My just- released novel, Forsaking All Others is a romance about marriage. Sort of. One of the protagonists is a marriage equality volunteer and the other is a polyamorist, commitment phobic, non -believer in marriage. Well, I figure opposites are supposed to attract.
Given my obsession with the subject, it seemed inevitable that I would write a novel about marriage equality. I didn’t want it to be another girl meets girl, love ensues and happily ever after, including marriage. So I picked the story of marriage equality coming briefly to California and then being yanked away by Proposition 8. The roller coaster ride of the spring, summer, and fall of 2008 is the time frame of Sylvia and Jules’s romance.
I also wanted to explore a few of the philosophical ideas around marriage equality.
In July, 2008, my partner and I married as did quite a few people we knew. One couple, our friends Kent and Joe married in October at San Francisco City Hall. At their wedding, we were the witnesses and I gave one of the toasts at their reception. Kent said he wanted their supportive but unknowledgeable relatives to hear just why their wedding was significant. So I gave a little history lesson to those assembled and at the end I talked about how important marriage is as concept and why we need the word ‘marriage’ and all that it signifies.
When you meet THE ONE and you start thinking about the future, you can now in some places think about marriage. Marriage was modeled by our parents and what we were taught, as presumed heterosexuals to expect. Then when we turned out to be queer, marriage was supposedly off the table.
Not so fast.
In spite of being queer, many of us are conventional; I certainly am. Marriage is the epitome of conventionality. You hear all the time, “I just want to be treated like other people.” It’s not usually” I want be like other people”. As a lesbian, I am not like a straight person but that doesn’t negate my desire to be treated with respect. Marriage is very much about respect for our relationships.
It’s remarkable that as much as the LGBT community argues and disagrees about so many things, we are relatively united on the idea of marriage. There are, naturally, dissenters but they are few and for the most part not vocal. I wanted to air some of those opinions if only to try to counteract them. In one scene of the book, there is an argument about the need for marriage and the sexually liberated. I don’t see marriage and sexual freedom, as embodied, for example, by polyamory as incompatible.
I ‘m not polyamorous but I wanted to treat the idea and practice of it seriously in the novel because as a lesbian, by some people’s definition, I’m a sexual outlaw and I don’t want to judge other people in the same way.
It’s clear that marriage for gays and lesbians is both exactly like marriage for heterosexuals and completely different. As I explained to the family members at Kent and Joe’s wedding, this isn’t something we take for granted. We’ve longed for, thought about and fought for it like crazy for years.
In Forsaking All Others, I look at the concept of choice and what that means. To choose to commit to someone because you want to and not because it’s the expected thing is an entirely different psychological perspective. To trust someone in spite of preconceived notions and/or bad experiences is also a choice and it’s the one we all have to make when confronted with the possibility of love and intimacy.