A Place at the Table by Bruce Bawer

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The book ‘A Place at the Table’ tackles the sensitive issue on being gay. It focuses on that particular marginalized sector of the society comprised of the gay community.  The main message that the author Bruce Bawer wants to get across is that the centrist philosophy particularly in how gays conduct themselves is the best way.  There is no need for gay people to go to extremes to show that they are different.

The conservatives and the activist, eccentric gay people are responsible for the misconception in gay people. The gay community however is more than stereotypes. Each of us, even the mainstream Americans, experience being stereotyped into something like the rich, spoiled brat or the black Americans. The gay community is not spared from this negative stereotyping. 

Bawer believes that the stereotypes of flamboyant homosexuals give the gay community a negative image.  This is the result of right-wing propaganda and the highly noticeable presence of the “radical gay activists”.  Bawer is a proponent of the “silent majority of gays or the mainstream gays” that does not use radical means to attain community acceptance.  

Mainstream gays are clear of the responsibility of the negative impression and stereotyping brought about “subculture-oriented gays,” which includes Donna Minkowitz, Paul Monette, Edmund White, members of ACTUP, and those who participated in Gay Pride parades.

According to Bawer, each person comprising the gay is just like any mainstream American individual.  Gay people want the very things an ordinary individual wants: security, good careers, love, commitment, family and other things.  The gay community, however, pursues these needs in the wrong way.  That is why they incur these negative perceptions. 

A Place at the Table revolves around this main theme : the gay stereotypes need not define gay culture.  It is not unusual for straight people to fear gays because of they don’t know exactly how to deal with them. Their limited ideas and interaction with gays brought about by these stereotypes prevent them to have a meaningful relationship with the third sex.  A number of gays also fear coming out of the closet because of those same stereotypes.

Bawer wants to explain to a straight person that most gays are no different to straight men and women. They have the same needs and wants. Most gays aren’t out to “destroy the family” as what most straight people perceived them to be.

Bawer’s message to gay people is  two-fold: first, the best thing gay people can do under the circumstances is simply be themselves.  Second, don’t let others tell you what to do or how you should act. He says, “Too many gays come out of the closet just to be pushed into another.”

Bawer believes that there is so much “group think” among gays, when all that matters is not the collective efforts but the individual struggles. Or, the gay individuals who are fully adjusted into society not living a different kind of life but one who truly finds a place at the table…the feast of life.

The book in a way delves into gay oppression and how their attitudes or their actions encourage this oppression or negative stereotyping of society on them. Readers whether gay or not are best helped by the book through its proposal of the centrist way. The best way is taking the middle way not the extreme conservatives or the radical gays.

The book enables the reader to have a sensible social and political attitude towards homosexuality.  Bawer refuses to embrace socialism, and its destruction of individual freedom. After all, individual rights are of utmost importance. When individual rights are respected, there is no need for one group of radicals to fight for collective “rights”.

The book helps readers to realize that there is nothing wrong with diversity. That whether one is gay or straight is irrelevant. We all need to respect each other because in reality we are all striving to achieve the same dream – happiness, security, respect and dignity. Also, taking the middle way is the best way to enjoy a full life whether straight or gay. Espousing the extreme views only alienate us from society which we so desperately want to integrate in.   Once acceptance is achieved, we can all truly share a place at the table of life.


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