I remember the day that my Dad came out to me as gay. It was the same day that both he and my Mom had sat me down to tell me that they were getting a divorce. Growing up a very sensitive and emotional daughter in a close-knit family of seven, this news was devastating to me. But I was very lucky in the way everything played out in my time of life–I say that in contrast to my older brother and my much younger sisters. Still in high school on that surreal day, I ended up using that year to come to terms with this new definition of family. And college meant I could enter a liberal sphere where I could figure out what this whole LGBTQ thing was all about.
It has been only in my final year at Eastern Michigan University where I could incorporate my interest in these issues with my projects. And I look forward to this, my senior project, digging not only into something I care so deeply about but also exploring it through literature; I hope it to be not only eye opening for me but for anyone who happens to stumble across this blog.
But I couldn’t just read LGBTQ literature, blindly searching for some sort of theoretical/literary focus. So I decided to take a more controversial route because these specific topics weaving together are not just affecting me and my family, but also countless other people in the world. And what is this added controversy? Christianity.
When I hear that word, Christianity, sometimes I shudder. If someone asks me if I am one, sometimes it’s with reluctance that I say yes. I hate that I feel that, since my spirituality is something so deeply a part of me. But it is this dual-identity of the strong Christian LGBTQ ally that makes this war waging inside my body so violent. But that sounds wishy-washy. Let me explain.
While having a considerable amount of privilege in my “normal American life,” I would count myself as someone on the margins because of this dual-identity of the Christian LGBTQ ally. But why, Jane, on the margins? you might ask. Because being a Christian in America is the assumed majority, right? But being an ally–especially among the Millennial generation–is quickly also becoming the assumed majority. See what I’m getting at? For most people, my dual-identity seems to have a conflict of interests. Two “majorities” that seem to hate each other’s guts. And while I often shield myself from attacks by assuming only one identity at a time and keeping the other under wraps, I personally see no conflict by strongly identifying as both. And I am only an ally. Consider now the LGBTQ Christian themselves.
This is what I plan to be exploring in depth. How the realms of Christians and the LGBTQ communities–note here my plural use, as all these people should not be lumped into one “community”–are working with each other (and against each other) and what this does to the LGBTQ characters’ character development throughout the novels I read. While the general context and growth of society and culture are going to be huge components, the pivotal aspect of this exploration through these books is going to focus on what it looks like at the end of the day for the LGBTQ characters’ situations. Because in the end, they are who this is about.
Looking for books that tackle both of these topics were next to impossible to find. But after several weeks of searching, I’ve found four that I feel will become the foundation for this project. They are as follows: Bright Purple: Color Me Confused (Melody Carlson, 2006), Growing Up Gay (edited by Bennett L. Singer, 1993), Keeping You a Secret (Julie Anne Peters, 2003), and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Jeanette Winterson, 1985).