VIRTUALLY NORMAL: An Argument About Homosexuality by Andrew Sullivan

VIRTUALLY NORMAL: An Argument About Homosexuality

Email this review


The New Republic's editor offers a leaden analysis of current political stances on homosexuality, culminating in a prescription for solving America's ""homosexual problem."" Sullivan divides the field of disputants into four camps: The ""prohibitionists"" are the Catholic Church and everyone else who would suppress homosexual acts on grounds of natural law; the ""liberationists"" are the self-styled queer activists; the ""conservatives"" are those who can tolerate gays privately but refuse to promote public acceptance of homosexuality; and the ""liberals"" are those who would legislate virtually all aspects of public and private life to protect the civil rights of gays and other minority groups. Sullivan defines each point of view so as to identify its flaws, but they're all more or less straw men. He sidesteps the bigotry and deference to religious authority that characterize many proponents of the prohibitionist view, saying that ""an argument is not an appropriate response""; perhaps not, but he evades the issue of how society should respond to the massive contingent whose adherence to prohibitionist rhetoric is irrational. He presents the liberationists' tactic of ""outing"" and their appropriation of the label ""queer"" as Foucauldian manipulations of the linguistic and social ""construct"" of homosexuality, but the political intentions of the activists themselves flicker only intermittently in the lengthy analysis of Foucault. The conservative view is presented in cartoonish stereotype. At last Sullivan gives a bracing account of the failure of American liberalism in overlegislating private lives; he proposes somewhat wistfully that if the government equalized gays' status in the public sphere, especially by allowing them to serve openly in the military and by sanctioning same-sex marriages, then freedom and tolerance in private life would follow. Sullivan makes some good points, but the subject demands far more passion, logic, and straightforwardness than are evident here.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1995
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Knopf