Queer and Family
The idea that queer people is not only suffered much unbearable discrimination by peers, family issue also has great impact. Through reading the chapter two What’s Wrong With Normal? We got an understanding of how people identify other people as normal and others are not. The normal usually stigma and discriminate others who are different from them. The suffering of the queer seems to be based on the concept of one word – normal. However, the stress, sadness and pain inflicted on queer people are lot more than that. Kath Weston explains in her book Families We Choose Lesbians, Gays, Kinship that family is not only limited to blood. It is more important that people stay with family by blood or chosen family should be based on acceptance. The family without acceptance could be bringing lot more pain to a person than we thought.
For today, many movies deal with stigma and discrimination theme which related to family issue, I choose a movie called Moonlight, the main actor Chiron spent his closeted childhood with his drug addicted mother, however, fortunately he met Juan and Teresa who provide a clean sunshine home to him and try to teach him to forget about stigmatized name with a positive attitude of life. I think Moonlight is a good movie to talk about stigma and discrimination which supports Michael Warner’s ideas. According to Michael Warner’s book, there are two forms of stigma – stigmaphile and stigmaphobe. As the dominant culture, stigmaphobe people fear stigma and aim for normalization. On the other hand, stigmaphile people go against conforming to dominant culture and suffer from stigma. Through Warner’s ideas mentioned in the book to read the movie Moonlight, we will see how queer people get bullied by stigmaphile people because they are different from the normal. Even they got bullied when they were children who have yet to know that bad words by using to make gay people feel bad, such as “faggot”.
In the movie, Chiron has three other names which are “Little”, “Faggot”, and “Black”. He got his humiliating nickname “Little” because he is smaller than most of boys who always bully him. Personally, “Black” is Chiron’s nickname named by his lover Kevin. On the other hand, “Black” emphasizes the movie is based on race issue. However, the most unforgettable scene is the dialogue between Chiron and Juan about the word “faggot”. The audience may heartbreaking when they seeing this young child using his pure eyes to look at Juan and asks him “What’s a faggot?” From looking at Chiron’s face, we know that he has no idea about the meaning of this word, but he actually knows that this word is not good and it makes him feel sad. Juan silenced for a moment and explains that “A faggot is a word used to make gay people feel bad.” Chiron then asks “Am I a faggot?” Juan said that “No. You can be gay, but you gotta let nobody call you no faggot.” Although, people who named Chiron “faggot” are just children and they don’t have to responsibility for what they said, and maybe they are not really know the true meaning of this word, but it definitely is a behavior of discrimination. Such discrimination could be caused bullied people become depression and gloom.
Such as Warner mentioned in his book, “A gay man, feeling the embarrassment of stigma, feeling cut off from the heterosexual world (in the person of Mom), and feeling that this stigma is something he does not deserve by his actions, that his action (writing an article) are in fact meritorious, finds in the behavior of others in his group the real cause of his own stigma” (Warner, 42). In fact, normal people may be unable to imaging how queer people truly feel when they got stigma and discrimination. It is an issue that it forced them to find a way to join in another world which is against to them. They need find solutions to solve the problems between the society and themselves through fear and confusion. It seems like queer people did something wrong but they actually not, they are just different and not like the most of us. Chiron is a good example to shows us what queer people is after they got feeling the embarrassment of stigma. He always be silence and never take the initiative to greet. He got bullied even he just walking on the street and did nothing. Although young Chiron not spoke too much sentences, but we can see he is confuse with his life and himself. He tries to understand his difference and deal with the connection between the homophobia of his peers and his own confused desire.
On the other hand, when I use Kath Weston’s book Families We Choose Lesbians, Gays, Kinship as lensing to read the movie again, I think that we simplified Chiron’s closeted childhood if we only explained it by his peers effect. She raises a simple question but worth thinking about – “What is family?” She broke the rule of biology family and provides a new concept of family – chosen family. She claims that it is more important to define family based on acceptance rather than be limited to blood. In Moonlight, Chiron met Cuban drug dealer Juan when he was child. Juan teaches Chiron how to swim and introduces his girlfriend Teresa to Chiron. Juan allows Chiron to spend the night in his house with him and Teresa. Although Juan and Teresa have no same blood with Chiron, but Juan and Teresa treat Chiron as a family member, and Chiron prefer to go Juan’s house when he get in trouble. At home, Chiron has to heat up the water by himself for take a shower and always stay alone. However, Juan and Teresa provide Chiron with delicious food, fresh juice and a clean room, but the most important thing is Juan and Teresa shows their acceptance and care to him. In fact, his mother Paula knows Chiron is “different” and she knows why her son got bullied by his peers, but she choose to ignore it. Paula thinks this is “the way he walks” and she continues addicting with drug and doing her sex business at home. We can find the importance of acceptance of family to a person through looking at the difference between biology family and chosen family in Moonlight. Although Paula has blood kinship with Chiron, but she did not provide any concern to her son like a mother should do. She did not bullied Chiron like his peers did but her behavior actually influenced Chiron’s life and his cognition about sex.
According to Warner’s idea, queer people endured huge stress under discrimination from the other people who are aim for normalization. The normal stigmatize people who are different from them and forced queer people start confuse about their actions, their behaviors and themselves. Queer people could be start denying their own identity and have to living within the rule which created by the normal. Just like child Chiron, he chose endured everything from his peers in silence. He has lots questions but he fear to speak out. Shame motivated Chiron to withdraw from relationships, and to become isolated. On the other hand, through Weston’s book, we should know how much influence a family could bring to a person. Without the acceptance and support from family, people could be get more depression and stressful. In my opinion, I think Chiron is so lucky to meet Juan and Teresa. They provide a true family to him and advices Chiron how to make his own path in his life. It is not hard to see how much influence Juan brings to Chiron. The adult Chiron deals drugs in Atlanta like Juan did in Miami. He got gym-build body and gold teeth, and then he decided to back to Miami and face his mother and his lover Kevin again.
In conclusion, through Warner and Weston’s articles to read the movie Moonlight, queer people are suffering stigma and discrimination in the society which normalization as the dominant culture, at the same time they also have to bear the pressure from the family. A family without acceptance will cause them denying their own identity and consider themselves in negative way. It is no matter blood relationship between family members, but the more important thing is that how to support each other to live within this society.
Moonlight, an American coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Barry Jenkins, (2016) based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.
Warner, Michael “The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life”, the Free Press, 1999.
Weston, Kath “Families We Choose Lesbians, Gays, Kinship”, Columbia University Press, New York, 1991