LITERATURE

The queer book that shaped me: Alison Bechdel’s ‘Fun Home’

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
totalITemsFound:
maxPaginationLinks: 10
maxPossiblePages:
startIndex:
endIndex:

“When I started discovering and accepting myself and my queerness — very much like the panels in ‘Fun Home’ referencing Bechdel’s college life — home was one of the last places I wanted to be.”

Editor's note: As part of our Pride Month special, CNN Philippines Life invited people to write about the books that have formed aspects of their identity and shaped how they look at being part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The fantasy books I read during my childhood featured white male protagonists. They rode dragons, wielded swords, and did magic. These books were a proper escape from my life as a quiet provincial girl who only did well on tests and schoolwork. I stayed home all day.

Once I departed the structured universe of fantasy with its intricate world-building because I had to “grow up,” reality seemed to offer a bland alternative. Where could one possibly find excitement in the very humdrum that one tries to escape?

I could not have been any more wrong.

The messy, confusing business of growing up and searching for one’s identity brought more wonder and fright than I could have ever imagined. Of course, I say all of this with the benefit of hindsight. When I have, presumably, already survived the most painful parts of asking Who am I? and What is my place in this world?

I filled the liminal space between childhood and adulthood with words and things like badly written poems, compulsively bought music albums and furiously devoured books. I wrote — well, blogged — many journal entries while I was discovering myself. Liking girls and falling in love with them was my favorite topic (of course). I wrote about writing and how I felt alive because I had things to say. I needed a mirror that could show me that lives parallel to mine have been and are being lived by other people out there.

I needed answers this time around.

When I chanced upon a copy of Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” in a now-closed Powerbooks branch, I knew little of it save that it was a critically acclaimed comic book. I was already into “serious” graphic novels at the time, so I gave “Fun Home” a shot.

In 232 pages, a “family tragicomic” so lyrically written would confirm reality to me. Our lives are museums filled with the memories we’ve collected, sometimes as unreliable as they are. To the astute observer, everyday objects become the artifacts of one’s life. Like how the curated items in Bechdel’s house shaped her sense of self, for better or worse growing up. I am immediately transported back in time to the assortment of objects in my own childhood house — rows of angel figurines, shelves of cassette tapes, and all kinds of dishware.

I eventually found that while being untethered can sometimes be magic, living with fear pulls one back to scary depths.

When I started discovering and accepting myself and my queerness — very much like the panels in “Fun Home” referencing Bechdel’s college life — home was one of the last places I wanted to be. Not so much because I feared rejection, but because I wanted the space to explore. I wanted to know a life where my newfound recognition of myself would take me.

I eventually found that while being untethered can sometimes be magic, living with fear pulls one back to scary depths. Coming out with acceptance was a rare gift that I received, allowing me to plunge into the life I finally wanted. Home became a place again.

I remember watching “Fun Home: The Musical” years after reading the book and being struck by “Ring of Keys,” a song describing Bechdel’s admiration of a woman who sported “short hair and dungarees and lace-up boots.” Sometimes this is what feeling at home is: knowing exactly who you are and being okay with it. Like Bechdel, I, too, hated skirts and dresses growing up. I also took an interest in menswear. Fast forward to today; I wear my hair short and have never been happier.

Bechdel bookends her graphic memoir with the story of Icarus and Daedalus, the cautionary tale of what happens when one flies too close to the sun. Flight is freedom. Flight from everything is sometimes the only option for most. There is no room for moralizing here, only reality. And the reality of being queer is that one lives life with more challenges than others.

More than its physical shell, homes are supposed to be places of acceptance and safety. Homes are where we make memories that stick with us forever. We will have many homes in our lives, as much as we will have different versions of ourselves. For anyone growing up realizing they’re different, I wish that home may be more than a place for them. May home find them and their dreams, their prayers, and their longings.