The Difference in Bruce’s and Alison’s Approaches to Being Gay in Fun Home
Fun Home: a Family tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel, deals with the difficulties that a father and daughter face with sexuality/ being gay. Alison Bechdel realizes that Bruce and her are on opposite side of the Kinsey scale regarding their gender preferences. The story pursuit an understanding of how Bruce and Alison differently perceive their sexual preferences. We can wonder, how does she represent their differences in the graphic memoir ?
Fun Home begins with Alison describing her father’s personality, by narrating how he has an obsession with restoring their old house, and she highlights the fact that he has a special talent with transfigurating objects and decorations. Alison compares Bruce as, “an alchemist of appearance, a savant of surface, a deadalus of decor” (5,6). However, Alison believes that her father uses his “skillful artifice not to make things, but to make things appear to be what they were not” (4,16), and hiding himself behind his dark secret of having sex with underage boys. Therefore, the house’s decorations represent a facade to hide Bruce’s shame. His sexuality is an ongoing topic throughout the graphic novel, we understand that he has a feminine side in the first chapter when he is shown painting in a precise way. His femine side resurface on page 23, his appearance of wearing mini shorts radiates his gender expression.
The end of the first chapter ends dramatically marked by the announcement of Bruce’s death. His grave is represented by an obelisk which during egyptian times represented the living deity, the vitality and immortality of the pharaoh. Ironically, the obelisk has a phallic shape that has a link with Bruce’s sexual preference. The obelisk is important to Bruce because he used to collect them, and according to him it symbolizes life.
Bruce’s sexuality is blurry for Alison, but understanding Bruce’s sexuality begins with understanding its background. Indeed, Alison discovers through a phone call with her mom, her father’s sexuality in which she reveals, “Your father has had affairs with other men” (5,58), and explains that “he was molested by a farm hand when he was younger” (6,58). According to Alison, Bruce drew a line between reality and fiction but it was a blurry one, and his library represents the blurry line that separates reality and fiction. In the fourth chapter entitled after Proust’s novel, “In The Shadow Of Young Girls In Flower”, Bruce is pictured wearing a bikini and Alison views her father as a sissy because of his love of flowers. The blurry line drawn by Bruce shows its inability to distinguish reality from fiction, he can see the beauty in a flower but not in his own children just like Proust in his book. Although the numerous signs that determines Bruce’s sexuality, he stays closeted (1,228). This suppression might explain his abusive behavior he had when Alison and her brother were younger.
Fun Home is also the story of Alison coming of age understanding her sexuality and embracing her lesbian side. While Bruce led his life hidden from his true self, Alison quite awake was fully aware of her identity. In her early thirteen’s, Alison questioned her sexuality after reading the word lebian in a dictionary. She realized her affinity for men’s clothing before she even realized that she identifies as a lesbian.
Searching her sexuality was part of Alison’s childhood, at nineteen it was a moment of realization for her after reading a book in the library. In college, she read a series of “Word Is Out” books filled with interviews of homosexual people. She made many researches and read many books on homosexuality throughout her life. When she was finally decided to take a step further into affirming her true identity, Alison’s sent a letter to her parents where she is coming out as a lesbian (1,58), even though she considered her sexuality being more hypothetical because she hasnt gotten any experiences yet.
However, her parents’ reaction wasn’t what she had hoped for after exchanging letters with her mom. At this point in time, her mother decides to reveal to Alison the truth about her father’s sexuality over the phone. Alison feels like the bombshell dropped by her mother shaded her coming out proclamation. However, letting it out allowed Alison to become more open with both herself and others regarding her gender identity. She is then capable of discovering her sincere sexuality by being in public relationships and experience with women.
Although Alison could successfully transition into living her new life being a lesbian, she struggles to understand her father’s gender identity. When Alison was younger, Bruce forced her to enforce her feminine side as a way of suppressing his own demons concerning his shame over his sexual identity. The differences drawn between both characters truly reflects modern day issues with affirming your own sexuality. We can notice different behaviors regarding being homosexual between Alison and Bruce.
While Alison is involved and researches about her sexuality, Bruce attempted to conceal his homosexuality and keep it a secret even though he tends to have more feminine side sometimes. The story of Bruce’s shame, explains how hiding that shame can in flip create complex and self-negative behaviors. Towards the end of the book, Bruce exhibits to Alison his desires to become a female. While she is happy that they have this connection because she always wanted to be a boy, he feels ashamed. This interaction embodies the chasm between father and daughter’s approaches to gender identification.
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