ForumsDialogue is Action
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Why did you hesitate to say he was gay?
I don't know if this thought has been weighing on anyone else, but I felt great guilt when Chisnell questioned why we were so hesitant to state that Mr. Emerson's son was gay. Surely by the soft touch of the knee, the allusion to the gay bar, and to the mere expression of "nudity" in his words it was obvious that he was homosexual. Even the slight raising of pitch when Chisnell read his dialogue out loud added to my suspicion. Pondering my choice to not speak, I thought of the "why?" It was what most of us were thinking and I had an "aha" moment when Chisnell uttered that we discovered it, even if we are unsure. My view is that I did not want to wrongfully label this man of his sexuality. Although we are in a new day and age, outing someone or mislabeling them is insensitive and it is not my place to assume. While we are speaking of a character in a book, I feel that my same idea of respect applies here. This is just how I personally view my decision. Even those who spoke up to answer the question seemed unconfident, but I believe this may be for the same reason. Surely there might be other factors, but why? Why did you or did you not say it? Or on the contrary why did you?
I certainly share the same reasons you did. I thought he was gay but again, I simply didn't want to mislabel him. Those cues gave it away but I would be making assumptions about that person which I try not to do in day to day life. I think that during the time period that he wrote this book that it was probably acceptable to make those assumptions about an individual. However as you alluded to, our culture and values are drastically different than they were several decades ago which is what contributes to this unconfident statement. I guess a larger question to ask here is are labels a part of our identity? Or is it up to each individual to come up with an answer to that?
I'm gonna be honest, it took me a little too long into that chapter to realize Emerson's son was gay. I also definitely felt the guilt @abuzz mentioned. I feel like people are afraid to say certain things out of the fear of being wrong (and maybe even 'offending' someone?). Clearly, Emerson and his son don't have the best relationship and that was also pretty sad to me.
I also took a little while to figure out that he was gay, but like you said when Mr. Chisnell pushed us to think a little deeper, I had a realization. When no one says anything I think it's because it's a sensitive topic. And while many people probably thought they were right, they didn't want to misinterpret the text and offend somebody. I felt the same exact way. But I feel like this class is going to be a turning point for a lot of us with sensitive topics. Because we're going to read a lot of books that provoke sensitive things so we're going to have to talk about it the matter what. I think we're going to be pushed to have more mature discussions about more complex topics, and we're just going to have to deal with the uncomfortability of it.
@klynnph I feel like it also took me too long to figure out that Emerson's son was gay but I also didn't know that club calamus was a club that homosexual people would attend frequently and I think that could have helped. To touch on your point on offending someone I think you are dead on with that one. In class, Chisnell mentioned the Other and I think this has something to do with why I didn't immediately say he was gay even though I suspected it. Me, not being apart of the Other, definitely feel the need to tread lightly with any subject that has to do with the Other. This is the same reason that it can be uncomfortable to talk about the racism that black people face as a white person.
As many others, it did take me a minute to figure out he was gay as well. Being apart of the LGBT community myself, I find myself hesitant to label others as gay simply because I see people in my community acting all sorts of ways, so while emersons son is gay, I feel that it would've been wrong for me to label him on these actions alone. Also, I too did not want to mislabel him, and like OP and @aaparrot mentioned, the time period in which this book was written it was socially okay to label people like this, but now a days we try out best not to label people out of respect.
This really makes me think a little about the relationship between Emerson's son and IM, and then relationship between race and sexuality. You can look at a person assume their race, for a majority of the time. (Obviously there are exceptions but you know.) However, it's pretty hard to look at a person and say that they're gay. I mean, there are stereotypical behaviors, but obviously stereotypes are not always correct. So why is there only apprehension over making a value judgement on someone's sexuality? Is it really only because it's more likely to be wrong since skin tone is so obvious, or is there something else at play? A lot of it may also be that there's still a lot of stigma around homosexuality, compared to being African-American. Maybe this is too much of a reach, but it's sort of interesting to see a faint parallel.
I think that this has to do with the way that our culture is about assuming things about people is really what at the end of the day drives why we are afraid to call him gay. I think that this would have been more inclined to read that as a definitive fact back in the 1950s when the novel was written. I think that is why a lot of the novel is unsettling to a lot of issues that we see with this novel is because we have the modern values that we can see why this is hard for a lot of people to go and come out and say theses thing with definitions,
@aaparrot I agree as well that I didn't want to mislabel him. While our society is much different nowadays, it is still a sensitive subject. We are much more conscious now of the things we say and allude to. So, I think that although when I was reading I had a "feeling" he was gay, I didn't want to say it for the fear I had misunderstood him. I like that you bring up the relationships of labels and identities. I think that this can be a minor theme or idea explored throughout IM. Such as, does being black, white, a women, a man, gay straight, etc, determine your identity? Or does it shape it in some way? Or is entirely up to the individual regardless of any other factors? Or is it up to those around them to determine a person's identity? I think the more we read and the more characters we meet, the answers to these questions may become more clear.
Mislabeling someone in todays social climate may be a dangerous thing to do. But we are reading the book wrong and did not call him gay earlier because we are reading it through the lense of Gen Z and have little to no idea what was it like to be a homosexual back then. And another reason I believe that most of us struggled to call him gay because being a homosexual back in America was like being homosexual today in the middle east. And that is why we discarded the idea of him not being a heterosexual because we thought it was highly unlikely for him to like people from the same gender.
@jacksonvon To add on to what you said about the time of the world and what was acceptable to say. I still think to groups of people saying it was offensive depending on the context of how it was being said, but I think you're still correct in saying the time has a big affect on what is being said in the novel, though I still don't regard IM as a hateful person.
@msar, I never really thought of the idea of reading it as Gen Z. I never picked up on how we read it is technically the wrong way to read it. Since we have to be able to read novels with no bias. This is why I find reading without your emotions hard because obviously this was a sensitive topic in the book from our interpretation. But that's a really good point you brought up that I haven't thought of.
I agree that the modern-day societal norms that have been forming are the cause behind the hesitation that many of us have when attempting to label anyone, even a character in a novel. The interesting thing about this to me is that to assume that he is gay is not even a negative thing, in fact, the novel compares the struggle of the lgbtq+ community during the era of the novel to that of racial minorities. We fail to consider that although mislabeling is not good, in the context of a novel demonstrating the disparities of a minorty, and oppressed peoples in general. To label/know that he is gay is to come to terms with the fact that the lgbtq+ community was also oppressed, and this is something to have a conversation on and to consider when discussing the novel.
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