Thinking Outside of the Box

Throughout Clare’s book so far, we have seen the intense struggle of coming to terms with an identity that fits so many yet no boxes at the same time. Not only does Clare wrestle with the emotional ties of his hometown and those who reside within versus his current politics and beliefs on the logging industry, but he also talks in depth about how his “redneck” identity made it even more difficult to feel a sense of belonging in the queer community because of deviating from the urban queer identity that is seen as the norm. On page 33, Clare describes the word “redneck”’s denotation, connotation, and “usage by progressives, including many who are queer”(33). Here, Clare wrote the last interpretation of the word as “Any person who is racist, violent, uneducated and stupid (as if they are the same thing), woman-hating, gay-bashing, Christian fundamentalist, ect. 2. Use as a synonym for every type of oppressive belief except classism.”(33) Though “redneck” is something that Clare associates with his identity, he doesn’t fit this specific usage of the word that many others believe. Along those same lines, although Clare’s queer identity is also a main part of him, he doesn’t necessarily fit the urban image of queerness that was expected by others. This brings it back to how he is a part of, however cannot be completely defined by, many different and especially contradictory identities. This has led to the journey of his own acceptance and understanding of his identity that we have been following throughout the book. 

4 thoughts on “Thinking Outside of the Box”

  1. Jack O. Lantern, your analysis of this passage was insightful and made me consider how politicized the term redneck is. I agree that this is one the many contradictory identities Clare belongs to. I find it also interesting how ‘redneck’ or working-class style has been adopted by some of the queer communities Clare mentions. Later on in the reading, on page 157, Clare comments on another lesbian’s steel-toed boots, only to learn they are a fashion statement, not a necessity for a manual-labor job. This sort of adoption of working-class clothing as fashionable is an interesting trend (Carhartt, in recent times), and confuses Clare who can neither identify himself in the homophobic loggers from his hometown, or the metropolitan lesbian who dresses as such.

  2. Thank you for bringing this up. I never really thought about how politicized the term redneck is, and now that I think about it, I can realize that a lot of terminology about people who aren’t living in suburban or urban centers (i.e. “redneck” “hick”) are often very stigmatized and used as almost political attacks against people in rural areas.

  3. The example that Clare provides regarding his aunt’s girlfriend, Barb, resonates with the post and the comment. Metronormative thinking would consider that Barb would be totally ostracized in Clare’s family, feeling unwelcome for being lesbian and African American. However, Clare said how his family actually acknowledges her as part of the family, being Barb’s girlfriend, not a roommate. On the other hand, Clare says how middle-class families located in more progressive and urban areas could have a much more biased, “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude towards Barb. Clare invites the reader, especially the urban one, to burst their own bubble.

  4. This analysis is extremely thoughtful and relevant to all of us students as Pennsylvanians/Pennsyltuckians. One of my close friends from high school grew up in a very conservative “Redneck” family, and while he obviously holds some animosity towards his parents and their blatent homophobia, he also expressed to me the graditude and love he still holds for them. This excerpt from your entry stuck out to me: “although Clare’s queer identity is also a main part of him, he doesn’t necessarily fit the urban image of queerness that was expected by others.” As inclusivity in the LGBTQ+ community continues to become evermore nuanced and complicated, this idea is so important to keep in mind. Not every queer person looks like the physical embodiment of their sexuality, and that can make it hard for such people to find safety and community within spaces that don’t recognize their appearance as valid.

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