By Robyn Ryle
$22.99; Source Books; 400 pages
Imagine being a young, queer or curious child with a lot of questions, but not a lot of resources on gender, sexuality, and terminology that come without judgement or an obligation to be factual. You might be stymied by religious or cultural opposition from your family or educational institutions. You could seek out friends or the vastness of the internet, but they may have multitudes of options that could be incorrect or confusing. Textbooks might be intimidating or out of date, and while factual, might be hard to interpret in a real world sense.
Author Robyn Ryle has designed a tome that is honest, approachable, and for the person reading to pinpoint where they fall on the ever-changing gender spectrum, it provides answers with the viewpoint that there is no wrong path, or path that you can't change if it's not working for you. Ryle does this in a friendly "choose your own adventure" format. It's fun and informative, and it rewards you the more exploration you do on any particular story path.
So, you can follow the the many paths that originate from the moment a person is born, that set them on a gendered path. You can choose if you're born into a society that is patriarchal, matriarchal or neither; Or you're born into current or historic traditions that recognized more genders than male or female ( Mojave desert or Balkans dwellers, for example ). You can explore the societal meanings assigned to being male, female, or intersex and determine for yourself how helpful ( or, harmful ) they feel to you. You can explore gender conformity, or branch out into spaces like genderqueer, non-binary and trans that exist for those who have determined their societal designated gender isn't adequate for their expression.
This "choose your own gender adventure" allows you to pick any gender, biological or world-view path, and follow it into it's logical annals. At the end of almost every segment, readers are invited to "start a new gender journey". Most adventure books evoke the honor system to discourage readers from skipping around or cherry-picking their outcomes, but author Ryle rewards the readers' curiosity instead.
She He They Me is a fantastic exploration of gender for this particular modern window of questioning and abandoning those gender definitions that have proven harmful to so many. It would help anyone feeling stuck in their own unfulfilling adventure, unsure of what would be on the pages of another journey. It encourages students of any age to get exploring. With this as her first edition, Ryle will surely have volumes upon volumes in store for us, as gender concepts and outcomes continue to expand in the future.