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Queer Subculture

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Queer Subculture

America has been able to evolve into the country it is today because it gives its citizens and people who migrate from other countries freedom. This freedom covers different aspects of people’s life including culture. A novel A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood focuses on the protagonist George, a professor at a local university adapting to his single life without his partner. In the early 1900s, the mainstream interpretation of marriage demonstrated unshakable opposition towards gay marriage and subsequent rights granted to married couples. Due to a lack of understanding, society showed hatred and disdain towards this group of subculture. At that time, most people did not understand homosexuals on an intimate level. However, as time went by, people became more open-minded about this subculture, mostly due to the voices that educated the public on the nature of gay relationships (Hohengarten, 1994). While collective subcultures define the cultural hegemony of a country, individual subcultures have the capacity to make visible changes in the society. The novel A Single Man helped people to break constraints concerning the gay subculture. Although initially the novel was not accepted, the gradual acceptance of the gay subculture is demonstrated in people’s acceptance of the novel.

Homosexual culture has existed for more than thousand years, but due to the homosexuality plight in the society and the discrimination in the history, the literary works about this queer subculture have been hidden from the public view in America during a long period of time. When A Single Man was originally published, it shocked many by its way of writing and the plainspoken language used in the book. The book was published in 1964. At that time, there was still great discrimination of gay culture in the society. There were even laws against homosexuals kissing or holding hands in public. Therefore, a lot of criticism pointed out that the novel was immoral and even illegal. Some litterateurs asked the publisher to cancel the publishing. Thereason of that resistance was that the novel is about gay love. As far as I am concerned, from all the resistance, we can actually find that obviously, it is not just about this novel, it is about the queer subculture.

In my opinion, the resistance reveals that the mainstream culture constrains people’s mind in various ways leading to their negative attitudes towards gay subculture. Most people get knowledge in school, watch shows on TV, read news in newspaper, and gain information from the same resources trying to fit themselves in the culture that is considered to be a mainstream culture. Being members of the culture, we always try to protect ourselves and resist all the subcultures that we cannot fully understand (Isherwood, 2001). As a word of wisdom said that people are not against others, they are against themselves. I believe that a mainstream culture constrains people’s mind in three ways including shared values, conventions, and legislation. With all these restrictions, we have the same views and values. We assumed love should be between heterosexuals. Therefore, A Single Man came out to represent the queer subculture. However, the mainstream culture resisted it so hard and criticized it as an unqualified literature. “Despite the humiliations of living under a heterosexual dictatorship and the fury he has often felt against it, Christopher has never regretted being as he is” (Berg, 2004, p. 10). It is written in “Revolution of a Single Man” which is actually Chris’ opinion. It is the evidence that shows how he felt humiliated by the mainstream culture’s resistance.

I find that A Single Man is the novel that not only helped a queer subculture to speak its voice but also a revolutionary piece of work that helps all the homosexual writers to write and express their aspirations. The fact is that the author of the novel, Christopher Isherwood, is a gay and he met his lover Don Bachardy who was eighteen years old in Los Angeles. The article “Revolution of a Single Man” menttioned that when “Isherwood was 48 at the time and Bachardy looked about 15, the relationship was something of a scandal” (Berg, 2004, p. 10). It is evident that Chris was under a lot of pressure. As the movie “Chris & Don” mentioned “there were countless struggles the two faced as one of the first openly gay couples in Hollywood. Despite the age difference, the couple endured until Isherwood succumbed to prostate cancer in 1986” (Holden, 2007). In this circumstance, Chris published the novel A Single Man. It might not be the first novel about gay love but it is definitely the first novel that is written in a plainspoken language without any metaphor or hint about gay love. “For nearly the first time in American or English literature, the character’s homosexuality is not presented as either a psychological problem or a criminal tendency” (Berg, 2004, p. 10), as “Revolution of a Single Man” writes. It shows a great innovation the novel has achieved. After A Single Man, more and more gay literature comes out. For example, Rita Mae Brown’s novel Rubyfruit Jungle, Jill Johnston’s work Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution, Edna Annie Proulx’s novel Brokeback Mountain, and others. These works provoked echoes among homosexual people and provided them with the encouragement to fight for their rights with greater persistence. Gradually, parades and protests emerged everywhere in America.

In my point of view, literature and art motivated the protests and revolutions. It is the voice spoken by words that first touched everyone’s heart. With time going by, there were several turning points after the 1960s. The first one is Stonewall riots of 1969. It is a series of spontaneous and violent demonstrations initiated by gay community members. After one week of riot, several gay rights organizations have created “Gay Liberation Front,” one of them was in New York. They started to defend their rights and the arts helped them realize what they are fighting for.

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