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Activist-academic Meg-John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture an Activist-academic Meg-John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged. Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what’s ‘normal’ – Alfred Kinsey’s view of sexuality as a spectrum, Judith Butler’s view of gendered behaviour as a performance, the play Wicked, or moments in Casino Royale when we’re invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media. Presented in a brilliantly engaging and witty style, this is a unique portrait of the universe of queer thinking.


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Activist-academic Meg-John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture an Activist-academic Meg-John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged. Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what’s ‘normal’ – Alfred Kinsey’s view of sexuality as a spectrum, Judith Butler’s view of gendered behaviour as a performance, the play Wicked, or moments in Casino Royale when we’re invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media. Presented in a brilliantly engaging and witty style, this is a unique portrait of the universe of queer thinking.

30 review for Queer: A Graphic History

  1. 4 out of 5

    l.

    Maybe I should write a review that explains why this book is such utter garbage. 1. Queer theory is a plot (modification of Adrian Piper stating that post-structuralism is a plot). Queer is a meaningless word that is unresponsive to the realities faced by LGBT people, namely homophobia and transphobia. In using queer to mean anyone who is kewl and performative instead of using it to refer to people grouped together on the basis of shared oppression, you miss why LGBT people experience discriminat Maybe I should write a review that explains why this book is such utter garbage. 1. Queer theory is a plot (modification of Adrian Piper stating that post-structuralism is a plot). Queer is a meaningless word that is unresponsive to the realities faced by LGBT people, namely homophobia and transphobia. In using queer to mean anyone who is kewl and performative instead of using it to refer to people grouped together on the basis of shared oppression, you miss why LGBT people experience discrimination. You miss why we've organized and what our goals are. You get statements like: "As with same-sex attraction, from a queer perspective, it's important to point out that neither kink practices nor openly non-monogamous relationships are transgressive per se." You heard that? Being gay isn't necessarily transgressive! Just like being into age play! Calling straight people queer because they enjoy having sex in the park/use strap ons/are kinksters does nothing to help us understand why LGBT people in our society discriminated against. It just brings people under the umbrella who face none of the problems that we do, though some of them would like to think that they do. Funnily enough, this book does make a token attempt at acknowledging that criticism, spending a single page stating that queer theory might possibly obscure material conditions such as poverty, violence, and unemployment and that it may be too focused on cultural representations and acts of transgressions. (Note that it doesn't acknowledge how it obscures and furthers homophobic attitudes). The book also states that de Lauretis defected from queer theory, but never really explains why. Instead, the book states: "Some have endeavored to fix [queer theory] as something stable, and others have resisted such fixing", seeming to imply that de Lauretis was Just Not Progressive Enough for Queer Theory despite being a founding figure. Meanwhile, explaining how BBC's Sherlock, one scene in a James Bond film where Daniel Craig gets his shirt off, Harry/Draco fanfic, and Finding Nemo are queer gets a total of five pages. Look at your priorities. 2. There is no discussion whatsoever on why the reclamation of a slur may not be greeted by all with open arms. No discussion of why we need specific terms to refer to the problems we encounter and tackle. And indeed, this author criticizes Adrienne Rich, writing an essay called 'on compulsory heterosexuality and LESBIAN existence' for not considering how compulsory heterosexuality affects other 'marginalized sexualities.' That problematic lesbian Adrienne Rich, focusing her essay on lesbian existence on lesbian existence instead of say, straight kinksters. 3. Page 83 is hilarious. Flip there to see Miley Cyrus ("I don't feel the name to label my gender or sexuality"), Ruby Rose (I'm somewhere in the middle of the spectrum"), and Kristen Stewart ("I don't think it's necessary to figure out if you're 'gay' or 'straight') being lauded as examples of Foucauldian-Butlerian Resistance. I guess we gays are Just Gays. So passe compared to these women, all of whom are rich, white, bisexual cis women, incidentally. 4. I think it's really funny that they quote Sartre saying that it's 'bad faith' for gay people to say that they're immutably gay, and the commentary goes: well, maybe it would be better to use heterosexual people as an example, but we agree. Nice to know there's an agreement with the underlying homophobic sentiment that is still used to harass and abuse gay children today. 5. It's always fun when people imply that gay people are just as much oppressors of bi people as straight people, or that somehow, ~monosexuals~ are a class and have better mental health because they're ~monosexuals~ 6. Positing that people upset about online pornography = a "moral panic"? Demonic. 7. It's really cute that the only actual examination of gender is when they spend a page condemning TERFs. Weirdly enough, the author seems to believe that women who believe that gender is a hierarchy and socially constructed are following Judith Butler? When? Where? Why? This lack of awareness that women have been criticizing gender for centuries if not in those words... and it's incredible given that the book does quote from Simone De Beauvoir, as well as black and lesbian feminists who have discussed gender socialization in detail. But the writer only wants to use a line or two of their works to establish the queer theory continuum, who cares about the rest, right. 8. Also cute how asian just refers to east asian. Also cute how the writer identifies the queer theorists vs feminists conflict, and then identifies CAMILLE PAGLIA of all people as one of the two examples of feminists. Also "femmephobia"... what a world we live in. 9. My queer theory will be intersectional or it will be bullshit? You mean: my queer theory will necessarily be bullshit, right. 10. How embarrassing. I'm embarrassed.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Danika at The Lesbrary

