75 of 83 people found the following review helpful
Rigorous thought, beautiful writing by the pre-gadfly Andrew,
This review is from: Virtually Normal (Paperback)
Andrew Sullivan believes that acceptance into the American mainstream is critical if gays and lesbians are to overcome the lingering legal and personal discrimination they face. The bulk of Sullivan's relatively brief book is an analysis of current gay politics from four ideological perspectives: "prohibitionists," the Protestant fundamentalists and conservative Catholics whose teachings and Biblical literalism Sullivan subjects to rigorous logical and scholarly critique; "liberationists," radicals whose dense theory and belligerent tactics have made them, Sullivan believes, increasingly marginal; "conservatives," who do not want to oppress gays but who find gay politics and sexuality troublesome; and "liberals," who want to protect gays through traditional civil rights laws that bar discrimination by businesses, landlords, and schools. Staking out his own position as a classical liberal, Sullivan then argues that traditional anti-discrimination laws, which seek to remedy one infringement of liberty by imposing another, engender resentment and aggravate social division. His own prescription is to attack the governmental discrimination that persists in refusing gays the rights and responsibilities of marriage and military service. Such public equality, he believes, would do more than laws and court decisions to secure the ultimate goal of private equality.
I've previously used this book as one text in an undergraduate political science course for the masterful, economical, and honest way it delineates and critiques four major ways of thinking about gay and lesbian freedom.
This book displays the high-octane intelligence, elegant logic and wordcraft, and simple, noble, guileless passion for which Sullivan was better known before he became a website-hawking, on-the-fly-opining media gadfly. You should ignore the rabid Sullivan bashers who complain that he doesn't "get it" as a self-respecting gay man, and who wail about his sexual hypocrisy, his cozying up to Republicans, and the general fact that he gets lots more attention than they do. In their ad hominem distaste, they usually decline to grapple (or are incapable of doing so) with Sullivan's serious thinking, or to acknowledge that, in this book at least, he provides rigorous arguments, not just controversial pronouncements. Take this book on its own terms and forget about Sullivan's more recent baggage. For those in search of lively writing and whose minds are open to sharp, unconventional thinking (whether you expect to come away agreeing or not), it's one of the essential works on the gay/lesbian politics bookshelf.