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Same-Sex Marriage, Context, and Lesbian Identity

Wedded but Not Always a Wife

Julie Whitlow and Patricia Ould

This book demonstrates that everyday interactions and struggles over the right words to use are at the heart of the experience of those in same-sex marriages. At a time when same-sex marriage is on the cusp of becoming legal across the United States, the authors demonstrate through in-depth interviews and rich survey data how the use of relationship terms by married lesbians is tied to a variety of factors that influence how their identities are shaped and presented across social contexts. Via rich anecdotes of how married lesbians navigate the social sphere through their varied use or avoidance of the use of the term wife, this volume is provides groundbreaking insights into how social change is being constructed and made sense of through an examination of real-life interactions with family and friends, on the job, and across service and casual encounters.

The authors introduce us to the concept of contextual identity to explain how history and social context inspire cultural change. This first-of-its-kind analysis demonstrates how the first lesbians to marry have navigated acceptance and rejection, insecurity and political strength through their use of language in daily interactions. This book will surely resonate with anyone interested in understanding how married lesbians are presenting themselves at this historical juncture where social change and linguistic nuance are colliding.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 186Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4985-1698-3 • Hardback • August 2015 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
978-1-4985-1700-3 • Paperback • April 2017 • $42.99 • (£29.95)
978-1-4985-1699-0 • eBook • August 2015 • $79.99 • (£52.95)
C. Julie Whitlow is professor of English and coordinator of the graduate program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at Salem State University.

Patricia J. Ould is professor and chairperson of the Sociology Department at Salem State University.
Chapter 1. Same-Sex Marriage as a Reality in the United States
Chapter 2. Methods and Background: The Intersection of Language and Identity
Chapter 3. Whether at the Chapel, in the Courthouse, or on the Beach: Why Get Married?
Chapter 4. Who Calls Whom Wife?
Chapter 5. Navigating Family and Community as a Married Couple
Chapter 6. Workplace Politics and Policies
Chapter 7. Rebellion, Risks, and Renegotiation
Chapter 8. Conclusion: The Evolving Identity of a Lesbian Wife
Whitlow and Ould make the important point that context and situation often determine what language married lesbians use to describe themselves.
Gay and Lesbian Review

This fascinating book explores one of the most complicated words around—“wife”—and uses that word to learn how lesbian couples and their friends and family are adapting to marriage.
M.V. Lee Badgett, University of Massachusetts Amherst, author of 'When Gay People Get Married'

Whitlow and Ould’s cutting edge in-depth linguistic research with lesbians in same-sex marriages captures an important moment in lesbian feminist history. In crisp prose and with lively story-telling, they capture the fear, excitement, and challenges of breaking linguistic barriers in terms of what we lesbians call our spouses. Linguistic risk-taking is shaping a more equal world.
Patricia Gozemba, co-author of Courting Equality: A History of America's First Same-Sex Marriages