Liam’s transitioning seen through pronouns

[I apologize if my choice of pronouns when talking about the characters in this novel seems inconsiderate.]

Julie Anne Peters’ novel, Luna (2004), falls under the general literary category of young adult fiction. Young adult novels are characterized by their dealing with identity struggles linked with coming-of-age. Luna is representative of that genre, as it tells about the struggles of two siblings, Liam and Regan, who are brought up in a family and evolve in an environment that are not tolerant of their respective identities. Even though the issues Regan faces—such as not getting along with her parents, being rejected at school, coping with a high-school crush—can be considered as common to most teenage narratives, Liam’s struggles set him apart and give the novel a much deeper meaning and purpose. Liam struggles with the unveiling and acceptance of his trans identity. Despite belonging to a genre considered as “light” and lacking seriousness, because it is destined for a young and unexperienced readership, Peters’ novel uses the assets of this genre to raise awareness towards LGBTQ issues. It makes us realize the difficulties queer adolescents can encounter in this most difficult period in life, through a vivid depiction of Liam’s experience.

The most pivotal stage in Liam’s experience is his transitioning, and it thus seems important to observe how the novel stylistically stages Liam’s transitioning process. This device is particularly clear at the end of Chapter 3, where, after a domestic fight over breakfast, during which Liam is deeply hurt because he feels disfavored by his father, Liam makes Regan ditch school and takes her to a café instead. While sipping their coffees, the siblings have an interesting conversation about Liam’s transitioning, and Peters manages to make this transitioning process tangible through concrete elements in the text. Through the shift in pronouns, the reader experiences the shift in Liam’s identity. From the beginning of the chapter, the narrator, Regan, uses the masculine pronoun “he” when referring to Liam. That is, up until the end of page 21, when Liam starts talking about the women’s clothes and accessorize he was trying on earlier, in Regan’s room. Noticing Liam’s lightening mood, Regan observes: “he brightened a little” (21). Then, after Liam is finished with his speech about clothing and hairstyle, the narrator noticeably transitions to the feminine pronoun, “she,” at the beginning of the next paragraph: “once she started talking hair and clothes, we’d be here forever” (21). It is interesting to see how transition is linked with physical attributes. Even by simply talking about women’s clothes and accessorize, Liam starts transforming, and becoming his (or her) true self. This echoes the fact that, throughout the novel, Liam is only himself/herself in the confined space of Regan’s room, when he can dress as the woman he is.

4 thoughts on “Liam’s transitioning seen through pronouns”

  1. I like how you brought up the fact that both Boy Meets Boy and Luna are young adult novels, and thus by nature we must expect that they will address some aspect of the struggles associated with a coming of age narrative. I agree, however, that by focusing on the topic of LGBTQ individuals, these novels stray somewhat from the norm of young adult fiction. Additionally, I like how you analyzed the author’s use of pronouns as a literary device. Word choice is a powerful tool in writing, and I’m sure the Regan’s switching from “he” to “she” was an intentional decision by the author to highlight Liam’s true identity vs. his outward identity.

  2. This crucial moment in Luna is extremely interesting for the reasons you noted. Pronouns play a large role in everyday language, and most people use “he/she” without thinking about the gender that is associated with them. In modern days, it is becoming more of a movement to think about what role these pronouns play in identity and gender assignment. We have talked in class about the idea of changing pronouns in English, however this is a conversation that is happening around the world. In my Spanish speaking countries, this is a very controversial topic because each word is assigned a gender. The way the movement has started to shape against that in the Spanish language is by replacing words with an “@” sign or having the last letter changed to an “e” which may change the gender assignment. For example, the word “nina/nina” is changed to “nin@” or “nine”. It is very interesting the way that language shapes our identities, and the different way that each language and culture deals with that.

  3. The problems with transgendered communities is very apparent in the novel Luna. I like how you distinct the group of LGBTQ+ community when it comes to transgender members because there are many differences in how the groups are treated. I believe the acceptance is growing in understanding gender fluidity but the grasp of what a transgender person is remains complex and harder to understand then being attracted to the same sex. There is no comparison to Boy Meets Boy here and it would be interesting to add here because it explores some of the similar traits. There are characters in both novels that have the same sexuality but have different outcomes and maybe you can add under what circumstances this occurs under.

  4. I enjoyed your thoughtful analysis of the limitations of the young adult genre and the way Peter’s approached it. I think that when assessing the content of Luna, it is essential to keep in mind that it is a young adult novel and this genre comes with parameters that could make it difficult for an author to write a story such as Luna’s in a thoughtful way. I also appreciated your discussion of pronoun usage within the book. After reading your analysis, I better understand Peter’s intention in using “he” pronouns during the earlier sections of the book. She did this in order to make the transition read in a way that is reflective of Luna’s blossoming sense of identity. However, I did find it hard to appreciate this since I know so many trans individuals find it incredibly uncomfortable to be referred to by the incorrect pronouns, be asked about their birth name, or things of that nature. I felt that Peter’s usage of pronouns and even names for Luna were obviously chosen carefully in an attempt to add to the narrative, but, for me, they often felt more uncomfortable than impactful.

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