Breaking the Binary

The Mythic Being

“The Mythic Being,” which is a series of cartoons and performances by Adrian Piper, has many overlapping themes with our class. To examine these themes, I would like to use the piece from Eve Sedgwick, “Queer and Now.” “The Mythic Being” is a character played by Piper, who is a lesbian, woman-identifying person. They are characterized by a large afro, a mustache, and sunglasses, as well as stereotypically masculine actions such as catcalling. Piper’s goal with this piece is to garner audience reactions and blur the lines of people’s perceptions of gender identity. She does this as she is tired of identifying within her norms as a black, lesbian woman and is instead able to examine the world as a straight, masculine man. She examines how reactions she gets as male presenting are different from those she gets in her everyday life.

In relating Piper’s work to Sedgwick’s piece, I find that much of the motivation behind the Mythic Being could be Piper’s distaste for her own female identity as well as feeling as if she does not belong within the norms of being a woman. Piper switches between her male persona and her female persona to represent her own fluid identity, and that she cannot be constrained the norms imposed on her as a black, lesbian woman in the 1970s. Sedgwick’s piece establishes that queerness refers to “the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone’s gender, of anyone’s sexuality aren’t made (or can’t be made) to signify monolithically” (Sedgwick 8). One aspect of queerness and gender identity is fluidity, which Piper uses the Mythic Being to explore. Sedgwick, with her definition of queerness, explains that one’s sexuality and gender is to be determined by oneself, which Piper explores. The Mythic Being represents Piper’s own fluid gender and sexuality, which is essential to queerness according to Sedgwick.

Joe Pitt and the Homosexual Experience

In the play, “Angels in America,” by Tony Kushner, Joe Pitt is used by Kushner as a device to represent the closeted homosexual experience during the AIDS epidemic. Joe Pitt is an aspiring lawyer who is mentored by Roy Cohn, who is one of the main characters and is a staunch conservative lawyer. Joe is a man married to a woman named Harper, however he comes to the realization that he is homosexual. This realization, which had been suppressed by internalized homophobia, completely uproots his life. His wife leaves him, and his mom completely invalidates his feelings when he comes out to her. Within their discussion, Joe laughs at himself and apologizes for making things awkward, despite just telling his mom that he is homosexual (Kushner 77). His mother then tells Joe that he is being ridiculous, a response that resonates with homosexual individuals that struggle for acceptance.

This conversation with his mother is also representative of the homosexual struggle with religion, whether it be one’s own religion or someone else’s. Kushner uses religion as a common theme throughout the play, and this scene is no different. Homosexuality, especially during the AIDS epidemic, is characterized as being rejected by religion and sometimes weaponized by these religions. Joe and his family are Jewish, and his mother uses this religion as a way to berate Joe within their phone call. She states, “Within their conversation, his mother states, “No more talk. Tonight. This… (suddenly very angry) Drinking is a sin! A sin! I raised you better than that” (Kushner 79). Kushner uses their religion as a symbol of homophobia in this scene, with Joe’s mother as well as Joe’s internalized homophobia both playing a role. Overall, Joe Pitt is a character that Kushner uses to represent the homosexual experience in the AIDS epidemic.


In the poem “Slow dance,” by Cherrie Moraga, the reader is met with a scene involving three women on a dance floor. Moraga, throughout the poem, uses language that suggests that she has been longing for the attention of a woman, however, has been forced to observe from the outside in as these women are not interested. Throughout the poem Moraga italicizes certain thoughts that highlight her desires and how she feels about them, including strong repetition of the words “want” and “that she can handle them” (Moraga 25). The repetition and italicization of these words and phrases places an emphasis on them that could have ambiguous meanings, however, I believe that Moraga is attempting to convey to these phrases and words bring up extremely intense emotion for Moraga.  

Moraga, as much of the LGBT+ community, likely experienced having to hide her own sexuality throughout her childhood and adulthood. This concealment makes it extremely difficult to date, often building up frustration and longing for emotional or physical connection within the person. This situation is all too familiar to much of the LGBT+ community, as many queer individuals also are forced to stay closeted for their own protection from their parents, friends, or community in general. This often can make one feel completely isolated and makes it incredibly difficult to find a partner. Moraga, throughout the poem, does an excellent job of conveying the intense desire caused by this concealment. The poem finishes with the powerful line, “I am used to imagining what it’s like.” This constant state of desire and imagining unfortunately plagues the LGBT+ community today, and Moraga conveys that using intense language and repetition of intense language. 

“Do it for the vine”

I think the poem “Kudzu,” by Saeed Jones, is about how he feels as if he does not belong within his society. Kudzu is an extremely fast-growing invasive plant species that is native to Eastern Asia. Kudzu was introduced to the United States in the late 19th century, and the plant completely took over the South of the United States. The poem is shaped on the page to match the nature of vines, in a wavy line down the page.  

Jones, who was born in Tennessee and grew up in a rural Texas town, alludes to Kudzu because he also feels as if he does not belong due to his sexuality. Jones conveys the theme of estrangement within the poem with the lines, “Pines turn their backs / on me. They know / what I can do / with the wrap of my legs” (30). The pines in this passage are symbolic of the people in Jones’ life, and the metaphor suggests that the people in Jones’ life are turning their backs on him due to his sexuality. Jones also makes indirect references to his estrangement in the poem, including, “I won’t be forgiven / for what I’ve made / of myself” (30). With this passage, I think Jones references his sexuality as what he has made for himself and will not be forgiven by those around him. The passage is also written in such a way that he blames himself for his sexual deviance rather than the people around him, showing that Jones also battles with his own internalized homophobia. He suggests, by using the word “made,” that his sexuality was an active choice that he made, rather than it being completely natural.