A Journey Through Space And Time… And Gender

Now that Bag of Bones is done and out of the way, I can focus on my 2021 reading list. As I mentioned before, I’m working my way through the Indigo 2021 reading Challenge because it feels like it will be both a good challenge and a good way to get me to tackle some of the unread books that have been sitting in my collection for the past while (ok, for the past few years).

My first book off the reading list is actually a brand new book that I bought myself in December. Yup, sure is a great start to tackling those unread books in my collection… But I didn’t just buy this book for no reason. A while back, I had seen Gender: A Graphic Guide by Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele appear on the Instagram page for Venus Envy and immediately added it to my wish list. I was drawn to this book because of the sub-heading A Graphic Guide. I really like these kinds of non-fiction books as they present information in a fun and interesting way. So, when I received a gift card for Venus Envy for Christmas, I immediately thought of this book.

It made sense to add this new purchase into my 2021 reading list because of nonbinary author Meg-John Barker. One of the categories on the Indigo list is: A book by a trans or nonbinary author. This graphic guide also takes things one step further because not only is it written by a nonbinary person, but Barker and Scheele present information about gender as it relates to trans and nonbinary people. Barker’s text explores gender from many different angles, presenting fact and theories from the past and present, while also describing how gender expressions and societal expectations vary depending on factors such as race, sexuality, and disability. Even though this guide explores so many different facets of gender, at no point does it feel rushed. Each topic is given it’s own chapter and is explored in depth.

A lot of the feminist theory and gender theory in Gender is information I was already very familiar with from my Masters degree, but it was a great refresher. In fact, this would have been a fantastic cheat sheet to have with me while I was at school. Scheele’s illustrations help to explain and expand on all of this theory, while making it more accessible for the reader. Although this book is informative, it does not come across as dry and academic. And, like I said, I was already familiar with much of the theory going into this read, but I still learned new things. I highly recommend this book if you’re confused, curious, or interested in the history of gender expression.

The absolute best part about this book is all of the Doctor Who references. Even if there was no reason for them to be there, I would love this book simply because of those references. However, it makes a lot of sense to include Doctor Who in a book about gender. The most obvious reason is because the principal characters of this graphic guide use the TARDIS to go back in time to look at past gender expressions and societal expectations around gender, as well as the various waves of feminism. But I think these references are also significant given the way the gender of the Timelords has been handled in the more recent seasons of Doctor Who. Missy was the first character to show that the male Master could easily regenerate into a female body. Not only that, but Missy even had the line (and I’m paraphrasing) “I knew him when he was a little girl”. But now, it’s not just the Master who can regenerate into a different gender identity. Not only is the Thirteenth Doctor now a woman, but (spoiler) she learns that in a previous life she was a woman of colour. Personally, I find it exciting that the Doctor doesn’t always have to present as male. And that constant change of bodies and, more recently, gender identities means that The Doctor absolutely belongs in this graphic guide.

After crossing this one off the reading list, I’m certainly interested in checking out some of the other books written by Barker and illustrated by Scheele.

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