Note: I misgendered the author in the 4th paragraph. I’d love to blame autocorrect, but it was entirely my own brain defaulting to the comfort of binary pronouns. Brains like to be comfortable and I was raised in an aggressively binary culture. That makes it more imperative that I get comfortable with discomfort, try harder, and be willing to correct others and accept correction.
Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel GenderQueer: A Memoir is a beautiful gift to the world, filled with pain and compassion. Maia uses the Spivek pronouns e/em/eir, so I use them in the review. I hope I am using them correctly. I got this from Netgalley and this is an honest review.
GenderQueer: A Memoir is gently vulnerable and revealing. Kobabe was born into a family that didn’t enforce gender roles and seems to be supportive of their children becoming who they are. Maia was assigned female at birth (AFAB), but as e grew up, e ran into more and more questions and discomfort around the gender e had been assigned. E wanted to be neither female nor male, but lacked the words to describe or understand emself.
Maia Kobabe takes us through memories and the evolution of understanding emself to be gender queer. Kobabe moves from childhood, through the confusion of jr high and high school to the discoveries of a wider world in college and graduate school where e began to meet nonbinary people. Despite a loving family, Kobabe’s confusion and body dysmorphia made em retreat inward, refusing to reveal eir inner life. This graphic novel, written and drawn by Kobabe, is the secret e kept for years. It is personal and intimate. It is an invitation into Maia Kobabe’s life and a gift of understanding. It was originally meant to be an explanation for eir family and it is a beautiful teaching tool.
Between the oceans and the mountains is a wild forest. That is where I want to make my home.
As the writer and the artist, the words and drawings are seamless in telling eir story. There are 4 pages that struck me in particular – How happy e was dressed as Johnny Weir, the violation e felt at a gyn exam, the page where e explains eir visualization of gender, and then eir determination to throw off bland boys clothes and adopt the “high-fantasy-gay-wizard-prince of my dreams look.”
I loved reading this book. I hope it gets into the hands of people struggling with their own identities and people struggling to understand a friend or loved one’s identity.
GenderQueer: a Memoir will be released May 28th.
It is published by Lion Forge.