This month, let’s talk about Gender Queer, a book that needs a read, especially during the upcoming holiday season.
Happy holidays and welcome back! I'm so glad you're here. It's time for another Queer Comics from a Queer Perspective. Quick reminder: it's just my perspective, and I'm not speaking for anyone other than myself. Also, spoilers are ahead!
It's the holiday season, and as busy as things get, there's always some time to slow down a little and grab a good read from your local comic shop. There's research that proves that it's good to buy yourself a little something to relieve stress. I have no idea if that's actually true, but it works for me, so let's pretend, for a moment, that I've researched it. A wonderful book to read this season is Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe. This book is a fabulous read, but I'm going to tell you a secret: you'll need to read it more than once.
The graphic novel is about Maia's journey to understanding eir gender identity and eir journey of sexuality. Kobabe uses e em eir pronouns, sometimes known as Spivak pronouns. Identity can be an elusive thing. It's something that we can struggle with for an entire lifetime. In the case of superheroes, it's a question that has been asked for over 80 years. Is the real person Clark Kent or Superman?
Gender Queer has received a lot of attention over the last year as a book targeted for content that seems to be seen as controversial. But I don't see the book as controversial at all. It's a book about finding out who you are. The plot of so many middle-grade and YA books is simply about answering the question: who am I?
Kobabe's journey is sensitive, thoughtful, and inspiring. Is this a book for everybody? No. Probably not, but no book is for everyone. I, myself, have never read an entire issue of Spider-Man. Not to say I don't get why other people love him. Spider-Man just isn't for me, but let's get back to Gender Queer. Kobabe takes us through eir self-reflective journey and the bumps and bruises along the way. There are almost too many moments of beauty in this book to highlight just a few, but I'm going to try anyway.
There is a conversation between Kobabe and eir mother about halfway through while Kobabe tries to explain eir feelings about gender and identity. There's no real resolution to the conversation, which I think is brilliant. The journey of self-understanding never really ends, does it? We think it does. We think that the destination is the part where we begin, but really, it's the journey that we remember. Dorothy's journey in the Wizard of Oz lasts throughout pretty much the whole movie. Has anyone ever shouted at the TV for Dorothy to go back to Kansas?
So, why is this book something that so many people have targeted? There's a frank discussion of menstruation. If you've ever read Romeo & Juliet, one of Juliet's most passionate soliloquies is all about her first cycle. Anne Frank wrote about her cycle. Even Judy Blume wrote about periods. I'm assuming it's because of the journey of discovering one's sexual identity. But the story is about so much more than that. At some point, you've felt like an outsider, uncomfortable in your own skin. Everyone's felt that at some point, though, not the same way Kobabe does. My point is that you might not feel like you're fully you, and that's one reason this book works so beautifully.
And just like that, I realized why this book is so important. We're never born knowing exactly what we are, who we are, and what we want. Fear is what keeps us from being truly ourselves, and Kobabe brilliantly inspires each and every one of us not to be afraid of the road we travel every day.
As I said at the beginning, you should read this book more than once. Like the best of books, it's meant to be savored over time, never showing you everything about itself. The way I read comics from the 1970s now is different than when I first bought them. There's a reason that you've watched all those MCU movies more than once, isn't there? If you haven't read this book yet, you should, and if you have, read it again. This time, ask yourself, "Are you everything you want to be?" If the answer is no, then now's the time to start working on whatever it is you want to work on. You can do it. I believe in you. Happy holidays. You're awesome.
Read other editions of Queer Comics From a Queer Perspective here: