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Day 15: Tuesday, April 15

Assignment

Welcome to Quarantini: Day Fifteen.

Our assignment this week is to read the first three chapters of UNDER THE RAINBOW, available from Bookshop.org, Kindle, or as an Audiobook. Don’t forget to order it ASAP if you haven’t already!

This week’s discussion question is: do any of the experiences of the characters provoke memories—good or bad—from your own past? If so, what are they? Use the below comment form to add your own responses and reply to others! I’ll be picking a few to discuss during our book club meeting on Tuesday, April 14. 

Tomorrow, I’ll have an exciting guest to discuss three short written pieces. If you haven’t read them yet, check them out!

A. Revolutionary Hope: A Conversation Between James Baldwin and Audre Lorde. Bonus question: How does Baldwin, the author, compare to his Giovanni’s Room protagonist, David, in this interview?

B. I Want A President, Zoe Leonard, 1992.

C. Queer Nation Manifesto, ACT UP, 1990.

See you tomorrow.

-Eric

Join the Discussion

12 Comments

  1. Test

    Reply
  2. The setting of the novel reminds me of my past.

    I was born 14 years before Stonewall.

    Since I was a teen who began to understand himself as gay in the late 1960s (a time when there were no books in the library with a positive “spin,” no LGBTQ+ community centers, no openly gay positively portrayed characters on television, no openly gay persons with whom to talk) there has been much outward progress—though there is much more that needs to be achieved.

    I came of age in a small conservative town in Ohio where I came to understand myself as gay at a time when most institutions classified me as mentally ill, sinful, and criminal. Today that town is a large suburb of a city that has one of the nation’s greatest numbers of attendees for Pride and is ranked as one of the nation’s most LGBTQ friendly.

    However, when I was in my teens and 20s…

    I endured people wanting to fire me from my job as a teacher because I love in a way they do not. I endured being beaten up physically and having my life threatened because I do not fit someone’s definition of what it is to be a man. In the 1980s, I endured parents removing their children from my classroom because the gay teacher might have AIDS. In the 1990s I was transferred to another school after working with three other teachers to try to begin a gay-straight alliance. I endured a government and society working to prevent me from fully and openly expressing love for the man I have been with since 1997 (we married in 2015). I endured churches telling me I will burn if I do not change and fit their understanding of God.

    Even so, I refused to pretend so others would be comfortable. I refused to hide so others would not feel afraid.

    I exist. I am a male who falls in love with males emotionally, romantically, and sexually. Long ago, I tried pretending to be straight, but that life made me miserable, suicidal, and cruel as I lived a lie and used people to cover my identity.

    Today, when people debate me, I tell them they need not waste time but may want to examine themselves to see if they are the ones in a tiny protected box making them unable and unwilling to see the splendors and wonders of humanity. I am happy just as I am.

    Reply
    • This whole experiment reminds me of three segments of my life. The first was my college years in a small town in New Mexico. The second being my return to the San Gabriel Valley region of Los Angeles after college and building the LGBTQ community in the region. The third is the present in which I’m in a long term relationship with a partner whom we both care for our older parents.
      I very much resonate with the experience of Avery in moving to a small town after growing up in the Los Angeles region. In top of that, I was discovering my gay identity and getting connected to the LGBTQ community within the small town and the state of New Mexico.
      When I moved back to the Los Angeles area, I called the big LA Center to get connected to my local San Gabriel Valley LGBTQ community and they told me that they didn’t know anything out here. So in 2001, I started a local Pride Festival, that I modeled after the ABQ and Santa Fe Festivals, much more community centric and more important free that really celebrated the local community.
      The third connection I have is with the characters of Miguel and David caring for an elder in the house. It’s most likely mirrored the Sandwich generation.

      Reply
    • This story resonates with me very much. If you’ve been queer or are queer and live in a small town the book portrays characters we have all met. The lesbian billboard mentioned in the book, mirrors the billboard that is raised over the downtown of my small town but not related to LGBT issues…or not directly anyways. The billboard over my town reads “Abortion…stops a beating heart.” With block letters in black on a stark white background with a red heart with a pulse graphic coming from the writing. This messaging on the billboard always represented a mindset that was rooted in Catholic messaging. I couldn’t help and still cringe when I drive by it to this day.

      The characters bring to life and perfectly communicate the Queer experience of living in a small town. The outsider identity is pressed upon Queer individuals that is exclusionary and repeated, one starts to believe that I am different therefore I do not belong. When I am in my small town the most asked questions I get is “where are you from” but I am from here but my Queerness is met with so much curiosity that they believe I could not be from this little town. Just like the character Avery who is assumed to not be from Big Burr, the locals can innately tell she is different and question her roots.

