Unconditional Love

Except for the common theme about queer teenagers, the two young adult novels “Luna” by Julie Anne Peters and “Boy meets boy” by David Levithan are obviously different in terms of settings – that is, how supportive of LGBTQ community the people in the two societies are. Boy meets boy take place in a utopian town where people do not question gender identities of the characters, and that is why the romance between gay teens happens as natural as any relationship between straight couple can. On the other hand, the gender norm is a constraint in Luna’s world and even her parents suppress her gender expression to the point that she has to live a double life and has suicidal thought.

If we take a closer look at the two novels, we can see some unexpected similarities between the two. The common ground is the unconditional love exists among characters – they express sympathy for one another and help the queer individual overcome disapproval of parents. Though Regan has never been through what Liam/Luna has, plus Luna has caused so many troubles for Regan, she stands by Luna side – cover her secret, share her girly hobbies, and lend Luna her room for dressing up at night.”Yeah, I loved her. I couldn’t help it. She was my brother (p3)” The sibling love that Regan give Luna is the hope and the shelter for Luna whenever she is in crisis and feel like she cannot continue to live on. Thanks to the time Regan stops the suicidal attempt of Luna, Luna knows that she is not alone and finally finds strength go against parents’ expectation and reveal her identity as a female. Similarly, we can see how much Tony’s friends love him when they all come to his house and persuade his parents to let him go to the dance party. Unlike others whose parents do not question their gender identities, Tony is unfortunate to have religious parents who are unsupportive of his, but his friends always have him in mind and are willing to set aside their business to all come to make sure that he is not left at home that night. Regan and Tony’s friends represent individuals wholeheartedly care for queer individuals who struggle to fight the discrimination of the society. They do not endure the same pain, but their empathy gives strength to those who do and assure them that they are not alone in the battle.

Those caregivers support people in need so that they can be patient for the silver lining to come after the rain – which means that if they do not give up on their life when facing oppression, one day they can find a way to let their identity shine and change the mindset of conservative people. Each novel provides distinct perspectives on the LGBTQ+ community. Luna is a real picture about how it feels like to be a trans in the society where people try to persuade transgender individuals to live as what their anatomy describe them instead of dressing up or using the pronoun they want. The audience of this novel can be either people of within the community or people yet to have a thorough understanding of the group. Trans people can relate to what Liam has to cope with, but they will also see that there are people who they can count on apart from the unsupportive majority. For people who are not familiar with queer terms and stories, the narration raises awareness and promotes empathy toward transgender. If people have never read a story of this sort, there is a possibility that they can adopt the gender-binary mindset due to the lack of information. It is likely that Luna’s narration serves as a lens through which readers can be more sensitive on how they treat people of LQBTQ+ community in real life, and to know infinite reasons why people in this community deserve to live how they want.

Boy meets boy, though having idealized setting, plays no less important role in supporting the LQBTQ+ community because it represents the voice of the community while there are not many projects about this subject on the media at the time of publication. It does not paint a false picture – it instead takes a revolutionary step to sketch what future can look like. “There isn’t really a gay scene or a straight scene in our town. They got all mixed up a while back, which I think is for the best (p1)”. It is more like a miraculous realism than a fiction because such supporting place can exist if people are willing to. The point of this novel is not to remind LGBTQ+ what they already know happen in their lives, but rather to use a delighted narrative to ease the pain, to suggest an optimal solution to the problem, and to focus on pure affection. Through multiple pieces of romantic stories that everyone can relate to (the feeling and the thing that we do when we have a crush on someone, dating, and relationship), Levithan shows us that regardless of sexual orientation, human feelings are very much alike. When people open their mind and do not make a big deal of gender identity and labels, life is much easier for everyone and only love remains in the picture frame. So why not?


Both “Oranges are not the only fruit” by Jeanette Winterson and “Angels in America” by Tony Kushner centralize queer people, but there are significant differences between the two pieces that highlight the unique experience of each individual within the community.

