Queer Representation

Boy Meets Boy and Luna are obviously more similar because they are both young adult novels that depict the lives of two queer protagonist. Boy Meets Boy tells the story of a young gay teen who falls in love with a guy from his high school at a record shop. Luna on the other hand tells a story about the daily struggles of transgender teen who has not shared her truths with her closes family and friends. Both novels also follow their everyday lives looking at the triumphs and tribulations that queer youth negotiate on a daily basis. These stories are remarkable because they prioritize the identities of queer youth in young adult novels, while also normalizing their experiences, which has been unseen in the young adult genre and within literature as a whole. While these texts are very similar, they are different in the way that they set up the lives of the main characters. In Boy Meets Boy the main character Paul is very established in his queer identities which goes against the dominant narrative of queer people always trying to discover themselves and who they truly want to be. Paul was already solidified within his sexuality and had a solid foundation within his friends and family that supported his decisions and validated his feelings. On the other hand, Luna focuses on a the main character who constantly has to negotiate their identity because of their environment. I also think that Luna differentiates from Boy Meets Boy because it touched on the thoughts and feelings of those around Luna, instead of focusing simply on Luna and her experiences alone. I think that the book shows how Luna is impacted by her surroundings, but also how her surroundings are impacted by her. For example, when Luna began behaving differently in front of their parents, Reagan was scared for the future of her sibling and thought to herself, “Why test the water? You’ll only drown.” (Peters, 58)  This clearly depicts the anguish and fear she feels for her sister because of Luna’s gender. I believe that both novels are important because there is not one specific queer experiences. It is important for audiences to see that exploring and expressing one’s queerness can be a pleasant experience, as shown in Boy Meets Boy. I also think it is important to shed light on the more challenging experiences of a queer existence which is shown throughout Luna. When a person comes out as queer they never come out one time because it is an ongoing process. There are also varied experiences of coming out and existing in a queer body within society. Ultimately, I think these two books are important because they diversify the narrative of queer youth while also prioritizing their experiences.

The reality

“Like all labels they tell you one thing and one thing only: where does an individual so identified fit in the food chain, in the pecking order? Not ideology, or sexual taste, but something much simpler: clout… This is what a label refers to. Now to someone who does not understand this, homosexual is what I am because I have sex with men. But really this is wrong. Homosexuals are not men who sleep with other men. Homosexuals are men who in fifteen years of trying cannot get a pissant antidiscrimination bill through the City Council. Homosexuals are men who know nobody and who nobody knows. Who have zero clout. Does this sound like me, Henry?” (p. 51)

In this passage, Roy is talking to Henry about his diagnosis. Henry is telling Roy that all of his symptoms as well as his biopsies show that he has contracted HIV. Roy immediately denies this and goes on to talk describe all of the power that he has within the circles that he navigates. One thing that I think this passage does is create a different narrative about the types of people who are able to get HIV. Dominant discourse during this time period stated that only specific groups of people were exposed to HIV. This discourse is even shown throughout the scene when Roy says that  “it afflicts mostly homosexuals and drug addicts”, with Henry adding “hemophiliacs are also at risk” (49). This discourse is why Roy believed that he was not able to get HIV. He was ignorant, but also intimidated by everything that having the disease signified given his position of power. With the status and mobility that Roy has, he disrupts this narrative to show that anyone engaged in any kind of sexual activity, specifically thinking about men having sex with men for this play, is at risk of catching HIV. He talks about his ability to call on different people in positions of power equating privilege to cleanliness and exemption from HIV, while designating lower class people as the only ones exposed to the disease. This passage is important because it places a different narrative on the disease and the people that are thought to be impacted by it. This shift made society take the disease more seriously while also trying to understand its origins and the broad array of people it had the ability to impact. Ultimately, this passage sheds light on the attitude of American society toward gay men during this time period because it highlights the cultural stigma, as well as the systematic discrimination, that gay men have, and continue, to face within society.  

A Complicated, Yet Valid Life

“Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently. Some people say there are true things to be found, some people say all kinds of things can be proved. I don’t believe them. The only thing for certain is how complicated it all is, like a string full of knots.” (93)
I chose this passage because I think it illustrates all of Winterson’s thoughts about the way that she was told to grow up, and the way that she is now experiencing life. The first line had a big impact because it reminds us how everyone is going to experience life differently, but it is their life and they live the way they do because of their material experiences. Two people could be reading the same scripture from the bible, but the impact and interpretation of the scripture might be completely different between the two people. I also think that this line could be Winterson calling out all the people who judged her throughout her lifetime. She was just trying to live her life and experience different things to be able to tell her story, but she was not able to do that because of all the other people pushing their thoughts and beliefs onto her. The second sentence also combats all the ideologies that she has been forced to conform to her entire life. If things are not able to be  scientifically proven, people do not believe that it truly exists. This is the argument for so many things that are seen as taboo within society, especially when it comes to sexuality. It reminds me of the idea that people have about queer people choosing to be queer versus being born as who they are. Because there is no formula or test to prove that you are born queer, people disregard it as a valuable identity. Winterson lives life as a queer person so she knows that this in fact is not a choice, but it is who she was born as, and this personal lived experiences are why she said, “I don’t believe them.” As Winterson grew and began to learn on her own she saw that everything that seem black and white, right or wrong, was much more complicated than that. Identities specifically are so nuanced that you can never compartmentalize a human being. This passage connects to the books a whole because it shows the transition that Winterson makes in her life from internalizing all of the negative things she has been told, to really understanding her experiences within life and how complicated yet valid they are because it is her life.

Criticism and Audre Lorde

The lines that I chose were prom the power Hunger which stated “Even our intimacies are rigger with terror/ Quantify suffering?/ My guilt at least is open” (pg. 137). The first thing that stuck out to me about this essay was the fact that she dedicated this poem to Audre Lorde. Audre Lorde is someone that I love and appreciate so much because her works have played an integral part in the person that I have become personally and intellectually. The first line “even our terrors are rigged with terror” reminded me of one of the many themes that always come up in the work of Audre Lorde, which is this idea of genuinely vulnerable intimacy and communities between women.So often there are these attempts at female bonding and relationships, but event hose that we think are the most powerful are still flawed. It is not until we give up this need for power and accepting that we will be able to truly be ourselves with ourselves and others. The next of the poem says “Quantify suffering?’ which reminded me of the heterosexist, patriarchal society that we live in which both of these women, Lorde and Riche, so often speak out against. She is explaining the fact that the problems she going through are not the only problems, yet they are her problems and still exist nonetheless. The last line of my chosen stanza  says “My guilt is at least open.” I think that in this line she is referring some of the privileges that some people have over other people. Since she dedicated this piece to Audre Lorde, she may be talking about the privileges that cisgendered, heterosexual white woman possess. I think these lines reshape the idea of language and thought by acknowledging issues that are in certain spaces that are supposed to be protective, like the door frame. For instance, a supposed safe and healthy space for women to exist is created, but the space is only safe and healthy for able bodied white women. These lines are important for my understanding of the reshaping of ideas and language because it exists to bring light to specific issues and then offer some solutions.