Jun 16 2014

The Tolerance Trap – Part 1

Texas Governor Rick Perry, speaking in San Francisco last week likened being gay to being an alcoholic. He said, “Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle … you have the ability to decide not to do that.” He added, “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.” His controversial remarks come on the heels of the Texas Republican Party expressing its support for so-called “reparative therapy” for homosexuality – a discredited counseling treatment to “cure” people of their homosexuality.

The progressive response to the idea that homosexuality is simply a choice is the assertion that people who are gay are simply born that way, perhaps they have a gene that makes them prefer people of their own sex, or in religious terms, “God made them that way.”

Northeastern University Sociology Professor Suzanna Walters has a problem with this approach. She maintains that using the “born-this-way” approach to gay liberation reduces the LGBT movement to one that will be happy with “tolerance” or “acceptance” by mainstream American society. But is tolerance something worth fighting for? In asking to be tolerated, aren’t gay rights advocates simply asking society to tolerate the LGBT community like one tolerates anything that is uncomfortable or undesirable?

In her ground breaking book, The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions Are Sabotaging Gay Equality, Suzanna Walters demands liberation over acceptance and warns against declaring victory for gay rights too soon. Analyzing pop culture’s depictions of gay characters, the marriage equality movement, scientific research into homosexuality, and religious approaches, she makes the case that nothing less than full equality and a societal transformation is worth fighting for.

GUEST: Suzanna Walters, Professor of Sociology and Director of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, author of All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America. Her latest book is The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions Are Sabotaging Gay Equality

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