In writing Jack's character, Ng subtly explores queer identity in the context of 1970s suburban America. The Stonewall riots, which took place in June 1969, are generally seen as the initial "call to action" of the modern gay rights movement in the United States. Although laws was beginning to change, negative connotations surrounding homosexuality remained prevalent. Despite the progressiveness of queer rights, the movement also received a lot of backlash. In the latter half of the decade, many anti-gay rights campaigns began to gather a significant following. Thus, many queer people did not feel comfortable about being open with their identities in the tumultuous political climate.
Jack, who lives in an insular community, is unable to "come out" for fear of backlash. Instead, he curates a hyper-masculine identity to cover up his true self. Nath, whose relationship to his own masculinity is complicated by his father's insecurities, sees Jack as a target for his own diffidence. Nath's own sexual preferences are never revealed, as his position on the fringe of society prevents him from developing both platonic and romantic relationships. Nath, who initially has homophobic thoughts, eventually reconciles with Jack. Though their relationship is not described in the novel's conclusion, it is interesting to consider how Nath really feels about Jack's crush on him.