Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-09-04
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Ties that Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences
by Tracy Baim
2010-02-17

facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email


Written by Sarah Schulman. $23.95; The New Press; 192 pages

Author and playwright Sarah Schulman is among our community's most prolific writers. She is that rare combination of thinker and activist, so both her fiction and non-fiction work is informed by a wealth of real-world experiences, especially her tremendous role in the ACT UP/ New York movement.

Schulman's newest nonfiction book, The Ties that Bind, is a slim volume that packs a powerful punch. It tackles the very notion of the personal being political—where it is we often first experience homophobia, within our families.

While there has been great progress on gay issues at the political level, and likely far more parents today have an open mind about homosexuality, when it "hits home" some of even the most progressive families have "issues" with their own children being gay, lesbian, or even transgendered. That is the core of The Ties that Bind: the long-term consequences of "familial homophobia."

Schulman herself has experienced this problem first-hand, and she details this in the book, using her own life as an example of how the homophobia we experience at home oppresses us throughout our lives. Schulman believes that the homophobia our families deal out also has major implications within the greater society, not just on the individual target.

One of the main ways the gay movement is different from other movements for civil rights is that for the most part, gay people are raised by people who are not "like" them, whereas when it comes to race or religion or gender, most people are usually raised by people who are "like them", so that when society comes crashing into their lives, they have some strength at home to help them cope. These are generalizations of course, but based on the reality of most gays and lesbians.

Even those of us who grew up in very progressive families have experienced some forms of familial homophobia. My own experience is an example; I had adult gay and lesbian role models in my childhood, because my parents had a wide mix of friends. But when it came to my coming out my mom did have slight issues, mainly what I call the "Cher" response ( when Chastity came out to her ) : she worried about the hard life I might have. But she rather quickly changed course and my mom was the one who found out about a job opening at GayLife newspaper for a part-time reporter, thus starting me on a gay media path just one month out of college.

So my own experience with familial homophobia is minor, but I did witness huge differences for my peers—many took decades to come out to their families, and some never did before their parents died. This book does an excellent job of showing how these family-based strains and problems exponentially increase in impact as we grow up and try to manage our way through society.

A fascinating chapter in the book is about how gays use the court system against one another, a "heterosexual" privilege argument, where a lesbian birth parent fights against a partner for custody using the courts to deny her former partner any parental rights. There are many examples of this ugly side of the community, and Schulman shows how we sometimes re-brand the homophobia we grow up with to tear each other down.

Schulman also addresses the same-sex marriage movement, criticizing the approach on several grounds. One, she says it is a "desperate desire for relationship recognition" but that: "Gay marriage does not so much protect the couple from the state as it protects the couple from each other. … It is a third-party acknowledgment and recognition that people who have shared love have basic responsibilities toward each other." A second motive, she says, is to "force the state to legitimate the emotional life of the gay person as a balance to the deprivation of recognition created by the family."

The shunning from family is part of the reason the gay subculture was created to begin with—people created new families of choice. Schulman writes that some people chose this subculture "in order to minimize contact with the official culture and its people. … Others of us have tried to transform [ the mainstream ] and failed. We've gone head-to-head with the glass ceilings … we are then forced back into the subculture simply because they won't let us into the big world." If you sense a very personal connection to this for Schulman, you are correct, as the book includes a lot about Schulman's own feelings of shunning of her professional work because she is a lesbian.

Schulman takes a closer look at how lesbians are often excluded from mainstream culture, and how lesbian works also often shunned by gay men in positions of power within the entertainment world. "What are the stakes in this?" she asks. "Why is having authentic lesbian content excluded from mainstream representation reinforcing the shunning and oppression in gay people's daily lives? The key answer is POWER. Truthful lesbian representations teach straight people, through some trickle down theory, to be kinder to gay people. But it's not just that. With lesbian representations, lesbians can see truthful depictions of themselves and thereby realize that they are human."

