Double-consciousness and Intersectionality

Edwin commits suicide; however, unlike other characters who have died on the same basis, Jess shows visible remorse with how Jess “whisper[s] Edwin’s name out loud as tears ran down [their] cheek” and feels “pain roar[ing] through [their] body like a fire whipped by the wind” (193, 192). In addition, Edwin leaves something for Jess, an excerpt of one of W.E.B Du Bois’ works,

“It’s a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others … two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being asunder” (192).

In this quote, Du Bois talks about the “double-consciousness,” from what I have been told by my Asian American History professor, it is an idea of how each black person can have a perspective on themselves and how they also know how white people perceive them. This excerpt to me not only explains how Edwin feels within the LGBT+ community, with her being black and lesbian, but also how Jess’s mind works, with the way they present themselves as not fully “traditionally” masculine or feminine.  They have “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others” with the way they decide to take hormones because “can[not] survive as a he-she much longer” and wants to “try to pass as a guy” ( 192, 158). This acknowledgement of knowing how people think of them and being conscious of that is consistent through the book, but with this quote, it opens the idea that other characters are also conscious of how people are perceiving them.

With Edwin, she was also not presenting herself as fully masculine or feminine, but she was a person of color on top of that. She started to take hormones around the same time frame as Jess; however, in my opinion, she killed herself because she was aware of how taking hormones can help her conform to being “traditionally” masculine but cannot stop her from being black. Edwin holds multiple “double-consciousness” with being black and queer because she is not only part of multiple marginalized groups but her identities interact and intersect with each other.

Questions

  1. Jess mourns over Ed’s death; however, with other characters who also were hinted that they committed suicide, like Mona, Jess says those deaths in a way it’s a matter of life. Why is Ed’s death different from the others?
  2. The “double-consciousness” was introduced by W.E.B. Du Bois as an explanation of how a black person lives in a white racialized society. Why is it included in a queer-centered book?

 

 

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