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Gay Marriage perpetuating stigma against non-heteronormativeholes? September 26, 2008

Posted by Onely in book review, Food for Thought, Heteronormativity, Reviews.
Tags: , , , ,

On our in-process “Things We Like” page, Lindabeth recommended an interesting-sounding book by Michael Warner, The Trouble With Normal. I don’t know if we’ll end up reviewing this book, but it definitely raises a very interesting point! Ron Hogan’s below Amazon.com review says Warner argues that when people push for gay marriage, they are trying to normalize gays according to the current culturally sanctioned standards of monogamy and matrimony. But according to Warner, really this just paves the way for trying to normalize other people who don’t fit into heterosexual coupled roles.

Those people would include not only gays and lesbians, but transgendered people, and of course ONELIES. I wonder if the Turner incorporates single people into his thesis.

I still support gay marriage, but. . . gosh he makes an interesting point. How can I be so offput by matrimaniacs and yet still be out there on the street shaking a big sign at Congress saying “Make more matrimaniacs”?

Copious Readership, instead of demanding gay marriage rights, should we be demanding instead that our legal system get over their obsession with institutionalized coupling? Or should we demand both at the same time and hope it all evens out in the end? 


PS. Here’s Hogan’s review, for your convenience: 

The Trouble with Normal argues passionately against same-sex marriage, but here’s the twist: not because it denigrates the institution of marriage, but because it perpetuates the cultural shame attached to sex between consenting but unmarried adults. When gay men and lesbians try to claim that they’re just like “normal folk,” Michael Warner writes, they do a profound disservice to other queer folk who choose not to live in monogamous or matrimonial bliss and who believe that the solution to being stigmatized for your sexuality is not to pretend it doesn’t exist. Same-sex marriage advocates, he continues, often seem to be willfully blind to the cultural ramifications of their position, viewing marriage as “an intensified and deindividuated form of coming out.” They don’t seem to realize that if society validates their relationships, other types of relationships will by necessity be invalidated. . . Extending his analysis, Warner shows how the championing of married gays and lesbians as “normal” is part of the same cultural climate that leads to “quality of life” crackdowns against queercentric businesses–as is already underway in New York City–and a deliberate sabotage of safer-sex education that puts millions of Americans at continued risk of exposure to HIV. Warner’s precise, straightforward argument is enlivened by numerous sharp zingers, as when he accuses Andrew Sullivan of “breath[ing] new and bitchy life into Jesuitical pieties” about sexual morality. The Trouble with Normal is a bold, provocative book that forces readers to reconsider what sexual liberation really means. –Ron Hogan


1. Anita - September 26, 2008

Personally, I’d prefer no marriage legislation at all. Period. But that’s not going to happen. I think there is a potential for setting up “acceptable” gay lifestyles (married, house, dog, Christian, hopefully self-hating) and “nonacceptable” gay lifestyles (anything else), but it is at least a step towards allowing people to pick what they want.
We also need polyamorous marriage options, if we’re going to legislate relationships, and extra-familiar relationships, and that’s really where the system begins to break down for real. (Thus my no legislation stance.)
But until we get to the point where the system clearly fails, it’s important to allow as many people on the boat as possible – which includes those of us that are gay that want to marry, and those of us that don’t want marriage/relationships/whatever regardless of orientation.

2. Shannon - September 27, 2008

Hrm, No marriage would be so good! Think of all the money saved regarding divorce and separation. The lack of stigma for children born out of wedlock. The fact that women wouldn’t have to change their names. Having a legal, committed relationship with more than one person at a time.

Excuse me, I’m just off to add ‘no marriage’ to my Utopia criterion list..

3. lindabeth - September 27, 2008

Warner is a queer theorist, but his argument really encapsulates the delegitimizing effect of the ardent advocacy of gay marriage on those who do not or could not marry–including those in relationships of 2+ and Onelies. He’s basically saying that affirming that marriage is the most legitimate form of relationship through status and legal benefits has normative effects. If nothing else, I recommend reading the chapter on marriage, “Beyond Gay Marriage.” By the way, this book is kind of a response to gay conservative Andrew Sullivan’s Virtually Normal that pushes for gay marriage to make gays (especially men) “respectable” and “mature” American citizens by becoming spouses with families, houses, kids, no partying, monogamy…you know, the “proper” way to do relationships. It’s pretty sick.

