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Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences
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Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  192 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Although acceptance of difference is on the rise in America, it’s the rare gay or lesbian person who has not been demeaned because of his or her sexual orientation, and this experience usually starts at home, among family members.

Whether they are excluded from family love and approval, expected to accept second-class status for life, ignored by mainstream arts and entertai
Hardcover, 171 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by The New Press (first published September 15th 2009)
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3.85  · 
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 ·  192 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Sarah Hunter
Feb 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book. As a lesbian with a complicated relationship to my own often homophobic family, I was hoping that this would be a book with actual sociological research backed up by facts about familial homophobia, it's causes and effects. Instead, this book is about 170 pages of anecdotal psychoanalysis about the author's own confusing relationship to her family, therapists, and the publishing world. I found many of her generalizations overblown and flat out false. I took muc ...more
Larry-bob Roberts
Aug 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer
This book is a totally vital read. Sarah Schulman's insights are so penetrating you will find yourself reevaluating your whole life in the light of it.

I do wonder since she points out that homophobia is not actually fear, rather it's a pleasure system, that perhaps it might be more accurate to talk about it as heterosexual supremacy rather than as homophobia, but I guess the term is more familiar and easier to use.

It would be great if therapists would read this book and incorporate its ideas int
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
This whole book is simultaneously so personal and so vague that, while it presented ideas in new ways and made me think (even while frustrating me entirely), I was ultimately left dissatisfied. Part of that is because I expected something different than I got, but part of it is just judging on what was really there. I wanted to like this, but after a while it got to be so frustrating that I decided to start taking notes for my eventual Goodreads review as I went. So what follows will probably be ...more
Ryan Fogarty
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I could not have read this book at a more vital time. With all that happened over the weekend in Charlottesville and our President supporting it again yesterday, Schulman's words helped, not just on a micro-LGBTQ level, but so many of her thoughts and questions about shaking up systems of hatred and standing up for yourself and your community pulsed off the page and even calmed me - even when some might expect to find something more diverting - it was helpful for me to look. Recommend to all!
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: othernonfiction
This book articulated a lot of things I'd felt or thought intuitively, about how homophobia begins at home, as it were. A lot of the book can come across as angry, or even sour grapes and bitterness about the author's own experience; but you'd have a hard time showing that her anger is unjustified, or that the experiences she recounts don't have a basis in truth and are not prevalent in the world.

The basic idea she puts forth is a reminder that gays and lesbians are unique in that we stand alon
Dec 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: actual-books
A solid book with compelling arguments, but I had two issues with it:

Schulman spends a lot of time talking about her own experiences which, while they do serve as examples of homophobia, made the book read more like an airing of her own personal grievances rather than the academic read it's billed as. This is not the main problem I had with this book, though. A lesbian talking about her own experiences in a book she wrote about things she experienced is not out of line; I just would have preferr
Rachel Brown
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent analysis of the harm caused by homophobia in the family, smoothly blending theory and heartfelt personal narrative.

I especially liked her point that when queer people are often advised to cut all ties with homophobic family members, it can send a message that they don't deserve to have a family, and that their family problems are more insurmountable than those of straight people with family problems, who are more often advised to work out a solution that will enable family ties to con
Definitely recommended to send to your parents!
C.E. G
Mar 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
1.5 stars. I should have known being thoroughly irritated by the author at the end of Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair that I probably shouldn't pick up another one of her books. But I was interested in the topic, so decided to ILL this one.

Once again, it's a book that is billed as queer theory, but then just ends up being the author airing her grievances and positing herself as the perennial victim of other people's "shunning." She label
Michael Dipietro
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ahh, Sarah Schulman...
Ideas/content: 4 stars
Writing: 3 stars

Schulman has really important ideas here, and quite a radical premise: that structures should be in place to allow intervention in the family that practices homophobia against one of its members. This is extended outward to address the dearth of authentic LGBTQ (specifically, lesbian) content in wider arts and culture, as well as the state's role in intervening on behalf of LGBTQ people. All of this should be read and discussed and imp
Zach Shultz
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the book I needed as a closeted and confused teenager!

Every sentence rang so true to the gay experience and gave me a new way to think about and articulate how homophobia and heteronormativity are simultaneously structural and personal. In other words, Schulman writes with powerful conviction to argue—clearly and convincingly—that the social exclusion of LGBT people codified into our laws and written into our cultural scripts starts in the family. The good news: family is also precisely
Sep 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
Very disappointing book from SS. "I'm gay, I'm a victim" is pretty much the entire tone. Loved the part on the bottom of p.33 where she says a gay, Asian boy born in 1983 owes his life to ACT-UP. (He doesn't.) This is just one of many examples where Schulman instantly goes from "academic discourse" to "bitchy queen" when confronted with an opinion different from her own.

