Review: Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer
Maia Kobabe
Lion Forge Comics
Published May 28, 2019

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About 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 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 on Goodreads

My Review

I think what’s really cool about this book is that the author takes time to give clear, well-explored explanations of key moments in eir life when eir identity came into focus. Maia Kobabe diligently and openly explains eir relationship with eir body as a child, an adolescent, and later as an adult. Why did female pronouns feel so wrong for em? Why do sexual fantasies feel so much more satisfying to em than experiences do?

Having these conversations plainly and openly offers solidarity to others having similar experiences. It shows people who have similar questions that they’re not alone. They’re not the first ones to feel a disconnect with their bodies. It also provides a roadmap for people who do not identify as genderqueer. Reading a book like this, a story that details someone’s personal experience, allows readers to bring questions to a safe space where there’s no judgment or intrusion. Reading about Maia’s experience allows us to listen and cultivate empathy for others who may have a different life experience than we do.

Banning Gender Queer

One of the reasons I opted to read this book is because I hear it discussed so often in the context of being banned in schools. If you’ve been on my blog awhile, you probably already know that I’m not a fan of book bans, and it’s not a position I came to lightly. The core of the decision really is this: as a parent, my job is to be part of the decision-making about books my child reads. It is not my job to decide which books are okay for someone else’s child to read.

With that said, I think GENDER QUEER brings some important topics to the table for discussion. It does address some mature topics, so I think it would generally be more appropriate to older readers.

Gender Queer on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 16 up.

Maia identifies as genderqueer and uses Spivak pronouns (e/em/eir), which are a set of gender-neutral, grammatically singular pronouns. Some other people appearing in the memoir are queer as well.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used very infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
References to gay pornography. References to sex. In one scene, Maia very briefly outlines with a partner the things e would not feel comfortable doing sexually. One line later states that e and eir partner have made out and had sex. In one scene, Maia lists a snippet of a sexually explicit conversation e had with eir partner and the divergence of eir feelings about the fantasy of the experience versus the actual experience.

Maia is also very open about eir personal experience with arousal and masturbation. E explains these feelings as part of a larger explanation of eir asexuality and/or gender dysphoria. It didn’t come across as something meant to be sexy. Instead, it appeared to be a thoughtful examination of how eir body reacts to touch and visual stimulation and how that might differ from others’ experiences.

There are a few panels that show some cartoon nudity. One panel shows two men kissing from their hips upward. One shows two men facing each other, referencing a fantasy Maia had based on Plato’s SYMPOSIUM. A couple show Maia from the side, sitting on a toilet, after e has discovered the start of eir period. One page shows Maia undressing for an examination with a gynecologist. One panel shows em naked from the front.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Maia describes the pain of a gynecological exam as feeling like e has been stabbed through the abdomen. The illustration shows a torso without gender details with a blade stabbed through the abdomen. Another illustration shows a similar image, but from a side view.

Drug Content

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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