Watching from the sideline

“I am used to being an observer.

I am used to not getting what I want.

I am used to imagining what it must be like. “

(Loving in the War Years, page 26)

I believe that these three lines from Cherrie L. Moraga’s book “Loving in the War Years” express the deep frustration of a queer person constantly watching other people’s love and affection for each other but never being able to experience it for themselves due to self-doubts and/or the emotional struggle of living openly queer, as well as the intolerance of society.

I reached that conclusion because the repetition of the words ‘I am used to’ symbolize the hamster wheel the lyrical I is trapped in and experiences the same situations over and over. On one hand, it is referring to the love openly shown by happy couples, on the other hand, the lyrical I is talking about sexual experiences, that they do not have.  Also the word ‘observer’ enhances the argument that the lyrical I is watching and hearing about other people’s love from the distance, but never playing the main character in the interaction.  For me these lines indicate such deep frustration and capitulation and portray the picture of the lyrical I not believing in their own happiness anymore.

Sadly, I assume that these lines express many queer people’s reality. Our society is still not fully inclusive and tolerating of LGBTQ members, leading to queer people often keeping their sexuality and identity to themselves. Therefore, it is really tuff for them to connect with each other and have the opportunity to make the same experiences regarding love and sexuality as heterosexual couples. Moreover, I state that the majority of heterosexual people is not even aware of the fact that they have the privilege to openly express their sexuality due to centuries old heterosexual norms and the emotional struggle it often presents to queer people.

All in all, these lines are a great example of the frustration and unhappiness queer people experience on daily basis because they watch other happy couples from the sideline but do not receive the same chance to make the same romantic experiences due to a society that still comments, raises attention and sadly often still not accepts queer love.

2 thoughts on “Watching from the sideline”

  1. booklover, this quote that you chose reminded me of Saeed Jones’ poetry, and seems to connect the two queer experiences from different locations and eras. I believe much of Jones’ poetry is written under the theme “I am used to imagining what it must be like”, because Jones’ spent much of his life observing learning – both how to be straight-passing, and how to be a closeted gay man. Moraga in this scene is observing women dancing intimately together, and she cannot place herself in the dance or feel the confidence to act. I believe this is an interesting psychological effect of homophobic culture, that even when one is surrounded by accepting queer folks, they do not feel brave or safe enough to express their affection.

  2. your post reminded me of the “Christmas family” that Eve Sedgewick writes about in Tendencies. Similar to Moraga, she talks about the expectations of society and how straight, often, white couples are presented as the ideal. This leads Queer people to feel alienated and unwanted in society as they are given a strict expectation to match up to and also like you said, left on the sidelines to witness other people’s happiness. Both of these ideas convey a sense of restriction of showing queer happiness in relationships due to society and ideals.

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