“Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe
UPDATE: Classification Review Board upholds original decision of the Classification Board for “Gender Queer: A Memoir” to be sold “Unrestricted”.
UPDATE 21st July, 2023
Kinokuniya is pleased to hear that the Classification Review Board has released its finding on Gender Queer, upholding the original decision of the Classification Board.
Gender Queer will remain on our shelves – and library shelves throughout the country – classified as Unrestricted (M – Not recommended for readers under 15 years).
Our sincerest thanks go to all those who shared our posts about Gender Queer’s journey through the Classification system, and to all those who supported it with submissions to the Review Board.
It’s a small win in the culture war with those who seek to restrict what others are allowed to read, but it feels like an important one for all of us, and especially the LGBTQIA+ community.
UPDATE 25th May, 2023: The Classification Board’s decision to allow “Gender Queer: A Memoir” to be sold “Unrestricted” has been APPEALED.
In March, The Classification Board called-in Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe for classification from Kinokuniya. This was due to a complaint that was made by a very vocal proponent of book-banning. We were very pleased when The Board determined that Gender Queer should be available Unrestricted, with a recommendation for Mature readers, over 15 years. However, The Classification Board’s decision has been appealed (it appears by the same complainant) and they are now reviewing the decision.
If you believe that it is important for people to be able to access Gender Queer, unrestricted, then please see https://www.classification.gov.au/about-us/media-and-news/media-releases/classification-review-announced-for-publication-gender-queer for information about how to make your own submission to the Classification Review Board.
Read below, Part 1 of our efforts to keep Gender Queer on the shelf:
On 17th March Kinokuniya received an email from The Classification Board of Australia “calling-in” Gender Queer: A Memoir for classification within three business days.
This graphic memoir – graphic as in illustrated – had been brought to their attention as a title which might cause offense and they had determined it to be a submittable publication. For the uninitiated (which we at Kinokuniya are not) this means that we should not make it available for sale until it has been submitted to The Board for classification. (It doesn’t take too much googling to find the source of the complaint if you’re interested, but I’d rather not give him any more comment.)
Once a title as been called-in we essentially have three options. The first is to approach the local publisher/distributor of the title and ask them to submit it to the board. In the case of Gender Queer there isn’t a local supplier. We have recognised the importance of this title and we import it ourselves, which makes us (and anyone else who sells it in Australia) the ‘publisher’, in the Classification Board’s terms.
Our second option is to remove it from sale and write-off the stock. Why would we do that, you might ask? We would consider doing that, as we have done before, because the cost to have a single book classified for a single store is prohibitive – in this case, based on the number of pages, it is $560. The process could take several weeks, and there is no guarantee of The Board’s decision.
So, there you have our third option – to pay to have it classified ourselves. And we feel so incredibly passionate about being able to represent and champion this title in Australia that we paid the fee, and then waited.
While awaiting The Board’s classification decision we were buoyed by articles such as Jane Sullivan’s opinion piece on Gender Queer for the Sydney Morning Herald, lamenting the Americanisation of our approach to things we don’t like, to the conservative need to ban. As a bookstore, a place of many, varied ideas, we find book banning anathema. And, in this case, this is an award winning book, winner of the 2020 ALA Alex Award and a 2020 Stonewall Award Honor Book. The public libraries in the U.S. believe this books has outstanding merit for young adult readers and so do we. Gender Queer might not only offer some sense of being seen or not so alone to those questioning their gender identity, but could also teach empathy and understanding to those who have no concept of what it might mean. It is one of the most challenged and banned books in the U.S. right now, and the conservative challenge to it here in Australia should ring alarm bells and make us all more vigilant.
On 4th April when we received the Classification Certificate, stating that Gender Queer could be sold Unrestricted we were elated. This book means so much to so many of our staff – we were firmly invested in a positive outcome! And we commend and thank The Board for their thoughtful – and quick – determination.
So, here at Kino, we are pleased and proud to give Gender Queer: A Memoir pride of place on our shelves, and we hope that it can now find the audience it deserves without impediment.
And it might be about time we had another banned book promotion in store – we do hope you’ll be part of it!
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 and fundamental violation 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.