Gender & Sexuality For Beginners, written by Jaimee Garbacik and illustrated by Jeffrey Lewis, was just released to stores worldwide on June 11. For Beginners is a Danbury, Connecticut-based illustrated documentary nonfiction book series that tackles a variety of subjects—from architecture to Plato to Ayn Rand—and presents them in an accessible manner as a comprehensive primer. In this case, Gender & Sexuality For Beginners is a reliable resource to introduce readers to what gender and sexuality actually mean and the history behind these concepts. Lewis‘ comic book-style illustrations perfectly compliment the text by highlighting significant ideas within each chapter.
Garbacik approached the project of writing the book as if the reader had little prior knowledge of anything relating to gender and sexuality. With the exception of her impassioned introduction on the importance of gender issues on youth empowerment, the writing is very objective and she simply states the facts. She covers a wide range of topics, including the biology of sex and gender, gender roles, feminism, and sexual orientation. The intended audience is anyone interested in learning more about gender and sexuality in general, or those seeking more context on feminism, gay and lesbian activism, or transgender concerns.
Gender & Sexuality For Beginners is a timely book. There are now several states that allow gay marriage, athletes and celebrities can now more comfortably reveal their sexual orientation, and gays, lesbians, and bisexuals can serve openly in the military without facing a discharge. Recognizing these new progressions, however, may draw the spotlight on LGBTQA individuals, creating the impression that they are a cohesive unit.
“I don’t think that it’s all one community,” said Garbacik in a phone interview. “LGBTQIA organizations and individuals have a variety of priorities that vary tremendously by group and region. And there’s definitely tension between some queer activists and some gay and lesbian organizations that don’t necessarily have the same perception of a common goal.”
Garbacik seems to believe in coalition politics, and that everyone, no matter their gender, sexual identity, or form of orientation should be accepting of differences and invested in working together towards equality and better opportunities for all.
“Gender can be relatively fluid.”
“I try to be really inclusive,” said Garbacik.
Diversity is important to learn about and experience, and gender and sexuality is one of the more difficult subjects for most people to fully understand—often due to a simple lack of access to information. Gender & Sexuality for Beginners successfully discusses major areas of the topic concisely and provides a clean-cut resource of crucial facts.
As an open queer adult and member of an all-ages music and arts venue in Seattle, Garbacik has been frequently approached with questions regarding gender and sexuality, in which she did her best to accurately explain an answer. Through discussing the matters with others, she grew a desire to clear up common misconceptions and began reading voraciously on the subject.
“This has been an issue as long as written language,” said Garbacik. “And the further I dug, the more I saw that the assumptions people were making bled into every single field.”
It took three years for the book to arrive at where it is today. Garbacik conducted extensive research and interviews and spoke to friends in the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, intersex and asexual) community, attended seminars such as the Gender Odyssey Conference, and reached out to service providers.
If there is one understanding that Garbacik would like readers to come away with after reading Gender & Sexuality For Beginners, it is that gender is influenced by many key factors––both biological and social. There is so much that occurs in one’s lifetime that can affect hormone levels, one’s personality, and even their gender identity. With so many factors coming into play, it turns the concept of orientation into something that merits additional thought.
“Gender can be relatively fluid,” said Garbacik.
Another important point addressed in the book is that people’s assumptions about gender and sexuality have a significant impact on the world, especially on young people searching for who they are. Between bullying in school, unsupportive families, religion, and politics blocking the path of self-discovery, it can be difficult for some to truly embrace who they are. Garbacik conveys that it is essential to disregard societal norms and work beyond prejudices that fall outside the “heterosexual norm”. We must personally accept what makes people themselves.
As far as the illustration process, Garbacik and Lewis have been best friends for years. Garbacik asked Lewis if he would like to be involved in the project and he graciously accepted the offer. Lewis focused on important nouns in the text such as key historical figures and events to keep the readers interested and engaged in every chapter.
Gender & Sexuality For Beginners has been making its way onto shelves since last week. It is Garbacik’s first published book in her name, and the two friends were grateful for the opportunity to work together to make it all possible.
“I just want there to be a resource that details the evolution of these issues,” said Garbacik.
With the publication of this book, she has done exactly that.