Delphy and Leonard (1992: 266)
For Delphy and Leonard, the point is that ‘marriage is a relationship between men and women who because they are men and women do different things; who because they do different things are unequal; and who because they are unequal are seen as different sorts of human being (one more human than the other)’ (ibid). Also, neither single mothers nor lesbians fully escape the gender order. Because of diminished economic resources, or stigma related to being a single parent or lesbian, they ‘are constantly reminded they are abnormal’ and in the case of lesbians can be ‘downright ostracised or physically attacked’.
However, given that in same-sex partnerships couples do not set out with the assumption that partners are innately different or that they will do different things on the basis of their gender, and that the majority of our female partners (like male partners) recounted the everyday acceptance of their sexualities, relationships and ‘marriages’, we might well ask if their stories undermine the universalising tenor of arguments like Delphy and Leonard’s. While such stories may not wholly negate such arguments, and gender still clearly matters in a range of contexts, they certainly trouble them. The overarching stories that emerge from male and female partners’ narratives of same-sex marriage are more similar than they are different. As we shall see in the following chapter, partners’ stories of the marriages they grew up with, their biographical circumstances, their relational aspirations, choices and constraints, and practices are not reducible to gender in any overarching and fundamental way (but see Chapters 5-7 for significant gendered nuances). The point is partly that analyses like Delphy and Leonard’s are of their historical time. Even then, grounded as they are in static institutional and structural frames, they cannot adequately account for situated, diverse and dynamic marriages as they are experienced and lived on the ground today. This becomes clear in the following chapters where we consider the situated, diverse and dynamic qualities of self-defined same-sex ‘marriages’.