In gender activist Allan D. Hunter’s debut novel GenderQueer we meet protagonist Derek Turner. Derek is one of the boys who is also one of the girls. And GenderQueer tells the journey Derek travels from an awkward and confused teenager to hard won maturity as a self-accepting adult. And believe me, Derek’s journey isn’t always a fun ride.
GenderQueer is divided into four distinctive parts. Part one focuses on Derek’s younger years, navigating the difficult landscape of junior high and high school while growing up in 1970s era New Mexico. Derek deals with the usual teen angst. He’s bullied for being different and struggles with dating. But he also finds an escape through music.
Part two is about Derek’s facing adulthood and the challenges of college, work, drinking, relationships and his not easy to define sexuality. His first foray in college doesn’t go well. He drops out and enrolls in the local Vo-Tech. All the while he’s wondering if he’s gay or straight. He doesn’t feel right in his skin.
In part three Derek is starting over, going back to college. He decides to major in music, his true passion, and focuses on original music composition. Once again he questions his sexuality and gets into therapy and self-help book. It is then Derek realizes he may have been born in the wrong body. Could he possibly be a woman in a man’s body?
And in part four, after years of struggle and strife, our protagonist reaches hard-won maturity. Derek accepts being genderqueer and stakes a claim in society. Is Derek a man, a woman? You’ll have to find out.
Though I found Derek to be an interesting character with an important story to tell, I found Hunter’s writing to be a bit unpolished at times. There are several spelling errors and quite a few run on sentences. However, this could be due to a lack of writing experience and GenderQueer could be made better with a good copy editor to give it more finesse.
Still, I’m impressed that Hunter believed this story should be written. GenderQueer is a book that will resonate within the LGBTQ community and the people who support them.