    I wasn't expecting this to be queer /theory/! This is also more of a highly illustrated book than a graphic novel/graphic history. So basically, this was more intellectual than I was expecting. But that was great! Although sometimes it got a little intimidating, I think overall it did a great job in introducing a very dense, complex, sometimes incomprehensible subject. I took a Queer Theory class in university, so I was familiar with some of this, but it was a great refresher for those and intro I wasn't expecting this to be queer /theory/! This is also more of a highly illustrated book than a graphic novel/graphic history. So basically, this was more intellectual than I was expecting. But that was great! Although sometimes it got a little intimidating, I think overall it did a great job in introducing a very dense, complex, sometimes incomprehensible subject. I took a Queer Theory class in university, so I was familiar with some of this, but it was a great refresher for those and introduced me to more. It is just an introduction, so a lot of things are just touched on (like asexuality and crip studies), but I think it managed to be pretty thorough for the restrictions. I'm happy there's a good introduction to queer theory(/activism/studies) out there now!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Calista

    I appreciate the information this little book holds, but man it was boring. It was somewhat of a slog. It did a great job of educating, but it was not entertaining really. There was so much they could have done in a graphic novel format. They could have told a story, or even just make each page more of a graphic novel. Instead, we get a picture that goes with the lecture. I learned quite a bit from this book and even new ways to think about and see things. My only critique and it's a big one, is I appreciate the information this little book holds, but man it was boring. It was somewhat of a slog. It did a great job of educating, but it was not entertaining really. There was so much they could have done in a graphic novel format. They could have told a story, or even just make each page more of a graphic novel. Instead, we get a picture that goes with the lecture. I learned quite a bit from this book and even new ways to think about and see things. My only critique and it's a big one, is that its so dry. Dry, Dry, Dry. Man, I really expected more. I'm sure there would be a way to tell this better, but at least this is out in the world and I'm sure it can be very helpful to many kids struggling out there and needing to feel a connection with someone. Just about everyone is mentioned in this book as far as the outcasts of society go. There are also some quotable lines in here. That's all.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katbyrdie

    This book is missing an important word on the cover, THEORY. This isn't the graphic history of the queer community, but a short, illustrated introduction into queer theory. Anyone who has studied queer issues already knows the basics, and anyone wanting to know the basics needs more than the book offers. This book is missing an important word on the cover, THEORY. This isn't the graphic history of the queer community, but a short, illustrated introduction into queer theory. Anyone who has studied queer issues already knows the basics, and anyone wanting to know the basics needs more than the book offers.

  5. 5 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    A fun foray back into academia for a night! I think I'm not really the intended audience for this book, which is a graphic introduction to queer theory (the term history in the subtitle is a bit of a misnomer-- it'd be better if the cover and title made it clear it's about queer theory specifically). I've read fair number of the primary texts they refer to by Foucault, Butler, etc, so I doubt myself a bit when I say I think the concepts are well and clearly explained and that this book is pretty A fun foray back into academia for a night! I think I'm not really the intended audience for this book, which is a graphic introduction to queer theory (the term history in the subtitle is a bit of a misnomer-- it'd be better if the cover and title made it clear it's about queer theory specifically). I've read fair number of the primary texts they refer to by Foucault, Butler, etc, so I doubt myself a bit when I say I think the concepts are well and clearly explained and that this book is pretty accessible. I'd be interested to hear the thoughts of readers who jumped into this without prior knowledge! I especially liked how they addressed the lack of attention to race and bisexuality in most queer theory. I also appreciate that this is in graphic format; the topic doesn't really lend itself to graphic adaptation and I thought they did a good job with the visuals. It was fun to see pictures of the theorists I've read but never knew what they looked like! Besides the misleading title, my only complaint is a kinda weird use of the word trans as a noun on its own (for example "writing about trans"). To be fair, some queer theorists also use the word queer in the same way and I find it similarly baffling. Oh and I wish the section on how to apply the concepts and ways of thinking to your everyday life were longer.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    Book blurb: From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged. I was at a gathering recently where people were asked to introduce themselves, and identify which pronouns they prefer. Huh? There are times I feel so dang old. Sigh. This non Book blurb: From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged. I was at a gathering recently where people were asked to introduce themselves, and identify which pronouns they prefer. Huh? There are times I feel so dang old. Sigh. This nonfiction graphic novel is a historical overview of queer theory. There were things I knew, much I did not, much I learned, and though I'm not sure I understood everything being covered, this is one I will certainly be reading again. Lots to ponder and highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carol Flores

