The Struggles of Gender and Sexual Identity in Modern Society

Chris BeecherArgument, Literary Analysis, New Voices, Previous Editions, Responding to a Text, Social Criticism

American society shames specific people based on how they identify themselves. In the novel Every Day by David Levithan and the article called “Relearning the Mothertongue: Notes from a Second Generation Queer ” by Ryn Gluckman, both authors discuss gender and sexual identities. The novel’s main character “A” changes bodies each day and isn’t able to stay within one gender . In the article, Erin goes through a phase from heterosexual to bisexual, ultimately identifying herself as a bisexual. In both pieces, “A” and Erin have passed through similar phases regarding their gender and sexual identities, but they had different experiences of identity themselves.
In the novel Every Day, the main character “A” changes bodies every day and falls in love with the same girl, Rhiannon. In Day 5994, “A” wakes up in Justin’s body, Rhiannon’s boyfriend, for a day and meets her. This is when the ungendered “A” falls in love with her. In fact, since “A” changes a body every day “A” doesn’t have a gender identity. “A” and Rhiannon weren’t able to establish a relationship. As a result, at the end of the novel “A” starts to question why it changes bodies every day.


“A” goes through gender fluidly similar to Erin who struggles with sexual fluidly. In Erin’s adolescence she had to laugh at the fag jokes because she was afraid of how people would perceive her. When she was sixteen years old she considered herself heterosexual, but later on, when she attended college she explored her sexual identity. Erin was able to identify herself as bisexual after she became an adult. “A” and Erin explore their gender and sexual identities because they both pass through similar experiences that reveal that gender and sexuality aren’t static concepts.


“A” accepts its gender identity. At the end of Day 6028, “A” starts to question its own gender identity because Reverend Poole told it that “A” is not the only one in this world that changes bodies. A states, “I remember the boy in Montana who story was similar to mine. Was that true? Or was it just a trap Poole set? There are others” (Levithan 292). This situation helped “A” to understand that there are others in society that changes bodies’ like “A” does. After Reverend Poole talks with “A,” he or she wants to discover about itself. “A” has to leave Rhiannon and needs to understand that it can’t have an established relationship. Levithan creates the character to challenge popular understanding of gender identity. The book shows how it is more realistic to look at gender as a pattern of behavior rather than just a physical appearance. “A” constantly changes physical appearance, but its desires and personality does not change.
Even though, “A” is a fictional character, there are some people in society that go through similar struggle of identifying their sexual identity. When Erin was young she classifies herself as straight and followed the normative standards by being attracted to males. Later on in her life she considers herself bisexual. Gluckman stated, “When I was 16 and adamantly straight, I realized that I was a political creature by the nature of my mother’s sexuality. Now, at 20, I am breaking the law every time I go to bed with another woman” (Gluckman). After Erin had sexual intercourse, she realized that her sexual identity was bisexual because feels an attraction to males and females. When Erin started to accept her sexual identity, she told her mother about her sexual preference. However, “A” and Erin experienced gender and sexual identities differently.


The difference between “A” and Erin is that “A” faces more opposition because of the physical change between male and female. Rhiannon has a hard time accepting “A’s” gender identity when “A” is a female.  When “A” is in a female body, Rhiannon is confused by “A’s” gender identity. Rhiannon said, “When I kiss you, I’m not actually kissing you, you know .You’re inside their somewhere. But I’m kissing the outside part. And right now, although I can feel you underneath, all I’m getting is the sadness. I’m kissing her, and I want to cry” (Levithan 132). Unfortunately, “A” feels sad that “A” can’t make Rhiannon happy by kissing her with a female body. “A” changes bodies each day from female to male or male to female but will always feels love towards Rhiannon.
In comparison, Erin doesn’t change bodies, which makes her life easier and helps her to know her sexual identity. Also, Erin doesn’t just feel attraction to one gender since she is bisexual. Gluckman state “Let me be a queer straight, the dyke who sleeps with men, the woman mistaken for a man. Let me have the best of these dichotomies. Let me speak with a language of my own” (Gluckman). Erin was able to express herself that she enjoys sleeping with females and males. The two struggles are different because sexuality is the person you sleep with and gender is how you identify yourself. “A’s” struggles with a more personal issue of gender, and Erin deals with
whom and how she can love others.


Rhetorical strategies were used in both pieces to send the different messages across. In the novel of Every Day, Levithan uses a gentle tone in comparison to Ryn Gluckman who uses assertiveness in “Relearning the Mothertongue: Notes from a Second-Generation Queer.”  An example of Levithan’s use of gentle tone is when “A” wakes up every morning in a different body and observers the environment. “A” states “I am sharing the room with two other boys –my brothers, Paul and Tom. Paul is a year older than me. Tom is my twin. My name is James” (Levithan 98).This illustrates Leviathan’s deliberate and considerate introductions into the new body that “A” has each day. These introductions make it easier for the reader and “A” to cope with the transitions. Gluckman, makes Erin appear to be assertive in the article. The difference is that “A” is a character that wakes up by introducing itself to the reader and Erin wakes up and still is the same person. Both authors approach the issue of sexuality and gender differently. It is the difference in tone that each use mark the way that gender and sexuality are understood by culture and the reader. Erin is sure that she is bisexual. This illustrates that Erin is confident of her own sexual identity.


“A” and Erin were both struggling to discover their gender and sexual identities. “A” wants to find out about itself, but “A” needs to leave Rhiannon. “A” was criticized by the Reverend Poole because “A” changes bodies every day by taking over people’s lives for a day. In comparison, Erin struggles with sexual identity because she feels sexual attraction to males and females. When she was 16 years old, Erin was closed-minded about sexual identity. But Erin became more open minded about her sexual identity during her adulthood than her adolescence. She even told her mother about her sexual preference.


I learned that gender identity is part of who you are and involves the difficulty of dealing with social criticisms. People in society get criticized regardless of their gender but also based on physical appearance. However, I feel more related to Erin because I passed through a similar crisis of identity and sexual judgment. For example, I have had to deal with social criticism ever since I was in middle school. I would care about the social criticism in middle school, but currently I don’t care what people say about me. People criticize me because my physical appearance makes people question my gender identity.


Works Cited

Gluckman, Ryn. “Relearning the Mothertongue: Notes From a Second-Generation Queer.” Revolutionary Voices . Amu Sonnie Ed. (PDF): 13540.

Levithan, David. Every Day . New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. Print.