Song Hong 2016 Half Marathon

Literature and Identity

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the acronym that makes your mouth feel full of marbles — lgbtqi (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender — queer/questioning, intersex) — disappeared; if rainbows took back their real meaning; the word gay once again meant bright and happy; pride referred to a group of lions or to deep pleasure and satisfaction; you stepped outdoors if coming out; people could marry whoever they wanted, and same-sex marriage no longer deflected media attention from important issues.


Canada is just about to allow citizens to use an X gender indicator and perhaps that country’s children may grow into an adult world where gender indicators and sexuality labelling are relics of the past. Perhaps some may have kids who will live in a place like the magical, New England, town David Levithan writes about in his young adult novel Boy Meets Boy, where every sexual preference and gender interpretation is accepted and even celebrated.


Levithan takes us to a world that many of today’s youngsters accept as being the future. They would find perfectly normal the story of teenage narrator Paul taking us through his falling-in-love with new boy, Noah, his non-sexual love for gay Tony, the end of his affair with bisexual Kyle and his friendship with Joni who is in an on-again off-again relationship with Ted, the high school lothario. In fact they accept the author’s presumption that our world would be a far more perfect place if everyone could just lighten up and be as relaxed about gay teens as it is about straights.




It’s an intimate, feel-good type of romantic comedy that charms anyone with a soul.


Alison Bechdel’s very Proustian and dense autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic was adapted as a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical and, with its raft of lgbtqi issues and its theme of the importance of acceptance of oneself and others, was taken to Orlando, Florida, after the gay nightclub shooting.


Bechdel uses visual and verbal representations of memory to frame the development of her lesbian identity. She grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania with her parents and two younger brothers, in a house packed to the gills with museum-type furniture. Her home is also the work place of her funeral director father who is a closet gay and obsessively strict about family privacy. He is killed in an accident just after she has written him a letter announcing her lesbian identity. She is determined that he has committed suicide.


She had wanted to dress as a boy since she was tiny and during puberty she realised her attraction to women. She came out as a lesbian at 19.


The memoir’s 232 pages has been accurately described as a lush piece of work and is one of a pile of literary books with themes that some of our lgbtqi customers recommend for all teenagers. Included are classics like James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Jeffery Eugenide’s Middlesex.


In YA fiction the delightful, gay teenaged Marvel Comic hero in Perry Moore’s Hero is a must. The urban myth has it that Moore wrote the novel as protest after being upset by the movie X — Men: Age of Apocalypse #2 because the gay character Northstar was killed off by Wolverine.




One mother who recently gave birth to a child with both female and male genitalia and who had assigned the child a female identity until the child decides otherwise, has stated that she wants the topic of intersex — formerly called hermaphroditism — to be the kind of thing that people can openly talk about, hoping that in her daughter’s lifetime there will come a day when everyone knows about it and it’s no big deal.


Author Kathleen Winter writes about intersex in her prize winning novel Annabel, set in a hamlet in Labrador, Canada, which makes it an ideal setting for a theme about personal isolation.


In 1968, Jacinta gives birth to a baby with one testicle, a penis, one ovary, a womb and a vagina. Treadway, her trapper husband, decides that the baby will be raised as a male and names it Wayne. Jacinta wants to encompass her baby’s female and male identities and a friend secretly christens it Annabel.


With a little help from doctors Wayne starts life as a boy but has to come to terms with a girl curled up inside him.


Although a humane story — without the dark humour that characterized the other prize winning intersex novel ‘Middlesex’ — there is a nightmare of homophobic violence after Wayne decides to cease taking the drugs that suppress his physical female characteristics that makes you wish that all of our kids could grow up in Levithan’s fictional town.


Truong is an avid reader and runs Bookworm (44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh, Hanoi). For more information on go to

Last modified onTuesday, 16 August 2016 10:02

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