I feel I owe any potential readers of this review two disclaimers: 1) I’m recently (heterosexually) married 2) I’m a pretty emotional softy who loves a real-life story with a happy ending. And with that out of the way, here’s the basic thing you should know about this book: it’s awesome! I absolutely loved it. This 400-page new Seal Press anthology edited by Audrey Bilger and Michele Kort is a veritable page-turner, which includes essays, as well as poems, comic strips and pictures. I had real trouble putting the thing down and had “something in my eye” on more than one occasion.
The book is what the title claims it will be – reflections on lesbian love and marriage – and more. Between the covers are dozens of stories of real women, real drama, real love and real sadness. It gripped my heart and made me think seriously about some of the issues concerning marriage equality, which I have never given much thought before. This book is more than just love stories with a happy ending – there are also stories of divorce and essays by women who do not want to get married to their life partners. For the first time, I seriously considered the arguments of LGBTQ activists who claim marriage equality is a “political red herring” which draws attention away from other important issues such as health and immigration. It made me think about what marriage actually really means to me, and what a privilege it was to get married so easily in a pretty homophobic country.
I remember how excited my then husband-to-be and I were this time last year when our wedding was just around the corner. How happy our friends were for us and how wonderful it was to celebrate our commitment to each other in front of many of our closest and dearest friends and family and then conveniently get a tax-break the next day and not have to worry about inheritance and hospital visits. Because my husband and I benefit from heterosexual privilege we never had to consider all the legal, social and practical benefits that come with a wedding band because we always knew that they will eventually be ours for the taking as soon as we are ready to make a commitment for life. The contributors to this book write very eloquently on how, prior to marriage equality, some of the benefits that come with marriage could be secured through writing up a whole bunch of legal documents. However, that reduced the public recognition of the couple’s commitment to each other to a stack of papers they hoped to never make use of (like hospital visitation rights and power of attorney in case of severe illness etc). Getting legally married allowed these women to put the love, celebration and fun back where it belonged – into the official recognition of their union. Even though I deeply believe each human being should be allowed to marry the person they want to spend their life with, I usually wax lyrical about all the legal benefits. And yes, of course all that is important – but so are the enjoyable, wonderful parts of a wedding and marriage that are glossed over because visitation rights make better campaigning arguments than getting to cut a cake together. But by golly, I promise you that I did not spend my wedding day thinking about tax breaks but rather the joy of the moment – and obviously it’s as important to women who love other women and this anthology brings all that joy out wonderfully.
Here Come the Brides is neatly dived into sections miming the natural history of any wedding – proposal to big day. The editors did a great job of compiling a book that mirrors the diversity of lesbians around the US (as well as a few international contributions) and their different view points. The only slight (although perhaps inevitable) downside to this book is that after a while you might start confusing the stories a bit. After having read half the book in one day I had some trouble telling the different tales apart in my head – obviously as different as their heroines are, the general gist of most of the stories is similar.
Bottom line is – if you’re interested in LGBTQ issues, weddings, equality, family research and gender stereotypes this is a great read. Also – if you simply love love stories this book is simply awesome. Because it really is mostly about love. Just as no love is the same all love is really not that different – whether the person(s) you care are members of the same sex you are or not. As Phyllis Lyon, an LGBT activist and half of the first lesbian couple to get married in California summarized it in an interview included in the book:
“We’re all the same. We just have different desires and different ways at looking at things. But we’re all people. Treat us right and we’ll treat you right.”
A recovering scientist, healthcare analyst and junkie of all things gender and women's health