Graphic novel memoir by a nonbinary author and artist, who describes what it was like struggling to understand gender norms and personal identity throughout childhood, adolescent and college years. In Kobabe’s family nobody really followed the “norms” per se- the father wore his hair long, the mother never wore makeup or shaved her legs. But Kobabe felt the lack of femininity much more profoundly. This book is very frank in exploring feelings of sexuality and comfort with one’s own body. Everything from difficulty in finding comfortable clothes (yes including underwear), to a first kiss, mental trauma and fear about menstruation, bad experiences at the gynecologist, using different pronouns and having to correct people, exploring self-pleasure, first dates (both awkward and not), and finally: understanding the differences that happen in the developing fetal brain that cause some people to have a distinct feeling of disconnect between their inner self and their physical body’s gender. To the point of mental and emotional distress. This last was most useful to me, as it was explained so clearly. I did find it funny how the author’s first kiss came about: needing to write a romantic scene in fanfic, a dating site was used to find someone to experience that with!
Some things to note: this book isn’t all about gender issues. There’s a love of snakes. Struggles learning to read, which then flipped and became a lifelong love of books. Another scene that amused me involved family members playing a board game which I instantly recognized, but apparently it couldn’t be named in the book (probably due to copyright). This was a scene where the author told an aunt and cousin of the wish to use different pronouns- not a funny page at all per se, just amusing to me because of what the game was.
I did not find this book offensive, nor did it make me super uncomfortable. I was a bit surprised at how open the author was about certain very personal experiences, but I also respect the bravery it takes to put that on paper. Yes, there are images with nudity. The drawings are simple enough that you immediately know what’s going on but don’t get too much detail. The simple fact that this is a person born female who feels male when it comes to sexuality means there are some images and ideas in here that a lot of people will find objectionable. But it’s about one person’s life and experience. No right to judge that. I think there’s great value here for others who are going through the same journey in finding out who they are.
All that said, I did not let my eleven-year-old read this book. It came into my hands because she checked it out from the library- she has a lot of curiosity about gender right now. Which is fine- but I think this book is appropriate for older teens and adults, not elementary or middle-school age kids. I simply told her she can read it when she’s older.
Borrowed from the public library.