On a family tree, marriage acts like a sign post. Straight relationships have been neatly documented for centuries, stamped in history and recorded by authorities. But gay relationships are different, much of this history was never noted or has been lost in perished memories. While much has been salvaged by archivists, the question remains: without marriage, how will people know of our relationships in the future?
Melbourne-based author Michelle Dicinoski has reflected on this through her own experience of marrying her wife in her new memoir, Ghost Wife.
Dicinoski, born and bred in regional Queensland, married her partner Heather in Canada back in 2005.
“A lot of what Ghost Wife is talking about is having your life be sort of erased or never recorded in any kind of official documents,” Dicinoski told Star Observer.
“It’s about visibility and I wanted to go back and say ‘look, we were here earlier even though we’re told again and again that this didn’t happen; this is a new thing; this is an invention.”
“It’s absolutely not true and you can find them… you just have to look for them.”
And that is exactly what Dicinoski has done in Ghost Wife. Dicinoski’s own tales from Melbourne, Brisbane, Boston, Toronto and Niagra Falls are paired with rich local stories of history’s hidden couples and trail-blazing women who loved women.
Glimpes into the past such as the tale of Queensland’s first female doctor, Dr Lilian Cooper, who travelled to Brisbane from London in 1981 with her female ‘friend’, Miss Josephine Bedford, remind us that things do change.
At first glance, the story could be mistaken as overtly political, decrying the lack of marriage equality here in Australia.
But it’s more than that, Ghost Wife is a real treat as Dicinoski lays much of her own experience out to bare in this humble and tender story.
“In some ways it is really personal and in some ways it’s not. A life is a very big thing and you have to choose a part of it so you know you are not revealing your entire self,” she said.
“It was really important for me to document what happened and not so much for me, I know what happened, I just thought it would be nice in years to come there might be another teenager growing up in a regional area, or any area who finds this book in a library and says ‘yes, there is a history there.’
“Hopefully things will be so different by then that it will be an interesting and amusing historical document rather than something that is needed.”
Ghost Wife is out now.