I saw the musical Fun Home this past summer, and just now finished the graphic novel: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic., and wow it’s good.
When I saw the musical months ago, I didn’t share the reaction of my partner and the friends who were with us. We all loved it, and were very impressed with the musical and the actors. But while they were more moved with the emotional rollercoaster that was Fun Home, I was happy. I’m no sadist, but while I empathized with the tragic parts of the musical, I felt joy afterwards (even though, as my boyfriend keeps emphasizing, this is not a ‘happy’ musical despite its ironic name).
So I listened to the musical, and the source of my joy became clear with two songs from the musical: Ring of Keys and Changing My Major. Those two songs, written from the perspective of a white cis-lesbian woman, are powerful in evoking how I felt as a young baby queer.
Ring of Keys reminded me of my (great great) uncle Billy. No one has told me that he was gay; he was though. While I don’t share the semi-romantic feelings that the song conveys about the butch delivery woman, I did share the sense of community in seeing an adult –a respected one at that– who was like me. At the time Billy was single, effeminate, and fabulous to boot. He had a circular bed, a huge sombrero on the wall, and such gaudy decoration. I loved visiting with my mami. I also think that my mom’s views on homosexuality were definitely shaped by him. He provided my parents with their first apartment –above his house– and the first home I knew as a baby. There were other moments with queer/gay men a la Ring of Keys: the designer/tailor couple that made my aunt’s –and later on my sister’s– queen of the carnival gown. They’re still around in my town. I remember them as effeminate, and one of them even had long painted nails. There were others like me.
It’s probably conceited to say,
But I think we’re alike in a certain way
-Ring of Keys, Small Alison
Changing My Major was exactly like college. After my mom died, I felt a need to live life as quickly as possible, because who knew if I was also going to die at 42 like her. That first intense crush, though not reciprocated. My first lover, who became my first boyfriend. Making my whole life around that person. This song feels like validation. What a strange finding!!! My queer experience is something some of us share, it’s not mine alone!!! I was not alone, and I guess I never was. I found others who were like me; friends, lovers, strangers…
I don’t know, but I’m changing my major to Joan.
I thought all my life I’d be all alone,
But that was before I was lying prone in this dorm room bed with Joan.
-Changing my Major, Medium Alison
A recurring theme in my conversations –as well as this blog– is how representation is important. Stories from a diverse group of people keep informing my experiences, and enriching them. Which is why I don’t get why students from Duke were refusing to read it for moral reasons. Sometimes the voices of others –even those of white women– don’t sit too well with patriarchal canons. In the end, I’m glad this story is out there and that is getting recognized the way it is.
Thank you, Alison Bechdel.