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Tomboy resources

“Tomboy” is a controversial word for masculine minors who were assigned female at birth. Some people use tomboy as a reclaimed word, like the TomboyX clothing line or people who use it as a self-identity. Experts in child development recommend not using the term to describe young people. Via the Girl Scouts:

“The term tomboy is used as a shortcut to describe a girl’s interests and is often even thought of as a compliment of sorts,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, “but when we label sporty, adventurous girls as boyish, we’re reinforcing the idea that certain behaviors or interests are better suited to boys and men, while the rest are for girls. That’s limiting to children of both genders and not good for anyone.”

Girl Scouts (2017)

Gender diverse youth who have historically been described as “tomboys” may continue to be gender diverse as they get older. Some may show interest in taking sociallegal, and/or medical steps as part of their gender expression.

Some identify as cisgender and/or straight as adults. Some identify as lesbian, especially butch lesbian. Some identify as transmasculine people or as trans men and may take sociallegal, and/or medical steps as part of their gender expression.

Some gender critical people in the anti-transgender movement have claimed that calling the term tomboy controversial is causing the “erasure” of lesbians and/or children they describe as “tomboys.” Lisa Selin Davis is a notable example of this claim.


Girl Scouts of the USA (2017). It’s Time to Stop Calling Her a Tomboy.

Abate, Michelle Ann (2008). Tomboys: A Literary and Cultural History. Temple University Press, ASIN ‎ B001WAKAD4

King, Elizabeth (January 5, 2017). A Short History of the Tomboy. The Atlantic

Elise, Dianne (1999). “Tomboys and Cowgirls: The Girl’s Disidentification from the Mother.” In M. Rottnek (Ed.), Sissies and tomboys: Gender nonconformity and homosexual childhood (pp. 140–152). New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814774847

Brown, Jayne Relaford (1999). “Tomboy”. In B. Zimmerman (ed.). Encyclopedia of Lesbian Histories and Cultures. Routledge. pp. 771–772. ISBN 0815319207. 

Halberstam, Judith (1998). Female Masculinity. Duke University Press. pp. 193–196. ISBN 0822322439.

Harris, Adrienne (2000-07-15). “Gender as a Sort Assembly Tomboys’ Stories”. Studies in Gender and Sexuality. 1 (3): 223–250.

Creed, Barbara (1999), “Lesbian Bodies: Tribades, Tomboys and Tarst.” In Janet Price and Margrit Shildrick, Eds. Feminist Theory and the Body, Routledge, pp. 111–124, ISBN 978-0415925662

Gardiner, Kelly (2021). Tomboys: Performing gender in popular fiction. Image & Text 

Books for younger readers

These are suggestions for further research. Some listed books may not be appropriate for all young readers.

Titles in bold are about real people.

For ages around 6 to 9, depending on reading level:

  • Aunt Eater series by Doug Cushman
  • Amelia Bedelia series by Peggy Parish
  • The Dragon’s Scales by Sarah Albee
  • Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie by Peter and Connie Roop
  • Sim-Chung and the River Dragon by Ellen Schecter
  • The Warrior Maiden by Ellen Schecter
  • Pocahontas and the Strangers by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • The Big Balloon Race by Eleanor Coerr
  • Toots and the Upside Down House by Carol Hughes
  • Helen Keller by Margaret Davidson
  • The Girl Who Struck Out Babe Ruth by Jean L. S. Patrick
  • Little Sure Shot: Annie Oakley by Stephanie Spinner
  • Phoebe the Spy by Judith Griffin

For ages around 9 to 12, depending on reading level:

  • Flying Ace: Story of Amelia Earhart by Angela Bull
  • Sybil Ludington’s Midnight Ride by Marsha Amstel
  • Secret Soldier: Story of Deborah Sampson by Ann McGovern
  • Cam Jansen series by David A. Adler
  • Toliver’s Secret by Esther Wood Brady
  • Joan of Arc by Shana Corey
  • George Washington’s Mother by Jean Fritz
  • The Daring Escape of Ellen Craft by Cathy Moore
  • Escape North! Story of Harriet Tubman by Monica Kulling

Classic books, for around middle school and above, depending on reading level:

  • Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (Anne)
  • Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë (Miss Matilda)
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Jo March)
  • Little Men by Louisa May Alcott (Nan)
  • Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott (Rose)
  • The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Laura)
  • My Ántonia by Willa Cather (Sally)
  • What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge (Katy Carr)
  • Becky Landers: Frontier Warrior by Constance Skinner (Becky)
  • A Girl Can Dream by Betty Cavanna (Rette)
  • Charlie by Kate Chopin (Charlie Laborde)
  • The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton (George)
  • Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (Caddie)
  • A Terrible Tomboy by Angela Brazil (Peggy Vaughan)
  • Meredith’s Ann by Elizabeth Gray Vining (Mickey)
  • A Modern Tomboy: A Story for Girls by LT Meade (Irene Ashleigh)
  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (Petrova Fossil)
  • The Secret of Red Gate Farm by Caroline Keene (George Fayne)
  • Five On a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton (George Kirrin)
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (Mick Kelly)
  • The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers (Frankie)
  • The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers (Frankie Addams)
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Scout)
  • Hellfire Hotchkiss by Mark Twain (Hellfire)
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (Leslie)
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (Jamila)
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flag (Idgie)
  • Lizard Flanagan series by Carol Gorman (Lizard)
  • The Nancy Drew series by Edward Stratemeyer (Nancy)
  • His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman (Lyra)
  • A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (Arya)
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Topsy)
  • Gypsy Breynton by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (Gypsy)
  • The Pippi Longstocking series by Astrid Lindgren (Pippi)
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Turtle Wexler)
  • West with the Night by Beryl Markham (Beryl)


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