“I’m not saying that you have to become this Übermilitant Intersex Warrior. I’m just telling you to be careful of letting other people define who—and what—you are.”
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio chronicles the roller coaster ride of high school senior Kristin Lattimer’s life as she suddenly becomes diagnosed with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, or AIS. In layman’s terms, Kristin is intersex; this means that she is a female who is genetically defined as male. As if her life wasn’t upside down enough—she recently lost her mother to cancer, and competitively runs varsity track to ensure she’ll be able to afford college—everything is flipped on its head yet again upon discovering she has testes, no uterus, and XY chromosomes. She loses everything: her best friends, her boyfriend, and nearly her athletic scholarship. Take your typical high school Coming of Age novel and mix in some deep-rooted sex issues, and you’ve got yourself None of the Above.
It’s one of those stories that grows on you the more you think deeply about it. Now, why I liked it so much…
For a book classified as young adult fiction, this novel has an extremely elementary plot line. At times I found myself bored, as I could always predict what was coming next, ie: her boyfriend and friends abandoning her, the bullying, etc. The very dry and monotonous recount of stereotypical high school events nearly drove me insane, but that meant nothing in the grand scheme of things for one very important reason: the theme of this novel so monumentally MATTERS. The topic of gender identity/sexuality, despite becoming slightly more predominant in recent times, has been a heavily avoided topic in literature for far too long. I believe any author who rises to the challenge deserves worlds of praise, and Gregorio gets mine, regardless of how much she bored me.
None of the Above doesn’t simply touch on the topic of gender, but delves deeper to distinguish a difference between one’s gender, sex, and sexual orientation. It explains the various connotations of antiquated words like hermaphrodite versus the more modern and polite term intersex. This novel is a beautiful companion to its counterparts that also attempt—and succeed—to better educate the twenty-first century on such deep-rooted issues that are finally getting the attention they deserve.
Now, back to my original point about this “young adult” novel. It’s easy to gather that the story is better fit for middle schoolers than young adults who can range as old as early 20somethings. Ignore the clichéd plot. I simply can’t criticize it because it highlights one of the most important issues surrounding the theme: It has been so heavily drilled into our heads that the moment sex or gender issues come into play in a novel, it *must* be considered “higher-level.” Hello, people… We’re in the twenty-first century! Kids are coming out as early as elementary school nowadays! This is the reason I thoroughly appreciate and enjoy how simple the plot of NOTA is. If a child in fourth or fifth grade can read this story and educate themselves on the facts about gender and sexuality before they learn society’s distorted definitions, then we are so much more likely to live in a world where people are tolerant and accepting of everyone, regardless if they are gay, straight, transgender, intersex, all of the above, or none of the above.
Whether you are seven or forty-seven, I strongly encourage you to get your hands on a book that tackles gender and sexuality issues. None of the Above is special in that is deals with a fairly common medical condition—it might surprise you to know 1 in 20,000 people across the world are diagnosed with AIS— that I was, and 99% percent of the population are ignorant to. The earlier we start, the better. Because of books like I.W. Gergorio’s, someday soon children in grade school will be able to distinguish different types of gender and sexuality identifications as easily as they can pick out parts of a sentence; and all of the above—women, men, boys, and girls alike—will be more open-minded, welcoming, and compassionate members of this ever-evolving world.