‘Untangling the Knot’ addresses marriage in queer community

Portland State’s student-operated Ooligan Press published Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships and Identity on Feb. 28. More than a year in the making, the anthology brings together writers from all walks of life to anecdotally share their perspectives on the institution of marriage and its place in the queer community.

It can be easy, especially for those on the periphery, to imagine that marriage equality translates to a job nearly done. As many of the contributors to Untangling the Knot demonstrate, the truth of reality is far from that. The push for marriage equality denies the myriad other issues that those in the LGBTQ community face, such as concern for personal safety and employment security.

In her essay “Marriage Throws a Monkey Wrench,” activist and author Jeanne Cordova details her long struggle with the marriage equality movement as a lesbian feminist who came of age during second-wave feminism.

Prompted by cancer, Cordova took the legal plunge in 2013 with her partner of 25 years. Despite taking that step, Cordova is still concerned that the marriage-centric debate will overshadow other crucial political and societal issues.

“History teaches us that any social change struggle that adopts a single issue as its focus eventually peters out when that single issue is won or lost,” Cordova writes.

Likewise, Ben Anderson-Nathe questions why marriage equality became the first cause to champion when it primarily benefits those already closest to the mainstream and causes further marginalization of others.

“The pursuit of same-sex marriage, in the guise of equality, is not a starting point; it is the point. It is the point where we turn a corner, and if we turn in the direction we are now facing, toward recognition only through the rhetoric of sameness, we actually move further from inclusion and true equality,” Anderson-Nathe writes.

On the flip side, Chelsia A. Rice chronicles her battle with bladder cancer and navigating the sloshy waters of insurance and medical bureaucracy. After months of waiting she is finally approved for chemotherapy, but soon learns that she will be taxed an extra $250 a month because she and her partner are not married.

She spends months in a chemo-haze, painfully ill but still determined to make her regular calls to the insurance company and keep up-to-date on her financial assistance applications because she can’t get the surgery required to save her life after chemo without a $20,000 down payment. Throughout, her partner stands by her and lovingly cares for her.

“People on television discuss our relationship in terms of whether or not it is worthy of recognition; decisions are made about a relationship in which they have never been and can never see inside,” Rice writes.

Two weeks after her successful surgery Minnesota, where they are residing during her recovery, became the twelfth state to legalize gay marriage. They married on the one-year anniversary of her diagnosis.

Untangling the Knot deserves high praise. The effort from all parties involved is apparent as early as the introduction written by editor Carter Sickels. This was clearly a labor of love, and that shows in its approachability. Every essay in the collection is wrenching, eloquent and seeping with heart. The voices all weave together to create a diverse tapestry that illuminates the many perspectives of a single concern.

The anthology is also the seventh book in Ooligan Press’ OpenBook Series, which aims for transparency in its sustainability efforts. Each book in the series includes an audit detailing the impact that the paperback print run will have on the environment.

Ooligan Press is celebrating the collection on March 5 with a launch party including readings by a handful of the contributors, followed by an open discussion between the authors and the community. The event begins at 6 p.m. in room 294 in Smith Memorial Student Union and is open to the public.