This all leads to the overall problem with the book, in that Schulman oscillates from an all-inclusive "us" narrative, to a ve
Kristen Lauderdale
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was really good. Schulman explains things so clearly and convincingly that even familiar arguments seem extra powerful. While specific legal and societal changes over the past decade have dated some of her facts, this is definitely still worth a read and I would be interested in reading her other works.
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, lesbian, lgbt
I cried while reading this, so it was very powerful. It would have been very useful as a closeted teenager. (Some of her criticisms were grating, but I have that problem with some of her other work as well.) I tend to think that I'm fairly knowledgeable, but some of her insights were new to me and rang true.
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I objected to a few things throughout (no, straight actors playing gay characters is not the same as black face), but overall I found this to be a thoughtful, well-written, important collection of thoughts and essays. As a collection, it's a solid part of queer theory and lived experience and it was validating and helpful to read.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The weakest points of the book are the sections of personal experience. They still make sense, though, and are important to its overall messages and purposes. The actual framework and theory that Schulman develops is truly fantastic. I'll be thinking about this book for a very long time.
Greg Thorpe
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sarah Schulman has become one of my very favourite writers in the last few years. I have almost read all of her non-fiction now and this is a superb example of her insight, her clear and persuasive style, and the politics of accountability. Gay people will recognise the plethora of unjust and negligent familial experiences that we all settle for and normalise, and the book makes plain our own complicity in one another's relegation to second class family member, and by extension, citizen/subject. ...more
Ruth Sims
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
As one who was lucky enough not to know firsthand the heartbreak of rejection, shunning, sometimes outright hatred from family members, I found Ties That Bind to be a revelation. I know gay people, and have friends who are gay, and I have written about gay characters. So I flattered myself that I understood completely. Well, I didn't. I did--and do--up to a point and my empathy is complete, but understand? no. I not only don't understand how family members can turn against their own for somethin ...more
Feb 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: queer
Despite organizations like PFLAG, there is still a great deal of familial homophobia. It isn't just a personal problem; it's a larger cultural crisis. Familial homophobia can manifest in so many ways, from disowning homosexual members to excluding a partner from being a full participant in family life and not allowing a lesbian to babysit her nieces & nephews. Schulman emphasizes that mere tolerance by family members, like pathologized representations of gay characters in the media, is not p ...more
Aug 21, 2010 rated it liked it
I'm always impressed when I read something and think, 'hmm, I've never thought of it that way'. This author not only inspired that thought repeatedly but gave example after example to back up the points she made. She put into words some of the very personal thoughts, fears and hopes that I myself have had in life, and clarified my own life in a way that I've struggled to elucidate. There was some repetition that some readers might find annoying, but I interpreted most of that as a rhetorical met ...more
Moira Clunie
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer
everyone should read this. schulman lays out a clear, uncompromising position: the uneasiness around homosexuality in our culture doesn't happen because of an individual problem with gay people, but because of the social problem of homophobia, which is constructed and reinforced within families. discrimination within structures that are meant to be loving and protective is damaging in all kinds of ways. we all have a position in relation to this, and can choose whether we're part of the problem ...more
Ario D'Amato
Jul 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Being a gay man, I felt this book hit the nail on the head explaining homophobia within family relationships. Often throughout the book I felt like Schulman helped me find the words to explain what I have often felt being out in my family. It has exposed to me behaviors that I have used to accept my family's love without being fully accepted by them. This book also reaffirmed what I think is a problem within the LGBTQA community, in that lesbian relationships are overlooked in gay representation ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: queer, politics
Schulman makes trenchant, chilling points about how the lack of consequences for homophobic behavior within families of origin (1) enables the maintenance and creation of discriminatory public policy and (2) translates into lack of accountability within queer relationships. By the end, though, I found myself wishing she hadn't included as much of her own personal issues and history--I felt like the intense anger she justifiably feels towards her family took over the broader message and philosoph ...more
Joel Nichols
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Schulman's book is really a manifesto for personal and community action against ritualized cultural, social and familial homophobia. Not only does it lay out the consequences in bitter detail, as promised by the subtitle, it also investigates the structures of familial homophobia and shows how it fuels and strengthens cultural repression of gay people. Schulman's ideas here are brilliant and angry, and you should--at the least--make sure that every therapist you know reads this book.
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pop-psychology
This is, in fact, the second time I have read this book. It was and remains a landmark text. What's more, although Ties that Bind describes phenomena specific to the gay and lesbian experience, it also provides a map for similar dynamics: I initially read the book with a (straight) friend, who crowed afterward how its was far more useful than anything recommended by their therapist. A must read for straight and gay people alike.
Oct 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really got a lot from this book. It helped me like a really awesome supportive friend when I had to have a conversation with my family about coming out. Ties that Bind is an Intellectual and thoughtful look at familial homophobia in all dimensions and really breaking down why and how it happens. Shulman also outlines some new ideas to deal with homophobic families.
Mariah Sparks
Apr 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Cried on BART at 7am while reading about Sarah's friend dying of homophobic neglect(AIDS.) A vieja next to me asked me if I was ok. I said, "Homophobia sucks." through my weepy sniffle. No other words were exchanged between us the rest of the ride to the city.
Sarah Evan
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Simultaneously left me wanting more - depth around her family experience and breadth covering the gamut of different LBG familial experience - and feeling like I was exposed to a new lens from which to view homophobia in our society.
Oct 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: queer
had high hopes for this book, but it was truly awful. could barely get through it. this book reads like a bad blog entry. ooooof...

Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Buy, don't borrow, this book. There is a lot to savor here.
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Sarah Schulman is a longtime AIDS and queer activist, and a cofounder of the MIX Festival and the ACT UP Oral History Project. She is a playwright and the author of seventeen books, including the novels The Mere Future, Shimmer, Rat Bohemia, After Delores, and People in Trouble, as well as nonfiction works such as The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, My American History: ...more
“What is most difficult to face, but increasingly obvious as gay visibility provokes containment, but not equality, is that homophobes enjoy feeling superior, rely on the pleasure of enacting their superiority, and go out of their way to resist change that would deflate their sense of supremacy. Homophobia makes heterosexuals feel better about themselves. It's not fear - it's fun.

We know from photographs of happy picnicking white families laughing underneath the swinging body of a tortured, lynched black man, or giggly white U.S. soldiers leading naked Iraqis on leashes, or terrified humiliated Jews surrounded by laughing smiling Nazis that human beings love being cruel. They enjoy the power, and go far beyond social expectation to carry out the kind of cruelty that makes them feel bigger. In short, homophobia is not a phobia at all. It is a pleasure system.”
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