The Normalization of Difference

Boy Meets Boy and Luna are more obviously different because in one text, difference is normalized and in the other, the setting is a society where difference is looked down upon by a predominantly heteronormative culture. In Boy Meets Boy, a majority of the characters are LGBTQ, or are allies of this group, thus making heteronormativity obsolete. In addition, they are members of an idyllic, utopian world that applauds and accepts this seeming difference. Those that are opposed to LGBTQ rights (Tony’s parents) are looked down upon and are villainized, when it is typically the person going through the coming-out story that is seen as outside of the heteronormative framework (i.e. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit). It is interesting to note that Tony’s parents do find some level of acceptance at the end of the novel.

In Luna, this difference is ostracized by heteronormative figures. Luna/Liam’s father is very much representative of the forces that hold Liam back as he is trying to transition. The father also is resentful of the fact that Liam and Regan’s mother is working again and has established her own successful wedding business – further showing that the father does not approve of any forces that go against heteronormativity, similar to Tony’s parents or Jeanette Winterson’s mother. It is important to note that despite his seeming position of power (heterosexual, patriarch), the father thinks he does not exhibit this because he is not the breadwinner of the family and is working a job that he does not enjoy, and is trying to wield control over the only thing that he can, which is the sexuality of his son. The father needs to be open-minded about his son’s attempted transition, when in reality he has no idea about it/ can’t even process it.

A similarity of that I found between the two books is the outrageousness of the two “trans” characters, Infinite Darlene and Luna. Infinite Darlene does exhibit more confidence because of the utopian society that they live in, while Luna struggles more because of the more realistic one that is depicted in Luna. We definitely see a stark difference, a juxtaposition of reality and utopia in the two novels.

The Many Prior Walters

In Act Three, Scene One of Millennium Approaches, two predecessors of Prior show up at his bedside. One claims to be Prior Walter the first, and the other is Prior Walter the 17th. This confusing but telling scene alludes to the many Priors that have lived throughout the years, showing the apparent strength of the family bloodline. However powerful this bloodline, however, there is a certain expendability that one may associate with the name Prior Walter. Because there have been so many, it makes each Prior that follows seem less and less significant and just another prior Walter. In addition to the inevitability of the existence of a Prior at any point in time, the death of each Prior is inevitable as well. Whatever the “pestilence” of the time, the Prior of that time will fall ill to it (Kushner 92). For Prior the First, it seemingly was the Black Death, and for this current version of Prior, the pestilence of course is AIDS. This speaks to a larger theme of the play, which is the inevitability of death.

This play is encompassed in death. Because it is so persistent in this text, Kushner must resort to camp to make the play seem less dark – in this particular scene, Prior is already pretty close to dying, but the campiness of having Prior the first and Prior the 17th there makes the theme of death easier to digest. It is also important to note that Prior will not reproduce and therefore he won’t be continuing the family bloodline, an extremely tragic fact that is covered up by the campiness of this particular passage.

This speaks to the many roles that “camp” can play in a text – it typically is used to allude to a common critique of society and does not really take a side. However, in this situation, “camp” alleviates us and makes the large pill of death that is ever-present in this play easier to swallow.

The Shaming of Heathens

I found the beginning of the “Leviticus” chapter in Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit to be a fascinating account of the struggle between Heathens (those who do not believe in a major religion) and those who follow the “Word” of God. In this particular passage, we see a struggle between two neighbors play out on a Sunday, during which the neighbors are “fornicating” loudly, “On a Sunday”, no less (Winterson, 54). Then, in response, they run to the piano and begin playing hymns from the Redemption Hymnal, provoking an aggressive response from the Heathens next door:

“The hymn had a rousing chorus that moved my mother to such an extent that she departed entirely from the notation of the Redemption Hymnal, and instead wrought her own huge chords that sounded the length of the piano. No note was exempt. By the time we got to verse 3, Next Door had started to bang on the wall.”

I find a few things significant from this particular passage. It could be said that with her “depart[ing] entirely” from what is written in the Hymnal, she is committing a violation of the strict Word of God, by straying away from what is written. In a way, she is committing sin just like the neighbors next door. What is more likely is that she is interpreting the Word in her own way by playing the music loudly in retaliation for the sins that occurred next door.

Another eye-catching feature of this passage is the capitalization of the words “Next Door”. Throughout the passage, Winterson capitalizes certain words such as “Word”, “World Service”, “Heathen”, “Deuteronomy”. In reference to and contextualized with the Bible, these words are meant to be capitalized. However, the capitalization of the enemy “Next Door” suggests that not only are they the enemy, getting in the way of this family’s Sunday, but are satanic and evil in doing so. This is what I would call the process of “Satanization” – the Heathens “Next Door” are committing sins so horrible that they are literally becoming Satan – which is just disguised as “Next Door”. “Satan” is always capitalized in the Bible, just as God is.

“The scream of an illegitimate voice”

“The scream

of an illegitimate voice

It has ceased to hear itself, therefore

it asks itself

How do I exist?” – Adrienne Rich

The most striking pattern of note from this passage is the repetition of the word “it” in the second stanza. The word choice of “it” rather than “he” or “she” indicates that the scream is coming from someone that feels inhuman – inhuman because of their (or “it”) inability to be heard not only by others, but also hear themselves. Despite not being able to be heard, the fact that Lorde serves as this being’s voice is significant to note as well. Lorde, in The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power notes the oppression of minority women that has resulted from the “exclusively European-American male tradition” (Lorde, 1978, 91). By serving as the voice of what presumably is a minority woman who doesn’t feel human, Rich is breaking down the doorframe of that male tradition. Rich not only hears this voice, she hears it as a scream. She serves, essentially, as a messenger for all who feel inhuman due to their inability to be heard – not just this particular being.

In terms of Rich’s poem overall, she touches on a number of key themes – one of which is the power of silence. In an earlier poem, she makes a key distinction. She writes about the difference between choosing to be silent and being silenced. There is a certain power associated with that choice – this can be seen in the real world with the significance of silent protests. Somehow, these silent protest seem more effective and powerful than louder, more outspoken forms of protest.