Page 8, 5th December 1997

5th December 1997
Page 8
Page 8, 5th December 1997 — Almost Gospel?
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Almost Gospel?

Gay Male Christian Couples: Life Stories by Andrew Yip, Praeger, £32

IN HIS DISCUSSION WITH sixty-eight self identified gay male Christian couples on the issue of polygamy, Andrew Yip was told by some of his interviewees that Christianity has said nothing against polygamy and that it is "almost Gospel" to "go to bed and wanting to have fun and enjoy each other". Yip, a supposedly objective social scientist, concluded that although these men have rejected "conventional Christian sexual ethics", they still adhere to "values broadly based on Christian principles".

Yip seems to believe that this kind of skewed argument will fight against bigotry. When he started his research, he vowed to educate people who know little about gay partnerships but are prepared to listen. His colleagues dismissed his study as invalid and he, in return, accused them of being homophobic. He argued that "to learn is to be humbled" and that few people are capable of dealing with their own prejudice. Ironically, however, he has committed the same fatal mistake.

By confining his research to a small group of couples without cross-examining other sources, Yip fails to reveal why the gay community is accused of being antiChristian or why gay people are seen as incapable of having a relationship in a religious context. By adamantly defending lifestyles that conflict with Christian doctrines, his book comes across as little more than a failed public relations exercise, trying to win for the gay community the approval that the church is reluctant to give.

Yip's work is hardly as provocative as Larry Kramer's Faggots or as extensive as Foucault's writings on sexuality, ethics and culture. What is unique about it is that it approaches the subject from a social anthropologist's point of view. Unlike novelists, who have the liberty to dramatize their observations, or

social philosophers, who have the duty to provoke, Yip's challenge is to) examine methodologically how gay men handle thir sexuality, partnership mind religion differently &cam their counterparts in soc iety and how this unique combination gay, male, Christian affects their partne rship.

Unfortunately, with the exception of the chapter on spirituality and sexuality, Yip fails to show how his interviewees' religio us belief affects their relationships. Nor does he discuss how gay men function differently from lesbians in a partnership. Admittedly, le states at the beginning t hat gay women couples watt-rant a separate study. But Ile could at least have discussed with his interviewees sotrie of the issues that may be unique to men.

Yip needs to look beyond "the beauty of sirrt plicity" he mentions in his dedication of the book to his mother if he wants Ito make a significant contrib. ution to the battle against bigotry.

ERIC TANC3




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