Saturday, 27 June 2015

In Celebration of the Supreme Court Ruling: Ten Classic Works of Love

Same-sex marriage
Mladen Antonov / AFP/Getty Images
Yesterday was a historic day for America, as the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favour of legalizing gay marriage in ALL 50 States. This decision means more than "just" the ability to actually get married. It now means that gay and lesbian couples have access to a whole slew of federal benefits which are normal to straight couples. Just a few of these are:
  • file joint income taxes
  • have joint parenting rights
  • have next-of-kin status for emergency medical decisions
  • have family visitation rights
  • qualify for domestic violence intervention
  • inherit property
  • and many more.
This decision will fundamentally change the lives of gay and lesbian people in the United States and is a major step forward on the road to equality.  The Majority Opinion, written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, ends very lyrically while also getting to the depths of why this decision is so important.
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."
 So, as a celebration of this milestone decision and of love, here are ten of my favourite classic works which show that no matter who you are, where you are and who you love, love is real. 
Maurice

E.M. Forster - Maurice
Set in the elegant Edwardian world of Cambridge undergraduate life, this story by a master novelist introduces us to Maurice Hall when he is fourteen. We follow him through public school and Cambridge, and on into his father's firm, Hill and Hall, Stock Brokers. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every way, "stepping into the niche that England had prepared for him": except that his is homosexual.
Written during 1913 and 1914, after an interlude of writer's block following the publication of Howards End, and not published until 1971, Maurice was ahead of its time in its theme and in its affirmation that love between men can be happy. "Happiness," Forster wrote, "is its keynote….In Maurice I tried to create a character who was completely unlike myself or what I supposed myself to be: someone handsome, healthy, bodily attractive, mentally torpid, not a bad businessman and rather a snob. Into this mixture I dropped an ingredient that puzzles him, wakes him up, torments him and finally saves him."
The Well of LonelinessRadclyffe Hall - The Well of Loneliness
A powerful novel of love between women, THE WELL OF LONELINESS brought about the most famous legal trial for obscenity in the history of British law. Banned on publication in 1928, it then went on to become a classic bestseller. Stephen Gordon (named by a father desperate for a son) is not like other girls: she hunts, she fences, she reads books, wears trousers and longs to cut her hair. As she grows up amidst the stifling grandeur of Morton Hall, the locals begin to draw away from her, aware of some indefinable thing that sets her apart. And when Stephen Gordon reaches maturity, she falls passionately in love - with another woman.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Jeanette Winterson - Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Winner of the Whitbread Prize for best first fiction, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a coming-out novel from Winterson, the acclaimed author ofThe Passion and Sexing the Cherry. The narrator, Jeanette, cuts her teeth on the knowledge that she is one of God’s elect, but as this budding evangelical comes of age, and comes to terms with her preference for her own sex, the peculiar balance of her God-fearing household crumbles.
Angels in America:  A Gay Fantasia on National ThemesTony Kushner - Angels in America
In two full-length plays--Millennium Approaches and Perestroika--Kushner tells the story of a handful of people trying to make sense of the world. Prior is a man living with AIDS whose lover Louis has left him and become involved with Joe, an ex-Mormon and political conservative whose wife, Harper, is slowly having a nervous breakdown. These stories are contrasted with that of Roy Cohn (a fictional re-creation of the infamous American conservative ideologue who died of AIDS in 1986) and his attempts to remain in the closet while trying to find some sort of personal salvation in his beliefs


The City and the PillarGore Vidal - The City and the Pillar
A literary cause célèbre when first published more than fifty years ago, Gore Vidal's now-classic The City and the Pillar stands as a landmark novel of the gay experience.
Jim, a handsome, all-American athlete, has always been shy around girls. But when he and his best friend, Bob, partake in "awful kid stuff", the experience forms Jim's ideal of spiritual completion. Defying his parents’ expectations, Jim strikes out on his own, hoping to find Bob and rekindle their amorous friendship. Along the way he struggles with what he feels is his unique bond with Bob and with his persistent attraction to other men. Upon finally encountering Bob years later, the force of his hopes for a life together leads to a devastating climax. The first novel of its kind to appear on the American literary landscape, The City and the Pillar remains a forthright and uncompromising portrayal of sexual relationships between men.
Rubyfruit JungleRita Mae Brown - Rubyfruit Jungle
Rubyfruit Jungle is the first milestone novel in the extraordinary career of one of this country's most distinctive writers. Bawdy and moving, the ultimate word-of-mouth bestseller, Rubyfruit Jungle is about growing up a lesbian in America – and living happily ever after.
Critically acclaimed when first published, Rubyfruit Jungle has only grown in reputation as it has reached new generations of readers who respond to its feisty and inspiring heroine. 
Shyam Selvadurai - Funny Boy
Funny Boy
In this remarkable debut novel, a boy's bittersweet passage to maturity and sexual awakening is set against escalating political tensions in Sri Lanka, during the seven years leading up to the 1983 riots. Arjie Chelvaratnam is a Tamil boy growing up in an extended family in Colombo. It is through his eyes that the story unfolds and we meet a delightful, sometimes eccentric cast of characters. Arjie's journey from the luminous simplicity of childhood days into the more intricately shaded world of adults - with its secrets, its injustices, and its capacity for violence - is a memorable one, as time and time again the true longings of the human heart are held against the way things are.
MiddlesexJeffrey Eugenides - Middlesex
In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school in Grosse Pointe, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry-blonde classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them - along with Callie's failure to develop physically - leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all.
The explanation for this shocking state of affairs is a rare genetic mutation - and a guilty secret - that have followed Callie's grandparents from the crumbling Ottoman Empire to Prohibition-era Detroit and beyond, outlasting the glory days of the Motor City, the race riots of 1967, and the family's second migration, into the foreign country known as suburbia. Thanks to the gene, Callie is part girl, part boy. And even though the gene's epic travels have ended, her own odyssey has only begun.
Stone Butch BluesLeslie Feinberg - Stone Butch Blues
Woman or man? This internationally acclaimed novel looks at the world through the eyes of Jess Goldberg, a masculine girl growing up in the "Ozzie and Harriet" McCarthy era and coming out as a young butch lesbian in the pre-Stonewall gay drag bars of a blue-collar town. Stone Butch Blues traces a propulsive journey, powerfully evoking history and politics while portraying an extraordinary protagonist full of longing, vulnerability, and working-class grit. This once-underground classic takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride of gender transformation and exploration and ultimately speaks to the heart of anyone who has ever suffered or gloried in being different. 
Patience & SarahIsabel Miller - Patience & Sarah
Set in the nineteenth century, Isabel Miller's classic lesbian novel traces the relationship between Patience White, a painter, and Sarah Dowling, a farmer, whose romantic bond does not sit well with the puritanical New England farming community in which they live. Ultimately, they are forced to make life-changing decisions that depend on their courage and their commitment to one another.
Patience & Sarah is a historical romance whose drama was a touchstone for the burgeoning gay and women's activism of the 1960s and early 1970s. It celebrates the joys of an uninhibited love between two strong women with a confident defiance that remains relevant today.

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