    First of all, this should be called Queer: a graphic theory not 'history'. I’m not sure how I feel about this book, because I felt like I read an extensive Wikipedia article; meaning, that all the information was quite short but the sources were helpful in case you want to know more about the theories. I do want to give credit to the illustrator because it made it more bearable but I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who wants to know about queer activism or queer identity or even the fact th First of all, this should be called Queer: a graphic theory not 'history'. I’m not sure how I feel about this book, because I felt like I read an extensive Wikipedia article; meaning, that all the information was quite short but the sources were helpful in case you want to know more about the theories. I do want to give credit to the illustrator because it made it more bearable but I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who wants to know about queer activism or queer identity or even the fact that not all LGBTQ+ folks want to use the word queer to identify themselves. I must admit I am new to some subjects but this wasn’t as helpful as I thought it would be.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Craswell

    4.5 Stars. This is such a great overview of queer theory. This book at least touched on almost every concept I've studied in almost 2 years of university gender and queer studies and explains everything in a clear, concise way that makes some of the notoriously confusing concepts easy to understand. Seriously, I've never understood Foucault more clearly. Every idea is accompanies by pictures that both help with the explanations and also keep things interesting (let's be real, a lot of queer theor 4.5 Stars. This is such a great overview of queer theory. This book at least touched on almost every concept I've studied in almost 2 years of university gender and queer studies and explains everything in a clear, concise way that makes some of the notoriously confusing concepts easy to understand. Seriously, I've never understood Foucault more clearly. Every idea is accompanies by pictures that both help with the explanations and also keep things interesting (let's be real, a lot of queer theory texts can be really long, really dense, and really dry). Overall I think this is a fantastic intro to queer theory. I would definitely recommend doing further reading beyond this but it's a great starting point!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Clem (the villain's quest)

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars Fascinating, articulate and intelligent.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    I sought out this work because of the subtitle, "A Graphic History." I was hoping for a graphic novel and instead received a pretty dull PowerPoint presentation. Basically a droning lecture is typeset in big blocks of text that float over bland illustrations that exhibit little continuity or flow. The most amusing part of the book for me was the several minutes I spent afterward using Google Images to search for the various real people whose images appear in the book and counting how many times I sought out this work because of the subtitle, "A Graphic History." I was hoping for a graphic novel and instead received a pretty dull PowerPoint presentation. Basically a droning lecture is typeset in big blocks of text that float over bland illustrations that exhibit little continuity or flow. The most amusing part of the book for me was the several minutes I spent afterward using Google Images to search for the various real people whose images appear in the book and counting how many times the illustrator used the very first picture to appear in the search as her direct photo reference. And then I spent more time registering how many times that single portrait was simply copied and pasted, tweaked or flipped as the person reappeared throughout the book. That seems like a pretty lazy and uninspired technique for an artist. Speaking of lazy and uninspired, I always like to find my own thoughts on a work summarized within it: "Perhaps the most well-known criticism of queer theory is that it is inaccessible....There's a serious point here that if a theory is too abstract, complex, and opaque it will exclude those outside academia from engaging with it. It may also be regarded as elitist and class-biased." I did not engage with this work, but I do appreciate the exposure to ideas that are new to me even if the presentation is lacking.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    This book is full of oversimplifications, overt biases, and outright lies. Radical Feminists (called by an actual slur in this crap book) aren't "using" Butler's theories "to advance an agenda." They are practicing real feminism, which has nothing to do with Butler's neoliberal, PoMo, faux-academic garbage. There's a reason that Walmart carries this pile of shit in paper form. It's mainstream neoliberal propaganda. This book is full of oversimplifications, overt biases, and outright lies. Radical Feminists (called by an actual slur in this crap book) aren't "using" Butler's theories "to advance an agenda." They are practicing real feminism, which has nothing to do with Butler's neoliberal, PoMo, faux-academic garbage. There's a reason that Walmart carries this pile of shit in paper form. It's mainstream neoliberal propaganda.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Summer

