I want to begin by stating that I loved Fun Home, and in addition, I think Alison Bechdel is one hell of a person. After doing research for our group presentation for the course assignments, I found myself more and more impressed, not only with the way in which Bechdel articulates herself, but also how she is able to assist the reader in understanding gender identity.
Throughout Fun Home, the reader learns that despite recognizing her homosexuality all along, Alison is pushed away from embracing her sexual identity. As an adult, she finally identifies as a butch lesbian. Bruce, Alison’s father, is constantly trying to force Alison to be more feminine. Most of this is done through her physical appearance. As mentioned in my blog post “Gender and Appearance”, in many cases one’s appearance is understood in direct correlation with their gender. It seems that in order to ensure that Alison is a heterosexual girl, Bruce feels she needs to be more feminine. In the picture below, Alison reasons that while she was trying to make up for something she felt she was lacking, her father was expressing his own feminine expressions though Alison.
As Alison’s life continues, her father appears to be assisting her with her “coming out” process. Through literature, he supports her in his own way. This is understandable once the reader learns that Bruce was in fact an occasional cross dresser and had multiple affairs with men throughout his life. It becomes clear then that Bruce’s intention was for his daughter to not live a life similar to his own. However, this is an assumption, as Alison does not have a conversation regarding this before his death.
What is also interesting to note is that when dressing like a “boy” is considered a norm, Alison is allowed to. In the photo above, Alison is permitted to wear hiking boots because they see girls wearing them as well.
In her article “How to Bring Your Kids up Gay”, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick discusses the difference between masculine and feminine gender identity in terms of sexual identity. She mentions the desire for society to assume that if a man likes another man, they must be feminine, and if a woman likes another woman, masculine. In regards to scientific homosexual acceptance, Sedgwick notes that, “One serious problem with this way of distinguishing between gender and sexuality is that, while denaturalizing sexual object-choice, it radically renaturalizes gender” (Sedgwick 21). This shows that by displaying that sexual objectivity is unnatural, you are also showing that gender IS natural. This creates an issue in terms of gender being fluid. If gender is something you’re born with, and isn’t learned, then how does one take on both masculine and feminine characteristics?
Judith Butler on Gender
I have yet to touch on gender labels in the transgendered community. This is something that is very important to me. I attended a conference a few years ago that described current issues for transgender people being where gay issues were during the 1960s. This is meant in the sense that there is complete ignorance towards the issues surrounding transgendered people, as well as disrespect. On top of this, there is little support for people dealing with transgender issues in society. Essentially, there is no one protecting this community. I would love to argue that this is not true, however when I talk to friends and peers about transgendered issues, not many people understand or care. Majority of the people I talk to still assume that if a person identifies as being transgendered, it also means they are homosexual. Ignorance towards transgendered issues upsets me, and even more so after taking a course such as Gender and Sexuality where you learn just how complex one’s gender identification is. This also makes me look at Sedgwick’s statement above and consider where transgendered people tie in. With the logic that Sedgwick examines, is it even possible for transgendered people to exist-born with one physical sexual identity, yet identifying as another gender?
Transgendered issues are a huge issue in Arizona currently. This article breaks down the issues in a way that is both visually appealing and informative. If anything, it is important to simply be aware of these issues.
Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home. New York: A Mariner Book, 2007.
North, Anna. 5 Legal Obstacles Trans People In Arizona Face. 29 March 2013. 31 March 2013 <http://www.buzzfeed.com/annanorth/5-legal-obstacles-trans-people-in-arizona-face>.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. “How to Bring Your Kids up Gay.” Social Text 29 (1991): 18-27.