The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions Are Sabotaging Gay Equality

Suzanna Danuta Walters. New York Univ, $29.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8147-7057-3
In this lively scholarly work, Northeastern University sociologist Walters (All the Rage) manages the rare trick of producing a feast for the mind that is also incredibly funny and humane. In a cogent literary and political analysis, inflected by personal anecdotes and reflections, Walters argues that the concept of tolerance traps LGBT people into being regarded as perpetual outsiders, “tolerated” rather than treated as full citizens. In making gay rights contingent on “just like you” arguments, Walters asserts, the movement not only leaves behind LGBT people who don’t fit an idealized standard, but also fails to effectively challenge homophobia and transphobia. The book leaves no shibboleth intact—both liberal and conservative orthodoxies on LGBT people are deftly skewered. Walters demonstrates an impressive command of her material and she deserves credit for making a nuanced argument that calls for robust “integration” as opposed to assimilation or separatism, with a wide-ranging analysis that touches on feminism, the military, marriage, the Internet, and discourse around scientific research. Walters’s humane, transformative vision soars in this must-read for anyone interested in LGBT politics. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/14/2014
Release date: 05/01/2014
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