One story that I can relate to our LGBTQ+ class is the graphic novel and TV series “Heartstopper.” This story is about young teenagers in high school who are going through a process of discovering and finding themselves. Although it can sound superficial, what I like of this story is that it is a cliché, however, I consider that we are used to watch these kinds of stories but mostly represented by heterosexual couples. A heterosexual boy or girl in high school who falls in love and discovers himself or herself in the process. Heartstopper offers different gay and lesbian love stories, that are not only represented with homosexual young characters, but also with actors and actresses members of the LGBTQ+ community.
I consider that Heartstopper can be related to Angels in America because both are a fictional story with visual and written support that show stories of the daily life of gay people, however, in different times and realities. The LGBTQ+ community has historically been shown in the most representative mass media as a community full of suffering, losses, pain and sickness, and represented with adults, not youth. We can see that representation in the fictional play (and TV show) Angels in America. It is a story where adults not only have to deal with the problems of their lives like any other adult, but also with the troubles, worries and weight of being gay. Hearhopper allows us to see that the LGBTQ+ community is not something that happens in very specific or unfamiliar situations. It is a reality around us, that can occur everywhere, at any age, and that can be more than suffering. It can also be romantic, hopeful and with happy endings, as any other love story we are exposed to in movies, series, books, social media, etc.
These two stories are contrastive because they show the two different parts of the gay community, but both equally real and important. It is essential to acknowledge the background behind the LGBTQ+ community, but also to see it as past and visualize a better present and future where the community is growing and finding more support among them.
Angels in America is a play that discusses the complexity of identity construction affected by external factors. In it, we can see how some characters struggle finding or accepting their identity in a world where being themselves was wrong or against their familiar and religious values.
First, Joe Pitt, a middle-aged Mormon man, who in an attempt to accept himself and his sexual orientation, left his wife Harper to be with Louis. In one of Joe’s first attempts to be open about his sexual orientation, he tells his Mormon mother, Hanna Pitt, and she answers, “You really ought to go home now to your wife. I need to go to bed. This phone call— We will just forget this phone call.” Despite the fact that he is a grown up man, Joe struggles accepting himself, in part, because of the family and religious values he has, which I consider are represented through the character of Hanna who shows herself really closed towards the LGBTQ+ community.
Second, the homosexual couple of Prior Walter and Louis Ironson is in crisis due to the cowardice of Louis to face the AIDS contracted by his partner, and decides to left him not knowing which was his role in this situation. The character of Louis is described during the funeral at the beginning of the play as a Jewish man and member of a religious family “how we fought, for the family, for the Jewish home” (p.10) In this case, we can also observe the familiar and religious external factor affecting the character’s process of accepting and showing himself as homosexual.
In this play, we can notice the complexity of the character in a constant oscillation between what they consider they should do and what they really want to do in an attempt to accept or discover themselves. We can say that this process is even more affected by the influence of external factors such as their religion, family values, jobs, politics and a whole world that looks at them judging for going against social norms.
Only later did I understand what I lost by leaving. Loss of a
daily sustaining connection to a landscape that I still carry with me
as home. Loss of a rural, white, working-class culture that values
neighbors rather than anonymity… (p.38)
I consider that in this passage, we can identify language and vocabulary related to loss. Not only because the word was repeated 3 times, but also because this helps the writer to highlight how he feels, and creates an image in the reader’s mind. He helps us to see that, while trying to define himself, he went to a different place where he found his home: “queer.” However, in this discovering, he lost the place where he grew up. That beautiful rural place where he feels he has belonged to for so many years, but due to the fact that he found himself in the urban life where he could be queer more easily, he was forced to let that first place behind. Here is where Eli distinguishes the life in urban and rural places. Urban places are shown as big cities where people could be themselves without taking into account the norms and stereotypes more easily than in the rural zones, where all the people know among themselves and those stereotypes and norms are stronger. In this last one, Eli would never be allowed to discover himself and be who he really wanted.
This reading helped me to understand how, due to the discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, a lot of people struggled trying to define themselves. Not only for going against the stereotypes, but also because knowing where home is, is a really important part of our definition of identity, and if that is not clear, then one’s identity may become unclear.
What I am really trying to say here is that I think these lines show that in every attempt to define who he is, Eli goes back to his past, and he shows that he cannot have both ideas of himself, he only can have one. By having queer as a home, he lost his previous home that was a place he loved and enjoyed a lot. For him, there is no way of defining himself without losing.
“NIGGER, DON’T LET THE SUN SET ON YOU”
“YOU BETTER RUN
IF YOU CAN READ
THIS SIGN” (19)
These passages are messages written on signs probably in some city or town where black people and white people were divided and did not share their spaces. They are written in capital letters on purpose to draw the reader’s attention and give more importance to the warnings that the message implies. Another aspect that I notice after our debate in class is that there are big spaces between each clause in order to give more significance and suspense to the words that we read.
The objective of these passages is to warn black people that they cannot be outside during the day and live a normal life with whites. Although it is implicit, it can be understood that if a black person can read one of these signs, it means that it is daytime, it is sunny, and there may be a consequence such a prison or even death.
When I read this poem by Saeed Jones, I thought of Audre Lorde in “Growing Up Gay/Growing Up Lesbian” because she speaks about the feeling of understanding herself as member of a sub-society, that is to be black, and in her case also gay. While reading this poem, I could understand a little bit more Audre’s words since we are talking about a society that has as roots the discrimination and segregation of minorities. As the years go by people started questioning these kind of social rules, and we could overcome little by little those situation. However, although the situation has improves, we must keep working on this issue because it is not over.
What I am really trying to say here is that I think these lines are a representation of extreme discrimination against a minority and this kind of situations are part of our history as society. We must not forget it. May it never be repeated.