THE BOOK: Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships & Identity
Edited by: Carter Sickels (2015)
NOTE: This book is published by Ooligan Press, an educational press where I currently am working as a graduate student in publishing. This review is part (my interpretation of) homework and part my own effort to feature a more diverse range of voices and topics on my platform.
A classmate retold me a quote she had heard (and tell me who said it if you know) about the Caucasian response to Beyoncé’s Formation video this week, which I will paraphrase:
Her video is like going to someone’s birthday party. You can eat the cake, but it’s still not your party.
This paraphrased quote can be applied to Untangling the Knot in many ways. Reading books about queer identity, particularly outside the two-men/two-women binary, always reminds me of how little I actually know about the multiple forms of kinship and lifestyle that exist in our world. From the beginning of this collection of twenty-five essays, it becomes clear that the seemingly lynchpin issue of marriage equality isn’t the panacea that many of us have lulled ourselves into believing it is.
With marriage in the spotlight…who falls through the cracks?
Ben Anderson-Nathe’s essay, the first in the collection, establishes an ongoing theme throughout the rest of the essays. We Are Not “Just Like Everyone Else” points out the long history of kinship networks that queer people have established to protect and care for one another and to raise children. Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis points out the risks of sidelining domestic partnerships as well, calling up examples of elderly LGBTQ folks who have formed partnerships in order to extend rights and care for one another in their old ages.
The institution of marriage itself is a complicated sticking point for many of the writers, including Ariel Gore, who struggled against a system who viewed her sexuality equally (if not more) damaging as her ex husband’s violence toward her and their children.
Child abuse and teen homelessness is another issue. The legal right of gay marriage doesn’t stop families from turning their queer offspring onto the streets to face uncertainty, violence, drug abuse, and disease. Ryka Aoki and Everett Maroon draw attention to the lack of resources and allies available to many kids who are neglected or abused due to their sexuality or gender.
Healthcare is another major one: the right to visitation, the right to health insurance and access to treatment, the right to advocate for loved ones. These are important things to have when navigating our complicated medical system, and ones that I, for one, have taken for granted. Even for those writers who do choose to embrace marriage, healthcare struggles are revisited time and time again, often through the lens of cancer diagnoses. In essays by Chelsia A. Rice and Meg Stone, marriage, and the benefits it brings, is shown to have the power to save lives.
It’s impossible to summarize everything that’s dealt with in this collection, partly because a lot of it is outside my experience (these authors express the issues better than I ever could) and partly because it’s such a detailed and nuanced topic. I’d recommend adding it to your collection and giving some of the essays a look…and then later another look.
Even if the topics are confusing, new, or foreign to you, reading these essays may help you recognize opportunities to be an ally, to help others gain access to what they need to live, and to show sensitivity to people who experience life in a completely different, and often more challenging, way.