Monday, December 08, 2003

Raspberry on Gay Marriage

I had missed this column. It's pretty good.

Warner, like other gay writers before him, divides the world into stigmaphiles and stigmaphobes -- those who embrace the very things that make the disrespected groups different and those who would suppress the difference in a mistaken search for group respectability.

He includes writer Andrew Sullivan, whose own book, "Normal," is a particular target of the "The Trouble with Normal," among the stigmaphobes. Sullivan's argument, he says, amounts to "We'd be accepted if only. . . ."

"Sex and sexuality are disavowed as 'irrelevant' in an attempt to fight stigma," says Warner. "But the disavowal itself expresses the same stigma!"

Two things struck me about Warner's thesis. The first is how completely I had embraced the Sullivan notion that gays and lesbians would be okay if only they behaved more respectably -- and that marriage might be a way of encouraging that better behavior.

The second was, for me, more startling: the degree to which stigmaphobe describes some of my own attitudes regarding racial acting out. Warner himself doesn't mention race in this regard. But is there any appreciable difference between Sullivan and others wishing that gays would behave more "normally" -- at least in public -- and my own wishing that black teenagers, for instance, would act more "respectfully" -- toning down their swearing and loud conversations, muting their boomboxes or deferring to grownups?

Poor Andy. Raspberry got his book title wrong.