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Book Review: The Trouble with Normal

Book Review on American English Professor Michael Warner's book "The Trouble with Normal". This post was written by RBP team member line of flight from Sampaloc Toc.


Michael Warner is a professor of English at Rutgers University. He is one of the founding thinkers in "queer theory" starting with his edited book Fear of a Queer Planet. When first published, The Trouble with Normal was seen as a response to Andrew Sullivan's book Virtually Normal and the move in sexual minority and dissident communities towards a stable LGBT identity community and same-sex marriage as the ultimate goal of such a community.

Until the 1990s, the U.S. did not have a clear and stable notion of an LGBT community -- there were transgender communities, gay communities, lesbian communities and some overlap. This is still true about a global LGBT community. This unifying of different groups of people into an LGBT community produced a unified political agenda. For Warner, this political agenda was same-sex marriage.

Warner identifies himself with the cause of sexual dissidents and analyzes what he considers to be anti-democratic and in-grouping same-sex marriage does to the notion of public space, the revolutionary potential of sex, and how such a political agenda re-creates the same problems of marginalization that occurs to what we now know as the LGBT movement. He shows how public discourse over public sex was transformed by the emergence of claims for same-sex marriage. Traditional gay and lesbian spaces where sexual difference and experience once existed were being removed under the same philosophy that supported same-sex marriage.

His main point is that a political programme that positions itself to align sexual minorities to be a version of "normal" ends up requiring that those that cannot be normalized are thrown out of the community. The book was written ten years ago and quite a few things have changed but his argument regarding the political programme of recognition as normal coming at a price remains true.

Subsequent work by authors like Jasbir Puar in Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times have shown that after September 11, 2001, LGBT claims in the U.S. for same-sex marriage has become intimately linked to new forms of marginalizing and excluding male Muslim bodies from public discourse and space.

The version I read was a 227 page paperback published by Harvard University Press (November 1, 1999), ISBN-13: 978-0674004412. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was at abebooks.

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