BEYOND QUEER by Bruce Bawer


Challenging Gay Left Orthodoxy
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 Continuing in the vein of his last book, Bawer (A Place at the Table, 1993, etc.) here marshalls 38 recent articles from writers who attack the ``queer establishment'' and argues for a more moderate approach to lesbian and gay rights. This volume thus provides the next salvo in internal debate over strategies for improving gay life--legislation vs. liberation, integration vs. transformation, etc. ``Queer'' ideology, writes Bawer, is ``selfish and immature . . . devot[ed] to the margin.'' It thus harms lesbians' and gays' chances of gaining greater social acceptance, and above all misrepresents gay life, because ``most gays live in [the] mainstream.'' And the more that heterosexuals are made aware of the similarities between their lives and the lives of gays and lesbians, the more accepting he thinks they're likely to be. Though not all of the 16 other contributors agree entirely with Bawer (Andrew Sullivan argues against seeing gay freedom as largely dependent on straight enlightenment), taken together, they flesh out a portrait of gay men (and a woman or two) who just want the right to fully participate in such conventional American institutions as marriage, the military, and the church (or, in the case of one anonymous essayist who's an Orthodox rabbi, the synagogue). The collection's narrow focus, while forceful, also makes it feel constrained at times. For instance, contributors have the unfortunate habit of quoting from one another's essays. And one finds oneself wishing that there were more voices here in general (two or three writers, including Bawer, seem to hog the stage). Still, there is plenty of solid reasoning and interesting contradictions. One such contradiction is Bawer's, who seems to undermine his own argument when he writes that ``it's not ghetto- bound nonconformist gays . . . but ordinary gays next door that many people find threatening.'' Bawer is sure to rankle his detractors in the ``gay establishment'' with this tightly bound collection of opposition papers.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-82766-2
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1996


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