February 1, 2024

How Not to Be Gay Book Review

Juno Dawson writes in a way that is both serious and funny, covers a ton of topics, and will give you a good grounding for all sorts of gay discussions. He’s also a Christian who believes that homosexuality is not a sin and that God loves all people (though he does call some things “sin” and rejects others).

This is an interesting book because it was written in the mid-1990s at a time when HIV/AIDS was in full bloom, and a lot of folks were still seeing sexual orientation as a mental illness. It was the first of its kind to be published, and it was quite controversial at the time.

It’s an erudite book that unpacks notions of gay male culture, asking why gay men continue to embrace stereotypes like frivolity, irony, superficiality, and inauthenticity – even after they’re no longer stigmatized as a reaction against hetero-normative society. He explains that gay cultural signifiers aren’t attached to individuals – they’re tactics and strategies imbricated in a much larger social field.

It’s a rich meditation that will spark heated debate and is sure to generate lots of seminar discussions. The one caveat is that Halperin writes primarily about American gay culture, which could be frustrating to readers outside America. He’s not afraid of controversy, but he’s also not interested in promoting an agenda – he’s just trying to get at some real questions about gay identity and culture. It’s a book that deserves a wider audience than it may receive in a climate more accepting of same-sex marriage but also deeply phobic and censorious of gay culture.


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