Edmund White: I Think Gay Marriage Is a Radical Issue

Edmund White, who recently published a memoir of NYC life in the 1970s, gives an interview to Salon on a variety of topics, one of which is same-sex marriage. Says White, when asked of this generation's pursuit of gay marriage:

White "I believe in promiscuity. But you know people are a lot more complicated than they appear to be. I mean, right now I'm in a relationship where I am faithful because my partner wants me to be, and I respect him enough -- and it lowers the level of anxiety in our relationship. He's also extraordinarily hot...In the past, when gays were very flamboyant as drag queens or as leather queens or whatever, that just amused people. And most of the people that come and watch the gay Halloween parade, where all those excesses are on display, those are straight families, and they think it's funny. But what people don't think is so funny is when two middle-aged lawyers who are married to each other move in next door to you and your wife and they have adopted a Korean girl and they want to send her to school with your children and they want to socialize with you and share a drink over the backyard fence. That creeps people out, especially Christians. So, I don't think gay marriage is a conservative issue. I think it's a radical issue."

Watch portions of the interview, AFTER THE JUMP...

And read the entire interview here.

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  1. Based on this video, for a man on the cusp of 70, I think Edmund White appears very much in touch. To follow on your headline and focus, I think he is indirectly pointing to a great question and schism in gay culture: Is marriage conformism?

    Point being, it's not a contest. Be gay and fabulous and let your freak flag fly, or be gay and fabulous and monogamous and committed by law. We should be able to have it both ways, and so should straight people.

    An' it harm none, do what thou wilt...

    Posted by: Feral | Oct 15, 2009 4:36:17 PM

  2. You know what else creeps people out? Listening to old fat men talk about being faithful to their "incredibly hot" bfs.

    This guy needs to realize that it's not the '70s anymore. It's almost 2010. Marriage for gay couples is not a radical issue, its a HUMAN RIGHTS issue, as much today as it was back during his City Boy days.

    And way to generalize about Christians; I'm sure that's not going to alienate any gay rights supporters out their.

    Posted by: Rob | Oct 15, 2009 4:39:11 PM

  3. He has a hot boyfriend? I mean, c'mon...

    Posted by: Snottyboy | Oct 15, 2009 4:42:06 PM

  4. Because "fat" people can't have opinions, or be sexually satisfied enough with their partners to be monogamous.

    And you criticize HIM for generalizing? Rich.

    Posted by: Feral | Oct 15, 2009 4:51:11 PM

  5. It's difficult to classify the marriage fight as being radical or conservative; at its heart its about a transition to a more conservative expectation for gays.

    I'd agree that religious conservatives are more inherently disturbed by the 'two middle-aged lawyers' scenario than by the pride parades. From their perspective, gays in that scenario are insidious and presumptuous, trying to cast themselves as normal. It's much easier to casually denounce the superficial or the flamboyant.

    It's not substantially different from when upper-class whites were denouncing Obama for being 'elitist', when they really wanted to say 'uppity'. Their outrage partly centered on Obama going beyond the precepts of his race.

    Posted by: Zach | Oct 15, 2009 4:56:34 PM

  6. Honestly, I'll be glad when this generation of fag dies out. Its an embarrassment to myself and everyone in my age group who are proud to be queer and have some self respect. Im so sick of these old queens going on about how they believe being gay means whoring yourself around and just defining yourself based on who you have f*cked anonymously. Truly pathetic.

    Posted by: John | Oct 15, 2009 5:08:42 PM

  7. Edmund White is incredibly smart and a brilliant writer. But I do think that some of his views on gay marriage are definitely (and understandably) colored by his age and experience.

    He came of age in a time and place when being openly gay and actively sexual was indeed a deliberate, radical act. Just living a gay life without fear or shame was making a very public political and social statement.

    So, I completely understand that White doesn't necessarily feel that gay marriage and gay relationships have become (at least in parts of the country) a rather regular part of the fabric of today's society.

    Posted by: D.B.. | Oct 15, 2009 5:11:07 PM

  8. This from the man who said during Stonewall, "guys, sit down."

    Edmund White is one of the best fiction writers and memoirists on the planet, but politically he has always been off.

    Posted by: FRH | Oct 15, 2009 5:15:19 PM

  9. And one more thing -- enough with the trash talk (I'm looking at you, John). You may not agree with his views, but Edmund White is more accomplished that most of us will ever be. Younger gays could learn a lot from his life, work, and experiences.

