Homosexuality and Nephews
In 1994, the book, Waves: An Anthology of New Gay Fiction, edited by Ethan Mordden was published. The book was a collection of fourteen short fiction stories written by gay men who talked about homosexual issues within a dominant heterosexual culture. The book, saturated with homosexual ideas, was published at a point in history when homosexuality was utterly taboo and its condemnation was commonplace. Moreover, the rise of the HIV and the AIDS scare, which was peaking at this time, injected fear into the hearts of mainstream Americans, who demonized homosexuality as causing these fatal diseases.
The short story, “Homo in Heteroland”, which was written by John Weir, was the first story in the book, Waves: An Anthology of New Gay Fiction. In the introduction Ehan Mordden says, “I opened this collection with “Homo in Heteroland,” partly because I know that Chuck Ortleb will have a heart attack when he sees the word “Homo” (Mordden 39). Chuck Ortleb was a writer in a gay newspaper called the New York Native, which used to be published in New York City. Mordden knew that using such a derogatory adjective for a homosexual person would cause the members of the gay community, as well as Ortleb, to be extremely upset.
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John Weir, the author of “Homo in Heteroland”, has been writing about homosexual themes all throughout his career. His first novel was The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket, for which he won the 1990 Lambda Literary Award for Best First Novel by a gay man. His second novel was What I did Wrong, which was published in 2006. All the way through his life, Weir has been very active and involved with the gay community, as shown with his books and his public actions supporting gay rights. During the 1980s, he was an activist in the Gay Men’s health Crisis and ACT UP/New York.
In 1991, Weir interrupted the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather when he and more AIDS activists got into the film set chanting, “Money for AIDS, not for war: AIDS won’t wait. ” (Michigan). Now according to Michigan University, he is working on two books; one fiction and one non-fiction, which also address gay issues. In conclusion, the narrator, Weir is a transcending man who exemplifies courageousness and bravery for standing up to defend his beliefs even though it means going against the dominant heterosexual culture. Weir’s short fiction story, “ Homo in a Heteroland,” is about a family’s trip to Atlanta.
The family is made up of the narrator, his brother, his sister-in-law, and his three nephews, Matthew, John, and James as they went to Atlanta looking for a new home. The narrator, who is homosexual, feels like the outcast of his family. The climax of the story takes place when the narrator finds out that his nephew, James, might become homosexual one day. Now he feels responsible for making sure that his nephew will have someone to guide him and support him if he decides to have an alternative sexual lifestyle when he becomes an adult.
In the story, the most significant theme is “family. ” The responsibility for being a member of a family, the emotional linkage between each of them, and the sense of belonging, take place in the story. Throughout the story the relations of the family-ship improve from being weak, and having no strong bonds between them, to a strong one by developing common characteristics that ties them together. On their way to Atlanta with his family, the narrator feels isolated from his family because they could not accept his sexual preference.
The narrator expresses his feelings of suffocation by saying, “It’s easy to be a card-carrying queer on Avenue A, or a brave young fag at some suburban shopping mall, with comrades in to. But to burn the torch of gay identity in a blue Chrysler van, and keep it lit for sixteen hours straight, from the Tappan Zee Bridge to the Peachtree Center, through diaper changes and bottle feedings and yet another reading of Where’s Waldo, was more than I could manage” (Weir 5). With this statement the narrator is saying that he feels lost around his family.
He is certainly sure of his homosexuality but he cannot freely express or defend it because he has not been giving the chance to do so. The speaker is unable to connect with his brother or his sister-in-law because they would not talk to him about gender issues or touch any political topic where he could share his opinions and establish his beliefs. Even though, there were times where the brother and sister-in law could have held a serious conversation with the narrator, they chose not to.
The narrator says, “The secret weapon of heterosexuality is children” (Weir 5). By this the narrator means that people, in particle his brother and sister-in-law, spend all their time taking care or their children, but even when they have a free time all they would do is talk about their offspring, which led him conclude that his nephews were being raised in a homophobic family, whom were taught to hate queers, and cheer The Boy Scouts, an institution that does not permit gay members. During the trip, the narrator spends a lot of his time taking care f his nephews, James, and John. There is a time when they play in a pond at the bottom of a hill and John starts to talk about marriage by mentioning that he wants to marry Abby, his best friend. Unexpectedly, James says that he wants to marry Ethan, Abby’s brother. John starts to make fun of his brother and chants that his brother cannot marry James. But, there it is, the chance that the narrator was waiting for to be himself and revel his own beliefs. He says, “Boys can marry boys. And girls can marry girls. It happens all the time.
Sometimes boys marry girls and girls marry boys, and sometimes boys marry boys and girls, girls. I was married to a boy once” (Weir 9). The narrator attempts to explain to his nephews that it is okay for a man to marry another man. The narrator takes this chance to introduce the idea that marrying someone of the same sex is possible. He wants both boys, especially John, to understand that they should respect the way that people choose to live their lives. In this incident the narrator’s homosexuality helped him to understand his nephew, James.
When the narrator finds out that his nephew, James, might turn out to be homosexual, this is the first time on their trip when the narrator starts making a connection with his family. He starts to develop a sense of concern not only about James, but also about his other nephews. Now, there is something else that relates the narrator to his family, besides the fact they are nephews and uncle. At the end of the story, as they are on their trip back to New York, the narrator develops a connection with James, as he describes it by calling it “an odd revelation. He senses that James, or any other nephews might be gay, so he is concerned about his nephews’ future. If James, or anyone of the boys, turn out being homosexual, he feels that it is his job, and his duty as being his uncle, to protect them from their parents whom would not agree with their sexual orientation and not support them. The narrator does not want his nephews to go through the same experience as he went through when he was a child.
The narrator states: “I know how death feels like, its repetitiveness, the slow accretions of losses, until there’s nothing to let go of but the foolish idea that nobody dies” (Weir 12). The narrator says that the feeling of not being accepted makes him feel like he does not exist or like he does not matter to anyone. Therefore, the narrator decides that he is going to talk with his nephews about homosexuality when they are old enough to understand and he is going to support his nephews, so they would not feel alone.
The “odd revelation” that the speaker had on their way back home is the final piece of the puzzle to finish the bonding that will connect the narrator and his nephews. The responsibility of the uncle was already established; he was going to be there for them whenever his nephews would need him, which starts when the narrator holds the urine-soaked boy, James, in the back of the car to try to calm him down and make him feel more comfortable in his arms. The narrator was not afraid of getting dirty because his duty as uncle was willing to do anything for his nephews.
In conclusion, the theme family is significant because it takes place all through out the story. The family-ship, the relations among the members, is poor initially but throughout the story it starts to improve. On their way to Atlanta, the only sense of membership is shown by the loose bond of family: a label of belonging as brother, sister, or nephew and uncle. The members of the family are coming closer as the story goes along, until the end when the uncle develops a strong bond of protection and support for his nephews.
Mordden, Ethan. “ Waves: An Anthology of New Gay Fiction.” Waves. Ed. Ethan Mordden. Vintage Original, 1994. 39. Print. University of Michigan. “John Weir Reading: Day With(out) Art.” Department of English Language and Literature. 2009 Regents of The University of Michigan, 1 Dec. 2011. Web. 14 December 2012. Weir, John. “Homo in Heteroland.” Waves: An Anthology of New Gay Fiction. Ed. Ethan Mordden. Vintage Original, 1994. 3-12. Print.