“Setting yourself in the world, knowing that you’re not alone, that you could actually have a future as yourself – it’s lifesaving. My parents worked hard to make sure I couldn’t find those positive portrayals. But that censorship didn’t make me not queer. What it did do was make me afraid, lonely, and filled with self-loathing.” – ND Stevenson, Gender Queer deluxe edition, Introduction
A graphic memoir depicting one person’s journey of self-identifying as gender queer.
In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears.
Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity—what it means and how to think about it—for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.
Gender Queer is a graphic memoir about one person’s struggle with the gender binary and eir journey of self-identify. This book recounts Maia’s experience from childhood to er thirties in bright, colorful illustrations.
You have likely heard of Gender Queer due to being challenged and banned from libraries across the U.S. Often, those fighting against inclusion of this book in a library claim that it is child pornography. And to those people, I ask, “Have you actually read this?”
Let’s start with the fact that this book is composed completely of drawings, not actual people. There are three panels throughout the entire book that show some nudity, none of which include children. I think it should also be mentioned that Gender Queer‘s intended audience is not children. Young adults? Sure. Adults? Absolutely, although I found it to be a bit YA. Now, for my review:
Gender Queer is not the most cohesive memoir or graphic novel that I have read. Instead, Maia composes the book of vignettes that together chronicle er story rather than a cohesive narrative. While all the panels related to the central message/theme/eir life, turning the page was often an abrupt change or shift in the narrative.
Moreover, I wish the author had been more reflective on some of the material/events. Gender Queer is really more of a recounting of eir experience rather than a tale of experiences that had been processed, reflected on, and used to build a united storyline. For me, this would have made for a stronger graphic novel and more impactful book.
Along similar lines, as I read a lot of things were glossed over or never really discussed again. One thing that somewhat conflated the story about Maia’s gender-identity was er sexuality. It is somewhat explored multiple times, but then ultimately, it is never discussed, no real conclusion made. I can assume that e identifies as aspec. However, that is not from being told that; instead, it is deductive reasoning. I also think that while sexuality is part of er identity, the partial and incomplete inclusion of it muddles the narrative.
I do want to make note that there are several Harry Potter references throughout Gender Queer. In addition, some of the information did seem outdated, but then again this is not a reference book.
When you read this, keep in mind that this is ONE person’s experience and not universal of gender queer or nonbinary people.
Overall, Gender Queer is an important graphic novel that shares one person’s journey with er gender identity. I recommend it if you are looking for a quick read that will help bring greater understanding about gender queer and nonbinary identities.
Note: I do not recommend reading reviews of Gender Queer on Goodreads.
Gender Queer: A Memoir
Nonfiction – Memoir;
May 28, 2019