I have never hidden my real gender identity since I was young. My family and relatives, when we still lived in our province during my childhood, already had a prognosis that my soft gestures were the symptoms of ‘curse‘ . Whenever they noticed them, they would label me as ” bakla” by giving me a soft high-five , a parody how a gay typically gestures when he meets his another sister. Or when a male friend of my mother weaned on machismo took notice of me, he would advise me that I had to act like a real man by flexing his muscles as if he had been my captain in the army. Ridiculously, my parents never treated me in that manner. There were times that they would encourage me to change for the better by a different approach. I remember that they would try to establish my masculine self-concept. They would treat me like a real boy given that they were aware of the possibility that I could belong to the confederation. However, since it seemed that they could not curb my metamorphosis because I tended to flap my rainbow wings while growing up, they may have had no choice but to accept me with their open arms. After all , I was their son, and they had to love me unconditionally. So, I am really fortunate that I have grown up in a family wherein there has never been such coercion or punishment like I was hung upside down over a tree and submerged in a tank of water to promise my father that I would act like a rigid man , or I had to be sent to an asylum to undergo a lobotomy , or worse than that, to a seminary to commit to memory the biblical verses that homosexuality is a mortal sin. Perhaps, I am also different from the other tribes because I am not as typical as of flamboyant cross-dressers. I may be considered a physically decent one.
Homo Sapiens Agenda vs Simon is the first modern LGBT YA I have ever read that directly reflects the main distress young closet gays go through: their desire to come out into the open, to their family, friends, and the world. It is modern in a sense that the characters live in a contemporary era when somehow society is now able to embrace the fact that homosexuality is included in the universal human rights and no longer like a plague you troglodytes should avoid. Rather, it suggests that closet gays do not need to smell like a cabinet because they can have optimal and healthy options to display their iridescent wings.
The good thing about the novel is that it is meant for young millennial. They can relate to the typical lifestyles and language of the characters. In fact, I noticed that the words employed in the novel are not archaic, formal, or old -fashioned like the ones I have learned from other LGBT novels. I guess the audience to whom the author must have really wanted to reach out are young millennial, indeed. No doubt it has become a hit. Of course, it is an eye- opener to adults, especially for those parents, to understand the real psychological dramas of their sons who turn out to be a butterfly. The novel even shows that hiding the rainbow wings gives a tremendous impact on a closet gay’s life. There are some cases that it leads to a suicidal attempt when he feels that nobody in the world can make him feel that he is loved for whoever he is. The best case is the critically acclaimed book, Prayers for Bobby: A Mother’s Coming to Terms with the Suicide of Her Gay Son by Lerroy F. Aarons. I also suggest that you watch its docudrama adaptation. On the other hand, the main character in the novel, Simon, is fortunate to have a loving family although they still have deeper adjustment to his new gender identity. Perhaps, that atmosphere is germane only to an American family, for I am aware of that America is more open to this kind of sexual revolution, aside from some European countries as far as I know , than other countries which are still under theocracy.
Like the other LGBT novels I have read, the character’s identity crisis also has something to do with his desire to have an intimate relationship with the opposite sex. It is just funny that the twist of this novel is the mode of meeting someone and announcing to the world that you are in a relationship like FB and an e-mail is timely. So, its readers find the story romantic because they know how it works. And I admit that I kind of felt giddy with excitement in those scenes where Simon is in romantic correspondence with Blue and by the time they finally meet and spend time together as a kind of a legal couple , given those meeting-up and smooching scenes are something I have seen several times. Besides, I believe that what really makes the story more exciting is how the main character behaves in a new romantic relationship he has no idea of how it goes like but is sure of that this is the kind of relationship he is more comfortable with, more expressive of, and happier with. Perhaps, that his behavior will make me chuckle when I watch the movie adaptation. I guess the novel also suggests that somehow, nowadays, young millennial can turn to those means of (intimate) communication as outlets of their personal distress.
The title of the novel is catchy and meaningful. I want to take it figuratively as Simon, the truth that can be social truth but has never been considered truth versus Homon-Sapiens society.
So far this is not one of my top favorite LGBT novels. For me, it still may not be as absorbing and deep as Brokeback Mountain(Wyoming Stories) by Annie Proulx, A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham, and our very own Out of Doors by Ernesto Superal Yee or the LGBT novels I have wanted to read because they are said to be the best LBT fictions of all time : Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Maurice by E.M. Forster ( Its movie adaptation is awesome), Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal, City of Night by John Rechy, A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White ( I think it kind of resembles Simon), and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.
Congratulations to the author Becky Albertalli on a big success in her debut novel! If I were given a chance to meet her in person at a meet-and-greet , I would thank her for writing such a novel that would really make a big difference, and at the same time, I would tease her that her name Becki sounds like a colloquial Filipino word beki which means gay, a name that she can be a trademark for because she understands the homosexual psyche. 🙂
Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( It’s okay.)