Title: Outlaw Marriages: The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples
Author: Rodger Streitmatter
Genre: LGBT Non-Fiction
Summary: Short biographies of 15 same-sex couples spanning about a century and a half that contributed to American culture and history; from writers to social change activists, from artists to academics, from business entrepreneurs to musicians, and others.
Review: This was a fascinating non-fiction read, inviting us into the lives and loves of 15 very different couples of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals (which pleasantly surprised me). Although the chapters were short, the writing a bit dry, and some of the descriptions of the men a tad, uh, detailed and thorough. Despite that, I still enjoyed it immensely.
Most interesting was seeing how the achievements of the LGBs are weaved into the fabric of our U.S./Western European history. Many were famous without society knowing about their outlaw marriages, and yet their contributions wouldn’t have had as much impact if it wasn’t for their supporting (and often extraordinary, if not famous themselves) partners.
Many of these relationships lasted twenty, thirty, forty, and even fifty years. Some lasted until death, some failed, while others broke up and got back together again. Some were open and others monogamous. Some lived together and others didn’t or couldn’t. Some existed in complete secret, others were accepted by their closest friends and family, and the fortunate ones were able to live openly. Some were tragic stories, others happy, and still others a mix of the two.
The book’s focus on Americans limited the geography and diversity (more diversity was presented in the second half of the text) of the couples. However, it seems the author made an effort. I understand how much harder (if not impossible) it would be to find reliable records for minorities or the poor the further we go back in time, especially with the secrecy needed around these kinds of relationships. With that said, it is still a fascinating look at how regardless of society’s mores, the desire to love and be loved is essential to the human experience.