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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.

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Last week I wrote about Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church. At the same time Perry was building his church in Los Angeles, Father Robert Clement, an ordained priest of the Old Catholic Church of America, was building his congregation in New York City. Also like Perry, Clement was an out and proud gay man. He famously participated in the June 1970 Stonewall march wearing his Catholic collar and carrying a sign that said “Gay People This Is Your Church.” He meant his Church of the Beloved Disciple, which held regular services at the 9th Avenue and 28th Street Episcopalian Church of the Holy Apostles.

Also like Perry, one of the most popular services Clement provided was to bless the unions of same-sex couples. In an interview on the LGBT Religious Archives Network he explains that he and his partner coined the term “Holy Union” to describe this particular rite. He also claims that he was the first to publicly perform Holy Unions, a claim that Troy Perry disputes. Perhaps Outlaws to In-Laws will set the record straight. I’m working on it.

Undisputed is the fact that when, in 1970, Clement wanted to marry his partner John Noble, he asked Troy to officiate. Through his work as a priest serving the lesbian and gay community, Clement had a very high public profile. It is hard to imagine anyone other than Perry filling this role.

The photo, taken at the Robert and John’s wedding reception, appears on the LGBT Religious Archives Network page featuring Clement’s full story. Clement and Noble’s beaming smiles suggest that it was a happy day indeed.

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[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

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