Ties That Bind Looks at Homophobia Within the FamilyTies That Bind

Reviewed by Buzz Haughton
Sarah Schulman is a much-published novelist and short-story writer. In her new book, Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences, she turns to her first piece of nonfiction, a discussion of the effects of homophobia from members of one’s biological family.

Schulman’s contention is that until homophobia is recognized as a destructive disorder in the same way that rape and domestic violence have come to be recognized in the past thirty years in American society, it will continue to wound gay men and lesbians and to lay waste to innocent lives. Schulman makes frequent use of the term “to shun,” which she defines as a turning away from the lesbian or gay man in everyday family life by refusing to acknowledge the LGBT’s partner or emotional life.

She draws an interesting parallel between LGBTs and disabled people, in that being gay or disabled often separates the affected person from her biological family, and that sometimes the worst forms of oppression of both categories of people originate from within their biological families.

Less convincing to me when reading Schulman’s book was her contention that “homophobia is fun.” While some extreme forms of familial hatred might afford some sort of perverted pleasure to a few, I remain unconvinced that it is a predominant factor in most forms of familial homophobia.

Ties That Bind, and 17 other items that Schulman has authored or contributed to, are available at the Lavender Library and online.

Buzz Haughton is a volunteer and board member of the Lavender Library, he can be reached at LavenderLibrary.com. The Library is located at 1414 21st Street across from Zelda’s Pizza. Their phone number is 916-492-0558.

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