The Dominant Marriage Model
Among the relationships documented here numbers show same-sex couples using the socially dominant model of legal, state-supported male-female marriage to affirm the deep emotional character of their intimacies, often intimacies otherwise condemned.
Transgender couples, in which one partner or both defied dominant masculine or feminine norms, also pursued intimacies based or referring to the dominant marriage model.
These examples document the long past and present emotional appeal of legal marriage to many same-sex and transgender couples. The evidence of partners claiming they were “married,” lived like “husband and wife,” or constituted “spouses” constitutes a long historical tradition. There's also a long history of others perceiving inntimate same-sex or transgender partners as “married.”
The examples also show same-sex and transgender individuals creating marriage-like rituals to express their feelings, and affirm their relationships in the face of social stigma. Performing these rituals they affirmed their intimacies and claimed marriage as their right as citizens many years prior to the current struggle for marriage equality.
OutHistory also documents the stories of people who actively rejected marriage as necessary to affirm the reality and depth of their intimacies. This history includes persons who challenged marriage as a model for same-sex and transgender intimacies.
Historically Diverse Relationships
Among the partnerships of same-sex and transgender persons those called by the single name of “marriage” have referred to an enormous variety of relationships. The present dominance of marriage as a model for same-sex and transgender relationships may blind us to the historical variety of relationships called by that name – and those called by other names, or not named and just enacted. Understanding the historically specific character of each past relationship is a matter of empirical inquiry and careful interpretive analysis.
For instance, Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca says that, between 1528 and 1533, among the natives of Florida he “saw one man married to another.” He adds: “these are impotent, effeminate men [amarionados] and they go about dressed as women, and do women's tasks, and shoot with a bow, and carry great burdens, ... and they are huskier than the other men, and taller. . . .” To begin to fathom the native relationships referenced we need detailed, in-depth research on that native culture, at the time he observed it.
Varieties of Terms, Varieties of Relationships
The variety of terms used at different times, in different social contexts, to describe same-sex and transgender marriage begins to suggest its changing historical character. Those words may serve as search terms for new research on intimate same-sex and transgender relationships:
Bed mate, Boston marriage, Brother/Sister, Brotherhood/Sisterhood, Chum, Companion, Comrade, Couple, Date, Engaged, Family, Fellow, Fellowship, Friend, Friendship, Household, Husband/Wife, Intimacy, Intimate, Kin, Kinship, Love, Lover, Mate, Partner, Partnership, Relation, Relationship, Romance, Romantic, Spouse, Union, United, Wedded.
Full citations to sources are included so that interested researchers may continue this research and provide more details, new examples, and more subtle analyses.
OutHistory requests that readers and scholars submit additional historical references, including full citations, if possible, and visual illustrations. Please send documents and citations to email@example.com
This feature was initiated by Jonathan Ned Katz. The directors of OutHistory thank Cookie Woolner for providing some of the following references, and we hope to publicly thank additional volunteer researchers.