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Virtually Normal Paperback – September 17, 1996

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In a dizzyingly short period of time, homosexuality has gone from being the love that dare not speak its name to the one that shouts it. Refreshingly, in this wide-ranging discussion of the moral and political status of homosexuals, Sullivan, the gay former whizbang New Republic editor, prefers the middle register. On the one hand, he shuns the liberal tendency to give gays victim status but, on the other, advocates the legalization of gay marriage because he views it as the public recognition of a gay's basic human right to fully love another member of his/her group -- a right that, Sullivan notes, even bigots generally grant those they hate. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Former New Republic editor Sullivan calls for an end to all forms of discrimination against homosexuals.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679746145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679746140
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,051,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steve Sanders on January 4, 2002
Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
Homosexuality has been been getting a lot of publicity in the last few years - and even more so in recent weeks, with the election of a gay bishop to the Episcopal church, and the subsequent discussion of gay marriage. With so much talk nowadays, it is important to be informed.
This book, better than any other, clearly and thoroughly outlines the four main arguments for and against homosexuality, and critiques their strengths and weaknesses in a prose style that is both highly personal and incredibly reasoned and intelligent. The Prohibitionists are the one school that is the most decidedly anti-homosexual - seeking to either punish or "cure" gays and lesibans. The Liberationists seek freedom from social labels and conventions, but, like the Prohibitionists, do not accept the concept of homosexuality as a valid state of being - there are no real homosexuals, only homosexual acts. Sullivan sees them as well meaning, but misguided. The Conservatives believe that homosexuals are entitled to a certain amount of privacy and respect, but homosexuality is still a sin. Homosexuals do exist... but they can't help it. They still disapprove of homosexuality, just not necessarily homosexuals. The Liberals also mean well, and struggle for the rights of homosexuals, but unfortunately blanket them in their larger agenda of "helping the little people", so to speak - well meaning, but sometimes a bit patronizing.
Sullivan does more than criticize, however. He also finds merit in these viewpoints. However, his major argument is that these views either need to be overcome or modified if homosexuals are ever going to have an equally accepted place in society. He also offers ways to overcome these different biases.
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Format: Paperback
Andrew Sullivan has written a gem with "Virtually Normal." In these beautifully written pages, we find an author exploring- his goal being to understand first, question next- four explanations for and proposed methods of dealing with homosexuality. In the end, he finds all four lacking.
The doctrines given treatment are: prohibitionism- being gay is a choice of deviance and as such should be treated as a sin, constructionism- gay is merely a social construction and there would be no 'homosexual problem' if we deconstruct sexuality, Conservatism- we should let people be gay but homosexuality should NEVER be encouraged socially. Finally we get to Liberalism. Perhaps Sullivan finds the most trouble here. The liberal doctrine states that as a persecuted group, gays should be tolerated to the point that if social coercion becomes necessary (through 'hate crime' legislation and the like), all the better. Through 'education' (resembling indoctrination) equality can be forced. Save for prohibitionism, I would agree that liberalism is the most dangerous of all.
Although it will be obvious that Sullivan has a special distaste for liberalism, he finds serious flaws in each of the four doctrines for good reason. His conclusion breaks sharply with all of them,resembling more of a classical liberal (J.S. Mill) approach. Tolerance should be encouraged, never forced. Government discrimination is the evil, private discrimination will die in the free market because it is always inefficient. Sullivan then devotes time to gay marriange and military service, asserting- very correctly- that untill homosexuals can serve their country openly and marry legally, they will always be on unequal footing. If the potential reader has never heard Sullivan speak on these issues, she should not delay.
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