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Virtually Normal: An Argument about Homosexuality Paperback – September 17, 1996
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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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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.
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.
His afterword is a much needed response to seemingly universal misunderstanding on his book. As he criticizes the four dominant views, he gets criticized by them in turn. Even the 'conservatives,' who as ironic as it is, were the group that his defenders were overwhelmingly from, misunderstood his arguments against liberalism as an affirmation of conservativism. Sullivan, if I had to guess, is a republican with a small 'r', i.e. he believes in a somewhat self governing republic. Whatever your views, this book will challenge, educate, and motivate you.