    I was expecting a graphic novel about the history of "queer" the word or about notable queer figures in history. This was actually more of an illustrated introduction to academic queer theory. Even with the illustrations it was dense reading and there were parts I'm not entirely sure I understood. Perhaps this might be a little too dense for those who aren't familiar with feminist studies or reading other academic works but it might be a nice introduction for those who have. I was expecting a graphic novel about the history of "queer" the word or about notable queer figures in history. This was actually more of an illustrated introduction to academic queer theory. Even with the illustrations it was dense reading and there were parts I'm not entirely sure I understood. Perhaps this might be a little too dense for those who aren't familiar with feminist studies or reading other academic works but it might be a nice introduction for those who have.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    For some reason I'd expected this to be a sort of Alice in Sunderland if Sunderland were the chosen name of one of Alice's non-binary partners. Whereas really it's much more an illustrated introduction in the manner of those old beginner's guides (I say that like I read more than one, when in fact it was just Rius on Marx at an early age while bored at a family friend's). Still, it deals admirably with the difficulty of introducing and summarising theories whose very essence is to disputatiously For some reason I'd expected this to be a sort of Alice in Sunderland if Sunderland were the chosen name of one of Alice's non-binary partners. Whereas really it's much more an illustrated introduction in the manner of those old beginner's guides (I say that like I read more than one, when in fact it was just Rius on Marx at an early age while bored at a family friend's). Still, it deals admirably with the difficulty of introducing and summarising theories whose very essence is to disputatiously refuse summary. Anyone bar a real devotee will learn something here (it's particularly good on the way even a project founded on questioning binaries will tend to find itself getting tangled in new ones), but really it's best suited for being pressed on absolute newbies - ideally at an impressionable age when a) they'll find it especially helpful and b) the splenetic forces of reaction will find the intervention even more upsetting than usual.

  14. 5 out of 5

    kari

    Clever, accessible and comprehensive introduction to queer theory. And the authors don't shy away from critique - they're quick to point out when they themselves fall into binaries, they notice lack of intersectionality, and list the issues of this developing academic field. A good read, even if you know your Foucault and Butler. I wanted to write that it puts things in place, but no. It sets them in unending, erratic motion, as queer theory should. Clever, accessible and comprehensive introduction to queer theory. And the authors don't shy away from critique - they're quick to point out when they themselves fall into binaries, they notice lack of intersectionality, and list the issues of this developing academic field. A good read, even if you know your Foucault and Butler. I wanted to write that it puts things in place, but no. It sets them in unending, erratic motion, as queer theory should.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Solly

    2.5 stars Well this was definitely not what I expected. Like a lot of people, I think I expected something about queer history, not about the history of queer theory. So I had to review my expectations for this. It definitely was informative, I was interested in learning about the origin of words I use a lot in my activism. The general history of queer theory was interesting but got easily confusing. Like, it was as if this book was both too simplified and too complicated. I understand that intro 2.5 stars Well this was definitely not what I expected. Like a lot of people, I think I expected something about queer history, not about the history of queer theory. So I had to review my expectations for this. It definitely was informative, I was interested in learning about the origin of words I use a lot in my activism. The general history of queer theory was interesting but got easily confusing. Like, it was as if this book was both too simplified and too complicated. I understand that introducing a whole academic area isn't simple but oh boy was it hard to follow sometimes, jumping from one thing to another. It didn't quite work as a graphic novel either, because the drawings weren't super well integrated in the work, they just highlighted some of the text or put emphasis on something. It wasn't bad, but at some point I considered skipping reading the graphics parts because they didn't bring much that wasn't already in the text. There's a few wonky phrasing like "be mindful when talking about trans". Trans what? Trans experiences? Trans people??? Also a whole chapter on explaining fluidity in biological sex without mentinoning intersex people, that was weird. There's barely any mention of asexuality, none of aromanticism. I know the queer theory field itself focuses a lot on LG stuff rather than the whole queer spectrum, but idk you can't put drawings including "asexual pride" and then not talk about asexuality at all. I appreciated the sections toward the end about thinking more queerly. It was nice and it made me question how my activist work could be improved by queer theory. BUT there was a lot of other stuff where I just scrunched up my nose like "really???". I haven't highlighted anything in the book so I can't quote the few things that weirded me out, but it happened a few time. Overall, I don't even know how I feel. Glad I learned stuff! Interested to see that several names and works quoted in this were also mentionned in Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race. I also feel like I barely retained anything because, well, queer theory isn't super accessible and it mentions A LOT of different people and works. I just have mixed feelings about the whole thing, but I'm still glad I read it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Akemi G.