    Posted by: D.B.. | Oct 15, 2009 5:15:36 PM

  10. DB

    From his work perhaps. From his views? Nothing. All I can see from the above statement is a very sick individual with no self worth. Im not excited about being part of the "Fabric of America," but at 32 I do have a desire to show kids coming out in their teens that they are more than a sex object. The idea of gay being defined by sex outwardly is limiting and damaging.

    Posted by: John | Oct 15, 2009 5:20:50 PM

  11. tricks, one night stands, and fuck budies is cool when in your 20's.....and easily understood since many gays do not get to experience the whole dating, fooling around, etc thing in high school (the newer generation is totaly different) = delayed adolescence

    BUT 30 on.....you are just an imature child who hasn't learned to grow up and out of your self absorbed emotional bublle to make a truly intimate connection with 1 and only 1 person

    monogamy is radical for many straights now a days

    The question though from a biological perspective is where does humanity fall on the spectrum amongst other animal groups

    the totaly monogamous like coyotes, beavers, ravens, wolves, jackels, foxes, some bats, dwarf deer, antelopes, gibbons (primate/monkey).....the monogamous while partner is alive like swans , parrots etc who will take another mate about 1 year after the death of their previously monogamous mate.............or the other extreme of totaly f anything and everything with a hole whether even the opposite sex like fruit flys some snakes, etc

    Interestingly GIBBONS are the only mongamous primate and will remain celibate after the death of a mate..........on the other end of the spectrum for primates= bonobos have 24/7 bisexual orgies

    where does humanity fall on the spectrum amongst primates specificaly and all other animals in general

    But think about this.....do you really like the idea that some bats and some birds mate for life with only 1 partner and will never take another partner after the mate dies where as you are a whore? Is not humanity supposed to be of a higher order of animal as compared to bats and some birds? Or are some bats and birds of better quality than many humans

    Posted by: jimmyboyo | Oct 15, 2009 5:41:37 PM

  12. Cut the "generation gap" BS. This man is your gay brother---no matter how old you are. His views may be a bit different than yours, but he's been fighting this fight longer than most of us have been alive.

    And his comment that gay marriage is a radical act should be encouragement to you. Go out there and be radical! ...or not if you wish.

    Remember: We are all in this struggle together!

    Posted by: Tom | Oct 15, 2009 6:10:21 PM

  13. When I first met Ed he was still clinging to the closet door.

    Taking on Gore Vidal is a mistake. Gore's got a surface-to-air rocket-launcher.

    Ed has a slingshot.

    This all has the makings of a great fun literary feud.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 15, 2009 6:20:01 PM

  14. i think he's very astute in his observation of how, as gays, we're perceived by straights. he's basically saying that leather daddies & drag queens put us into the role of court jester, something to entertain them. once we start getting married and, by turns, becoming more similar to the straights, it makes them nervous.

    that is what he means by marriage being a radical idea. we're suddenly not just objects of amusment any longer but have become real.

    Posted by: alguien | Oct 15, 2009 6:57:49 PM

  15. David Ehrenstein

    So I had to click on the link and read the whole article because you mentioned Gore Vidal.

    Hmmmmmmmmm Honestly I have never ever heard of this whorish old fart before letalone any 1 of his works.

    Gore Vidal on the other hand.............LOVE Vidal with JULIAN being one of my fave books of all time (psssst the xtians are the bad guys)

    Yeah, the makings of an interesting literary feud if I had ever heard of this guy before.

    Gore Vidal, hands down winner

    Posted by: jimmyboyo | Oct 15, 2009 7:09:14 PM

  16. I think Ed's definitely on to something. I think its often easier for straight people to dismiss the radical-looking-and-acting gay person. I used to have a colleague who was far to my left, and he did some wonderful work. At the same time, he was often dismissed as just wacky because he was radical and obviously gay.

    Some of my colleagues are no doubt more threatened by me and another colleague who is less obviously radical because we can be stealth queers. We haven't hidden that we're gay at all, and we've gotten into the establishment of my small liberal arts college that used to be very conservative and now we can change things or express opinions from within.

    David: I disagree re Gore. Of course he's a born aristocrat and can afford to say and do whatever he pleases, but White's arguments (and books) are much more persuasive. But the feud is fun, you're right there!

    Some of you obviously need to do some reading. White is brilliant, possibly our best living writer, even if he hasn't won a Pulitzer.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Oct 15, 2009 7:25:44 PM

  17. I respect his point of view, only to the point of "context". Many men of the age or decade of sexual opulance used to feel that they could have their cake and eat it too. If one wasn't allowed to "settle down" and get married then why not "live it up". ( I know, I'm speaking from experience). But now, since marriage is getting to be a more realistic goal or in ones "legalistic" grasp, it's importance becomes more significant. Most in society, see marriage as a positive goal to family building not radical or conservative.

