep into the topic and consider viewpoints from many different identities. Fun facts, links to online primary sources and other supplemental material, and essential questions take readers on an exploration of the past, present, and future of gender identity.

Gender Identity is part of a set of four books called Inquire & Investigate Social Issues of the Twenty-First Century, which explores the social challenges that have faced our world in the past and that continue to drive us to do better in the future. Other titles in this set are Feminism, Immigration Nation, and Race Relations and Civil Rights.

Try these critical-thinking activities

  • Explore cultural expectations of gender
  • Research the life of Lili Elbe
  • Compare and contrast fictional characters from two works of fiction
  • Examine the legal decisions affecting transgender people in different countries
Available In:
Hardcover, $22.95
Paperback, $17.95
Includes: Table of Contents | Timeline | Glossary | Resources | Index
Specs: 8 x 10 size | 4-color interior | 128 pages
Subject: Social Studies
Content Focus: World History



Important People

What is Gender Identity?

Chapter 1
Early Gender Pioneers

Chapter 2
The Birth of a Movement

Chapter 3
Challenges and Changes

Chapter 4
Violence and Progress in the 1990s

Chapter 5
A New Century of Connectedness

Chapter 6
Gender Identity in Popular Media

Chapter 7
The “New” Revolution