Self Acceptance and Power

Through the experiences of Belize and Roy Cohn, Tony Kushner shows the importance of self-acceptance with the use of power. Belize and Roy show two very different impacts with their power and actions. Roy as a white, closeted, wealthy lawyer harms marginalized people all while being one himself. His internalized homophobia results in him being especially hateful and dehumanizing towards Queer people even when they help him. When Belize advises Roy to use his connections to avoid being scammed by the medicine trials, Cohn still treats him in a demeaning manner despite Belize helping him with medical treatment. He still calls Belize a “ butterfingers sp**k f*ggot nurse” (Kushner 155) and ironically points out that Belize has “little reason to help” him (Kushner 155). Roy uses the slur as his internalized homophobia separates himself from its dehumanizing impact. Furthermore, it prevents him from empathizing with the experiences and feelings of queer people despite being one himself. This leads to him only looking out for his best interests like in the case of him hoarding medication that would have helped many others. Additionally, with his bias towards marginalized people, Roy is unlikely to help them in legal cases for their rights. This only results in a more oppressive and hateful world.

Unlike Roy, Belize faces more severe oppression due to his intersectional identity as a middle-class gay black man. Despite the severe levels of oppression making it difficult for him to have power in his life, he still chooses to use what little power he does have to help others. As a nurse during the AIDs Crisis, Belize aims to help all people affected but especially Queer people. As seen through his interaction with Roy, Belize’s kind actions come from a place of empathy and self-acceptance. When Roy insults Belize’s intentions for helping him, he simply responds with “ Consider it solidarity from one f*ggot to another.” (Kushner 155) Instead of feeling offended by Roy’s use of the slur, Belize reclaims it by turning it into a fact of reality. For him, his sexuality is not a shameful part of his identity and despite Roy being terrible and ungrateful towards him, Belize still helps him with treatment.
Through this scene, Kushner supports his theme of the state of self-acceptance and it’s impact on the uses of power. He shows us that self-acceptance leads to empathetic actions that change the world for the better while the opposite results in harmful results.

One thought on “Self Acceptance and Power”

  1. I really enjoyed this perspective, I never really thought about the opposition between Roy and Belize in regard to how privilege played into their characters. As you pointed out, Roy is extremely privileged during this epidemic and is still hateful towards both himself and the community that he is hiding from. I think that’s really important to point out the fact that Roy had the privilege to hate his community and hide, and still be successful whereas Belize never did. As a gay black man, Belize never had that choice to hide as he would always be criticize based on his race. I like how you pointed out that Belize is giving back to his community, and I think it’s really important to understand the role of intersectionality in that position. As someone who has faced societal oppression before, Belize is more empathetic to others’ plights. This can be connected to Saeed Jones because he wrote his poetry as a closeted, gay man because of the fear of how society reacts to those that are black and gay.

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