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Comics Memoir

Read Gender Queer

Read 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.

Really enjoyed this memoir. The simple art worked well for the story, which focuses on the author’s journey through eir gender identity and sexuality. Nice color work by eir sister.

It’s surprising that e was so resistant to writing autobiographically because this book was very open about super personal subjects, especially eir sexuality and turn-ons. (There are a few uncomfortable admissions that might have been better left out.)

I identify as cis and straight, but definitely have feelings about gender that overlap with eirs. I consider myself more of a tomboy, and reject a lot of what I consider toxic trappings of traditional Western gender as part of my version of feminism. It took me a long time to feel comfortable first getting married, and then saying that I was married. I didn’t change my last name, and don’t wear a wedding ring most of the time (it’s pretty so sometimes I do but I’m squiffy on the symbolism). I stopped shaving. I spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to be a woman when I don’t want children. I have “mothering” and caregiving “instincts” (learned or genetic?) that I struggle with to find the balance between doing what I wish and following our culture’s expectation that women subsume themselves to the care of others.

How e responds to “but you’d make such a good mom!”

There’s a conversation with eir lesbian aunt where the aunt accuses em of misogyny for not identifying as a woman, which reminded me of another claim I once saw that women only enjoy m/m stories because they are too invested in masculine pleasure and can’t imagine women feeling sexual pleasure. I just don’t think women subconsciously hate themselves that much. I’ve always been attracted to dudes, and reading about two dudes is double the dude. Not identifying with the cultural trappings of femininity and what the female gender means in society seems totally legit, and choosing to use different pronouns is one way of resetting others’ cultural expectations for you.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at tracy.durnell@gmail.com. She/her.

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