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October 17th, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Huffer: The New Normal Not Good Enough


This week our featured book is Are the Lips a Grave? by Lynne Huffer. This whole week, we will share interesting articles related to the book and its author, Lynne Huffer.

In a piece for the Huffington Post, Huffer writes about the issues in promoting the grand image of marriage for everyone as a one-size-fits all solution, especially, for members of the LGBTQ community. She emphasizes on how the “abnormal” individuals who deviate from the classic image of being in love and in harmonious wedlock are ignored when the government provisions are only for those who are in blissful marital union with each other.

She begins with Obama’s 2012 Democratic National Convention speech where he endorses the idea that love transcends all barriers of race, gender and sexual orientation, in support of gay marriage.

To be a Democrat is to love. Barack’s love for Michelle is the personal expression of a larger political love that includes in its embrace not only all races and all religions but also gays and lesbians.

Huffer points out how our right to love eventually boils down to the topic of marriage and the biggest agenda from supporters of the LGBTQ community has been to vouch for equality in marriage. However, Huffer sheds light on how marriage equality alone cannot address issues as there needs to be a more comprehensive, political outlook on love and relationships across any criteria or background.

Ever since Obama’s declaration in May that “same-sex couples should be able to get married,” we’ve been basking in the warmth of that presidential affirmation. But same-sex marriage to the exclusion of other issues is a narrow vision of politics and an impoverished vision of love.

To that extent, Huffer cites a few examples of couples who may be left out in the debate to enforce marriage equality and the associated framework of laws that come with it. She states that they will be ignored because they do not fit the “normal” image projected of couples who are happily married.

How does marriage benefit two gay men in their 60s, both single all their lives, who decide to live together not as an expression of romantic love but to make ends meet? What about the single lesbian mother who finds herself homeless with her two children after escaping her lesbian partner’s domestic abuse? Or the F-to-M transgender teenager who tries to commit suicide by swallowing a bottle of pills after his parents kick him out because they cannot accept his inability to conform to gender norms? Is marriage going to save his life?

Huffer stresses the notion that marriage licenses granted by the state are important from a legal standpoint to enjoy tax benefits and other resources as a married couple but there are also many negatives towards having state-sanctioned marriage. These negatives, rarely addressed, ignore the “abnormals.”

In promoting the matrimonial ideal above all others, the marriage-equality movement produces new categories of discrimination, sanctifying “good” gays and lesbians and legitimizing some relationships at the expense of others. Those others — the new deviants, the new abnormals — have all but disappeared from our political landscape.

She is hesitant to pick a side on the issue of gay marriage because she feels that people need to look at all sides of the equation. Instead, she provides a more suitable question we all need to be asking ourselves.

The real question should be: How can individual Americans access the resources and benefits they deserve regardless of their relationship status? To squeeze society’s obligation to all its citizens into a box called “marriage” is discriminatory and unjust.

She also adds how she faces criticism from individuals who believe that marriage is a sufficient solution to provide for those invested in the marriage, such as the partners, their children, and their financial assets.

Huffer concludes by suggesting that the current view on marriage equality is not a holistic solution because it doesn’t help those who are “marginalized in our society. This means that we push for universal health care, advocate on behalf of homeless youth, and fight for economic policies that will give poor gays and lesbians a fighting chance.”


  1. Wake Forest University Press says:

    Huffer’s book certainly sounds thought provoking and culturally relevant. It’s easy to be swept up in the excitement of a White House administration that openly supports gay marriage and the strike down of DOMA that happened this summer, but this post makes us realize that there is certainly more to the issue than gay marriage alone. We’re glad that the other parties at stake will now, perhaps, not be overlooked.

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