The Puzzle of Spring Butterflies

I found reading, A Story of Spring Butterflies, by Chu T’ien-Hsin very intriguing as it is written in a purposefully confusing manner to a reader, not just within its content and structure but additionally is experienced within the identity of its author.  The piece pinpoints an ‘anonymous’ narrator, “Dear friend, please don’t try yet to guess my gender. Is it a man-man? Or woman-man? Woman-woman? Or is it a man-woman?” (76), addressing their views and opinions on the subject of homosexuality and in particular, the issues of the conflicting levels and ideals of intimacy between homosexuals and heterosexuals.

The way in which this piece differs from other texts that I have read is how the topic of discussion is not concretely depicted and in addition, with the unknown identity of the narrator, the reader is left guessing what direction the discussion will lead. This sense of uncertainty, and being ‘left in the dark’ somewhat emulates the feeling the narrator must have felt when he found out his wife had experienced a lesbian relationship, without his wife communicating this to him within the years of their marriage. Why the narrator would want to keep this insight hidden until the end of the piece is somewhat unclear, however it could be because this sense of ambiguity within much of the piece creates an amplified alertness to his thoughts and as to what he is attempting to address throughout his writing. It is as if the narrator has come to the conclusion that the reader will be searching and yearning for any insight or clarification as to who he is and why he would be writing in such a way, and thus he provides limited detail until the final paragraphs.

The second perplexing attribute to this piece, was finding out that the author of A Story of Spring Butterflies was actually a heterosexual female. In light of this new information, I reread the piece and can say that I did read it differently in the sense that it altered the authenticity of the accusations the narrator was expressing. “I admit that actually, aside from envying them, I really know nothing about lesbians. How does it begin? Why do they turn that way? What makes the progress get suspended? Why is it able to be suspended? Why does it recur again? What is the true length of the latency period?” (90).  From a reader’s perspective, once it is known that the author is a heterosexual female, statements such as this appear false and thus, in my view, discredits the ideas she is trying to convey.  Writing outside of your sexuality, especially when homosexuality continues to be a sensitive subject within society, discredits its authenticity and creates a lack of trust as to what is being conveyed.

A Story of Spring Butterflies seems to open up the question as to whether an author should write outside of their sexuality or not. If women are able to write from a male’s perspective and vice versa, then why can’t it be the same in regards to sexuality? Progression of time within which society becomes more accepting will no doubt rectify current attitudes. In my opinion, once homosexuality becomes a less sensitive issue and is further established within society, cross-categorical authorship within queer literature will additionally become increasingly observed, however the concept just seems too premature at this particular point in time.

— DA

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Filed under Week 8: Taiwanese queer fiction; M. Butterfly

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