In “Blue Talk and Love” by Mecca Sullivan Earnestine explores and experiences many different kinds of unconventional love in her life from her parents tumultuous marriage to her infatuation with her neighbor and peer Xiomara. As opposed to most of the articles we’ve read thus far, this piece is fictional but often I find that fiction can portray truths better than factual statements. Her style is borders on lyrical and has many lengthy descriptions.
When comparing herself to her peers, Earnestine feels as if she doesn’t live up to the white beauty standards around her which perpetuate that being white and thin is beautiful. Her male classmates often make fun of her for the way she looks. On the other hand, her father tells her that her appearance doesn’t matter, what matters is that she has soul. She often compares herself to Xiomara who is stereotypically beautiful and who is universally adored by boys at school and feels insignificant.
Her relationship with Xiomara is very personal and the time they spend together is intimate. She “felt that she and Xiomara were alone in a secret tropical cave beneath a post-apocalyptic city sometime around the year 2020–an impossible distance away.” (23) Spending time with Xiomara allows her to escape her reality. By the end of the story its implied that Xiomara and Earnestine have some kind of romantic or sexual relationship.
She often observes her parents fighting at home and “It was the small hidden questions of her parent’s lives that scared her.” (32) The communication issues between them are apparent. Her father often plays music after their fights and he plays September but “It was a ballad, a relentless tale of loss that brought to mind all of the things she feared most about love, and made her wonder how people managed to grow up at all.” (34) She doesn’t seem to understand how people fall in love or stay in love since her parents aren’t in love anymore. The connection between “blue talk and love” symbolizes how often with love there is sadness accompanied with it.
While Gay asserts that taking a stand can be beneficial for many people, she admits that coming out is not equally difficult for everyone. She maintains that society classifies certain queer people as the “right kind of gay” (165). Those who do not fit this mold often are ignored or ostracized. One such person was Sally Ride; after her death in 2012, Ride’s wife was ignored and denied the benefits often given to heterosexual widows. Since she did not fit the mold of a “white, handsome, successful, masculine,” male, their relationship went widely unrecognized (165). Due to her deviance from the norm, she is not recognized as the “right kind of gay” and is not accepted. This fear that one will be ostracized from society if they do not fit the mold of the “right kind of gay” thus makes it more difficult for some to come out.
One of Gay’s main points in “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories” is that there are unrealistic social pressures for LGBTQ community members with noteriety. At the same time as she is passionately expressing this, she is unknowingly pressuring a gay celebrity who at the time was closeted. Gay writes “I do not know the man. Maybe he is homophobic, maybe he isn’t. I do know that he doesn’t think about language very carefully” when discussing rapper Tyler the Creator’s use of homophobic slurs. Her assumption that Tyler is a heterosexual man is in direct contrast to her point that celebrities shouldn’t feel obligated to discuss their sexuality publicly. The use of slurs in his songs is likely a reflection and commentary of his life experiences as a homosexual man, for Gay to assume his sexuality is somewhat a contradiction. While Gay points out an important point of the continuing deep rooted culture prejudice and injustice, she is forgetting her main argument and perpetuating the assumption and lack of privacy. Tyler, The Creator, who also does not come from a place of privilege alike to Frank Ocean, has important perspective that is forgotten in this piece: that it is difficult to give up these privacy, and all public figures still struggle with the issues of injustice. Privacy and publicity is a complicated balance, and the assumptions we make with it persist to perpetuate injustice though we may try and fight it.
In “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories” Roxane Gay posits that, in terms of sexual orientation, access to privacy is a privilege that only heterosexual are afforded. She says that heterosexual people “can date, marry, and love whom they choose without needing to disclose much of anything. If they do choose to disclose, they are rarely negative consequences” (163). Their life choices are rarely scrutinized in the public eye because they fit into what is deemed as the social norm. The backlash that homosexual people face when they come out makes it all the more difficult (hate crimes, loss of rights and privileges from the government, and alienation from the public). Although the common norm among members of society dictate that homosexuals are subjected to these shortcomings, Gay elucidates the more ethically favorable option to allow equal rights despite peoples’ sexual orientations.
By Zahra Morgan and Yooseob Jung
Gay argues that our society obsesses over categorization of different aspects of character, including political orientation, gender identity, sexuality, and so on. She speculates that this obsession has become almost habitual, writing that, “we don’t know what to do when we don’t know the answers to these questions or, worse, when the answers to these questions do not fall neatly into a category.” Gay’s observation reveals our need for binary explanations of behavior, perhaps to simplify the complex nature of reality. She also expresses the discomfort people experience when having to deal with such complexities and ambiguities. Gay argues that people believe that categorizing people will alleviate this discomfort. This obsession with categorization, Gay argues, explains our expectation that celebrities will share their private lives just because they are in the public’s eye. This relates to her main argument where she asserts that humans have a desire to know about people’s private lives, as well as our fixation on placing people inside and outside of the norm, when in reality, the norm is much more convoluted than we want it to be.
