After spending months emailing about the difficulties of coming out as gay with a boy who goes by the pseudonym Blue, Simon is shocked to discover that, contrary to his assumptions, Blue (who is really Bram) is black. Realizing his own narrowmindedness, Simon asks himself why it is that people assume that someone is straight and white until they discover evidence to the contrary. With this question, Simon begins to give voice to the immense gap between the way that society assumes people should be and the very different, nuanced ways that people actually live, identify themselves, and move through the world. By tackling these big ideas, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda illustrates that identity is something personal and individual, not something that can be painted in broad strokes by someone else.
Simon primarily takes issue with the fact that people overwhelmingly assume their peers are straight until someone chooses to come out and make it clear that this assumption is false. He believes that this contributes to the sheer amount of anxiety that he and Blue, who are both closeted at the beginning of the novel, feel about the prospect of sharing their true identities with their friends and families. Essentially, Simon observes that if one deviates from the norm—which society defines as straight and white—one has to work much harder to make a place for themselves in the world and make their identity known. Because of this, Simon and Blue discuss how different the world would be if everyone had to come out, regardless of their sexuality. In one of his emails, Blue writes, "it is definitely annoying that straight (and white, for that matter) is the default, and that the only people who don't have to think about their identity are the ones who don't fit that mold. Straight people really should have to come out, and the more awkward it is, the better." By suggesting that everyone should have to come out and announce this aspect their identity to the world, Simon and Blue suggest that one way to cultivate acceptance and authenticity is to do away with the idea of what constitutes "normal" or "default" in the first place.
Though Simon begins the novel thinking of the idea of coming out only in terms of one's sexuality, he comes to realize over the course of the school year that he, his friends, and his family members must constantly "come out" and announce their unexpected changes in identity to the world over and over again. Within his family, Simon attributes this to his parents' difficulties adapting to the fact that their children are very quickly becoming adults and moving away from childhood, a process that by necessity involves discovering and embracing new facets of their identity. Simon notices this specifically in the case of his younger sister, Nora, whom he characterizes at the beginning of the school year as quiet, bookish, and not particularly social. This makes it difficult for him to understand what's going on when Nora starts spending more time than usual outside the house for reasons unknown to Simon and the rest of the family. Nora then stages her own dramatic "coming out" at the school talent show, where she performs as the lead guitarist in a rock band. Simon learns that Nora has been at band practice every day after school, and has even been secretly working with Simon's friend Nick for months to learn guitar. Simon is especially shocked to see how comfortable his shy, studious little sister looks onstage. Simon decides that Nora is "coming out" in finally making this interest known to her family, as she defines her identity that goes against the grain of people's assumptions about her.
Even Simon is forced to reckon with the fact that he also wrongly assumes things about people's identities, particularly as he attempts to figure out who Blue is. It takes Simon a few minutes to realize that Bram is Blue at the carnival, but Simon realizes that this is only because it never crossed his mind that Blue might be black. Simon was able to make this assumption in the first place because he and Blue communicated anonymously over email, meaning that major parts of Blue's identity—including what he looked like—were up to Simon's imagination. Simon's thoughtless assumption that Blue was white brings to the forefront that all people, even individuals who stand outside of what society considers to be normal, are susceptible to making assumptions about other people. Simon ultimately catches himself in making this assumption and vows to do better in the future. This moment suggests that awareness is the only way to diminish the power of these assumptions of "normalcy." In other words, people must simply make a point to catch themselves when they make unfair assumptions about others and to instead make it safe for others to be their most authentic selves.
Identity and Assumptions ThemeTracker
Identity and Assumptions 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.
If Blue were a real junior at Creekwood with a locker and a GPA and a Facebook profile, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be telling him anything. I mean, he is a real junior at Creekwood. I know that. But in a way, he lives in my laptop.
Like the way you can memorize someone's gestures but never know their thoughts. And the feeling that people are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows.
Leah once said that she'd rather have people call her fat directly than have to sit there and listen to them talking shit about some other girl's weight. I actually think I agree with that. Nothing is worse than the secret humiliation of being insulted by proxy.
“I completely see the appeal of being someone else for the evening (or in general). Actually, I was a bit of a one-trick pony myself when I was little. I was always a superhero. I guess I liked to imagine myself having this complicated secret identity. Maybe I still do. Maybe that's the whole point of these emails.”
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.
But I'm tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.
“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.”
The problem is, I'm beginning to realize I hardly know anything about anyone. I mean I generally know who's a virgin. But I don't have a clue whether most people's parents are divorced, or what their parents do for a living […] And these are my best friends. I've always thought of myself as nosy, but I guess I'm just nosy about stupid stuff.
“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.”
I guess I assumed that Blue would be white. Which kind of makes me want to smack myself. White shouldn't be the default any more than straight should be the default. There shouldn't even be a default.