Alison Bechdel’s Sexual Identity in “Fun Home” Essay
Updated: Nov 12th, 2020
“Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel is a graphic memoir about her relationship with her father, the story of her personal development, and their sexual identities as homosexuals. It is a nonlinear story told through memories with allusions to literature, myth, and other forms of art. Events are often revisited after new information is revealed to the reader, in a way imitating the way a brain works when gaining context for previously experienced events. This paper will focus on page 58 of the graphic memoir because it shows a critical event in the development of the author’s sexual identity.
The book covers a lot of themes and complex situations that can arise in the life of a person. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is how the sexual identity of the father affects the development of the sexual identity of Alison. This page, in particular, is one of the more clear examples of this relationship. This page takes place in chapter three of the book. This is the first chapter where the narrative centers on Alison, and not with her father, and yet it all comes back to him.
In the book “Feminism is for Everybody,” Bell Hooks describes how important it is for women to have their sexual identity (88). She writes about how sexuality is an expression of agency, and how sexist ideas often prevent women from showing their agency (Hooks 91). This idea can be seen in chapter three when Alison talks about how she thought that her newfound sexual identity would distance herself from her monotonous life at home, and her father. However, page 58 forever dashes those hopes. It takes place after Alison sends a letter to her family, telling them that she is a lesbian. At this moment, she has not yet had sex but has gained a grasp of who she is, with the help of literature on the topic of homosexuality. After an exchange of letters with her disapproving mother, she receives a phone call that reveals to her the true nature of her father’s identity. The phone call is made by her mother, with her father not being able to come to terms with his homosexuality at the time. This phone call completely hijacks her personal narrative in this chapter. After it, she briefly describes her further sexual development but ends the chapter with the focus on her dad.
There could be a variety of reasons for this loss of agency. One of the primary ones would be the importance of this reveal for Alison in creating a context for her father’s behavior. Up until this point in the book, she already described him as an emotionally distant person, whose moments of joy were at times as unsettling as his anger. So despite being robbed of liberation through developing a sexual identity, she still sees this as an important moment in her life. It is also crucial to point out that despite the loss of Alison’s initial hopes; she does not let it define her sexual identity. She still expresses full agency in her real life, even if the narrative of the chapter changes focus.
This page also shows the differences between her approach to homosexuality and the approach of her father. Through the experience of coming out, she finds herself to be more confident and happy. She makes friends who share her experiences, find love, and a stable relationship. She is honest with herself, and even the book itself is an expression of this honesty. On the other hand, her father was not able to be so open about his sexuality. Perhaps, it was his upbringing that prevented him from doing so or the environment he grew up in; he was not able, to be honest with his family or even himself. As mentioned earlier, this page puts his emotional distance and outbursts into a new context for Alison. She can see how his frustration can be a cause for some of his faults. It would be inappropriate for me to say that it is the sole reason behind his behavior, as I am not a psychiatrist, and I have not known the man, but there is a chance that it was one of the possible reasons for it (Krahé 219).
This phone call can be seen as the point where Alison starts thinking differently about her relationship with her father. During it, she also finds out that he was molested by a farmhand at a young age. The art shows how her surprise and anger immediately turns to sadness and introspection. Her body language goes from being defensive to fallen. In the second panel, she is not angry at him for hiding the truth but is sad to hear that this happened to him. This is supported by her previous statement that despite all the negative behavior he expressed, she held no anger against him (Bechdel 58).
“Fun Home” is a deeply personal story, told with a sense of humor and without false drama. Despite the focus on her father, Alison is shown as an independent person. Her relationship with her father is important to the story, but it does not define her, or her sexual identity.
Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home. Houghton Mifflin, 2007.
Hooks, Bell. Feminism is for Everybody. Taylor and Francis, 2015.
Krahé, Barbara. The Social Psychology of Aggression. Psychology Press, 2013.
This essay on Alison Bechdel’s Sexual Identity in “Fun Home” was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
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