      Looking forward to read the remainder of the book but so far it’s been very accurate in portraying the Queer small town experience and very relatable since I am currently quarantining at my parents in said town.

      Reply
  3. I wasn’t going to respond to this assignment as I didn’t think I had anything valuable to contribute in relation to the three chapters. Until, late last night I was watching a tv programme when a song was played that transported me way back in time to memories, a person and places that I’d buried in my mind, as music often does, awaking and provoking the consciousness. It played on my mind so much that I was still thinking about it this morning. 1986! Guess it may be lockdown fever, but I decided to put pen to paper, so to speak, and comment. After I all have the time now.
    In David’s chapter he is talking about his relationship with Miguel and the fact that the ‘last time we slept with only each other must have been the eighties, when sex with strangers became a flirtation with death’. In July 1986 I’d just turned 18, I was waiting on my exam results to determine if I would go to university to train to teach. I had also just started seeing a guy from my Saturday job, after much joint subterfuge. In the briefest of times I’d left the strict confines of home, moved into his scruffy small studio and settled into my new gay life. I was a young, naïve twink, hopelessly in love, and totally unaware of the gay scene that I was about to be thrust into and the future it held for me. He was 5 years older than me, strong, handsome and when wrapped in his arms I felt safe like I never had before. He was well known on the local gay scene and he introduced me to it in all it’s amazing vibrancy, noise, madness, colour and dangers. He was also incredibly protective of me, fully instilled in me the message and practice of safe sex and why it was so important. Lessons that I never forgot and I suppose in some way got me through the following decades, witnessing the horrors caused by HIV/AIDS on my community, friends and lovers. He was my first proper relationship, one of many as it happens, but that first one always teaches you many things. It did not last long, about 18 months. I didn’t quite get the grades I wanted to go to University, but luckily had the foresight to apply for a civil service job just in case, which I took happily when offered. He went back to his older ex. But we would still acknowledge each other politely if we saw each other out, although I would secretly view him for a long time in the way a bitter betrayed wife would, planning vengeance in the manner of Alexis Carrington, but never following through, after all he didn’t have any oil refineries, so how would they all be mine! But this brief happy time with him, 34 years ago now, made me wonder many things. Not just where is he now and how is he now, but where we would be now if we had remained together since that time, much like David and Miguel. And if I had not been with him, and had he had not instilled in me the idea of safe sex and condoms, would my life have been very different, and might I have not even been here at all, without those lessons. I came out onto the gay scene in the late eighties with safe sex a given for me, and so that is all I knew. A sobering thought!
    Which brings me to the next point which links in, which is David’s relationship. We all draw on our own lived experiences to build our picture of what has shaped us. I guess I have always been a hopeless romantic. When one relationship has ended, for whatever reasons, it hasn’t been too long before I’ve moved on and into another. Nearly all happy and long, well in gay years I guess, if over 5 years is long. A life of serial monogamy. But I think to where I am now and why. My last relationship ended two years ago, we had been happy, all the typical gay wants, a nice home, amazing holidays, comfortable and with the obligatory dog as a surrogate child. We even married. But that all came to an end for me when the idea of ending the monogamy was raised to me, an open relationship or threesomes maybe, and I realised that is not what I wanted. I could not continue in a relationship like that. All the relationships I had had had were built of layers of trust and love and this one too, but I could not see how that could survive without deceit, a lack of trust and ultimately unhappiness. And so after 7 years I ended it. And so what David’s chapter has made me realise is, was I right to have chosen this now lonely path, but also make me question what if I had agreed, would I have now been in a relationship similar to his?. Sticking with something just because I am now a 51 year old man and might not find love again, love like I innocently had in 1986, in my view. David’s relationship seems to be quite flawed and unhappy deep down, rather like existing for the sake of it rather than living it’s potential to the full. It’s not for me to judge how anyone else wants to live their lives or manage their relationships, plenty of my friends manage to get by like this, mostly bickering and blaming but clinging together as a ‘couple’, it just isn’t for me, each to their own.
    I guess the song I heard last night taking me back to 1986, took me back to a simpler time, no internet, no mobile phones, no hook up apps and easy anonymous sex. You had to work a bit harder to hook up and even have a proper conversation face to face. Back then everything seemed to be built on more intimate personal relationships, friendships and community, everyone knew each other and each other’s business, because that is all we had, in a way a vast support network for each other, in it’s infinite variety of forms. If I was still with Steve now 34 years later, what would that relationship be like? It’s quite interesting and almost a little therapeutic to reminisce, especially in these scary and uncertain times, in lockdown in London, unable to physically meet family and friends, when disease is tearing loved ones apart not only here but across the world. The song, just for reference, was ‘Don’t leave me this way’ by The Communards. Ironic maybe. The lead singer Jimmy Somerville being openly gay. It made me smile at least.
    Stay safe and well.
    Phil W

    Reply
  4. I was captivated by the first chapter’s narrator. It stoked my desire to understand what it means to have a queer identity. I have a close friend who, like the narrator was raised by two moms. Despite the fact that he is only attracted to/sleeps with cis-women, he identifies as queer based on his upbringing. I struggle with this. I was raised by straight folks and don’t get to lay claim to heterosexuality. How do we define who’s queer in a way that honors lived experience and innate desire at the same time?

