Home Is a Contradiction

“Home is also the damp, rotting log smell, the fog lifting to broken sun and wind. I am climbing steadily now, the two-lane shale road narrowing.” (Clare 27).

On this page, Clare connects environmental destruction to the queer experience. As Clare walks into the forest and hears logging trucks, he immediately thinks about his aversion to the timber industry, but then corrects himself with this statement. Although home is “rotting”, and like the trees, Clare felt like he was decaying while growing up in his rural community, he will always have ties there. 

Clare continues this narrative by using a form that mirrors his relationship with his home. When Clare leaves his home the “fog lifts” and he expects to uncover his most authentic queer self, like he expected to see a growing forest. However, living in a city and surrendering to queer metronormativity makes Clare feel like more of an exile, and he feels out of place and “broken” like the environment around him.  

Through the tie between home and decay, Clare implies that maybe home will always be a contradiction. He recognizes that his queer and disabled identities weren’t supported at his home, but he feels perpetually stuck in the chasm between rural and urban, which can feel like the chasm between decaying and flourishing when most queer media set in rural locations references violence or unhappiness. Like witnessing this forest being turned into a wasteland, Clare doesn’t want his life in a rural location “to mean destruction” (Clare 27), but to remain home for him.  

Overall, in this passage Clare reflects on the ostracization he felt his home and how he now emotionally and physically sees his home as “a graveyard, a war zone, the earth looking naked and torn”. However, as Clare states at the end of this excerpt, as he is exploring the forest, he “climbs steadily”, walking on a “shale road”, stepping on rocks at the bottom of the chasm, but continuing forward, with his identities intertwined. For many queer people, home is a contradiction, home is the space between, and home is a multiplicity of identities, and this is what Clare implies as he describes navigating through environmental destruction and the memories of his home. 

What I lost by leaving

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.