The Tolerance Trap

The Tolerance Trap

How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality


by Suzanna Danuta Walters

Published by: NYU Press

343 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in

  • Hardcover
  • ISBN: 9780814770573
  • Published: May 2014


  • Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781479811939
  • Published: June 2016



From Glee
to gay marriage, from lesbian senators to out gay Marines, we have undoubtedly
experienced a seismic shift in attitudes about gays in American politics and
culture. Our reigning national story is
that a new era of rainbow acceptance is at hand. But dig a bit deeper, and this
seemingly brave new gay world is disappointing. For all of the undeniable changes,
the plea for tolerance has sabotaged the full integration of gays into American
life. Same-sex marriage is unrecognized and unpopular in the vast majority of
states, hate crimes proliferate, and even in the much vaunted “gay friendly”
world of Hollywood and celebrity culture, precious few stars are openly gay.

In The
Tolerance Trap, Suzanna Walters
takes on received wisdom about gay identities and gay rights, arguing that we
are not “almost there,” but on the
contrary have settled for a watered-down goal of tolerance and acceptance
rather than a robust claim to full civil rights. After all, we tolerate unpleasant realities: medicine
with strong side effects, a long commute, an annoying relative. Drawing on a
vast array of sources and sharing her own personal journey, Walters shows how
the low bar of tolerance demeans rather than ennobles both gays and straights
alike. Her fascinating examination covers the gains in political inclusion and
the persistence of anti-gay laws, the easy-out sexual freedom of queer youth
and the suicides and murders of those in decidedly intolerant environments. She
challenges both “born that way” storylines that root civil rights in biology,
and “god made me that way” arguments that similarly situate sexuality as innate
and impervious to decisions we make to shape it. A sharp and provocative cultural critique, this
book deftly argues that a too-soon declaration of victory short-circuits full
equality and deprives us all of the transformative possibilities of full
integration. Tolerance is not the end
goal, but a dead end. In The Tolerance
Trap, Walters presents a complicated snapshot of a world-shifting moment in
American history—one that is both a wake-up call and a call to arms for anyone
seeking true equality.