This more personal take on this topic is an important contribution to our understanding of homophobia and its costs. I would recommend this not just for activists, but also for therapists and those dealing with family dynamics—families of all kinds. What we need is a paradigm shift, one that does not set up heterosexuality as the "norm" and everything else as "other." Once the status quo shifts within families, and all diversity is welcome, only then can all LGBTs grow up to feel fully part of society. It is a change that will take decades to have an impact, but it needs to start with the current generation, and it needs to start at home.


facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Banned Books Week on Sept. 22-28 2019-09-02
MOMBIAN Pushing for inclusivity in children's books, one publisher shows how 2019-08-21
Artemis Singers to join Women & Children First Bookstore Block Party 2019-08-05
NATIONAL Court briefs, flag burned, Amazon books removed 2019-07-10
BOOKS Tan about town, 'Queer Eye' guru pens new memoir 2019-06-26
BOOKS 'In the City' author talks storytelling, Stonewall 2019-06-26
BOOKS Assisted-reproduction book's author hopes to help LGBTQ parents 2019-06-26
BOOKS ON STONEWALL Indecent Advances, The Stonewall Riots, Out in Time 2019-06-18
MOMBIAN Trans/gender-creative children star in new picture books 2019-05-26
Queer actor plays gay character in teen comedy 'Booksmart' 2019-05-23
Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein graduate to a new level in Booksmart 2019-05-22
Chelsea Clinton among authors at Women & Children First Bookstore in May 2019-04-30
BOOKS Inclusive anthology 'Halal' launches at Poetry Foundation 2019-04-24
BOOKS Chris Rush looks back on 1970s adolescence in debut memoir 2019-04-20
BOOKS Inclusive anthology 'Halal' launches at Poetry Foundation 2019-04-14
BOOKS Queer scholar profiles Chicago house music 2019-04-10
House passes bill requiring LGBT content in state-funded textbooks 2019-03-27
BOOKS Trans author talks 'layered identity' in new memoir 2019-03-27
BOOKS Chicago author talks space opera, queer representation 2019-03-09
BOOKS Kimberly Dark's 'Daddies' issues 2019-03-08
BOOKS Sissy Pride, Talking With Gender Activist and Author Jacob Tobia 2019-03-07
Women & Children First March events include noted authors 2019-03-06
BOOKS Chicago writer explores feminist accountability 2019-01-30
Women & Children First bookstore events include Shout Your Abortion 2019-01-09
Gay couple talk relationship, new Oak Park bookstore 2019-01-09
Best books of 2018 2019-01-08
BOOKS Thom Bierdz talks about sex, and a lot more, In 'Young, Gay & Restless' 2018-12-11
Women & Children First Books plans holiday season events 2018-12-04
Feminism meets coffee-table books in 'HERstory,' 'Revolution' 2018-11-28
BOOKS Some of Chicago's LGBTQ-friendly book clubs 2018-11-07
MOMBIAN Children's and YA books on LGBTQ history 2018-10-31
Chelsea Clinton signs hundreds of new kids' books at W&CF 2018-10-22
Intersectional feminism meets coffee table books in 'HERstory,' 'Revolution' 2018-10-16
Women & Children First Bookstore hosts Chelsea Clinton, Jill Soloway, Sarah Schulman 2018-09-25
Book by trans activist Precious Brady-Davis acquired by TOPPLE books, Amazon publishing 2018-08-06
Women & Children First Books sets August and fall events 2018-07-30
BOOKS 45 years ago, talking UpStairs tragedy with Robert W. Fieseler 2018-07-18
BOOKS Thomas Garguilo talks 'Stonewall Revival,' partner 2018-07-03
BOOKS Jim Elledge spills 'Fairy Town' secrets at Unabridged 2018-06-27
BOOKS Roxane Gay talks sexual violence, writing advice in Chicago visit 2018-06-24
 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Submit an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.