Environment and Identity

In Boy Meets Boy, we are introduced to an adolescent protagonist who is gay and sure of his sexuality.  Similarly, in Luna, we are introduced to another protagonist named Liam, who is trans and sure of her gender identity.  However, the two main differences with both characters is how their environments and support systems respect those identities.

For Paul, protagonist of Boy Meets Boy, it is wholly appropriate to characterize his environment as utopian.  Paul does not face opposition for being gay, never feels socially ostracized, and his friends are also free to express their sexual and gender differences while being able to engage in typical teenage activities that seem almost exclusive to cis straight teens in other YA novels.   Therefore, the book does not really focus on the Coming Out process, which usually drives the plot for queer adolescent stories (much like Luna, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, etc).  Instead, the book focuses on queer adolescent love, a much more lighthearted deviation from the norm.  When Paul begins to express interest in Noah, none of his friends even try to suggest that this is strange, which would be expected since they are his friends, but as Paul and Noah’s relationship progresses, the world around them acts just as their friends do, like there is nothing wrong with not engaging with heterosexuality.  Clearly, this is not wrong at all, but in reality, with the climate of the country we live in, to be in a same sex relationship without experiencing any form of homophobia from one’s environment is an unfortunate rarity.  Homophobic attitudes are far too common, and while they feel nonexistent in Boy Meets Boy (with exceptions being characters like Tony’s religious parents), the reality of that ideology is far too common in a book like Luna.

In Luna, Liam’s coming out process is met with much adversity and even hesitation from her strongest support system, her sister Reagan.  Her relationship with her family is incredibly unsteady as her parents seem to notice that something is “off” with Liam.  Similar to Boy Meets Boy, teenage issues like love and insecurity arise, but they seem almost limited exclusively to Reagan, the straight cis narrator.  Liam’s struggles are so engrained in her struggle to reach her true form and to come out, that the lighthearted and quirky issues that Paul faces in Boy Meets Boy, seems unattainable to someone like Liam.  When Reagan’s father questions her about the status of Liam’s dating life, the possibility of Liam being interested in men (or being gay in his eyes) seems like an issue of concern.  Thus, the possibility of Liam having a romantic and free relationship with a male, would not lead to teen angst, but opposition and rejection from the people in her life who are supposed to love her unconditionally.

Boy Meets Boy is an excellent look into the possibility of how queer teenagers could live and thrive in a world that sees them for more than their sexual/gender identities.  However, what Luna and most coming out narratives prove, is that the more realistic environment that most queer teenagers live in is one of hesitant and unreliable support, and a youth spent weighing the significance of coming out, instead of being able to focus on other things.

Significance of Camp

The play Angels in America by Tony Kushner details the AIDS crisis in America that dramatically affected the gay community and left it in a vulnerable position.  In this vulnerability, however, resistance emerged.  Specifically, resistance against the looming presence of death and homophobia in the form of what can best be defined as “Camp”.

“In naïve, or pure, Camp, the essential element is seriousness that fails.  Of course, not all seriousness that fails can be redeemed as Camp.  Only that which has the proper mixture of the exaggerated, the fantastic, the passionate, and the naïve.”  -Susan Sontag

The AIDS crisis and how it impacts the characters in Tony Kushner’s play are two incredibly serious concepts that underlie every action and plot development.  However, the destitution of it all is often balanced out with Kushner’s own style of “exaggerated” and “fantastic”.  In essence, Angels’ saving grace is not its moral lessons or the characters’ complexities, but rather the authentic Camp style that preserves the same resistance that emerged in the real life version of the crisis that Kushner fictionalizes.

One of the most absurd, campy scenes that occurs is when Prior encounters Harper.  They meet in the diorama room of a Mormon center, Prior’s fantasies and dreams fueled by his decaying physical state, and Harper’s hallucinations and delusions fueled by a pill addiction and mental illness.  This combination leaves a wild spectacle where the diorama becomes “real” to them, and they tell each other,

PRIOR: Dreaming used to be… so safe.