In the chapter “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories,” Roxane Gay iterates the importance of well known public figures coming out to the world in order to help advocate for gay rights. For example, Gay states, ” Still, prominent gay people need to stand up and be counted because the word “gay” is still used as a slur,” (p.165). Gay states this to point out that these celebrities need to share their private lives to help improve the environment surrounding homosexuality, and she uses the reasoning of the existence of slurs still to demonstrate that there are issues that remain unresolved and celebrities have the platform to accelerate change in this sense. Gay’s use of the phrase” be counted” pushes the idea that more people standing behind change the greater the movement becomes. Also, the idea of continued sharing leads back to Gay’s argument that all people need to stand up and be apart of the change, but that the advancement of acceptance is fueled by figures that have a public following.
Gay argues that how non-normative marriages are held to different, and higher standards than normative marriages even though they shouldn’t be. For examples, Gay uses the examples of Zach Walhs who had to extensively prove that his two mothers were apt parents in court. Parenthood should be defined more broadly than a man and a woman. A parent should be defined by their actions rather than their specific sexual orientation. Often, gay parents are forced to prove their parenting abilities in order to be recognized as “normal” parents whereas the stereotypical parents of a mother and a father would not have to go to such lengths to do so. Gay uses this court case to highlight societies tighly held preconceived notions about what parenting is “suppose” to look like. Currently, people who are subject to this treatment are the ones speaking out about it, but that responsibility shouldn’t be completely on their shoulders. Instead everyone should broaden their definitions of what relationships look like to lighten that burden on the LGBTQ community.
Roxanne Gay explores the effects of celebrities and public figures who choose to reveal themselves as members of the LGBTQ community. It is Gay’s belief that while interesting, these revelations don’t advance the agenda of the community, and that unrealistic expectations are placed on these celebrities to help do so. Gay examines the stories of Anderson Cooper, Frank Ocean, and Sally Ride in this piece to prove her point.
I agree with parts of what Gay says such as her opinion that we expect far too much of people in the public eye. “We expect role models to model the behavior we are perfectly capable of modeling ourselves” (p.169). Anderson Cooper, Sally Ride, and Frank Ocean are probably far too busy (and didn’t ask) to take on as behemoth of a task as engineering change for a whole community. “Despite our complex cultural climate and what needs to be done for the greater good, it is still an unreasonable burden that someone who is marginalized must bear an extra set of responsibilities” (p.168).
While I strongly agree with that sentiment, Gay somewhat loses me when she is discussing Frank Ocean. Her credibility takes a hit when she is discussing the “Odd Future” music collective. When reading it, it is easy to find yourself agreeing with Gay and her opposition to artists such as Tyler the Creator, but with a quick google search she could have found out that Tyler the Creator himself is a member of the LGBTQ community, having come out and addressed it multiple times over the years. While this doesn’t make her point moot, I think that her credibility definitely takes a hit as she is attacking a bisexual man for using a slur in a song. I’d imagine it to be similar to a black man using the “N” word in a rap.
Overall, I agree with Gay’s points, but it jumped out at me that she would write this as fact without including necessary details.
Roxanne Gay begins her piece “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories” analyzing the increasing lack of privacy, especially for public figures, in today’s culture. We desire to know everything in their lives’, from their sexuality to intimate details of their relationships, despite not quite having the authority. Gay associates the public as “we”, creating a common and more subjective critique of this crave of knowledge We assume its the sacrifice they make for fame and fortune. However, we forget that these public figures are still human, and often just figuring it out for themselves too.
Gay analyzes the three coming out stories of Anderson Cooper, Frank Ocean, and Sally Rider. All different types of celebrities, with different stories, in different places. However, with their publicity of their sexuality, they were able to “stand up and be counted”. This is an integral part of the quest for LGBTQ rights. Often we already love the celebrity, and thus, their sexuality brings more to light and has helped to normalize the issues. Their fame creates a responsibility- they are in a place where they can come out and help the issues, but not all are so lucky. Between hate crimes and hatred, depending on where you are, it can be literally dangerous to come out. While the privacy is an important right, the publicity of coming out can change lives and help with the civil rights of the entire movement
However, in order to complete address the movement, society as a whole must do more. We should no longer be allowed to normalize and be okay with anything but acceptance.
What struck me most about the article by Roxanne Gay was her statement: “We act like placing these people [public figures] in categories will have some impact on our lives… The only thing satisfied by that information is my curiosity.” I understand that in the grand scheme of things, the way that other people act does not directly impact us. However, Gay failed to recognize the importance of indirect exposure to people of different sexualities, especially celebrities. When Raven Symone came out as a lesbian in 2012, she had a very lasting impact on fans of her Disney Channel TV show – they began to realize the importance of being true to yourself. This sparked more young people to come out to the LGBTQ+ community, proving that celebrities do in fact have an unwritten social contract that allows their following to be influenced by what they have to do and say. Hence, I disagree with Gay in that there are impacts on the wider community when a celebrity comes out. However, her point about the categorization of sexual orientations and gender identities also stands true, as we have mechanized sexuality and made it a binary system that oversimplifies the reality of gender and emotion.