Tactical unions : Andrew Sullivan's battle for same-sex marriage in time and space
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This manuscript explores how textual forms shaped by the components of time and space serve in the rhetorical containment of homosexuality in popular American debate. Containment here refers to the ways that configurations of time and space work in arguments to conceal facets of homosexual existence that might prove disruptive to an entrenched, singular, and stereotypical view of homosexuality. Contained images of homosexuality in the call for same-sex marriage, especially in Andrew Sullivan’s Virtually Normal, conflict with more open representations of homosexual life. Sullivan aims for a singular, idealistic identity for homosexuals in the public sphere that is inseparable from that of heterosexuals since he views marriage as transcendent, temporal reality based in pure rationality for the sake of human advancement. This temporal view ignores the everyday lives of homosexuals, who, in a larger space of association, encounter people, both homosexual and heterosexual, in a variety of ways, in a realm where the line between public and private may be indistinct. In response, spatial mappings of the three-dimensional terrain of mundane life, re-infused with the dimension of time, are suggested as ways to recognize homosexual associations not included in a transcendent view of marriage. Maps of this terrain provide a way of thinking about individuals separately as the subjects of experience and desire, the bearers of identity, and the agents of social and political action. A dimensional reckoning of containment therefore helps resolve the argumentative impasse between Sullivan and his interlocutors since it takes the notion of the unitary individual as the focus of, rather than the premise for, investigation. Furthermore, a new reckoning suggests how coordinates may recombine to open ways for alternate conceptions of both homosexuality and homosexual association. For example, the flâneur “strolls” along urban streets, and the cruiser maneuvers down alleyways. Also, serial relationships are associations that form, dissolve, and re-form over time, according to personal, social, or political needs, and parallel relationships are simultaneous serial relationships. Finally, this containment might be considered part of a newly defined, larger rhetorical process of homotropology, or the “bending” of representation to contain homosexuality in other contexts.