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.
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.
In “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories” By Roxane Gay she explores the role of celebrities coming out and their responsibilities to do so. The first part of her argument is constructed around the role of privacy and how expecting people to come out, or forcing them to is a violation of privacy. Our culture is obsessed with placing these people in categories will have some impact on our lives, or that creating these categories is our responsibility, when most of the time, creating such taxonomy won’t change anything at all.” (161) Her use of the word taxonomy has a scientific edge to it implying that our culture categorizes people’s sexuality almost in a pseudo-scientific manner to imply that difference in sexuality has greater implications which it doesn’t. People’s intense, yet useless curiosity often results in people being “forcibly outed” (161). Celebrities face the most pressure to come out even if it violates their right to privacy. Because of their roles as public figures many people think that “there is a greater obligation that must be met beyond what that person might ordinarily choose to meet” (164). Gay recognizes that this pressure isn’t necessarily fair and that it shouldn’t be necessary, but because their actions can make a potential difference they should.
The second component of her argument is that not all instances of coming out are as easy as others. She makes the point that Anderson Cooper didn’t face much backlash when he publicly came out because like other gay celebrities, he doesn’t present as “too gay” and that is why he was accepted because of he is“white, successful, handsome, and masculine” (165). He fits the image that people want to assign to gay men and therefore was accepted as so. Others who do not fulfill this image often face challenges. She refers to this issue as “a problem though that there’s a right kind of gay” (166). An eye opening comparison she drew for me was the difference in situations between Anderson Cooper coming out and Frank Ocean coming out. Because of their differing identities, careers, and communities they exist in they’re public coming outs had very different levels of risk.
Michael Cobb wrote this opinion piece, “The Supreme Court’s Lonely Hearts Club” in a response to the Obergefell vs. Hodges case where Justice Anthony Kennedy commented on the relationship between marriage and loneliness. Not only did he say that “Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there,” but also “no union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family” (1). Cobb takes deep offense to this statement for two reasons.
One, he doesn’t believe that in essence having sex (or not) should determine the benefits a relationship can gain in the eyes of the government. If two good friends wish to function as a unit and receive the tax benefits they should be able to. He believes that the difference between this and a marriage at its core is that they are not having sex. To him this line between friends and romantic partners seems arbitrary.
Two, if Justice Kennedy wants to deliver “same sex couples ‘equal dignity in the eyes of the law’” (3) then there is the implication that non-married people lack dignity. Cobb believes that his dignity, his respect for himself, should not be determined by whether he is in a committed relationship or not. These comments lacked consideration for people who don’t care to get married or who just haven’t gotten married yet. As Cobb questions, inevitably we will all be single as times in our lives so then are we inevitably undignified sometimes?
This made me think about why our government holds the power to legitimizing relationships. If they determine who gets the benefits of being in a certain relationship and who doesn’t then they show preferential treatment to some partnerships over others. This reminded me of Laura Kipnis’s article and how our love is deeply institutionalized in some aspects. The government perpetuates the notion that we must marry one other person and be in a relationship with till death do us apart.
In the chapter “We ‘Other Victorians’” Michael Foucault explores the historical context behind the repression of discussing and having pleasurable sex confidently in society. He claims that there was a shift from the 17th century, where sex was openly accepted as a far of life, to the Victorian bourgeois where “Sexually was carefully confined; it moved into the home” (3). Unless one was in a mental institution or a brothel sex was “taboo, nonexistence, and silent.” (4). This change in ideology around sex is accredited to the power systems the bourgeois society created and also capitalism.
Foucault emphasises the importance of recognizing the relationship between sex, repression, and power. He questions the systems which led us to question sex, shine it in a negative light, and reject our positive relationships with sex. An important question he asks is why did we, or do we equate sex with sin? He answers that abuses of power have created this complicated relationship. It will take an honest, open discussion about sex over a long period of time to start to unravel these preconceived notions of impurity surrounding sex. In a culture of repressing pleasure it will take years to have conversations of this unprecedented nature because of our history of avoiding sex as a subject. His focus becomes more clear at the end of the essay when he asks many questions and then answers them himself. His questioning of “The way in which sex is ‘put into discourse’” (11) raises important points such as who talks about it? How do they talk about? How are they controlling the conversation around sex? What are their underlying motivations? This piece hinted at many of these answers but I’m really interested in hearing a more detailed account of these systems of power and repression.
Laura Kipnis in her essay “Against Love” critiques the way modern love constrains us from small things such as eating fluff to large things such as monogamy. One of the focuses of this essay is how nonsensical having one partner for a lifetime is. The institution of marriage assumes that “desire will manage to sustain itself for thirty or forty or fifty years” (736). She argues that tedious work must go into keeping the passion of a relationship alive and often it becomes as monotonous as another job to do so. I’m interested in why most people aspire to have partnerships that last a lifetime. This notion is so deeply rooted in many places throughout the world so I wonder how that social convention came out. We accept romantic love as a natural or inherent behavior usually so her description of historians considering romantic love a “learned behavior” (735) rejected traditional notions of love. There are some aspects of love that are biological such as the release of oxytocin hormone that increases in romantic situations, but there are many conditioned behaviors that we learn from others as well. She briefly discusses adults who stray out of their monogamous relationships and refers to them as “home-grown closet social theorists” (737). Here she continues to question dedicating our entire romantic and sexual lives to another. When discussing mutuality, she argues that stereotypical relationships “presume, of course, that the majority of those needs can and and should be met by one person. (Question this, and you question the very foundations of the institution. So don’t.” (737) She seems to reject monogamy but she doesn’t commit to embracing polyamory where people have multiple intimate relationships at the same time. Maybe for the sake of not dissuading readers who are already wary of her ideas she didn’t push her argument to the next level.