HARPER: It isn’t, though, it’s dangerous, imagining to excess. It can blow up in your face. Threshold of revelation. (199)

The irony of Harper warning Prior against dreaming is not lost in this scene, since their imaginations are what primarily fuels the Camp-ness of the play.  Deeper than that, the tragedy in their visions is reminded in the fact that neither can control them, and that they’re fueled by illness and heartache.  In this duality, Kushner’s utilization of the Camp motif truly shines.  Sontag implies that the point of camp is to disrupt and satirize the serious, without actually erasing its significance.  In the diorama scene, and the play as a whole, the larger than life characters and plot devices serve as a way to enforce the idea that amongst tragedy, it is important to hold onto lightness in order to preserve humanity, and this greatly reflects the significance Camp held during the AIDS crisis, and continues to have in the Queer community today.

The Only Fruit

“When [my mother] couldn’t come herself she sent my father, usually with a letter and a couple of oranges.  ‘The only fruit,’ she always said.” (page 29)


“…I thought in this city, a past was precisely that.  Past.  Why do I have to remember?” (page 160)

In terms of symbolic imagery used, the orange in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit clearly stands out as the most important.  An autobiography detailing Jeanette Winterson’s process of discovering her sexuality and undergoing the traumatic process of coming out, she often, and sometimes subtly, weaves in the concept of oranges- either as the fruit or the color.  The orange references help reflect a variety of things, like her tumultuous relationship with her mother and her budding sexuality.  However, all of those things go on to merge into a larger entity, which is what the oranges truly represent, and that is her past life, the one that was lost to her and she never sought to retrieve.

It’s no secret that Winterson’s mother is incapable of properly nurturing her, which is displayed time and time again through her reluctance and coldness towards her daughter.  Although, her mother does feel the need to establish some sort of connection with her, which is how the oranges are introduced.  When Winterson loses her hearing as a child and is forced to go to a hospital, her mother simply hands her an orange to get her to stop crying and leaves.  Then later on, after Winterson is starved and forced to repent for the sin of her lesbian relationship, her mother gives her a bowl of oranges, and she is incapable of peeling them.  This gives Winterson an almost conditioned mindset to associate oranges with not only her mother, but the punishments that came along with her sexuality when she first decided to indulge in it.  And the fact that it was only one fruit that she came to associate these things with, develops into the bigger picture of why the book is titled the way it is.  She was never allowed any other options, fruit wise, which also hinted to Winterson that there was also only one right and absolute way to live life.  The oranges served to remind her that she was only given one option, and that trying to deviate from that would be sinful.  After leaving home, she develops a clear distaste for her mother and her past, which leads her to the revelations that she doesn’t have to abide by the one lifestyle that was thrust upon her, and that oranges are not the only fruit.

Fate and Doom

“No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone.

The accidents happen, we’re not heroines,

they happen in our lives like car crashes,”

-Poem 17 of ’21 Love Poems’

More than anything else throughout this excerpt, the phrase “fated or doomed”, stood out to me the most.  Fate and doom are both incredibly cosmic in nature,  but have different connotations that leave them on opposite ends of the spectrum that is the overall concept of destiny.  When you think of fate in the context of love, it’s uncontrollable.  And when you think of doomed love, it’s unavoidable.  My interpretation of this poem is that the narrator is saying love is something we can’t control or avoid when it really comes down to it.  It’s almost as if this is a neutral stance on the power of love, since the narrator is so adamant about how love is really just an accident.  I feel as if this might tie a bit into Rich’s personal life and sexuality.  She spent a majority of her life in the closet, but eventually did come to terms with the fact that regardless of her straight marriage, she was just naturally attracted to women.  That realization was not characterized by “fate” or “doom” for her, but rather an admittance that love is an unpredictable phenomenon, just like car crashes.