Internalized Homophobia In Giovanni's Room

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In the novel Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, the protagonist David’s obsession with maintaining a traditionally masculine façade is what leads to the demise of all of his relationships. David’s masculine presentation and insecurity over his own homosexuality are frowned upon by Western society in the 1950s, the novel’s setting. This general societal consensus leads to David’s internalization of homophobia, eventually leading to the ruin of his relationships with family, friends, lovers, and himself. Western society’s view of homosexuality and masculinity at that time is the primary reason for the expiry of David’s relationships.
In 1950s United States, open homosexuality was taboo and legislature in every state had passed anti-sodomy laws. U.S. politicians in the McCarthy Era viewed being gay as tantamount to antinationalism. Gays were perceived as a threat to national
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In “James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room: Expatriation, ‘Racial Drag,’ and Homosexual Panic,” Mae G. Henderson postulates that David’s “internalized homophobia...is a consequence of social sanctions that pathologize or criminalize homosexual identity and activity” (310). David’s internalized homophobia serves as the greatest hindrance to accepting his same-gender attractions. During his initial encounter with gay men in Paris at Guillame’s bar, David’s observations suggest his repulsion towards the men’s feminine presentations: “I always found it difficult to believe that they ever went to bed anyway, for a man who wanted a woman would certainly have rather had a real one and a man who wanted a man would certainly not want one of them” (27). David implies that “real” men need to perform the typical gender roles expected of a straight man in order to be appealing or desirable and that under these circumstances, there is no way for two men to be equally masculine in a sexual
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