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    • I agree that we hold on to our upbringing, regardless of our identity as adults. From a literary standpoint, I appreciate that she opens up the novel this way. I can’t think of a LGBTQ+ novel that is told from the perspective of a same-sex couple’s child. It’s a creative way to set itself apart from other novels.

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  5. I thought David and Miguel’s adaptation to the diminishing of passion in long-term relationships of moving into separate bedrooms and only having sex with each other when a third person was around missed a real opportunity granted us as gay men—and that is that we can enjoy looking at porn together and being in the state of sexual arousal together and coming to orgasm together. The experience of visual erotica can be shared. Just because David and Miguel had moved into separate bedrooms doesn’t mean they’d stopped masturbating. AND why wouldn’t they do that together? I understand that straight people can have problems with sharing porn because males are more visually keyed, and women are more feeling-oriented. Maybe straight people stop being sexual together when they don’t or can’t have intercourse, because intercourse is what sex is expected to be. But that’s just not so for gay men. The joy and benefit of sex doesn’t have to be in the performance of full sex, as one might have with a new person. The joy and benefit come from being in the state of arousal together and sharing orgasm together. That’s been my experience in a relationship of 35 years.

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    • That’s interesting that you interpreted David and Miguel’s lifestyle as a benefit. I can certainly see that stand point. I interpreted it as a hardship. In the previous chapter with Christine, we see a lifestyle that is cut and dry. There is right and wrong, and everything has its place. Then we see in David’s chapter that there are more shades of grey. They don’t know what to do with the new gay man from Grindr. David struggles with adjusting to life with Arturo. David isn’t as young as he used to be, and he imagines what he’ll be like when he’s Arturo’s age. In this air of uncertainty, I felt some confusion and maybe even a little regret. He’s aware that his relationship with Miguel isn’t what it could be, and although that may not bring him down, it doesn’t lift him up either.

      Reply
  6. I want to add a comment to my posting about gay couple’s sharing arousal and orgasm together. One of the great accomplishments of modern gay consciousness has been transforming attitudes about sex, pleasure, arousal, and masturbation. Instead of thinking of these as sinful and dirty, we’ve learned to discover a “spiritual,” virtuous, life-positive side. In books on gay spirituality and gay tantra and gay taoism, in workshops like the Body Electric Training, at gay retreat centers like Easton Mountain and Wildwood, and websites on Mindful Masturbation and Flesh and Spirit, the secrets are presented openly that sexual ecstasy can be a mystical experience of oneness with greater consciousness, as “seeing God.” This is such a better way to experience embodiment than what is taught in most churches in modern American religion. It’s that kind of guilt-making, sex-shaming, body-shaming churchiness that UNDER THE RAINBOW portrays so well as the problem. No wonder Big Burr needed the AAA to come to their town.

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  7. I related to the first chapter because Avery is surrounded by this heterosexual lifestyle at the party. The one guy jokes with her mom on the television, and it’s very homophobic. What’s relateable is Avery taking an inventory of who’s laughing at the joke and who’s not laughing at the joke. I remember trying to make allies on the basketball team and in classes. Then I’d keep an eye on them to see if I could count on them or not. It wasn’t even to see if I could trust them to keep my secret because I knew that was out of the question. I just wanted to know if I could let them get close to me without sending me running away, trying to hide the tears of hurt feelings.

    Christine’s chapter was also relatable. I grew up mormon, which is a very conservative religion. It’s also a patriarchal religion, so I understood Christine’s frustration with her husband. I also understood her blind hate towards someone else and her feeling a right to hold on to her resentment. Today, as an openly gay man, I understand the irony in her resentment, that it’s only hurting herself.

    David’s chapter was relatable, too. Gay couples in open relationships are very common. I broke up with a boyfriend once because he wanted to be in an open relationship. I know several friends that are in open relationships. It’s common. I thought that the author did a great job at showing the distrust in the relationship.

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  8. Phil, your experience actually makes me think of Avery’s chapter as a coming of age story. She sits and draws in the first chapter, thinking of boys. It sounds like this gentleman thirty-some years ago taught you a lot about yourself.

    Reply

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