Joel Derfner Releases Memoir, LAWFULLY WEDDED HUSBAND: HOW MY GAY MARRIAGE WILL SAVE THE AMERICAN FAMILY
Joel Derfner didn't want to get gay married. He doesn't gay grocery shop and he doesn't have a gay driver's license. Joel's road to marriage was burdened with barriers and labels simply because the love of his life is of the same sex. Recognizing that his personal story is a reflection of the national conversation about the "new civil rights movement," Joel, with searing wit and unrelenting honesty and humor, wrote LAWFULLY WEDDED HUSBAND: HOW MY GAY MARRIAGE WILL SAVE THE AMERICAN FAMILY (University of Wisconsin Press; September 19, 2013.)
*Recent SCOTUS rulings - DOMA and Prop 8
Like many advocates of same sex marriage equality, Joel was thrilled when news of the recent SCOTUS rulings started to circulate. But he believes they originated for wrong (and dangerous) reasons.
*Civil Unions vs. Marriages
Joel believes that opponents of marriage equality are actually shooting themselves in the foot when they propose alternatives like civil unions - history shows that marriages decline across the board when civil unions are an option.
*Gay Stereotypes in the Workplace
Joel has held two of the most stereotypically "gay" jobs you can imagine: step aerobics instructor and Broadway musical composer. He is happy to discuss the workplace.
*Russia's anti-gay laws
As controversy heats up over how far to take the boycott of Russian vodka, the Winter Olympics in Russia and how else to handle a response to the country's virulently antigay recent legislation, Joel can comment on what next steps need to be taken.
*Homophobia & Sexism
Joel believes that homophobia and sexism are at base the same thing, and now that the bad guys know they can't win this battle they're taking the war to another front. Case in point: the day DOMA is overturned, the Texas legislature introduces a bill to close almost every abortion clinic in the state - a bill that ultimately passes. The Catholic Pope made a forward-thinking statement about not judging gay priests and followed it with a declaration that there will never be female priests.
About LAWFULLY WEDDED HUSBAND
When Derfner's boyfriend, Michael proposes to him, the two can't legally marry in America. While that eventually changes, it leaves them with the unusual dilemma of needing to plan two weddings - one in which they can legally tie the knot and another to celebrate with loved ones in New York. Like any other couple rocketing blissfully toward the altar, Joel and his fiancé face seemingly endless challenges ? from the more mundane questions of jeans or tuxedos, blue or purple ketubah ? to the more important, register or donate to charity? All the while, a reality show is documenting their lives and the director is forcing them to sign and notarize applications for their wedding license until the cameraman gets a shot she likes.
As they slowly find answers to their wedding questions they begin to discover what a relationship can and can't do, the real definition of marriage, and, ultimately, what makes a family. LAWFULLY WEDDED HUSBAND bravely explores marriage equality, civil rights, and sexism - and becomes a story not just of "gay" marriage and the American family but of what it means to be human.
LAWFULLY WEDDED HUSBAND by Joel Derfner
University of Wisconsin Press; 248 pages; Hardcover $26.95
ISBN-10: 0299294900; ISBN-13: 978-0299294908
On-sale: September 19, 2013, Memoir/Gay and Lesbian
About Joel Derfner
Joel 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 métier, he moved to New York to get an M.F.A. in musical theater writing from the Tisch School of the Arts.
Musicals for which he has written include Postcards from Another Planet, Signs of Life, Another Annette and Swish. The scores have been produced in London, Chicago, Seattle, New York, and various cities in between.
Q: The subtitle of your book has a clever, humorous ring to it. But within the pages you lay out very real reasons for why legalizing "gay" marriage will help save "the American family." Please share your thoughts about this.
A: Well, first of all I have to say that I don't think the American family is in any danger. People have been mourning the death of the family for thousands of years. People in ancient Egypt were talking about the death of the family, and here we are, millennia later, and the family is just fine. But people who think otherwise should actually be excited about marriage equality. Because, in our society, you're only accepted as a family if you're married. If you're not married, then you're not considered a family. Which means that every same-sex couple that gets married creates one more honest-to-goodness family. The two million kids being raised by same-sex couples will have a chance to be raised by two married parents in what everybody will have to agree is a family. Meanwhile, opponents of marriage equality are shooting themselves in the foot when they propose alternatives like civil unions. In the decade in which France allowed civil unions but not marriage equality, the straight marriage rate in France plummeted, because 96% of couples who had civil unions were straight. That's over a million straight people who could have gotten married but, because France wasn't willing to extend the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples, chose instead to do something else.
Q: LAWFULLY WEDDED HUSBAND chronicles the hectic, decision-filled days leading up to your and Mike's wedding day. Have the days following the wedding day been any less crazy? How are you finding married life?
A: One of the things people have said that they like about Lawfully Wedded Husband is that I portray myself as a scheming, selfish narcissist, which portrayal is if anything a gross understatement, and if anything marriage has made me more scheming, selfish, and narcissistic, because it would be too much trouble for my husband to divorce me, but he knew what he was getting himself into. The only thing that's different is that I stood in front of seventy of our friends and family and told them that I was in it for the long haul. The people who attend your wedding aren't guests; they're witnesses. In ten years, if I say, you know what, I can't take your HGTV obsession anymore, I'm leaving, there will be seventy people to say, but you promised. When two people get married, they don't make an agreement with each other; they make an agreement with society.
Q: When you joined the season one cast of the reality TV show Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys you agreed to let them film your wedding day. What was it like to have reality TV cameras rolling while you said your vows??
A: It was a little crazy, I'll tell you, and luckily the production company didn't notice that I never signed the confidentiality agreement, so I get to go into some unfettered depth in the book about the insanity of reality TV. But technically speaking GWLBWLB only filmed my legal wedding. We had to marry out of state, because at the time New York didn't allow same-sex couples to marry, and I had kind of a freakout about the fact that I was having two weddings. Which one was the real one, the one I would use for my anniversary? And if that was the real one, then why was I having the other one? In the end I realized that in America today weddings have two parts, legal and ceremonial; straight couples can do them both together, but many same-sex couples can't. Honestly the cameras didn't change a whole lot except that we had to do everything over and over again. Like, the notary had to notarize our application for a license over and over again until the director got a shot she liked. We only said the vows once, though.