I began writing my first novel in 2004, when Gavin Newsom, San Francisco’s Mayor, became a soldier for marriage equality. For a brief window of time, before lesbian and gay marriages were shut down, same-sex couples obtained licenses and exchanged vows throughout California. My husband and I were living in Mill Valley, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and we attended two weddings during that pivotal period.
Hillary and Kathy walked down the aisle wearing classic black suits. My husband sang an a cappella Hebrew prayer. The wedding took place before fifty people, in a restaurant, with many guests participating in the ceremony. I was honored to officiate, standing under a huppa (a hand-stitched canopy). Hillary stomped on a glass, and the guests yelled Mazel Tov. People heaped their plates from the buffet, and mingled on the deck.
A few weeks later, Trixie dressed in a traditional wedding gown; her bride, Carla, wore a tux. They were married by a judge, in City Hall, with a sit-down dinner for 200 guests. They walked down the aisle to The Crystals, “Going To The Chapel.”
Carla led Trixie through the first dance, replete with twirls and dips. They invited “anyone who is married, who couldn’t marry before” to join them. Five couples walked onto the dance floor, two gay, three lesbian. Nobody dancing, not a single person, grew up expecting to marry. Not one of them took this moment for granted. The quality of joy was elemental.
At a certain point, both couples toasted their guests. Curiously, these women, so different in style, chose the exact same words. “We want to thank all of you for always treating us like a real couple.”
As a straight woman, I never experienced the casual chipping away at the spirit, being treated as less than a full person, less that a real couple. Now, two couples, four fine people, stood empowered before their loved ones, celebrating their unions, finally recognized as real.
I drove home invigorated, motivated to publish my book.
Then Prop 8 won, shooting down marriage equality.
My reaction surprised me: I stopped publication of my novel. I knew the book was missing some vital piece, and I was still sorting it out in the summer of 2011, when my family moved to Chapel Hill, NC. I was immediately drawn to the lush green, the blend of rural beauty and urban convenience. The emphasis on education and learning matched my own comfortably nerdy style.
Then, in a sick twist of fate, I found myself voting on the losing side of Amendment 1, which banned same-sex marriage and civil unions. I took comfort in Chapel Hill’s voting overwhelmingly against Amendment 1. Still, I lay awake seething.
The next morning, I knew how to fix my novel. I had written the road to acceptance for the LGBTQ characters as downhill and paved. I dirtied up the road, roughening the terrain. I changed the viewpoints of several characters to travel different paths to becoming Allies.
I hope my book will be read by potential Allies of the LGBTQIA community. I hope that my characters model options for questioning one’s beliefs, changing one’s mind, rethinking one’s assumptions. I hope that my readers will respect every individual and couple in my story as “real.”
If my novel helps one person become an Ally, I’ll deem my work successful.
Novels by Amy Kaufman Burk
Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable
Caroline Black, 15 years old, leaves her college prep academy for the local public high school, which opens her world. Written in reaction to witnessing gay students bullied in high school.
Caroline Black, a rookie psychology intern, goes through one year of training, working with her first patient – a young man who is stormy, seductive, complex and troubled. Written in support of healthy sex and sexuality, in support of same-sex parents, and as a voice against the stigma of therapy.