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.
I learned the term asexual sometime in 2015 and more recently, gender queer. It wasn’t earth shattering or life-changing. It was more like something clicking into place with the knowledge that that disinterested state you have known all this time has a name. If this graphic novel was released much earlier, that light bulb moment would have come sooner too.
In my country, the term gender queer is relatively unknown. If you are not hetero, it’s either you are a gay or lesbian. People confuse gay with trans, even the gay guys themselves almost always have the idea that being gay means becoming or acting like a woman. Those who prefer to act masculine are referred to with derision as ‘pretending to be a man’ or ‘not a real man’. Lesbians were also expected to be butch and lipstick lesbians are not common. Much of my experience with gender queers are those born biologically male and would be automatically tagged as gay. Maia Kobabe would be tagged as lesbian and it would take a very lengthy explanation to make people understand. There are no guarantees they will.
This memoir will help open minds. It explores gender identity and self. It also talks about love and family and how having a sibling who just gets you could make all the difference in the world. It chronicles the difficulties and horrors a gender queer person goes through. It is raw and very honest, sometimes painfully so but always with a touch of humor and optimism. In itself, it is a highly enjoyable graphic novel with interesting illustrations and has an ending that leaves an opening for a sequel just in case.
I highly recommend this to everybody.
I received a copy of Gender Queer: A Memoir from Lion Forge via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away