    Posted by: Jones-munoz | Oct 15, 2009 11:32:24 PM

  18. @Jimmyboyo

    You're assuming that monogamy is somehow morally and/or naturally superior.

    That's speaking strictly of sexual relations. I think actual emotional empathy and close relationships transcend sexual relations and aren't necessarily related at all.

    I think its a falsehood to say, "you sleep with lots of people; therefore you are a whore and cannot truly love someone." That last part is usually what is implied by calling someone a whore, but is wholly untrue.

    Posted by: Jeremy | Oct 15, 2009 11:42:39 PM

  19. Heterosexuals want you to be silly, docile and subservient. Edmund White gets that and is 100% right about his comments on marriage of gay couples.

    Gay people have been writing about heterosexuals for a long time. Gay people are INSIDERS to heterosexuality and heterosexual culture because we are surrounded by it from day one. It's familiar to us. That isn't the case for heterosexuals. Heterosexuals are outsiders with prejudices to homosexuality. It's like being in a pool; you represent gay people and the water represents heterosexuals. The water is outside of you and you are inside water.

    Posted by: Bill | Oct 16, 2009 12:02:19 AM

  20. That's because Edmund White is a "privileged white male" that has never experienced discrimination. Any visible minorities can tell you that those feelings of exclusion will start when you move into the "white" neighborhood. It is the same thing.

    It is discrimination in a different format.

    Edmund White should shut up.

    Posted by: Landis | Oct 16, 2009 12:24:49 AM

  21. @ KEVINVT,

    What you and Edmund White say is true. Homophobes hate 'stealth queers'. They were happy when gay meant Drag Queen, Femme & Flamming, or Leather Daddy. They could point fingers and laugh at the silly freak. But when we started being 'normal', when we started behaving just like them, they lost their freakin' minds. Seriously, when did the Jeebus-Nuts start mobilizing their congregations to go out and actively discriminate and gay bash us? When we started getting uppity and demanded out rights, that's when! It was when we started demanding that we not be treated like freaks and outsiders. It was when we demanded integration instead of being herded into gay ghettos. That's when they lost their fucking shit. 'Normal' gays are their worst nightmare come true. They love mocking limp-wristed poofs, but gay men and women who are *just* like them, 'normal', make them *very* angry. How dare we trick them? How dare we not live up to their caricatures and stereotypes? How dare we change the status quo and take power from them? How dare we demand our relationships are equal to theirs and deserving of respect?

    Wasn't that Sandra Bradley riled up about? “I can’t believe this wedding. It’s 2 men. They don’t smile in a lot of pictures and they look like a few brothers I’ve seen in the streets looking STRAGHT...." She was pissed that gays were being normal and straight looking and not being the stereotype of what a gay man should be. She was also rather jealous of what the two gentlemen had with each other and she COULDN'T get.

    To a homophobe the idea we are equal and deserving of respect is pretty damn radical. I think that's the point Mr. White was trying to make.

    Posted by: Wheezy | Oct 16, 2009 12:49:37 AM

  22. If the boyfriend is hot....Believe me Old Dad is paying his way. That HOT one has free room and board just stand there look beautiful and suck my oscar mayer weiner and I'll love you ENDLESSLY!


    Posted by: Mr Chris | Oct 16, 2009 12:51:39 AM

  23. More tired racial babble from Landis et al.

    Edmund White might have had a bigger career had he not come out. He points that out in his latest book. Yes, he has faced discrimination.

    Posted by: Bill | Oct 16, 2009 12:52:23 AM

  24. Edmond, you are a twit

    Posted by: ty | Oct 16, 2009 1:14:28 AM

  25. Most all of the comments here are freaking me out...

    I've never been a fan of Edmund White, just cause I read a book of his when I was a kid and it bored the shit out of me. I sort of like what he's saying here. The part that's missing, though, is the part that gay people should not be expected to let politics dictate how they want to live their lives... or how they 'appear' to straight dominant society.

    I think true gay liberation comes when gay people have the freedom to not be so fucking self conscious about about every life choice they make. When they don't have to justify moving to the suburbs cause it's 'radical' or 'normal' . Or they don't have to make excuses for having however much sex they deem they want, cause someone might judge them as having an identity solely based on sex.

    When gay people get to that place where their mind is free from these kind of judgements, and they just make their lives into whatever the hell they want, then we will have true progress.

    Posted by: C.SINGS | Oct 16, 2009 1:38:13 AM

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