My Lesbian Husband

Throughout her memoir My Lesbian Husband, published pre-marriage equality, Barrie Jean Borich questions tradition, from the traditional meanings of words she has to choose from to label her, Linnea and their relationship to the traditional idea of marriage itself. When Borich thinks of herself as ‘wife’ in the context of its traditional meaning, woman married to a man, she says, “We can only use this word if we steal it. Hidden in our laps it’s better.”

While Borich struggles with whether or not she and Linnea should even want to marry because lesbians have been excluded from it, she also feels left out by it. When Paulie tells her he’s getting married, she thinks, “I hated the way Linnea and I faded to shadow in the bright light of another impending family marriage, yet it was also the very idea of marriage that unsettled me.” Borich must reckon with marriage as an institution that traditionally excluded lesbians and repressed women. She says, “It has come to mean other things, a woman taken by a man, a geography possessed, a glittering stamp on the appropriated body.”

Why then does Borich feel left out? Why was marriage so important? Borich says, “Traditions, laws of culture, are such inspired creations, the repeated acts of human ingenuity engineered to control, to contain, that which will otherwise bend, for better or worse, toward what feels best. And yet, the act of repeating, of echoing, of emerging from a tumble of song and rhyme and a sweet familiar taste is part of what defines any individual.”

Like Borich’s ideological younger self, there are queer activists today who’d rather us rail against marriage as a tradition and institution of oppression and straight conformity. However, what about love? After all her asking what it means to marry, despite institutions refusing to recognize it, in the end, Borich realizes this tradition presupposes love. She says, “Can we call this marriage? Will we let these words fall forth from our lips, for better or worse? You bet. But I knew that a long time ago.”

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