Further Reflections on a Complicated Issue
In “The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!” Sufjan Stevens gives us what “is tempting to describe… as a story of male-male agape—just touching on the erotic, with mentions of falling asleep in the backseat of a car—between Stevens and his best friend, but Stevens also lets you see right through it as a love story between himself and Jesus, God born human, a man stung and mocked and wrestled with” (Daddino, Seattle Weekly).
This may ignore the most straightforward interpretation of the song: “male-male agape” plus eros/philia. “He runs washing his face in his hands. Oh how I meant to tease him.
Oh how I meant no harm. Touching his back with my hand I kiss him. I see the wasp on the length of my arm.” And “We were in love!” repeats the chorus jubilantly. This love was a means of experiencing God’s glory: “Halelu!” But this love really didn’t work out: “My friend is gone, he ran away…. Though we have sparred, wrestled and raged. I can tell you I love him each day….”
All of this has led many people to ask, “Is Sufjan Stevens gay?” To this I would respond: a) you’re missing the point of the song, and b) our culture assumes that the world is divided into a gay/not-gay dichotomy. Kinsey showed this to be a blatant falsehood, although his numbers were probably skewed due to his sampling methods. Regardless, Sufjan has recounted in concerts that he was well before puberty when the incident occurred. This isn’t proof that he’s “gay.” This is proof that a lot of people experience a lot of things that our culture would use to say, “Hey, you’re gay!” What if the truth isn’t that simple?