The protagonists of the two texts, Jeanette and Roy, have their own mother in mind on every milestone of their lives. Jeanette used to adopt the conservative and religious mindset of her mother from a very young age without even questioning about it once. For her mother, the world exists in a strictly dual fashion, with no middle ground in between two extremes of any spectrum. “She had never heard of mixed feelings. There were friends and there were enemies (p3)”. Jeanette’s mother tends to manipulate her life as evidenced by the way she treats her daughter. When Jeanette is sick, her mother visits but not to whole-heartedly take care of her but to give her a symbolic fruit that indicates her command on Jeanette’s life. As time goes by Jeanette discovers her sexual orientation, gradually deviates from the binary order and maps out a route for her own life.

Roy thinks about his mother in the last moment of his life. She is not physically there but Roy looks at the ghost of Ethel and sees her as his mother. This scene implies that at that moment Roy is very vulnerable and he is no more or less than a little child crying in front of his mother. He begs her to sing him a song: ”Good to see you Ma, it’s been years. I feel bad. Sing to me. Please, it’s scary out here”. Though it is a moment of weakness, the appearance of his mother helps heal his soul as opposed to the presence of Jeanette’s mother.

These parallel patterns between Jeanette and Roy are obvious in the text, but there are differences that shed light on the personalities of the two characters. While the self-portrait of Jeanette is quite innocent and full of pride, that of Roy is marked with shame and self-loath. Another contrast lies in the circumstances of Jeanette and Roy. Based on the definition of her mother about sin, Jeanette is blameworthy because her sexuality does not fit into the binary lens of her mother. Consequently, she is not approved within her family, let alone in the living community or in the society. Nonetheless, the general public respects Roy as a powerful conservative lawyer regardless of his sin because Roy lets no one but Joe knows about his manipulation of Ethel’s trial.

Given that contrasting background, Jeanette and Roy have opposite feeling towards themselves. Jeanette does not have any supporter and yet she is strong enough not to let her mother’s judgment, such as her having “unnatural passion”, bring her self-worth down. Her confidence is not backed up by the certainty that she can persuade others but rather grounded by her will to follow her passion. “I loved God and I loved the church, but I began to see that as more and more complicated. It didn’t help that I had no intention of becoming a missionary” (p 128). As Jeanette realizes she no longer believes in the values that she used to believe in, she still respects the past and acknowledges why she does not feel appropriate in further pursuing what has once nurtured her. She gains strength on the process of deviating from the old pattern, but she appreciates every piece of what have shaped her identity.

The opposite reaction can be seen in Roy. No matter how respectful others view Roy, he still hates many characteristics of him and he even abhors Ethel because she mirrors those traits. Though he claims that he hates traitors and communists, the real reason why he is hostile to Ethel is that she, being a Jew as Roy, reminds him of so many qualities that he considers weaknesses. He performs acts of hyper-masculinity to cover his insecurity and he forces himself to constantly prove that he is strong by bashing others for their weakness. For example, he not only calls Joe a sissy when Joe is about to turn down the job offer in DC but also calls Ethel stupid for believing that he deems her to be his mother. For the record, Roy does see Ethel as his mother but he lies because he does not want to admit his fault to Ethel. Such denying pattern of Roy repeats over the course of the narration, unlike Jeanette who is willing to accept all facts of her personality. There are so many secrets that Roy hides and there are so many facts that he does not dare to admit, such as when he asserts that he has cancer instead of AIDS. Having such strong intention to show off his power, he would never confess his affection to his mother unless stunned. The rare moment when he imagines his mother being in front of him reveals how desperately Roy need to count on his mother as a source of emotional encouragement. Once again we see the opposite direction in the behavior of Roy and Jeanette, one leaning towards his mother’s image to acquire courage while one becoming stronger as she deflects from her mother’s influence. They both respect their mother, but how they think about them reflects their self-portrait. The mother plays important roles in supporting the two characters’ coming out effort and also in reinforcing their pride.

The two extremes represented by Roy and Jeannette exemplify the campness in the two texts because both exaggerate based on raw materials to obtain an effect than move the audience better than the original story can. All in all, one observation can be drawn from the two pieces: self-esteem plays a critical role in the coming out process of queer individuals. There are many external challenges that can easily defeat the characters but how they view themselves after being exposed to other’s harsh judgment determines how happy they feel about their identity.

