Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda begins with sixteen-year-old Simon, the titular protagonist, being robbed of his agency and control over his own life—specifically, when how, and if he chooses to come out to his friends and family as gay. After his classmate Martin Addison discovers Simon's private and romantic emails on a school computer to a mysterious boy named Blue, Martin proceeds to blackmail Simon into helping him in his own romantic pursuits by putting a good for him with one of Simon's best friends, Abby. As the story unfolds, Simon suggests that taking away someone's agency is one of the cruelest things a person can do to another, and that in most cases, doing so won't end well for anyone.
Simon is understandably and justifiably enraged when Martin confronts him about the emails and admits that he took screenshots of them—with them, Martin has the power to completely upend Simon's life as he knows it and force him to come out well before he's ready to do so, cruelly stripping him of control over his own story. While this is extremely anxiety inducing for Simon, what he finds even worse is his belief that if Martin shares the screenshots, he will also destroy his budding romantic relationship with Blue. Though Simon and Martin have no idea who Blue is at this point (and Martin seems to buy Simon's story that Blue is from California), Simon also fears that having Blue's fake name out in the world will make him extremely uncomfortable. Blue is nowhere near ready to come out in October, when Martin finds the emails, and Simon lives in fear that his simple carelessness of not logging out of his email account on a school computer will completely destroy the life of someone he's come to care about deeply. With this, the novel highlights that Martin doesn't just have control over Simon's story; he also holds a great deal of power over Blue and Simon's relationship. When Simon realizes this, it's the first time that he recognizes the high degree of trust that he and Blue place in each other by exchanging emails: either has, should they choose to do so, important information that could partially out the other, a realization that reaffirms Simon's desire to provide Blue a trusting and safe listening ear as they discuss the trials and tribulations of being secretly gay in a small Georgia town.
The anxiety that Simon feels throughout the school year—and especially after Martin posts on the Creekwood High School Tumblr page "creeksecrets" that Simon is gay—shows how losing one's sense of agency over their life and their story is disturbing and can even be dangerous. While Simon suggests that he would've faced homophobic bullying at school regardless of whether he was forcibly outed or came out on his own, it's worth noting that the bullying he suffers is intensified and harder to deal with because it's not something he was prepared to handle. Simon is entirely unprepared for guys to jokingly grab and try to kiss him in the hallways, and when two senior boys cross-dress, sneak into the auditorium during the rehearsal of Oliver, and wave signs joking about gay sex, Simon is so overwhelmed that he almost has an out-of-body experience. As all of this cruelty unfolds, Marti appears to deeply regret his actions. It seems that Martin never meant for Simon to suffer this kind of bullying and intimidation as he coarsely claims that he "didn't think people still did shit like that." Martin's regret is a clear reminder that even though he had control over the timing of Simon's coming out, Martin doesn't have control over the aftermath and the way other people will react.
Even as he chafes under Martin's blackmail, Simon tries to similarly control Abby by getting her to go out with Martin. By being on the other end of this situation, Simon learns that he needs to respect Abby's autonomy and control over her own life if he wants to be a true friend—and even a decent human being. Despite Simon's nuanced understanding of the ways in which Martin robs him of control and agency, he agrees to go along with Martin's request to try to set him up with Abby, essentially depriving her of agency and control, too. Abby doesn't find out about this manipulation until the very end of the novel, at which point she pointedly tells Simon that he can't control who she dates—and that he, of all people, should understand the myriad issues that arise from trying to control someone else. By finding himself in shoes uncomfortably similar to Martin's, Simon is able to fully grasp that whether someone is a victim like him or an unthinking aggressor like Martin, attempting to manipulate others like this is fundamentally wrong and is no way to move through the world. With this, the novel ends with the assertion that respecting the autonomy of other people—including their stories, bodies, and feelings—is essential for being a good friend and a good person. Near the end of the novel, even a reformed Martin Addison reveals that he's been jealous of Simon all along, and laments that "if I could do it again, I would have blackmailed you into being my friend and left it at that."
Agency and Control ThemeTracker
Agency and Control Quotes in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
“I actually think people would be cool about it,” Martin says. “You should be who you are.”
I don't even know where to begin with that. Some straight kid who barely knows me, advising me on coming out.
I need to spend some time in my head with this new Simon. My parents have a way of ruining things like this. They get so curious. It's like they have this idea of me, and whenever I step outside of that, it blows their minds. There's something so embarrassing about that in a way I can't even describe.
“As a side note, don't you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you're straight, gay, bi, or whatever.”
“It is definitely annoying that straight (and white, for that matter) is the default, and that the only people who have to think about their identity are the ones who don't fit that mold.”
It's Christmas Eve day, and something feels a little bit off.
Not bad, just off. I don't know how to explain it. We're hitting everyone of the Spier traditions.
“And you know what? You don't get to say it's not a big thing. This is a big fucking thing, okay? This was supposed to be—this is mine. I'm supposed to decide when and where and who knows and how I want to say it.”
“But they're supposed to be Alice and Nora. They're not supposed to be different,” I explain.
“They're not allowed to change?” Abby laughs. “But you're changing. You're different than you were five months ago.”
“I'm not different!"
“Simon, I just watched you pick up a random guy in a gay bar. You're wearing eyeliner. And you're completely wasted.”
“It's just, you know. I get that you were in a difficult position. But you don't get to make the decisions about my love life. I choose who I date.” She shrugs. “I would think you would understand that.”
It's weird, because of all the things I feel guilty about, it never occurred to me to feel guilty about Abby. But I'm a fucking idiot. Because who you like can't be forced or persuaded or manipulated. If anyone knows that, it's me.
I'm a shitty friend.