preview

The Hon. Dr

Satisfactory Essays
Among the gay press's responses to my 1993 book A Place at the Table was the charge by some critics that I'm "sex-negative." Frank Browning griped that I want to "to have everyone put on 30 pounds, buy a Brooks Brothers suit, and wander off on the golf links, becoming [an] upper-class version of Ozzie and Harry. Those who don't want to take risks should join Mr. Bawer on the golf course. Those who want to feel alive will benefit from the exploration of our bodies and what our bodies can grant."

Golf? Ozzie and Harry? Brooks Brothers? What, I wondered, does any of this have to do with what I've written? I've never been on a golf course. Or worn a Brooks Brothers suit. And when did I join the upper class? Of course I want gay people to enjoy what their bodies can grant. I also want them to have equal rights under the law, the love and respect of their friends and families, and a meaningful life beyond their orgasms. I want gay kids to grow up knowing that, as wonderful as sex can be, gay identity amounts to more than belonging to a "culture of desire."

Browning and others mocked me for being "serious." Well, isn't discovering oneself as a gay individual in this society a serious challenge? Isn't gay rights a serious issue? Being serious about gay rights in public discourse doesn't preclude being able to have fun in one's personal life. Yet if some right-wing critics can't write about homosexuality without smirking, some gay writers seem unable to address the subject without prattling frivolously about their own sex lives and longings.

Which is a shame, because it's vitally important for us to recognize that at the heart of homophobia lies an inability to see that gays can love each other as deeply and as seriously as straights can. Explaining why he'd refused to print my review of the film Longtime Companion, an American Spectator editor told a New York Observer reporter, "Bawer was striking a total equivalence between a heterosexual couple in love and a homosexual couple in love. To me, that wasn't convincing." That editor isn't alone in rejecting the idea of the moral equivalence of gays and straights.

It's not only heterosexuals who draw these sex-related distinctions. "The defining thing about being gay," a gay man tells Susan Bergman in her new memoir, Anonymity, "is that you like to have sex a lot.
Get Access