Racial And Sexual Identity Development In Lgbt Literature

1597 words - 7 pages

Race, gender and sexuality have complex intersections; race decides how gender, sexual orientation and other aspects of identification are experienced, developed and practiced. Identity can be understood as a fragmentary sense of self that undergoes constant change. In Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties and The Rain God, the main characters forge plural identities by becoming aware of their ethnic and cultural heritages while discovering personally relevant sexual orientation labels, then reaching out and connecting to that specific community in some way. Instead of identifying a ‘true’ lesbian, Chicano or African-American identity, this paper will ...view middle of the document...

Audre transcends the limits imposed on her identity development by her race and gender, affirming that she does not need to justify either her race or her lesbianism to the reader. In her rejection of the traditional narrative of victim found in most black women’s autobiographies, Audre creates her own genre of ‘biomythography’ that does not proceed chronologically and allows her to destroy existing binaries and access a deeper method of self-exploration. Audre must mediate between her cultural roots and sexual desire to form her pluralistic identity.
During her childhood, Audre’s parents remain silent about issues of race, which influences her identification with her West Indian and African heritage. Audre models her mother’s tactic of dealing with her own powerlessness and marginality in America: “It was so often her approach to the world; to change reality. If you can’t change reality, change your perceptions of it” (Lorde, 18). Audre negotiates the lesbian community in New York and her place within it as she grows up, realizing this fractured community also lacks the ability to deal with issues of race. In the text she presents a critique of white lesbians’ racism and black women’s homophobia as she struggles to define a space for herself in this world. “So far as I could see, gay-girls were the only Black and white women who were even talking to each other in this country in the 1950s,” Audre states, recognizing that although they were trying to create connections, these women together were still were unable to negotiate their differences (Lorde, 225). Racism is present throughout her life, but Audre is still able to create an independent West Indian and African identity, based on the powerful image of her mother and her trust in difference as a basis of survival.
The theme of being in-between can be found in all three texts, as characters negotiate their minority racial and sexual statuses and defend themselves against multiple forms of oppression. In Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties, Leticia Marisol Estrella Torez mediates between multiple elements that influence her identity and attempts to live up to the expectations of her Mexican familia while developing a queer identity living in the post-queer hipster scene in Los Angeles. The use of both Spanish and English words in the text suggests that her bilingual reality influences her self-definition, and illustrates her attempt to be more than one thing at a time. Leticia’s working class status, her skin color, and her queer sexual identity causes her to be alienated from her Mexican family and overall American society, forcing her to create a space for herself in-between. Leticia is at first marginalized because of her Chicano racial identity, then pushed even further to the outskirts of society because of her radical sexual identity. In order to define herself, she must embrace her differences and create a space in-between these oppressions.
Family plays a vital role in the...

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