Introducing the ‘Gender Friend’

What the last two and a half years on Medium have led to.

5 min readNov 28, 2022

Just over a month ago, The Gender Friend: A 102 Guide to Gender Identity was released on all major purchasing platforms. Just a few days ago, I realized I hadn’t told you all anything. My bad. If you’ll allow me, I’d love to get you caught up to speed.

Back in July of 2021, the Editorial Director at Jessica Kingsley Publishers emailed me the following:

Dear Oak,

Please allow me to introduce myself — I am Editorial Director at Jessica Kingsley Publishers, who publish practical, accessible books that make a difference, and I oversee our LGBTQ+ publishing.

Excuse me for emailing you out of the blue in this way but I came across your writing via Medium and I wans intrigued by your work and your nuanced viewpoints. I am actively commissioning books by, and for, trans people and I just wanted to drop you a line to express my interest in your future publication plans.

I commission and publish books for a range of audiences — professionals, parents, teenagers, children’s books — and in a range of formats — workbooks, practical guides, anthologies etc — and we’re very open to ideas as long as they meet a need.

You can view our gender diversity publishing here:

If you have any questions or if you’d like to talk in more detail do let me know.

I look forward to hearing from you.

You can imagine the look on my face after seeing that email in my inbox on an otherwise typical Tuesday morning. I eagerly asked for more information, and by September, I was typing away at a manuscript to be turned in in April. Shocking absolutely no one, I turned in my first draft of The Gender Friend in December.

I was able to pull from many of my previous Medium writings: how parents and guardians can show up for their genderqueer kids, an interview I did with my mom that focused on her understanding of my gender journey thus far, an old list of all my favorite parts of being post-op top surgery, and an instructional guide on how to handle being misgendered made it into the book. Two and a half years of posting my gender for all the world (of Medium readers) to see turned into a book. That’s pretty darn cool.

I took on the task of creating a follow-up to every 101-level or introductory course on gender literacy — in other words, I was deciding how to verbalize everything that isn’t the basics of pronouns, (mis)gendering, name changes, and surgeries.

My original pitch for the book was:

“…the content that my text needs to engage with are the questions that follow a 101 level text/course/conversation. After an ally learns that they should introduce themself with their pronouns — for example, following that up with an explanation of neopronouns and multiple pronoun users would come next. After a young transfemme person learns that top surgery is an option, they should be informed of the differences between MTF/N and FTM/N top surgeries. Generally speaking, my text needs to provide answers to the follow-up questions that come after an individual learns the basic terminology of gender advocacy.”

The book’s initial title was “So, You Think You Know about Gender?” — and that was scrapped because it didn’t quite capture the message I wanted to get across. It felt a bit too…interrogatory. Well into the drafting process, I landed on The Gender Friend instead. That had the warmth to it that I so fervently wanted. I want my readers to view this text as a gentle hand reaching out, not as a hand trying to poke holes in the work you’ve already done as an ally or advocate…hence the book’s cover design.

I’m pretty proud of this little trade paperback book. I’ve put so much of myself into it, and it’s been quite a trip hearing from readers that I’ve never met who’ve had the book recommended to them by my friends or colleagues.

If you’re interested, you can purchase the book from Jessica Kingsley Publishers at a 20% discount using code FRIEND20, or from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Thriftbooks, or Powell’s at the regular $15 price. You can also request it from plenty of libraries for free!

I’ve copied a few reviews from some pretty rad individuals for your viewing pleasure:

“An approachable, personal story of growth and gender discovery that numerous readers will find themselves and their trans love ones reflected in. Oakley’s smooth, reflective narration helps make the often-intimidating process of gender exploration feel joyous and freeing.” — Dr. Devon Price

“Writing in the brilliant tradition of Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook and Sonya Renee Taylor’s Your Body is Not an Apology, Oakley Phoenix transforms DIY gender into DIO (Do it Ourselves). A loving, critical guide to transformative self and community building that will prompt much reflection and many conversations.” — Leslie Dunlap

“Oakley Phoenix is a most generous host and has support to offer every single person. I wish I’d had this book years ago.” Chelsea Couch

“Oakley brings authenticity, vulnerability, & humor, as they guide us through their individualized gender journey, while subsequently giving us the tools to be present & supportive of our fellow trans & gender diverse friends and family. Thank you for being our gender friend!” — Kyle Rodriguez-Hudson

And of course, even if you don’t buy the book, thank you for all your support over these past nearly three years. I’m looking forward to blogging a lot more now that the book is all done.

With love (and a book!),


November 2022




Black, queer, and anxiously fabulous. Words: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Psychology Today, An Injustice!, Prism & Pen, Gender from the Trenches.