In her letter, “Speaking in Tongues” Gloria Anzaldua states “they convince us that we must cultivate art for art’s sake. Bow down to the sacred bull, form. Put frames and “metaframes around the writing. Achieve distance to win the coveted title “literary writer” or “professional writer” (Anzaldua 167). This sentiment is extremely reminiscent of the treatment fanfiction and fanfiction authors receive when they try to claim they are real writers and that their works are real writing. Fanfiction is fan-written work based around a subject with any fanbase one could think of. It is commonly thought of as weird and shameful to take part in when in reality there are fanfictions out there that are leagues above many applauded works of literature and cinema.
Fanfiction is written for a multitude of reasons, the primary one is exploring the possibilities of a piece of media. Anzaldua expresses why I enjoy fanfiction so much: “the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me” (Anzaldua 169). A huge theme in this class is the erasure of queer history and media. Even today there is a stunning lack of representation of LGBTQ+ people in popular culture. Fanfiction is a popular outlet for people who want to see more of themselves in a piece of media they like or relate to. A lot of the authors we have learned about in this class wrote so that people like them could feel represented, and that is essentially what fanfic writers are doing on a smaller scale.
Gloria Anzaldua wrote “Speaking in Tongues” to reach out to other women like her, who do not often see themselves in the media they wish to pursue. Fanfiction is a similarly comforting thing to me and many others. Those who write fanfiction can interpret pieces of media they connect with in ways that make themselves, and the readers, feel seen. The incredible thing about fanfiction is that it does not exist to appeal to everyone, it exists for people to find something that appeals specifically to them.
In the play “Angels in America” by Tony Kushner, the characters of Louis Ironson and Joe Pitt are parallels to each other. These two characters share a common trait of at their cores being guilty cowards. This parallel between the two of them is shown in Act I Scene 4 in the way they both react poorly to their respective partners, Harper and Prior when they come to them with worries and bad news. In this scene, Prior tells Louis about his AIDS diagnosis, and rather than being comforting Louis keeps telling Prior to “stop” (Kushner 21) and repeatedly saying “fuck you” (Kushner 21) when Prior continues. The moment between Joe and Harper in the next scene mirrors this interaction. Joe is trying to convince Harper they should move to Washington DC for his job, and when Harper expresses her reservations about moving he is continually dismissive of her worries, asking her “how many pills” (Kushner 24) she took that day rather than try to understand and listen to her anxieties. The parallel between Joe and Louis becomes even more obvious in Act I Scene 8, a “split scene: Prior and Louis in their bed. Louis reading, Prior cuddled next to him. Harper in Brooklyn, alone. Joe enters.” (Kushner 36). The scene starts with Harper continuously asking Joe, “where were you?” and alluding to asking him about his sexuality and he responds by once again asking “how many pills?” (Kushner 36), doing everything in his power to change the subject and avoid Harper’s questions. The interaction ends with Joe suggesting to Harper that they “Ask God for help. Ask him together” (Kushner 40) rather than honestly answer her questions. On the other side of the split scene, Prior tries to tell Louis about his worsening condition but Louis just gets upset by the information prompting Prior to say how he always “winds up comforting” (Kushner 39) Louis whenever he tries to tell him about his symptoms. As the exchange continues, Louis eventually asks Prior if he “walked out on this? Would you hate (him) forever?” (Kushner 40) to which Prior responds, “yes” (Kushner 40). These mirroring interactions show Louis and Joe’s shared reluctance to be honest with and genuinely comfort their partners. Overall it is very clear that Kushner is trying to set up these two characters as parallels to each other in the very first few scenes.
One of the hardest parts of identifying as queer, or any other minority, is the burden placed on you to educate everyone outside of that group. From allies to bigots, it is a constant upward battle of explanations and justifications for something as simple as your mere existence. Eli Clare sums up this harsh struggle in the first chapter of his book “Exile and Pride” using the metaphor of climbing a mountain. In this passage of his novel, Clare states that “we hear from the summit that the world is grand from up there, that we live down here at the bottom because we are lazy, stupid, weak, and ugly” (Clare pg 1), this is extremely reminiscent of how that outside of minority communities always push for those being oppressed to take a stand against their oppressors even if it comes at a great personal cost to them. Clare even gives an example of his own experiences facing these unrealistic expectations. He details a story of trying and failing to hike up a mountain due to his disability, and hoe in response to this his able-bodied friends responded by telling “him with the right gear and enough practice you could climb Mount Adams” (Clare pg 9). On the surface, this seems like a very encouraging platitude, but in reality, it is shortsighted and placating. Clare’s friends and acquaintances should not have expected him to do something that would put him in harm’s way to feed into their underdog fantasies. Similarly, people who claim an LGBTQ+ identity should not be expected by cis straight people to always put themselves in harm’s way to fight for the recognition they should have by right. Queer people do not owe the rest of the world their lives. It is brave to go out of one’s way to fight for the lives of oneself and others, it does not always constitute a risk to one’s safety. Clare upped my sentiments on this issue when he wrote that he wishes someone had told him “you made the right choice when you turned around” (Clare pg 10).
“The dress will survive us. The dress will be here when men come in boats to survey the damage.”
In his essay “A Poet’s Boyhood at the Burning Crossroads,” Saeed Jones speaks about how he used to write “Sad, rough little poems written in the voices of lonely, mythic people,” (Jones) specifically in the voices of women from Greek mythology, such as Medusa and Penelope. Jones wrote from the point of view of these women of legends because writing from their perspective allowed him to distance himself from his harsh realities. The passage “The dress will survive us. The dress will be here when men come in boats to survey the damage,” (Jones) comes from his poem by the name “Drag,” which paints the picture of a man wearing a dress that acts as if it is a living thing. The title itself along with the sentient nature of the dress in the poem invokes an image of a man living in the breathing disguise of a woman, which is reminiscent of how Jones used to write his poetry.
The specific line “when men come in boats to survey the damage” cites another story from Greek mythology: the ferryman of the dead, Charon. The other half of the passage, “the dress will survive us. the dress will be here,” illustrates queer survival and strength even in the face of adversity. Overall, this line of Jones’ poem tells the story of how the legacies of queer people will continue to live on, even when death comes knocking, similar to how Matthew Shepard’s devastating story lives on in Saeed Jones’. Jones states in his essay that when he heard the horrific tragedies that befell James Byrd Jr. and Matthew Shepard, he could only think that “being a black gay boy is practically a death wish,” (Jones) but his poetry shows he has learned that death cannot silence a legacy.
While reading “Drag,” there was another line that stood out to me: “the dress slides with my body floating inside.” (Jones) This dress that acts as the centerpiece of the poem represents armor, something meant to symbolize the weakness of femininity in a patriarchal society made into a shield for someone who does not fit in. Jones uses his poetry to turn things that exhibit weakness, like a lovely dress and turns it into strength. He takes something as dreadful as death and transforms it into something beautiful.