    I wanted to learn how I can relate to LGBTQ people so that I won't unwittingly offend them. Besides, I was confused with the terminology: Is intersectionality just fancier word for diversity? The word queer is sometimes used to mean gay people, sometimes as the umbrella word for all LGBT (and intersex, asexual, etc), but also the opposite of that--that is, people who don't (or won't) belong to LGBT circle, right? This book is a good intro. Definitely just an intro, but still quite informative. Be I wanted to learn how I can relate to LGBTQ people so that I won't unwittingly offend them. Besides, I was confused with the terminology: Is intersectionality just fancier word for diversity? The word queer is sometimes used to mean gay people, sometimes as the umbrella word for all LGBT (and intersex, asexual, etc), but also the opposite of that--that is, people who don't (or won't) belong to LGBT circle, right? This book is a good intro. Definitely just an intro, but still quite informative. Before, I thought I was doing some good by being supportive to the so-called LGBTQ movement; now I understand that labeling someone as such can be a problem, because it reinforces the heteronormative standard. Some of the things the book discuss were strangely familiar. Most importantly that we are not the label (identity) and identifying with any identify, even when done voluntarily, is misleading and problematic. I wrote the same thing in my book (WHY WE ARE BORN)! -- just not as the sexuality/gender issue. The fault of duality is another point that I already knew. My spirit guides are queer. ^_^ To wrap up, I want to mention the historical/global irony of the queer theory. We talk as if this is something new, but it's not. Third gender people or dual gender people have existed from immemorial past in Asia, pre-colonial America, and Africa. It's only new in Europe and colonized America (the white minority world) because in this region, white people have (almost completely) perished the ancient queer practices. And now the white people are resurrecting it and theorizing it. (shrug) P.S. By introductory, I don't mean this book is easy. It's actually filled with (for me) unfamiliar terminologies. I mean the book offers a good overview of the topic in question.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sim ✨(wholesimreads)

    ✔️ (adv.) a micro history 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 5 stars Super fascinating! Attempts to effectively address queerness in the most easily digested way through illustrations and ideologies. Really helps me understand sexuality/identity etc. in its entire complexity. Still so much to learn!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    An enlightening and informative read, and more scholarly and theoretical than I was expecting. For me, this was a good thing. Only downside for me was the reliance on pop cultural persons as references/examples - these will date the text quickly and be lost on some readers within a few years.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bek MoonyReadsByStarlight

    This is not just an LGBT+ history -- rather, it is a history of queerness. It is centered around queer theory, but also talks about queer culture and queer activism. It is very accessible and it makes me want to get back into reading more queer theory! A lot of conversations happening about the LGBT community would be a lot more easy to get through if people at least had this base knowledge (regardless of their perspective on it). It certainly does not cover everything in detail (how could you i This is not just an LGBT+ history -- rather, it is a history of queerness. It is centered around queer theory, but also talks about queer culture and queer activism. It is very accessible and it makes me want to get back into reading more queer theory! A lot of conversations happening about the LGBT community would be a lot more easy to get through if people at least had this base knowledge (regardless of their perspective on it). It certainly does not cover everything in detail (how could you in a short, quick history?) but it is a great start and accessible for those who aren't super familiar with academic jargon. I'd like to look at it more closely once I look more into the theory it discusses to see what parts it decided to hilight vs what is glossed over (I do have some background but not nearly as much as I would like). I borrowed this from the library but I will definitely be purchasing my own copy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia (IDAHOBIT). May this remind us to celebrate diversity!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lizzie Huxley-Jones

