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Sedaris' "Barrel Fever" shows the politics of coming out
While being gay in today's society may prove challenging enough, it can also be a trial to come out and share such an identity with others. Queer theorists have suggested the coming out may have political implications and consequences. Coming out can mean power and change, but in some cultures, it can also mean shame and hurt. David Sedaris illustrates in "Barrel Fever" that this may be true, as he wrote about characters who had come out to various responses.
The first short story, "Parade," shows how coming out can be a positive, empowering, gratifying experience. By being willing to express his sexuality without abandon, the narrator rose to popularity and power, ending up on the Oprah show and in People magazine for his pride. The narrator became a role model for tentative homosexuals who felt powerless, showing that there are gay people who are not afraid of visibility and who will not disappear amidst possible criticism and discrimination.
"Glen's Homophobia Newsletter" depicts a gay man who uses a publication to humiliate those who berate and insult him for being homosexual. Such a public work serves to fight homophobia by putting ignorant and hateful (or questionably ignorant and hateful) people he encounters in everyday situations in a negative light. By asking for subscribers, Glen rallies for supporters of his cause. Such an act can lead to support and power for other minorities as well.
Finally, in "My Manuscript," the narrator feels repressed by societal norms and a father who believes in them; his father made the effort to get him a nice set of golf clubs and his own guitar, and he couldn't even directly ask the narrator, his son, if he was gay. The narrator feels the need to hide any evidence of homosexual behavior, and expresses his forbidden desires by writing about them in a manuscript with assumed names. The narrator cannot come out comfortably because of the institutional (religious, educational) and societal barriers of his culture, but unfortunately, political change cannot occur if people do not come out and stand up against oppression.
- Amazon.com: Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays: David Sedaris: Books
Amazon.com: Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays: David Sedaris: Books
- CCL Online :: Is Silence Golden? The Politics of Coming Out
- Coming Out of the Closet Is So Yesterday : NPR
- David Sedaris :: The Steven Barclay Agency
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