Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners

Petrow, Steven. Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners: The Definitive Guide to LGBT Life. Uncorrected proofs. New York: Workman Publishing, 2011. Paperback. 395pp. $17.95. ISBN: 978-0-7611-5670-3.

This comprehensive guide to LGBTQ manners covers it all, from first dates to public sex to coming out on Facebook. Petrow’s acceptance of such practices as bathhouse sex and online hookups – subjects not usually discussed in etiquette guides – mean that he’s not judgmental. Topics like how to get out of a boring conversation at a club prove that the author understands what etiquette really means, and it’s not whether the water glass goes on the left or the right. It’s about treating people with kindness and respect.

The guide is up-to-the-moment without forgetting the past; a page on internet dildo purchases sits next to a decryption of the old-school hankie codes. This balanced look at the queer community continues throughout the book. Petrow realizes that the queer population has its own set of rules, but also that we have straight friends and family; in the helpful Q&A sidebars, for example, he puts a gay twist on some questions that otherwise apply just as well in the straight world (“I lent my friend money for his business but he spent it on a gay cruise”), while some are specific to queers (“My friends want to set me up with all the gay guys they know just because they’re gay”).

It’s refreshing to read dating advice that doesn’t assume the partners are of different genders. The section on blind dates, for example, uses same-sex couples throughout its coverage, offering much of the same information that would be addressed in a conventional etiquette or dating book ― safety first, what to do if you want to end the date early, etc.

A book that focused only on the gay aspects of dating or etiquette would be incomplete; some of the human experience is, after all, universal. It’s better to have the info. all in one place than to have to purchase a “regular” etiquette book along with a supplemental gay one – how othering!

There is nothing out there like this book. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.


Reviewed by, Daisy Porter
Manager of KACY (King Access, Children’s, and Youth)
San José Public Library


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