Break the pattern of binary world

“It was a good thing I was destined to become a missionary. For some time after this I put aside the problem of men and concentrated on reading the Bible. Eventually, I thought, I’ll fall in love like everybody else. Then some years later, quite by mistake, I did.” (pp. 77)

The destiny mentioned in these sentences reminds me of the description about the adoption of Jeanette. Her mother did not arbitrary choose Jeanette among the children in the orphanage but rather follows the star that guided her to Jeanette’s crib. By doing this, she successfully follows the God’s will to select the “right” child that can do God service. She does not sincerely care for the well being of Jeanette, as evidenced in her neglect when Jeanette is temporary deaf. In fact, her love for Jeanette is conditional: she expects that Jeanette would grow up to be an immaculate person that can serve God to bring about change in the world. Jeanette adopts her mother’s mindset from very young age and she does believe in the pathway that her mother draws for her future.

Jeanette used to think that she has never been in a relationship with a man because she is busy absorbing the grand idea the Bible, or because it is sinful to get involve in romance and she has to obey her mother’s admonition: “Don’t let anyone touch you Down There”. The fact that Jeanette remains single and committed to God is unsullied enough to please her mother. But later Jeanette recognizes that sooner or later she will find her romance. This is the hint of the coming out moment of Jeanette in the future. It is worth noticing how and why Jeanette can deviate from the anchored philosophy of her family– a binary world with either enemies or friends and no middle ground in between. The homosexuality of Jeanette exists in that middle ground of no name to her mother.

Jeanette listens to the voice inside that speaks her feeling instead of following the fixed pathway for her life. What makes Jeanette a heroine is her bravery to come out and declare her identity. Her standing up for herself and the truth, not the sacred mission such as those depicted in Bible, is the special story of Jeanette’s real life. She does grow up to be “special”, just not as in the sense that her mother can imagine. The difference between Jeanette and her mother can be compared with the difference in good and bad writing that Anzaldua mentioned in her writing: “Find the muse within you. The voice that lies buried under you, dig it up. Do not fake it, try to sell it for a handclap or your name in print”. Jeanette’s mother always focus on the appearance of the action instead of goodwill, in other words, she wants to be recognized rather than to contribute to the community. Jeanette, on the other hand, does not concern protecting the non-mundane personal image. She does what feels real to her, and by doing that creates a unique story of her own just as any human can.


Free Expression

It seems to me that two questions at the beginning of the stanza express the doubt and prejudice of Rich against herself and her work. The fact that she uses her personal experience as writing material, as many writers have done, suddenly becomes the source of inquiry. She asks herself if writing about her love life is a normal thing to do, or such action is so uncommon that only an alien creature would do.
“What kind of beast would turn its life into words?
What atonement is this all about?”

At first, she is confused about the purpose of her writings – whether she writes to compensate for something that she did wrong or not. But then, she realizes that in the process of writing, she is actually being true to her feeling; she writes not only to meet her own need but also to reflect the truth and to evoke real moments of life on the page.
“—and yet, writing words like this, I am also living.”

Rich also brings into question the impacts of her writings on others. She thinks of the waves of sound from wolverines’ howl that are so strong that they change the flow of the wind. This line is the metaphor for her hope that her pieces can alter the situation that lesbian poets have to face, and that her words are influential enough to touch the souls of readers. However, she admits that rather than focusing on topics that she really cares about, she instead distracts herself by writing about topics of less significance to her. She also wonders if she takes advantage of her lover the same way that she uses trees and wars as writing subjects to hide her true writing passion.
“am I simply using you, like a river or a war?

So what is the problem that makes Rich constantly question whether she is being close to the truth or not? What change does she hope would occur? Maybe, as she said, the freedom of expression is what she is looking for. Individuals, regardless of their social background, should have a chance to be heard, respected and should have equal right to spread their words. I have a feeling that the “desecration” is the metaphor for the brutal of mistreatment. The dream of having a universal language between poets are worth fighting for, because female poets minority group are discriminated for their race, their sexual orientation, their socio-economic class, and so on. The same message shows up in Gloria’s advice to writing: “ Feel your way without blinders. To touch more people, the personal realities and the social must be evoked – not through rhetoric but through blood and pus and sweat.”