Gender Queer Graphic memoir cover non-binary asexual queer
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Maia Kobabe
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March 11, 2022
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‘Gender queer’ by Maia Kobabe: the importance of media representation for queer youth

Heavily banned in US Schools, ‘Gender Queer’ by Maia Kobabe reminds us of the importance of media representation for queer youth.

Last September, a controversy sparked in Northern Virginia when a Fairfax County school board meeting decided over the ban of several books. The following week, one of the books was successively banned in schools in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Ohio, Washington, and Texas. As of today, discussions are still taking place over if the book may or may not remain on school library shelves. But what is this book about, and why is it so important to fight to keep it accessible to the youth?

‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’, came out in May 2019. Winner of many awards like the Stonewall Book Award, it received its fifth print and is getting translated into multiple languages. The well-established graphic novel has since found its way into school libraries, where it is very much needed.

Written by Maia Kobabe, a nonbinary queer author and illustrator, ‘Gender Queer’ was, first of all, a guide for eir own parents and family. The graphic memoir serves as a cathartic autobiography, from Maia Kobabe’s youth to current days, as e is in a search for identity. Comics is a particularly good medium to convey this life story in an accessible way, and Maia Kobabe tales it with honesty and sensibility.

Through the graphic memoir, Maia Kobabe highlights arbitrary gender constructs and progressively draws an explanation of what it is to be non-binary. As we get deeper into the novel, Maia gets deeper into the realization that the traditional gender binary was not going to work out for em. The accessibility and readability of ‘Gender Queer’ make it an important piece of art for queer teens and their non-informed close ones.

Maia Kobabe explained that if e came out to eir mom as bisexual in high school, it took em almost a decade to come out as nonbinary. The main reason was the lack of visibility of trans and nonbinary identities growing up, leading to a lack of understanding. As the queer youth usually cannot find the answers they need at home or in classrooms, media is their first form of information. This is why it is so important for those books to be in school libraries: The recent surge of censorship towards books that tackles race, sexuality, and gender identity threatens this sometimes lifesaving source of information. Books like ‘Gender Queer’ are vital to some queer kids, putting words on their feelings, validating their identity. It is then crucial to support authors like Maia Kobabe, whose words can be a lifeline.

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