Come to the Fun Home

This panel probably inspired the chorus of the song Telephone Wire

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.



 Wiki * IMDB

Review aside, the movie showed three instances of CCTV cameras, which made me think even further about the nature of suceptability of queer people (someone mentions a gay guy been beaten for cruising in a park), the suckiness/rite of passage characteristic of coming out, and the different kind of queers out there (which then have different types of gazes upon them).

First time there is a security camera near the building where Russ lives; the shot is a couple of seconds long and the camera pans from side to side. Being out sucks sometimes. It does have a liberating sense in which you are aware and feel empowered on how you are going to feel and how you will respond to others out there. But is painful sometimes too because it leaves you exposed to all the bullshit that bigots out there presume about your life, what you want to do with it, and how you behave. Russ says he is happy in his home, but his semi-out self feels uncomfortable sharing his uneasiness, as well as his feelings being queer with his close non-queer friends.

The second time is at the train station; the PA system reminds everyone that everything is being recorded for security purposes. Coming out (which is something you do for the rest of your life) does feel like a rite of passage. At this point, my choosing to share with someone about my boyfriend does little to the fact that I am indeed exposing myself to a non ‘tolerating’ opinion about who I am. As Glen helped Russ have that experience, I felt like I was also helped by several catalytic events in my life that pushed me to those moments. Regardless, I am happy they happened and I am glad the way they turned out.

The third time is right at the end of the movie; we see the CCTV camera again on top of the building when we see Russ in his window. No matter if you are the loud queer who talks and closes down a party everytime you get the chance about your struggle as a queer person of color, or the quiet passive one that chooses to pass by, the gaze is always there. Sadly, this is the gaze that turns some of us off, whereas it evokes a desire to speak in others. The gaze is sometimes too much to bear, like when you have to live in a time where the government decides the best way you get to enjoy your life living as who you are. The gaze is always there, and it is always watching how we comply…or not.