Throughout June, GeekMom celebrates Pride Month with lots of LGBTQ content. Follow the Pride Month tag to find all the content in one space (including LGBTQ content from previous years) and keep checking back for more throughout the month. Today’s book review is Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe.
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Trigger Warnings: Dysphoria, Medical Trauma, Transphobia, Sexual Content.
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe is the only graphic novel in this year’s Pride Month coverage and a powerful memoir by a non-binary author who uses e/em/eir pronouns. This autobiographical story is intensely personal and begins during Kobabe’s childhood. Despite growing up in a liberal household, they still spent many years growing ever more confused by eir feelings toward gender identity and eir own body. Over the course of the book, we get to see em make discoveries that help em figure out what makes em most comfortable, and watch as they grow into a proud non-binary adult.
As well as struggling with eir body and gender identity, Kobabe also struggled with eir sexuality and sex drive. Gender Queer dives into how it can take time to figure out exactly what you want from relationships (if you even want them to begin with). Asexuality and aromanticism are both explored, but a key point made throughout the entire book is that labels aren’t always—or often—a perfect fit. Trying to fit themself into predefined boxes often made Kobabe feel miserable and even “broken” at times, and it wasn’t until they began exploring outside of those boxes that they began to figure out just who they were and grow happier with eir body and relationships.
However, this was not an easy journey, and there are some incredibly harrowing moments throughout the book. Kobabe’s first experience going for a pap smear was especially traumatic and resonated with me more than I expected, as I suspect it might for many of us who have had to undergo that procedure while uncomfortable with our bodies and sexualities. Other difficult moments included shopping for undergarments, exploring masturbation, and dating. While all these moments are difficult to read, they are handled beautifully and with a sense of both solidarity and the knowledge that things will eventually get better.
Gender Queer isn’t an especially easy book to read but it is a powerful one. If anyone you know is struggling with gender identity or has transitioned in the past, I cannot recommend any better book for helping you understand the challenges they face every day, and if you yourself are questioning your identity, then Gender Queer will be a comforting voice from someone who has walked the same paths. Even if neither of these is true for you, with gender identity politics making headlines every day, this is as close as you’ll get to walking in the shoes of those facing challenges to their very existence every day.
GeekMom received a copy of this title for review purposes.