In my adaptation of Drown by Junot Diaz I chose to create a scene where the narrator does find his friend Beto and they talk about the events that happened between them before Beto left for college. From my interpretation of the story I saw it as being a case of internalized homophobia felt by the narrator. I read it as he is a gay man who did enjoy the sexual experiences but is angry at Beto for making him to confront those feelings and face the truth and that that was why he didn’t want to see him originally.
This ties in with our theme of American identity because someone’s sexuality is such an integral part of who they are and for gay people it can be such an important but dangerous aspect. For someone like the narrator who is also chicano sexuality can be tricky to navigate because there is a negative mindset towards homosexuals in many chicano families. (I’d like to take a moment to explain that I’m not saying that in judgement or anger toward any chicano or chicano culture it is just something I have read about and been told about by multiple chicano friends.) It’s especially hard because though in recent years America has passed laws in favor of the LGBTQ+ community at the time of the story those laws were not even imaginable. Because of this it was very hard to create an identity for oneself that could be honest and authentic when that identity included homosexuality in a country that didn’t make you seem wanted or protected and especially so when living in a city that’s population isn’t exactly accepting of gay people.
Another way to help explain this idea and relate it to previous works we read it can be compared to the idea of double consciousness brought up by DuBois. Like with black people gay people have this double consciousness because while they are American they are also gay and that has been a tricky identity to hold in American History. Growing up in America and for most of the time seeing a negative connotation around gay people at the time of the story it was especially hard with the fear of aids which must have still been relevant because by the time of this story it was still a very deadly disease and for so long people believed only gay men got it. This can all be attributed to internalizing homophobia. By seeing homophobic propaganda in the media, being raised in a homophobic area, and have close friends and family implement the idea that being gay is wrong from a young age is destructive because you start to believe them and even if you know you’re gay you will hate yourself for it and feel wrong and dirty which I believe is the case in this story and for the narrator. I chose to write the reunion of the two friends because I felt that the original story left so many questions unanswered so I thought that by writing the scene I could answers the questions to fit how I believe it to be.
Internalized Homophobia is defined as “the involuntary belief by lesbians and gay men that the homophobic lies, stereotypes and myths about them are true”. In the book “Stigma and Sexual Orientation” there is a chapter called “Internalized Homophobia, Intimacy, and Sexual Behavior among gay and bisexual men” written by Ilan H. Meyer and Laura Dean. In the chapter they talk about how antihomosexual attitudes and stigmatization of homosexuality in society shape a cultural environment shaped by rejection and discrimination. They discuss how because of this gay people are subject to social stressors of a dangerous variety. They also bring up how this causes effects of the mental health of gay people. They write that the feeling of internalized homophobia may start in early childhood but that it can stay even when the person accepts their sexuality. They claim it’s a big part of gay men’s psychological adjustment throughout their lives and that it is because of constant exposure to antihomosexual attitudes. They quote Gonsiorek as saying covert forms of internalized homophobia are the most common and that it’s when an individual claims to accept themselves but sabotage themselves in various ways.
Díaz Junot, and Klaus A. Amann. Drown. Reclam, 2016.
Herek, Gregory M. Stigma and Sexual Orientation: Understanding Prejudice against Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals. Sage Publications, 1998.