“The image of Suzanne and Susan holding hands as we walked Battle Rock Beach stuck with me for weeks. I knew somewhere deep inside me, rising up to press against my sternum, that I was like them. This I knew, but by the time I turned 13, it had vanished.” (Clare 154)
During this passage, Eli reflects on one of the few times he interacted with openly queer people as a child. Even at this age, he knew he was like them but cultural messages about who he should like and how he should act suppressed this realization. Being cis and heterosexual is thought of as the norm and those identities are projected on children from a young age. I think this quote shows that cultural stereotypes and norms are learned. “The image of Suzanne and Susan holding hands … stuck with me for weeks.” To me, this part of the passage is saying that representation matters. Seeing people who look, act or love like you is necessary when figuring out your own identity. When you don’t fit into the heteronormative box, seeing people who also do not fit into that box is important and can be helpful when figuring out your identity.
The last sentence of this quote “This I knew, but by the time I had turned 13, it had vanished.” made me think about when Eli was talking about being older and figuring out his identity. “I had never kissed a boy, never had a boyfriend or girlfriend. … I was not in love with a woman; I hadn’t even had a crush.” I think that the intuition that Eli felt about his sexuality is shown in these two quotes. There seems to be this idea in our culture that in order to know that your sexuality does not fit the norm, you must have sexual experiences to validate the questioning of your sexuality. Straight people are never asked how they know they are straight whereas queer people are often asked how they know they are not straight. These quotes show that Eli had an intuition and idea about his sexuality before having experiences that fit with his sexual identity. You can know that your identity does not fit into society’s heteronormative box, without having any sexual or romantic experiences.