The use of the matchbox in Jean Genet’s novel Funeral Rites is perhaps the singularly most beautiful passage in literature describing the erasure of the marginalized by the dominant culture. In the narrative the protagonist Jean D sits at the back of the chapel, alone and excluded from the family and religious ceremony for his lover. Homosexual partners were criminalized and went unacknowledged in society, so Jean D grieved and performed his own ritual, alone:
“The matchbox in my pocket, the tiny coffin, imposed its presence more and more, obsessed me:
“Jean's coffin could be just as small.”
I was carrying his coffin in my pocket. There was no need for the small-scale bier to be a true one. The coffin of the formal funeral had imposed its potency on that little object. I was performing in my pocket, on the box that my hand was stroking, a diminutive funeral ceremony as efficacious and reasonable as the Masses that are said for the souls of the departed, behind the altar, in a remote chapel, over a fake coffin draped in black. My box was sacred. It did not contain a particle merely of Jean's body but Jean in his entirety. His bones were the size of matches, of tiny pebbles imprisoned in penny whistles. His body was somewhat like the cloth-wrapped wax dolls with which sorcerers cast their spells. The whole gravity of the ceremony was gathered in my pocket, to which the transfer had just taken place. However, it should be noted that the pocket never had any religious character; as for the sacredness of the box, it never prevented me from treating the object familiarly, from kneading it with my fingers, except that once, as I was talking to Erik, my gaze fastened on his fly, which was resting on the chair with the weightiness of the pouch of Florentine costumes that contained the balls, and my hand let go of the matchbox and left my pocket.”
Like the tiny coffin, we created our own shrines. On the mainline bodies piled up, and too often we were excluded from public burials, so we honored the dead on our own terms.

Drop-In Center
Rokki’s Lockbox