    Here’s the thing: I’m queer in a number of ways. I’ve known I was attracted to multiple genders for a long time, but good old childhood shaming and being called “Lizzie the Lesbo” was enough for me to squash that side of me until I reached adulthood and eventually felt safe enough to think about it. I’ve known I was not a girl and not a boy either for my whole life, existing in the in-between and struggling with intermittent social and physical dysphoria. It was only in my late twenties that I s Here’s the thing: I’m queer in a number of ways. I’ve known I was attracted to multiple genders for a long time, but good old childhood shaming and being called “Lizzie the Lesbo” was enough for me to squash that side of me until I reached adulthood and eventually felt safe enough to think about it. I’ve known I was not a girl and not a boy either for my whole life, existing in the in-between and struggling with intermittent social and physical dysphoria. It was only in my late twenties that I started to find the words for this, having finally met other genderqueer, trans and nonbinary people. Part of my own coming out was through learning about queer politics, and in turn theory. But I’m going to be really honest with you here — I did not understand a lot of it. When I say understand, I don’t mean politically align with. I mean the language was so often complex, so very different from the English I speak or have heard throughout my life, that I would be thrown off entirely. There’s been discussions around this on Twitter, quite rightly pointing out that academic language can be alienating for people, particularly working class people who haven’t studied humanities. The amount of times I’ve had to google words like “hegemony” and “praxis” in order to understand a sentence are innumerable. The same thing has happened to me with feminist theory. I have tried quite a few times to read works by Nancy Fraser, or sections of Judith Butler’s writing, or even try and access philosophy through a beginner’s course, and I never managed to get very far. Until today. A few weeks ago, myself and Alice were walking through Soho, talking about the DIVA book conference she’d recently been to and how revelatory it was that an event devoted to queer female literature was not protested any more. We got onto the topic of Section 8, the problems of a discourse centring around “always knowing” about your own queer identity, and a few other connected topics. She mentioned Queer, A Graphic History to me, and I decided there in the rain in Soho that we would march to the bookshop and I’d buy it. I’m really pleased to say that having read Queer, A Graphic History I actually think I have a handle on theory! Barker takes the reader through the evolution of queer theory and the main contributors, right up to the present day and the futures directions of study that are developing. Thanks to Scheele’s wonderful illustrations, concepts are broken down simply, faces given to mysterious names and summarised quotes attributed to those faces. As I suspected, I knew a lot of these fundamentals of queer theory — intersectionality, gender perfomativity, the black feminists who correctly challenged much of the original white thinkers — but I didn’t have the faces, the names, the language behind the concepts. Never again will I shrink when I hear someone attribute a concept to Lacan or Foucault, because I now have a loose understanding of their positions and a Scheele portrait to put their name to. Barker has also provided a resources section at the back with accessible further reading on sexuality and gender, and queer theory, which is incredibly useful as so often I pick up a book and fall into the inaccessible language pit. Queer, A Graphic History is an informative, affirming, hopeful and essential read for anyone who wants to know more about queer theory, politics and activism. However, irrespective of your own identity, Queer is also a great introduction to examining binaries and biases in our daily lives and media. This is a thoughtful and powerful book to spend an afternoon reading and a lifetime acting upon. What to read next: Trans Like Me by C N Lester Queer, There and Everywhere by Sarah Prager Fun Home by Alison Bechdel Dr MEG-JOHN BARKER is a writer, therapist, and activist-academic specialising in sex, gender and relationships. Meg-John is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University and a UKCP accredited psychotherapist, and has over a decade of experience researching and publishing on these topics including the popular book Rewriting the Rules. @megjohnbarker JULIA SCHEELE is an illustrator, graphic facilitator and comic book artist. She runs One Beat Zines, a feminist zine collective and distributor. @juliascheele

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    Wow. That was not at all what I expected, though not in a bad way. Certainly it was more of an intellectual workout than I was prepared for. Queer is an introduction to Queer Theory in graphic novel form. Although I just read the book, I doubt my ability to give a coherent summary of just what QT is. There's one quote that comes close to my hazy understanding, but it will take some setting up. Throughout the book, there are portraits of various writers and researchers whose work has contributed Wow. That was not at all what I expected, though not in a bad way. Certainly it was more of an intellectual workout than I was prepared for. Queer is an introduction to Queer Theory in graphic novel form. Although I just read the book, I doubt my ability to give a coherent summary of just what QT is. There's one quote that comes close to my hazy understanding, but it will take some setting up. Throughout the book, there are portraits of various writers and researchers whose work has contributed in some way to Queer Theory. These portraits are drawn with speech balloons, but, the creators of this book caution us, the text in the balloons should not be considered a direct quote. Basically, they're putting words into these peoples' mouths that they never actually said, though presumably they'd agree with its being a paraphrase of their work. Anyway, in the speech balloon attributed to Gloria Anzaldúa, we read, "Identity is not a bunch of little cubbyholes stuffed respectively with intellect, race, sex, class, vocation, gender. Identity flows between, over, aspects of a person. Identity is a river--a process. " Queer Theory applies to LGBTQ issues, but can equally be applied to humanity in general. Whatever you're including, it can also be useful to look at what you're excluding. There are, of course, suggestions for further reading. This is a book that I'll probably need to read more than once before I can say with any confidence that I understand it. But, after one readthrough, I can now use "heteronormative" in a sentence, so at least there's that ...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nore

    l's review is all you need to know about how I feel, honestly. The older I get, the further away from college campuses where this sort of theory abounds, and the more I live my life as a woman, in a relationship with another woman, the less time I have for this sort of navel-gazing, identity-above-reality nonsense. In a culture where saying something like "humans are a sexual dimorphic species" carries an increasing risk that you'll be labeled a TERF (and where same-sex attraction is "problematic l's review is all you need to know about how I feel, honestly. The older I get, the further away from college campuses where this sort of theory abounds, and the more I live my life as a woman, in a relationship with another woman, the less time I have for this sort of navel-gazing, identity-above-reality nonsense. In a culture where saying something like "humans are a sexual dimorphic species" carries an increasing risk that you'll be labeled a TERF (and where same-sex attraction is "problematic"), where I've seen with my own two eyes the phrase "women and femmes" presented as progressive and inclusive, I'm pretty done with queer theory. Rough guess on when I read this. I had to sit on it for a few months.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sara-Jayne Poletti

