The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

2 February 2005

Both ends against the middle

My favorite Walt Whitman passage has always been this bit from Leaves of Grass:

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.

Justin Katz finds multitudes inside Andrew Sullivan:

The niche that he has claimed ... has made Sullivan an especially influential advocate for a cause with which many [conservatives] do not agree: same-sex marriage. In his various expositions of the case for same-sex marriage over the years, Sullivan has trapped himself in a series of opportunistic contradictions — which may tell us something about the contradiction at the heart of his cause.

The passage that caught my eye is a quote from Sullivan's book Love Undetectable:

"The truth is, homosexuals are not entirely normal; and to flatten their varied and complicated lives into a single, moralistic model is to miss what is essential and exhilarating about their otherness." The truth that Sullivan evades is that flattening to a model is precisely marriage's social purpose, and furthermore, his arguments for same-sex marriage are in conflict with the desire he expresses in this passage to preserve homosexuality's "otherness." After all, how can "otherness" be preserved if distinctions are effaced?

I don't have a particular problem with "otherness," even (especially?) if it's "essential and exhilarating," but it sounds to me like Sullivan is trying to have it both ways: he wants to be a wild and crazy guy and Ward Cleaver simultaneously. I had enough trouble with that when I was married, and I'm on the straight side of the aisle.

Is domestic bliss incompatible with, say, a Pride Parade? I don't know. I think that it probably isn't — but then there's this piece from Sullivan's Virtually Normal:

No homosexual child, surrounded overwhelmingly by heterosexuals, will feel at home in his sexual and emotional world, even in the most tolerant of cultures.... Anyone who believes political, social, or even cultural revolution will change this fundamentally is denying reality.

Maybe these contradictions can be resolved somewhere down the line. I hope Andrew Sullivan isn't holding his breath.

Posted at 4:04 PM to Immaterial Witness


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