I’ve just finished reading The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall. It’s a classic fiction novel, chronicling the life, love and losses of the lesbian ‘invert’ Stephen Gordon in the early 20th century.

It was first published in 1928 and proceedings were brought against the publishers under the Obscene Publications Act — ironic given the novel lacks any profanities or graphic depictions of sex.

The court considered subject matter of the book, lesbians, then known as ‘female inverts’, as corrupting its readers, and its publication was ruled an offence against public decency and banned.

The Well was republished in England in 1949 and has not been out print since. While the social climate has improved for same-sex attracted people and their families, we continue to face some of the same struggles articulated in the book.

Unable to marry, and living in a society hostile to same-sex relationships, Stephen found herself with little to offer her lovers. Marriage was the means by which loving relationships were recognised by society. Marriage provided security, social fluidity and a space to start a family.

Living in a community that did not recognise the legitimacy of same-sex relationships, the same-sex attracted characters lived closeted existences. More than 70 years on, the Marriage Act still excludes same-sex couples, and many same-sex attracted people continue to live closeted lives.

Recently, a range of key ALP figures have come out against this discrimination. By excluding same-sex couples from marrying, the federal government continues to send a message that our relationships are not as genuine, loving or worthy of recognition as heterosexual relationships.

Stephen, while sitting in a gay bar in Paris, says to a friend Adolphe Blanc, ‘One feels that the odds are too heavily against any real success. Where so many have failed, who can hope to succeed?’ Adophe replies, ‘You are wrong, very wrong – this is only the beginning.’


info: To get involved in the fight for marriage equality, come to the next GLRL Rights Night. It will be held on 7pm Wednesday 17th November at the Burdekin Hotel.

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