    This book is basically an academic text crossed with a comic. It's so jam packed full of accessible/super informative explanations of queer theory and history. If you're looking for a cutesy little graphic history, this ain't it. If you're looking for a succinct and instructive rundown of the history of queer theory (from identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion), look no further. It may be short and filled with a ton of illustrations, but this is one book that will definite This book is basically an academic text crossed with a comic. It's so jam packed full of accessible/super informative explanations of queer theory and history. If you're looking for a cutesy little graphic history, this ain't it. If you're looking for a succinct and instructive rundown of the history of queer theory (from identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion), look no further. It may be short and filled with a ton of illustrations, but this is one book that will definitely change the way you think about sex and gender.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This brought me back to my Queer Theory class. I recognized nearly every single name mentioned, which made me pretty damn impressed with myself haha. Great little book to have on hand. Would have liked it to have an index — alas!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    This review was originally posted here on my blog, Magic & Musings. Check it out! * Icon Books kindly sent me a copy of Queer for review, but my opinions below are just that: my opinions! * 'Activist-academic Megan-John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. A kaleidoscope of characters from the diverse worlds of pop culture, film, activism and academics guide us on a journey through the idea This review was originally posted here on my blog, Magic & Musings. Check it out! * Icon Books kindly sent me a copy of Queer for review, but my opinions below are just that: my opinions! * 'Activist-academic Megan-John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. A kaleidoscope of characters from the diverse worlds of pop culture, film, activism and academics guide us on a journey through the ideas, people and events that have shaped queer theory. From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do, and how culture can shift out perspective of what's 'normal'.' - This review will begin with two thank-yous for Icon Books. The first: thank you for sending me a copy of Queer: A Graphic History for review! The second: thank you for your 'Introducing' series. Without it, I certainly would not have done as well in either my degrees. Shout-out to Introducing Freud - A Graphic Guide. Never has death drive made so much sense. Icon Books specialise in non-fiction and publish on a range of subjects including science, politics, psychology, and philosophy. Their books are academic and thought-provoking, sometimes introducing subjects to readers for the first time, but also sometimes serving as a space to expand on knowledge already gained. In simple words: some of their books are really easy to read and some of their books are a bit more complicated. As I mentioned before, their 'Introducing' series is a very good one if you're interested in a subject (maybe a type of critical theory, a religion, a philosopher) and don't really know where to start. Think of them as primers. I would say that Queer: A Graphic History is one of the more advanced of their publications. I've studied queer theory before during my postgraduate studies, but a lot of this was very new to me still and took several reads to wrap my head around. But this is fine, because learning is fun, right? This book details queer theory from its precursors and beginnings through to its uses and applications today. It's full of sources, quotations, and suggestions for further reading: a very good summary of primary texts for those looking for a comprehensive background to the subject. I wish this had been around when I was writing my dissertation because it includes all of the people I was writing about (Adrienne Rich, Teresa de Lauretis, Monique Wittig), but oh so many more too! For those who haven't yet been introduced to queer theory, it's a type of post-structuralist critical theory that looks at existing texts through a 'queer lens' ('queer' being a sort of umbrella term for people who are not straight or cis-gendered), but also questions what 'queer' is. Like a lot of critical theory, it sounds pretty complicated. A lot of queer theory discusses and deconstructs gender, gender norms, sexuality, what is classed as 'normal' and 'other', as well as how race, disability, religion, and cultural background feed into all of this. It basically covers all bases of society and looks at how these 'norms' we're so used to are imposed unnecessarily, especially the use of binaries (male/female, straight/gay, cis/trans, white/black, good/evil, right/wrong, able/disabled.) A much more elegant and comprehensive explanation can be found in this book, or anywhere online if you do a quick search. I certainly don't claim to be an expert! More on the book itself: I would call Queer: A Graphic History a real must-have for anyone studying or interested in learning more about queer theory. It's comprehensive, clearly-written, and a lot of fun! Icon's graphic guides are wonderful for taking critical theories, breaking them down into manageable chunks, and providing helpful imagery to aid your understanding. Illustrations provide refuse from the huge blocks of text we can get used to when studying. Another aspect I loved about this book was the application of queer theory onto popular culture, branching away from traditional discussions by showing how these things are actually used by people everyday on the internet when they read between the lines of their favourite shows and create fan/slash fiction. Critical theory put into a contemporary context = <3 Queer: A Graphic History will be published by Icon Books in September for the UK and November for the US, RRP £11.99/$17.95. You can follow Meg-John and Julia on Twitter at @megjohnbarker and @juliascheele.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Neeyati

