“He’s starting to understand what swelled in his chest the first time he read about Stonewall, why he ached over the SCOTUS decision in 2015. He starts catching up in his spare time: Walt Whitman, the Laws of Illinois 1961, The White Night Riot, Paris is Burning.”
This quote takes place in Chapter Seven as Alex admires Henry’s knowledge of LGBTQ+ history. Part of the process of Alex accepting himself as bisexual involves understanding his relationship to LGBTQ+ history. Alex realizes that his profound emotional reactions to significant events in the history of the gay rights movement are tied to his own sexuality. He begins to see himself in powerful movements throughout gay history and seeks to make up for blind spots in his historical and artistic education. This illustrates that, as Alex comes out to himself and to his family, he begins to understand his role in history differently. This education and his newfound awareness of the AIDS movement and pivotal moments in the gay civil rights movement likely influence his choice to become a civil rights attorney. By getting in touch with the American history that reflects his own identity and values back to him, Alex is inspired to change the course of his life and in turn the course of US history itself.
“The moment you first called me a prick, my fate was sealed. O, fathers of my bloodline! O, ye kings of olde! Take this crown from me, bury me in my ancestral soil. If only you had known the mighty work of thine loins would be undone by a gay heir who likes it when American boys with chin dimples are mean to him.”
This quote is from an email from Henry to Alex in Chapter Eight after they have been together for a few months. Henry teasingly encapsulates the very real historic significance of their romance. Though his tone is light and a bit mocking, he describes both his desire for Alex and his fear of the judgment of the kings of his bloodline. He wants to abdicate his claim to the throne so that he can be free to love whom he wants and to be who he is. But he also dreads the fact that his family sees his gayness as a crime against history and a blot on their family legacy. “Bury me in my ancestral soil” is a teasing way to tell Alex that he’s a goner when it comes to falling for him. It also hints at the ways that the old Henry, the one duty-bound to put himself aside to protect his family’s lineage, is disappearing as he falls for Alex.
"But the truth is, also, simply this: love is indomitable. America has always believed this. And so, I am not ashamed to stand here today where presidents have stood and say that I love him, the same as Jack loved Jackie, the same as Lyndon loved Lady Bird."
This quote from Chapter Fourteen is part of Alex’s speech to the American public after his relationship with Henry is leaked to the public. He takes the stage to officially come out to the country and ask the nation to support his mother in the upcoming election. Here, Alex references beloved couples in American presidential history to normalize his relationship with Henry and to emphasize their love. He also marks his speech as a historic event, the first time a First Son of the President of the United States has come out to the country, underscoring that he’s still a child of America. In this way, Alex relies on familiar tropes and historic figures to both establish trust and ask the American people to accept change. Though the beloved figures of the past didn’t include any openly bisexual sons or female presidents, Alex’s message is that everyone has a place in the White House and in America.