Book Cover of Greetings from JanelandA taste of Ruth Davies’ essay in the collection Greetings from Janeland: Women Write More About Leaving Men for Women

Do you remember Dear John, I Love Jane the 2010 anthology about women who leave men for women? Editors Candace Walsh and Barbara Straus Lodge have pulled together a sequel collection of essays, Greetings from Janeland: Women Write More About Leaving Men for Women. As the only Australian contributor in this compilation, and one of the people invited back to submit for the sequel, Ruth Davies shares a short extract from her essay: ‘Spring Weddings: Australian style’, reproduced below with the permission of the publisher.

In the Australian spring of 2016, when I had planted sunflowers for the first time and was delighting in the blooms opening, Elizabeth Gilbert announced that the end of her marriage to a man was due to her realization that she was in love with her—female—best friend of fifteen years, Rayya Elias. Elias has pancreatic cancer, and that diagnosis made Gilbert face the difference between loving someone and being in love with them. Her announcement was long and apologetic, using phrases such as “something which I hope and trust you will receive with grace” and “please understand … I trust you are all sensitive enough to understand how difficult this has been.”

I felt elation, at first, for the brief glimpse into new love and, selfishly, for the value that such a high-profile relationship can lend to the acceptance of my own. Then I was sad about the tragedy of it. Then I was annoyed at how deferential she seemed to feel she needed to be, in the face of everything else going on for her and Elias and for their families. If she had left her husband for another man, there would be less of a need for the summer of silence while they all came to terms with presenting this new status to a judgmental public.

Just a week before Gilbert’s announcement, my partner of more than ten years and I had attended the wedding of close friends of ours. Guests gathered in a small park overlooking Brisbane’s Story Bridge on a perfect spring day, and we took the opportunity to catch up with friends. People mingled, laughed, admired the banksias blooming, and talked about the jacarandas that would soon provide a canopy of purple flowers over the park. Then the celebrant called for us to come together, and we watched while the bride and groom walked down the footpath towards us, hand in hand, smiling at each other, at us, at the day. At love. We listened while the celebrant welcomed all of us, no matter our beliefs. Then we listened to him marry them, with the words legally required in Australia that state marriage is the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others.

People had travelled to be part of this ceremony, to witness the choice to stand and declare, “We are committed to each other” and to have that commitment endorsed by the state.

Marriage equality would mean we’d be less fearful of how we talk about our domestic situation at work, less calculating in choosing who to say what to, when. I’m looking for the kind of society where I can actually forget for a while that there’s anything about me worthy of the judgment of a nation. I’m looking for the kind of society where people like Elizabeth Gilbert don’t have to ask the public for their “grace” while she’s nursing her dying partner.

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