Okay, I confess, I bought this book because the title was a pun. I’m weak. I have no regrets.
In Straight Expectations, Julie Bindel looks at the development of gay rights* and how far we have (or have not) come as a society. One of her main points is that the movement has become de-politicised and that, instead of focusing on liberation, gay people are now simply trying to blend in, and fit in, with a heterosexual society and traditional gender roles.
Unapologetic and passionate, Bindel constructs a fascinating argument and, whilst I am not convinced by every point she makes, she has opened up my eyes to ways of thinking that I had not previously considered.
The first one of her arguments that I shall mention was her opinion that homosexuality is a choice. She argues that her lesbianism is not a “quirk of nature” but rather a positive, and feminist, choice. In some places she argued her point well. Such as when she discussed different studies that have addressed this issue, none of which have found definitive proof of a gay gene. In other areas, she fell short; she did not properly address the issue that, as being gay is a distressing and ofttimes dangerous and life-threatening, why would someone choose to be gay?
What I did like about her argument was that it shouldn’t matter if it is a choice or not. Imagine that someone did choose to be gay, would that mean that they do not deserve equal rights? Why should gay rights and liberation be a thing only if being gay is in your DNA and you cannot change it? I’d never considered this side before, but when Bindel discussed it so passionately it struck me as a point that needs stressing. Gay people do not deserve equal rights because we cannot change our sexualities, but because, as humans, we deserve the same rights as everyone else.
Another controversial issue that Bindel discussed were her views on “gay marriage”. She does not agree with gay marriage, but not, as bigots believe, because gay people should not be allowed to get married, but because she does not believe in the patriarchal institution of marriage at all. She argues that gay people are now getting married and having children, because they have been forced into mimicking the heterosexual lifestyle. She argues that heterosexual people have become more accepting of gay people, only if they echo traditional gender roles and do not subvert the heterosexual lifestyle. I said this book was controversial, didn’t I? Bindel would rather see a world in which marriage was abolished, rather than have it extended to include gay couples.
I am on the fence at the moment with this argument and have not yet formed any conclusive opinions, but again she raised an interesting point that is little talked about in this way. I very much liked how Bindel discussed how the fight for equal marriage has become the centrepiece of the current gay rights movement. It made me think about how most of the time when gay rights are discussed in the news and media, it is with gay marriage that they are concerned. Bindel points out that this takes the spotlight away from other extremely important issues. Heterosexual people are keen to believe that now that (in the UK, at least) gay marriage is legal that the fight is over and gay people are completely accepted in society. This is not the case; hatred and discrimination against gay people still occurs, despite “equal marriage”.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. Julie Bindel is impassioned throughout and that made the book extremely readable. Despite how unapologetic she was in her opinions, it did not feel preachy to me. It just made me think about this issue in a more complex way and she opened my mind up to different ways of thinking. That’s what I want a non-fiction book like this to do. I want it to involve me, I want it to broaden my mind, I want it to inform me, and I want it to be readable. This book was all of those things. She did not convince me on any one point, but I have come away from it thinking about things more intricately.
Plus I now own a book which has a pun as its title. Which is possibly still my favourite thing about it.
*Disclaimer: Throughout this book, Bindel does not address different sexualities and simply talks about “gay” people, presumably because she is a lesbian, so is speaking from her experiences. So in this review I am doing the same, because I’m talking about her book and her words. I don’t personally identify as a lesbian, but for the sake of this review I might end up referring to myself as gay because of how Bindel’s book was worded. Cool.