Lesbian: a female homosexual
In Allison Bechdel’s memoir known as Fun Home, the reader is invited to accompany Allison throughout her coming-of-age that is punctuated with the compendious noun: “Lesbian”.
“I’d been having qualms since I was thirteen… when I first learned to the word due to its alarming prominence in my dictionary.”
Fun Home illustrates the exciting, and sometimes intimidating experience of self discovery. When Allison first comes across the word “Lesbian” in her Webster’s dictionary, something resonates within her that will later manifest itself into a new identity. Allison’s process of self discovery is interesting enough to note in regards to its similarities and variations from other homosexual characters we have analyzed within the context of this course.
Unlike Allison, Jess in Stone Butch Blues does not find any sort of inspiration, or attachment to the word “Lesbian”. She admits, in a conversation with her most intimate partner, that she has never used the word “Lesbian”.
Although she has sexual relations with women, perhaps she feels as though the label does not do justice to her sense of self. Maybe, given the differences in social standings centered on homosexual labels, Jess just feels more like a “he-she” and this label entitles her more to her equalized masculinity and femininity. Given the time period, as well as the dynamic of the gay community, maybe the reader is thoroughly associated with “Femme” and “Butch” in Stone Butch Blues for historical or educational reasons. I happen to feel that it the repugnance of “Butch” and “Femme” has historical importance, while also giving insight to Jess’s internalization of these labels, and a lack of the internalization of “Lesbian”
“One day it occurred to be that I could actually look up homosexuality in the card catalogue. I found a four-foot trove in the stacks which I quickly ravished. And soon I was trolling even the public library, heedless of the risks.” Bechdel describes her fascination with Lesbianism in literature as she projects her own relations to these stories and people she is reading about. She is absorbed into the library- consumed in her research that is testing her hypothesis: is she a lesbian? The importance of literature in Allison’s self discovery reminded me of Audre Lorde in Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.
Similar to Bechdel, Lorde illustrates her fascination with women through a projection of her investment and captivation in books addressing menstruation and female anatomy. Just as Bechdel has a slight obsession with lesbian literature that will later lead to a confirmation in her sexual orientation, Lorde begins answering her own questions through an obsession with books. Perhaps sparking significant sexual curiosity for the female body, she educates herself using books describing menstruation and pregnancy with illustrations of vaginas. This content resonates with her in a way that the reader can argue is sexually oriented.
“My realization at nineteen that I was a lesbian came about in a manner consistent with my bookish upbringing. A revelation not of the flesh, but of the mind.”Bechdel narrates.
This cognizant discovery of sexuality, one could argue, is significantly different from our characters Molly in Rubyfruit Jungle and David in Giovanni’s Room. The reader shares Molly’s first homosexual discovery with her neighbor during a sleepover. While there has not been much thought from Molly regarding her lesbianism before this particular experience, we are introduced to her preference for women at this milestone. From this point on in Molly’s narrative, her sexual experiences are primarily with women, and thus, one can say that this physical “of the flesh” intimacy between Molly and another girl is the determining factor in which she begins to understand her sexuality.
Similarly to Molly, and unlike Allison, David has an “of the flesh” experience with a childhood friend that is deeply aligned with a physical homoesexual interaction rather than an emotional or cognizant synergy. Throughout the rest of David’s narrative, the thematic concept of the novel depicting the consequences of repressed love are a central point to David’s struggle to invest in his emotional ties to another man over his physical desires.
Ultimately, Fun Home exemplifies the conclusive embrace of homosexuality in a way that is interesting to note how it aligns and diverges from the other characters- Molly, Audre, David, and Jess.
Does Allison allude to her sexual orientation before this explicit declaration of lesbianism in Chapter 3?
How can the reader understand the significance of the symbolism found in the depictions of flora in Chapter 4: The Shadow of Young Girls in Flower that connect both Allison’s sexuality and her Father’s?