Cover of Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe. A short haired person with leg hair stands in a body of water, staring down at a reflection of a long haired person with no shirt and a masculine appearing chest

About the Book

Title: Gender Queer: A Memoir
Published: 2019

Cover Story: The Nonbinary in the Mirror
Drinking Buddy: Almost Literally
MPAA Rating: R (graphic descriptions of sexuality, genitalia, and implied intercourse)
Talky Talk: Impressive
Bonus Factors: Spivak Pronouns, Censorship
Relationship Status: I Will Always Love Em

Cover Story: The Nonbinary in the Mirror

This kind of sums up the author’s struggle with maybe not so much wanting to be a man, but not identifying as female, either.

The Deal:

Cartoonist Maia Kobabe writes about eir life and eir struggles as a person who doesn’t fit any particular gender role. Kobabe realized at a very young age that e, while assigned female at birth, didn’t identify that way. Through eir life e wondered if e were a lesbian, a trans man, asexual, androgynous, or simply did not fit one particular mold.

Drinking Buddy: Almost Literally

Two pints of beer cheersing

I met the author when we were on a panel together about banned books. “Award winning author Maia Kobabe, Dean of the University of Missouri Law School Lyrissa Lidsky, and Brian Katcher, um…who used to be a security guard at that law school.”

Kobabe was a very engaging speaker and we signed books together afterwards. E promised to give Almost Perfect a read. So I actually did have coffee with the main character of a book.

MPAA Rating: R (graphic descriptions of sexuality, genitalia, and implied intercourse)

This book was the most frequently banned and challenged book of 2021. Not just because of the LGBTQ+ content, but because it’s a graphic novel, there are images, that, are…graphic. Kobabe suffering through a pap smear. Kobabe and eir partner simulating fellatio with a dildo. Strong language. Be aware of what you’re getting into, and what you might be getting others into (see below).

Talky Talk: Impressive

So being LGBTQ+ is never easy, and it’s harder when you don’t have one letter that represents you. Kobabe describes how e was attracted to women…but e didn’t exactly feel like a women emself. And sometimes e was attracted to men. So that makes em bisexual, right? As a child, Kobabe was jealous that e couldn’t go topless at the beach. E loathed the feminine things about eir body: the breasts, the lack of body hair, and especially eir period. But while e fantasied at a young age about having breast cancer so e could have a mastectomy, e never took testosterone or altered eir appearance with surgery.

When it all comes down to it, sometime you are who you are, and if you don’t fit into a neat label, there’s not a thing wrong with that.

Bonus Factor: Spivak Pronouns

Page from a very old Dictionary of the English Language

Kobabe didn’t want to be referred to as ‘he’ or ‘she’, but the gender neutral ‘they’ also didn’t really fit. E decided on the Spivak pronouns (e, eir, em). They’re not in widespread use and I’m sure I misused them in this review. But as Kobabe points out, pronouns are a personal decision, and one should respect them. E tells the story of how e was tutoring friends to refer to someone as ‘they’, only to immediately misgender the person emself.

And in that panel we were on together? When the moderator introduced us, she misgendered Kobabe.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Censorship

A pile of books sitting in the sand, on fire.

There’s been a huge surge in challenged books in the past couple of years, and Gender Queer always tops the list. The thing is, this isn’t just a matter of school boards vs. librarians anymore. My own state of Missouri recently passed a law criminalizing the distribution of pornographic images (not written words) to minors. But when it comes to graphic novels, where is the line between art and dirty pictures? If a high school librarian stocked this book, they could be charged with a sex crime. Not the best time to be a media specialist…

Or maybe it is.

Relationship Status: I Will Always Love Em

This writer has a MFA in comics. E assures us that’s a real thing. How can you not admire that?

Literary Matchmaking

Sasha Masha

Agnes Borinsky’s Sasha Masha deals with another kid questioning their gender identity.

Lily and Dunkin

Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart, is an adorable book about a gender non-conforming kid.

Gracefully Grayson

Ami Polonsky’s Gracefully Greyson also features someone assigned the wrong gender at birth.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received no money or hand drawn comics for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.