I think that Boy Meets Boy and Luna are more obviously different in the way they portray coming out stories. In the utopian novel, Boy Meets Boy, the reader is taken on the journey that is Paul and Noah, two gay teenage boys who experience your “typical” relationship problems. From the beginning of the novel, it is made clear that Paul has a firm grasp on his own true identity and has no problem expressing it or being accepted by family and friends around him. Paul and Noah endure bumps in the road, like when Paul kisses his ex-boyfriend, but through romantic determination, end up happily together. Since both boys are secure with their sexual identity and don’t face major discrimination from those around them, this relationship is not much different than any other heterosexual one. Every relationship, no matter the sexuality, experiences ups and downs, and Paul and Noah are examples of just that. Contrary, from what can be seen so far in Luna, it is clear it is not a utopian novel, but rather a complex coming out story filled with uncertainty and confusion for transgender Luna. Liam knows that she is meant to be a girl, but is surrounded by parents and siblings who are in denial of who Liam really wants to be. It is evident that these stories tell two very different stories of coming out narratives: one filled with internal struggles while another is filled with love and romance.
Although both stories have several differences, both fail to incorporate a certain level of intersectionality. In both Boy Meets Boy and Luna, the characters come from what can be assumed to be middle-class white backgrounds. Coming out stories are unique to each individuals and their given backgrounds in no way delegitimizes their experiences, but both narratives fail to address another possible story. In many cases, individuals not only face oppression from their sexuality, but also from race, class, and other identities. By incorporating additional identities, the reader can further learn how intersectionality plays a major role in coming out narratives.
Despite each telling a different kind of coming out story, both novels contribute an important message. When thinking of a coming out narrative, most think of a tragic story filled with heartbreak and isolation, but Boy Meets Boy disproves that and portrays another image that a coming out narrative doesn’t have to be some horrible life ending experience, but rather, can be filled with love and happiness. It would be unrealistic to only tell the utopian story of Boy Meets Boy, so Luna shows the unfortunate, but true, battles individuals of the LGBTQ+ community endure in order to be who they truly are.
In both Angels in America and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit two important figures play a significant role in both Jeanette and Roy’s life. In Angels in America, Ethel haunts Roy as she watches him die from AIDS. Roy was the one responsible for Ethel’s death and therefore her presence symbolizes karma and the exposure of all of Roy’s inner demons. In Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, a coming out story, Jeanette’s experience is altered by her mother. Jeanette’s mother attempts to save Jeanette from her homosexuality through the use of religion. Both Ethel and Jeanette’s mother play these metaphorical roles, but with different motives—one to save a life and one to ruin.
Ethel Rosenberg was convicted as a spy and executed for espionage, but her execution would not have been completed if it weren’t for Roy’s interference. Roy prides himself on his accomplishment to murder Ethel, but that soon comes back to haunt him as he can’t seem to get rid of her. She gets pleasure out of taunting him like when she says “the shit’s really hit the fan, huh, Roy?… Well the fun’s just started” (Kushner, 117). It becomes clear that Ethel has made an appearance as a metaphor for how Roy sees himself. Roy is still in denial of the fact that he has AIDS and convinces himself that he is ill with cancer so Ethel returning is him having to face his demons once and for all. Ethel’s inability to show forgiveness towards Roy represents life being unforgiving towards him and making his death slow and painful. It’s also interesting to note that the time period during Roy’s diagnosis of AIDS was during a time when AIDS was directly associated with homosexuals and that was a way of persecuting them.
In Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette’s coming out story is intersected with her highly religious background reflected through her mother. Jeanette’s mother taught her everything she knew to be true and attempted to protect Janet from everything sinful. Jeanette’s mother can be seen as the opposite as Ethel because she is attempting to protect and save Jeanette from her demons (that being homosexuality). This is conveyed every time Jeanette’s mother gives her an orange and never any other fruit. The orange represents the “expected” life she is supposed to be living. Although she wasn’t a ghost who came back to haunt, her mother resembled a figure who was influential on Jeanette’s self-perception and her own coming out story. Similarly to Angels in America, the time period during Jeanette’s coming out story was when society saw homosexuality as a type of sinful behavior that needed to be cured by religion—that cure was Janet’s mother. Both stories correlate with the time period and that current perception of gays.
In both Angels in America and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit both protagonists are met with two other characters that represent a controversial aspect of themselves. Each individual coming out story is unique and often times heavily influenced by outside figures. By including two influential characters into the storyline, the internal and external struggles of becoming ones true self is seen more clearly and accurately.
“I did remember… never since read Jane Eyre” (Winterson, pp. 74-75)
This small paragraph holds a lot of important details in Jeanette’s life. It’s in this paragraph that she discovers her mother had been lying to her about the ending of her favorite childhood book, Jane Eyre. Not only that, but she also discovers that she was adopted. Jeanette’s whole life is constantly controlled by her mother and religion, often times leaving little space for Jeanette to live her own life. Growing up, her mother always read Jane Eyre to her over and over again, but Jeanette was never allowed to read it. I think that is symbolic towards her own life in that over and over again her mom “reads” to Jeanette how her life is supposed to be lived, but never is Jeanette allowed to read her own story (in this case, her life). Finding out that her own mother lied to her every time she read the book is more detrimental to Jeanette than most children, in my opinion, because she always viewed her mother as this “ultimate” figure that could do no wrong. Jeanette, although she tries to deny it, now has to write her OWN ending to her OWN story and not allow her mother to manipulate her life. She also compares this experience to the day she found her adoption papers. Another traumatic experience for Jeanette who now feels like her own story is a lie and now feels lost. Jeanette falls into a pit of denial when she says “I have never since played cards, and I have never since read Jane Eyre”. Rather than taking on the situation head on and using this opportunity to write her own story, these two experiences were so traumatic she almost doesn’t know how to approach it and therefore pretends like nothing has happened. This passage is important because it’s the first time Jeanette is realizing that maybe her life can’t be controlled by her mom and maybe it’s time for her to rewrite her story, her own way.
“Every peak is a crater. This is the law of volcanoes, making them eternally and visibly female. No height without depth, without a burning core” (Rich, 148).
When I think of a volcano I think of a natural structure that waits idly by until it finally erupts, often destroying what’s around it. I interpreted “Every peak is a crater” as that no matter how “okay” somebody seems on the outside, there is some hidden demon waiting to erupt on the inside. No matter how strong a love appears to be, it has its weaknesses. If a person were to be a volcano, they would be oppressed, holding in something so great, silencing their voice for so long, until they finally explode. In society, and as expressed in other Rich’s poems like Power, females are often expected to keep quiet and left to decide whether or not to stand up and speak or blend in and be safe. Regarding emotions, there is such a fine line to what is acceptable emotions and what is not and I think when a volcano explodes it is that individual not being able to contain their emotions any longer. Rich compares volcanos to being a female with a burning core and throughout these 21 Love Poems, Rich’s core is clearly burning with the desire to erupt all of her emotions (in this case, on paper). I think she also makes the volcano female because men have a voice in society and don’t usually get to the point of needing to explode. I also found it interesting that most of Rich’s poems were run on thoughts and thoughts carried out throughout the poem, but in these few lines she is very cut, clear, and short about her points, but it means so much. I think she wrote it like this because these assumptions about emotions and women are just a fact of society and needs to be blatantly stated.