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The Society-Forced Conformity of Traditional Sexuality

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The gay Mexican author and poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz is known as an activist for the LGBTQ+ community. His book Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe discusses how being gay can be seen as something that is outside the realm of the everyday norm. In the book, he discusses the story of Aristotle and Dante two teenage boys and how they unknowingly fall in love. Sáenz book is inspirational to the young teenage LGBTQ+ community because he speaks openly on the inequalities of gay people and how there is nothing wrong with being homosexual. In society, we are told that if we do not conform to how we are told to be then we are abnormal or an anomaly. This can be a problem for people who do not identify as being straight, as there are times when being gay is seen as being monstrous.

We can see this as in the text it states, “to all the boys who’ve had to learn to play by different rules” (Sáenz). When we are told that we do not fit in with society often times we are forced to try and come up with new ways to fit in. In Sáenz book he states “‘They beat Dante all to hell. They cracked some ribs, they punched his face. He has bruises everywhere. They did that to my son”’ (304). In this situation, Dante’s father was explaining how some older heterosexual men had found Dante kissing another boy and because of this they psychically assaulted him. Coming out as gay can be petrifying as you never really know who will react negatively. Inequalities such as this can make the adolescent LGBTQ+ community feel as though they must live their entire lives in the metaphorical closet and must shield themselves from the world. Not only do people who are gay have to face external discrimination, but they also have their own internal mindsets fighting against them. In Sáenz book it states ‘“I’m a guy. He’s a guy. It’s not the way things are supposed to be mom”’ (349). This shows when Aristotle was telling his mom how ashamed he was for loving Dante for the mere fact that they were both boys, that it was not the way it was supposed to be. Sáenz also states “when my mom had her Catholic-Church-lady friends over, I felt like I was suffocating” (8). This shows Aristotle’s internal struggle as he knew that unfortunately, religion tends to conflict with being gay as they believe it to be a sin.

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Thus, whenever these friends of his mother would come around him he would feel as though he was suffocating. Although Sáenz mentions many inequalities that the LGBTQ+ community face he also touches on the fact that it is perfectly fine to be gay. This being because being gay or straight should not matter, what should matter is that you are happy and that you are living your life doing no harm to others. In the book it states This was what was wrong with me. All this time I had been trying to figure out the secrets of the universe, the secrets of my own body, and of my own heart. All of the answers had always been so close and yet I had always fought them without even knowing it. From the minute I’d met Dante, I had fallen in love with him. I just didn’t let myself know it, think it, feel it. My father was right. And it was true what my mother said.

We all fight our own private wars (Sáenz 358-359). This shows that at the end of the book Aristotle was able to see that he had fallen in love with Dante. That his private war was allowing other people’s opinions of being gay pressure him into thinking he was not allowed to be gay. In the text, it states “I took Dante’s hand and held it. How could I ever have been ashamed of loving Dante Quintana” (Sáenz 359)? This quote shows how short life is, and how we cannot worry about such simple things as sexualities, as there are worse things in the world. It explains that once he was finally open about his feelings he could not believe he was ever ashamed of loving Dante. Hearing this much-needed information can truly inspire the young LGBTQ+ community by showing them that it truly is alright to be homosexual and that coming out can allow you to be the happiest you possible. Throughout the novel Sáenz goes into depth on the engaging love story Aristotle and Dante have, showing them at their weakest moments until in the end they finally admit to themselves that they are gay. This novel has become an inspiration to the young LGBTQ+ community and has allowed them to know that gay people may face inequalities but as the text states ‘“there are worse things in the world than a boy who likes to kiss other boys”’ (Sáenz 307).


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