    The only reason I'm withholding a star is because I had to read this really quickly for class, so I didn't get to sit with all the content as long as I would've liked. But I'm definitely going to re-read and probably even buy this one, so I'll update my rating then! For now, I'm really excited at the idea of taking theory outside of academia and exploring different mediums that change the way readers can engage with complex ideas. Of course a book like this can't get into precise detail about eve The only reason I'm withholding a star is because I had to read this really quickly for class, so I didn't get to sit with all the content as long as I would've liked. But I'm definitely going to re-read and probably even buy this one, so I'll update my rating then! For now, I'm really excited at the idea of taking theory outside of academia and exploring different mediums that change the way readers can engage with complex ideas. Of course a book like this can't get into precise detail about every theory it includes, but this is more of a primer, and the authors aren't claiming to be comprehensive. That being said, I still think both the writing and the illustrations do a really good job of breaking things down, examining tensions and interactions between ideas, and maintaining a consistently intersectional lens throughout. And there's a list of resources in the back + you can always do further research into any idea/theorist/activist that's mentioned. I like that the book starts off by calling in people who may not know anything at all about gender or critical theory, or may feel overwhelmed by ever-evolving academic jargon. Theory that lives and dies in academia or privileged spaces isn't useful. Which is not to say that this book is reductive or "dumbed down" in any way. It's just clear and concise. I would feel comfortable sharing it with family members who understandably can't make sense of my own incoherent rambling attempts to articulate ideas about identity. And personally as well, as someone who tries to stay immersed in gender and race studies and current events (but doesn't have a degree in any related subject), I feel like I learned a lot and am excited to jump off from here into more reading about queer theory.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chase

    Barker and Scheele's Queer: A Graphic History is a succinct account of the academic field of queer theory. They go a long way to cut down on intensive (and confusing) jargon, and they succeed in providing many humorous and telling illustrations that reflect on queer icons throughout history while staying true to the political and cultural critiques endemic to queer theory. It's a text I would love to teach in the future, purely for its accessible reading, but also for its capacity to engender cr Barker and Scheele's Queer: A Graphic History is a succinct account of the academic field of queer theory. They go a long way to cut down on intensive (and confusing) jargon, and they succeed in providing many humorous and telling illustrations that reflect on queer icons throughout history while staying true to the political and cultural critiques endemic to queer theory. It's a text I would love to teach in the future, purely for its accessible reading, but also for its capacity to engender critical questions about the movements of queer theory. Additionally, students of queer theory might use this graphic novel as a primer for reading queerly or tackle the book head on to ask: why did Barker and Scheele choose Thinker A over Thinker B? In what ways does a historical mapping of the field create barriers or thresholds to innovation or turns in queer thinking? The graphic novel receives five stars for a smooth read and positive register: for doing gender justice and focusing on ways for thinking about the future, that is, thinking critically about where we are and where we are heading.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Listen. I loved this book. It's educational without being too esoteric. It stakes positions but isn't preachy. It's accessible and inclusive. It made me consider familiar topics from new perspectives, and gave voice to feelings I've had for years, not knowing there were entire concepts and fields of study based on them. I wish this book had been around when I was 14 years old and starting to understand myself as more than I had been told I could be. I honestly wish I could put this book into eve Listen. I loved this book. It's educational without being too esoteric. It stakes positions but isn't preachy. It's accessible and inclusive. It made me consider familiar topics from new perspectives, and gave voice to feelings I've had for years, not knowing there were entire concepts and fields of study based on them. I wish this book had been around when I was 14 years old and starting to understand myself as more than I had been told I could be. I honestly wish I could put this book into everyone's hands. Please read it. On a more detailed note, the section about post-structuralism and Michael Foucalt's work was the most impactful for me. The concept of the panopticon is one that I've thought about for so long but didn't have a name for. I love these moments of discovery and shared experience. And really, the biggest takeaway from this book for me is finding common ground and avoiding new harmful/exclusionary binaries and normativities. I wish I could remember how I heard about this book (I'm guessing maybe Bookstagram cuz it's a very new release). Kudos anyway, universe. I was going to include some favorite quotes, but as the author notes explain, most of them aren't direct quotes but rather paraphrases of the thinkers' ideas.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris Wolak

    Solid intro and/or review of Queer Theory. Impressed by the amount of information covered in such a short book. Great jumping off point to learn more.

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