elisechenier: (Default)
[personal profile] elisechenier
This past week I met with Vancouver's queer seniors writing collective Quirk-e to talk about a draft of an article I recently completed with the title: “Freak Wedding! Marriage as Postwar Lesbian Pleasure Practice.” The article was inspired by the headline of a 1957 tabloid story about a butch and fem lesbian wedding in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The question I ask in the article is simple enough: how can we make sense of butch and fem lesbians' highly conventional marriage practices when everything else about them was highly unconventional?

Continued at Elise's journal.

crossposted from [personal profile] elisechenier


Like the Elise Chenier Facebook Page | Like the From Outlaws to In-Laws Facebook Page

elisechenier: (Default)
[personal profile] elisechenier
I have always loved giving public talks. I love the challenge of writing a compelling narrative, and I love the rush of energy I get from an attentive audience who is usually pleased, sometimes even thrilled, to learn something new about queer history.

Occasionally someone approaches me after a presentation with a story to share. Just such a thing happened this past week. I participated in a student-organized panel for Queer History Month and shared stories about researching same-sex marriage in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Afterwards Ron Dutton, a local archivist of the gay past, approached me.

“I didn’t know you were working on marriage,” he said. “Have you seen the 1957 story that ran in TAB magazine about a gay male wedding that got busted by the police?”

“No,” I said, all ears. “Tell me more.”

“I can’t remember the details, but I have a copy of it in my collection.”

Today I went to Ron’s home, part of which is converted into a massive archive that holds over one million items. Here is the one he shared with me:


click for larger


crossposted from [personal profile] elisechenier

Like the Elise Chenier Facebook Page | Like the From Outlaws to In-Laws Facebook Page
elisechenier: (Default)
[personal profile] elisechenier

[click for larger]


The headline says it all. In the 1950s, lesbians were “freaks.” This was especially true of butch women who adopted a masculine working-class style. Their style alone communicated volumes: I will not conform to society’s rules; I will not be a “proper” woman; I am a sexually desiring being, and my desire is directed toward women, especially feminine women.


When I first uncovered this image, I was stunned. It is rare to see photographs from this period. Few working-class women had cameras, few could afford to take photos, and most moved so often that photos tended to get lost, misplaced, or thrown out.

But even more than that, I was surprised to learn that these women, whom historians have always characterized as rebels, as heterosexual refuseniks, as the political predecessors to the lesbian and feminist liberationists who denounced marriage and romance as major sources of women’s oppression, got married. Not only that, they did so in the most conventional of ways. As the image of Ivy and Gerry shows, they wore conventional wedding attire. My research is showing that this was only the beginning. Women arranged for an officiant – sometimes a friend, and sometimes a Christian minister sympathetic to same-sex lovers – and exchanged heartfelt vows. Afterwards, many couples celebrated with a multi-tier wedding cake. There was no marriage license, of course, but what did that matter?

How does lesbian marriage fit with the image historians have constructed of butch and fem culture as a rebel culture? Was marriage in this case an act of resistance against heterosexual norms or was it, as some queer critics of today’s marriage equality movement argue, conformist and conservative? Continued at [personal profile] elisechenier

Like the Elise Chenier Facebook Page | Like the From Outlaws to In-Laws Facebook Page
Tags: