Title

Found Family

Date of Defense

4-17-2019

Date of Graduation

4-2019

Department

English

First Advisor

Judith Rypma

Second Advisor

Makenzie Marts

Abstract

I came out to my family 28 days before Mike Pence was voted into office.

Michigan went Red, and what happened in the following weeks, on my liberal campus in one of the blue dots of southern Michigan, shaped the beginning of my coming out journey in ways that were impossible for me to determine until recently. Forming an identity that rested far outside of the heterosexual, nuclear family structure of the mid-West, under a Vice President that wanted queer folks silenced and out of the way, proved to be terrifying.

Like the stereotypical post-Trump Thanksgiving of white, mid-western America, my family was divided, and my strong-willed grandmother, an outspoken Hillary supporter, actually cancelled the festivities altogether. Trump had succeeded in his mission of dividing the working class.

My newly cultivated queer pride -- that was beginning to solidify largely due to my participation in Denver, Colorado’s flourishing Pride month celebrations -- began to shrink back inside of me as I tried to cope with my new reality in post-Trump Michigan. I felt no certainty that I could go out into the world as a proud queer woman and be safe. I began to hear about hate crimes being perpetrated on my campus. MAGAs shouted “All Lives Matter” at me and my fellow students participating in a peace rally. I went off social media to deal with my rapidly growing depression and fear. I wasn’t granted the freedom to begin discovering my new queer identity, and instead I began to hide pieces of myself from the world one at a time.

For some reason, even though my mom and I watched Will & Grace together when I was growing up, I thought that she would see me differently for liking women. I assumed my family would be disappointed in me if I didn’t marry a man and have biological babies. (I was wrong). I wasn’t sure if my politically split extended family would accept me. I wasn’t sure if Mike Pence was going to start searching the country for gay people he could try to cure. The country’s future was frightening, and the queer community was in a state of panic. I had a few close friends that I could be myself with, but I wasn’t even sure who I was. I didn’t have the bravery to find out. But more importantly, my social location didn’t allow for me to find out.

When young, queer college students feel displaced – if they’re anything like me – they seek solace in media to feel connected to their identity. Queer characters that can reflect real queer experiences in fiction bring comfort to an isolated, scared population. Unfortunately, in the new upsurge of queer art in recent years, there is still a large gap of representation in contemporary literature. There are limited novels available in the mainstream publishing world that reflect the experiences of queer people between 18 and 25; few that offer guidance, healing, or hope of finding happiness in a world that treats their lifestyle as an oddity.

I aspire to bring more queer stories into mainstream publishing in my post-graduation career, and this novella is an attempt to write something that will add a piece to the collective bridge within the queer community that needs to be built; a bridge of understanding between the members of our community, that will start to percolate and seep into the collective consciousness of this country. This piece is simultaneously an act of wish-fulfillment and a call to arms to queer writers to push back against the forces that silence us.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted

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