Covering

In a NYRB review of several new books on gay marriage, Edmund White reflects on the price paid by gays for the success of their efforts: “Why did mainstream America come to accept marriage equality? Gay leaders had made a convincing case that gay families were like straight families and should have the same rights. The American spirit of fair play had been invoked. Gays had converted many people to the belief that they constituted a minority—like Jews or African-Americans or Asians. It was a strange sort of minority, truth be told, to which one’s parents didn’t belong and which was made up mostly of members who could ‘pass.’ It was more an identity than a minority, an identity that one could assume at age six or sixty or never.”

He returns to this theme at the end of the essay: “On the last page of Redeeming the Dream, we are told that Americans are accepting ‘gays and lesbians . . . as normal, loving, decent members of our lives and our communities.’ I shouldn’t quibble, but as a gay man in his seventies I don’t quite recognize in that description most of the flamboyant, creative, edgy, promiscuous, deeply urban gays I have known. Kenji Yoshino, a law professor, wrote a book called Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights in which “covering” is seen as downplaying a discordant trait in order to blend into the mainstream. It seems to me that gays are in danger of ‘covering’ in order to obtain the permission to marry. Perhaps that’s a small enough price. I can’t decide.”

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