Also recommended: Judith Butler’s “Is Kinship Already Heterosexual?” from her Undoing Gender, which also speaks to the issue of legitimacy.

I used both in my thesis.

also of possible interest: http://www.beyondmarriage.org, Prof. Nancy Politkoff’s blog with the same title as her new book (which I found out about after I wrote my thesis): Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage.

What the suggestion many of these types of thinkers make as well, is that we’re spending so many resources on gay marriage so same-sex couples can have the same rights and benefits that ought not be tied to marriage in the first place (i.e. health care). Marriage will only be a real “choice” when the governemnt does not sanction only one type of relationship as of utmost validity and then organize our social structures and economics around the assumption of that relationship. This is much of what my work argues as well.

Food for thought!

4. onely - September 29, 2008

Good points, everyone! Thanks for all the comments!

Anita — Thanks so much for your feedback, and I’m certain that both C and I agree that if we’re must work within the system that already legislates marriage, then marriage legislation should, absolutely, be available to all who want to take advantage of it!

Shannon — Great idea; maybe we should add a “Utopia” page to Onely, open to comments. 🙂

Lindabeth — THANKS for the many additional resources! We’ll be sure to check them out very soon.

— L

5. Polyamorous Marriage and the Oneler « Onely. - October 2, 2008

[…] onely in Food for Thought, Reviews. Tags: polyamory, polyandry, polygamy trackback In response to our post about Michael Turner’s The Trouble With Normal, Anita mentioned polyamorous relationships. This got us thinking–as proponents of people’s […]

6. rob - October 17, 2011

Personally I find this whole blog rather offensive. Have you considered that it IS normal to WANT to be in a relationship Straight OR Gay. That this desire is NOT cultural. That the desire extends beyond sexuality which is exactly why the fight for gay marriage IS so important. That you people seem to believe that gay people don’t have the same desires because “marriage is for heterosexuals” or a “religious institution etc..” or mandated by the media etc is simply wrong and ill informed. All cultures have marriage in some form monogamous or otherwise and All cultures discuss romantic love. That you people somehow have managed to do away with your natural desire for connection with others or tell yourselves that being single is not equal to “being lonely” does not make it true for MOST people. Be proud who you are but don’t pretend its normal or that more importantly only abnormal because of “society” Without sexual/romantic desire there would be NO human race. You would not exist. Marriage and how its carried out MY be a cultural norm but to suggest that gays ONLY want to be “like straight people” or are “trying to like straight people” when they want the right to be married ignores the fact that they are NOT significantly different from straight people when it comes to desiring romantic relations. They want love and to be loved just as deeply as heterosexuals. The suicide rate among gay teens is higher precisely because they are forced by a society to BE something they aren’t and they are told they must desire only members of the opposite sex. Sexuality is large part of identity and with it the desire to form relations with others. I imagine DESIRE for intimate relations in general again gay or straight is just as biologically based as sexuality itself. If you want to see who is pathologizing singles its NOT the media, if its anything its YOU who in addition to saying people “Should be happy single”: also believe that there is something wrong with people for being unable to be happy on one’s own. To become better educated I strong recommend Helen Fisher’s Why We Love. which demonstrates how love itself may have evolved in the human species why its so painful to go without it why we are literally driven to find it. In short if you want to feel better about “being single” acknowledge first its not desirable or fun and start support group really need. “how to find desirable partners” If you are really really so happy being single would this group be necessary? Also Gays and lesbians have suffered far far more discrimination than any of you. As a single person myself I just want to say you do not speak for me. no offense.

Onely - October 18, 2011

May we suggest a course in reading comprehension.

And in paragraphing.

7. Matt Bowes - October 19, 2011

Oh SNAP! Nice. Onely has never stated that there’s something unnatural about desiring human relationships, just that people should be free from pressure to pursue one very narrow, specific, and limiting type of relationship that isn’t natural to everyone.

Onely - October 27, 2011

Haha, thanks Matt. You articulated it well. (I really couldn’t be bothered.) = )

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