This week I talked with author Joel Derfner about his new memoir, Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family, released by University of Wisconsin Press. In the memoir he chronicles his path to marrying his longtime partner. He also reflects on his insecurities, draws upon his family history, and, most importantly, addresses American politics surrounding marriage equality. Derfner had to plan two weddings, one in a state in which his marriage was legal and one in which his family and friends could easily congregate to celebrate the occasion. His observations about the implications of this arrangement are infused with the perfect mix of serious scholarship, self-effacing humor, and humility.
I talked with Derfner about his new book and his spin on LGBT issues. When asked about his personal commitment to LGBT civil rights, he stated:
I would say that my personal commitment isn't so much to LGBT civil rights but to the rights of all disenfranchised. Right now in America we're one group that's under attack, but there's a lot of other groups who are also under attack: women, the poor, and people of color in respect to sexuality. Harvey Milk said when he won his seat as San Francisco Supervisor, "Without hope, not only gays but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us'es, the us'es will give up. And if you help elect to the central committee and other offices more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone. So if there is a message I have to give, it is that if I've found one overriding thing about my personal election: It's the fact that if a gay person can be elected, it's a green light, and you have to give people hope." So I guess my commitment to LGBT civil rights is to make sure the "us'es" realize we're all in the fight together, and victory for one group is victory for all. We have to fight not for ourselves but for each other.
Joel Derfner is from South Carolina, where his great-grandmother had an affair with George Gershwin. After leaving the South he got a B.A. in linguistics from Harvard. Realizing that linguistics was not his forte, he moved to New York and earned an M.F.A. in musical theater from the Tisch School of the Arts. He has written numerous books and musical scores for productions in London, New York, and various cities. In 2010 he co-starred in the Sundance Channel's reality soap Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys as the nervous groom on his way to the altar who spends his time with his inexplicably single friend Sarah. The season finale showed his wedding in Iowa, which was the first legal wedding of a same-sex couple in America on television.
For more information on Joel Derfner, visit joelderfner.com.
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