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. Radical? Please, Denmark has had gay marriages for 20 years now (yes since 1989). Priests can't perform the marriage but they can bless it. Why priests are able to marry straight people in the first place... well.

    It's not fucking radical - it's just the way it should be.

    Posted by: Morten | Oct 16, 2009 5:48:55 AM

  2. I agree with C.SINGS... the comments were freaking me out as well. I don't like it when gay people are so mean to each other. I guess i'm not a man so wtf am i doing here, but i love this blog! There's absolutely nothing wrong with people who dig nuclear family structures and committed relationships - go find each other and I hope y'all live happily after ever. I'm glad there are non-monogamous gays too. It may have become less popular to be this free because of aids, but someday it will be in vouge again (probably after the vaccine gets perfected) so don't hate on him cuz he's old. or because he's fat! maybe his hot bf likes his fat!

    My fav book on the topic of gay marriage is Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage by Nancy Polikoff. She describes disassociating legal benefits and rights from the contract of marriage. So for example platonic friends can share these benefits just like a family, if they so choose. This is what i wish we were fighting for because it supports all alternative families - not just gay ones.

    Posted by: Eve | Oct 16, 2009 7:24:02 AM

  3. He hit a few truths though.... while there are people against us who would like us completely wiped out, there are the other guys who have "gay friends," but just don't believe in gay marriage.

    These people are fine using us as a minstrel show, but we had better stay in the bars.

    This kinda hits home. I live in a small town, but we have a gay bar. All of their ads are targeted at straight people, so they arrive in droves. So, basically it becomes a straight bar with gay characters for amusement.

    I don't take offense to what White says... it is radical to some straight people that we would live a "normal" life. If we do that, we are no longer entertaining to the straights.

    Posted by: Nathan | Oct 16, 2009 7:40:25 AM

  4. Bill:

    "More tired racial babble from Landis et al."

    Bill. It is not racial babble. Judging from my last business trip to middle of Missouri, racism is still alive and well. You're not processing what I am saying at all.

    Posted by: Landis | Oct 16, 2009 10:35:27 AM

  5. Ed is certainly entitled to his opinion; I just don't think it carries much weight. In his autobiography of a few years ago, he talks about having been in psychoanalysis since the 50s, which doesn't say much for its curative aspects. Fine that he claims to be monogamous now (and whether he is or isn't, I don't care) but in that book he chronicles his penchant for hustlers, how he fell madly in love with one (while he, Ed, was in a relationship) and even borrowed money to buy that guy artwork. For me, an anecdote about him giving a blumpkin to a hustler he's fallen in love with isn't great writing. And he's confused because his colleagues at Princeton don't understand his heartbreak when the hustler dumps him, because there already was a Mr. Edmund White (his partner). No, Ed White is not one to be addressing, in a serious way anyway, gay marriage.

    Posted by: Scott | Oct 16, 2009 11:52:36 AM

  6. Scott, I had to look up the meaning of the word "blumpkin" and wish I hadn't.

    I've found some of White work compelling (Boys Own Story, The Beautiful Room is Empty), some of it maddening (Nocturnes for the King of Naples) and much of it indifferent (his short works). But I detect a pattern in his behavior that's very disturbing: he draws people of influence close to him, uses them for advancement, and then stabs him in the back. He did it to Susan Sontag, did it to Gore Vidal, and in his autobiographical novel, his character did it to a teacher. As much as I admire much of his work, I'd never want to go near this guy.

    As for his fued with Vidal, yes, it frankly bothers me that Vidal admires Timothy McVeigh. It more than bothers me, I think it's sick. But then, Vidal always looks at things in the abstract and is the kind of person who would easily overlook hundreds of deaths in the pursuit of an ideal. As for his writing, his essays are, to me, his best work. He succeeds in the area where White fails. Yet Vidal's historical novels fail as both fiction and history. The City and the Pillar is the only longer work of his that has many any impression on me.

    With both White and Vidal, we have a case of sweet water from a foul well.

    Posted by: Hank | Oct 16, 2009 12:31:22 PM

  7. I respect and admire Edmunds opinion. I think what comes out from this is how quickly we are to emotionally respond to his ideas. As someone once said to me years ago was that we are our own worst enemy. Enough of the crucifixition and lets all work to make change. After all isn't it a human rights issue? x

    Posted by: K. McGreal | Oct 16, 2009 8:43:45 PM

  8. The notion that White cannot opine intelligently about marriage because it may not be his preferred form of social pairing is ludicrous.

    Most of the comments here miss his point altogether. That gay marriage might be radical politically does not preclude it from being a human rights issue or the way things should be.

    As for never having heard of White's novels, that says more about the reader than White. An idividual's gaps in late-twentieth century literary culture don't say much about a particular writer's importance.

    Posted by: BCLance | Jan 29, 2010 2:05:25 PM

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