GenderQueer: A Story From Another Closet by Allan D. Hunter is a treacherous and often realistic tale that’s packed with frustration, desperation and yearning. Hunter does an amazing job of captivating the raw emotions of a person seeking their own truths in a world where everyone else seems to know who they are and what their place is in the world.
The story is about an “ identity that is not gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender, but isn’t cisgender and heterosexual either.” Gender invert, Derek Turner, is on a journey of self discovery. He grew up valuing individuality over conformity, but it often resulted in him being picked on, harassed and straight up violently bullied. He has to make the tough decision of conformity to the masses to fit in while also keeping his own identity intact.
The story follows Derek from age 8 into his 20s. We get to see how he struggles with loneliness, addiction, heartbreak and bullying, alongside family problems, college and platonic influences in his life. Derek spends the majority of the book trying to uncover the truths about himself such as why he was ostractized, why no girl seemed to want him, and why others thought he was gay.
The tone of the book is a dark and mellow one. We see Derek from a very young age get picked on and beat up. He tries time and time again not to let the bullies get into his head, but it proves more and more difficult. All the while he starts to believe the things they say about him. He seeks out answers in both healthy and unhealthy ways, often getting him in all sorts of trouble.
The novel is admittedly tough to read. It seemed to lack a sort of central theme or moral lesson, but instead focused on various hurdles that Derek has to overcome. The dialogue is choppy and the scenes are vague. It’s sometimes hard to follow what’s going on in the story because it seems as though the wrong details are being focused on. The hectic formatting of the book brings forth the idea of turmoil. The way it is structured makes you feel just as uneasy as Derek.
In one part of the book, Derek says if you were to take a mango slushie and throw it at the wall and then a mint slushie at the wall slightly right of it, he would be the speck of mango that’s left on the mint side of the wall.
Hunter brings up emotions that many people don’t want to talk about. He grapples with addiction, depression, dysphoria and sexual harassment. The book makes you think hard about how a person could cope with being the exemplification of two seemingly opposing ideas. As the book progresses, you begin to see glimmers of hope and light return to Derek’s life. Every time a new part of the story unfolds, you want to see how Derek handles it and what problem is going to be thrown his way. By the end of the book, you’re left with an open mind, a bigger heart and just enough spark to make a change in the world.
Overall this book is very eye-opening. It puts into words a story for people that are almost never represented. It shakes its metaphoric fist in the face of erasure, saying ,”I’m here and I will not be forgotten.” It highlights the mistreatment of people of all kinds, off of the simple basis that humanity fears what they don’t understand. If you want a challenging, controversial, and emotionally gripping story, be sure to pick up a copy of GenderQueer: A Story From Another Closet.