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Queering the borders: Lorraine Hansberrys 1957 Letters to The Ladder
Unformatted Document Text:  Queering the Borders: Hansberry’s Letters to The Ladder, 21 unless she can say to herself if not her husband “I find other women interesting; that does not in any way affect our relationship.” 63 Hansberry opens her August letter with an acknowledgement of Osbourne’s letter, though she spends most of the text responding to two of Bradley’s points by sketching, in opposition to Bradley’s preferred psycho-sexual analysis of married lesbians, her own political economic analysis of lesbian sexuality, economics, and ethics. In this letter Hansberry again begins with a caveat – this time confessing that while she was interested in Bradley’s essay, “I understood what she was saying far less.” Hansberry next goes on to rebut one of Bradley’s premises – that if a married lesbian takes her marriage vows seriously “her interest in other women will affect her marriage no more than the heterosexual woman’s healthy interest in other men” 64 Hansberry’s initial move is to distinguish Bradley’s depiction of lesbians as having an “interest” in women from “the homosexual impulse” which Hansberry defines as having one’s “most intense emotional and physical reactions toward other women?” 65 Hansberry then advances a line of argument that examines the social context of married lesbians: “Further, to assert that such women ought to be able to put genuine truth in the statement that her interest in other women will affect her marriage no more than the heterosexual woman’s interest in other men’s is making an equation of two decidedly different social circumstances that simply have no equality in life. A woman of strength and honesty may, if she chooses, sever her marriage and marry a new male mate and society will be upset that the divorce rate is rising so -- but there are few place in the United States, in any event, where she will be anything remotely akin to an ‘outcast’. Obviously this is not true for a woman who would end her marriage to take up life with another woman.” Hansberry then suspends this line of argument for a paragraph to reflect briefly on the ethics of violating marriage vows, which she does not condone. “Not so much because of any sacredness of our dubious social morality, but rather because it involves the deception of another human being – and that, as 63 Marion Zimmer Bradley, “Some Remarks on Marriage,” The Ladder, July 1957, 14. 64 Ibid., 15. 65 Lorraine Hansberry, “Readers Respond,” The Ladder, August 1957, 27.

Authors: Lipari, Lisbeth.
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Queering the Borders: Hansberry’s Letters to The Ladder, 21
unless she can say to herself if not her husband “I find other women interesting; that does not in any way
affect our relationship.”
63
Hansberry opens her August letter with an acknowledgement of Osbourne’s letter, though she spends
most of the text responding to two of Bradley’s points by sketching, in opposition to Bradley’s preferred
psycho-sexual analysis of married lesbians, her own political economic analysis of lesbian sexuality,
economics, and ethics. In this letter Hansberry again begins with a caveat – this time confessing that
while she was interested in Bradley’s essay, “I understood what she was saying far less.” Hansberry next
goes on to rebut one of Bradley’s premises – that if a married lesbian takes her marriage vows seriously
“her interest in other women will affect her marriage no more than the heterosexual woman’s healthy
interest in other men”
64
Hansberry’s initial move is to distinguish Bradley’s depiction of lesbians as
having an “interest” in women from “the homosexual impulse” which Hansberry defines as having one’s
“most intense emotional and physical reactions toward other women?”
65
Hansberry then advances a line
of argument that examines the social context of married lesbians:
“Further, to assert that such women ought to be able to put genuine truth in the statement that her
interest in other women will affect her marriage no more than the heterosexual woman’s interest
in other men’s is making an equation of two decidedly different social circumstances that simply
have no equality in life. A woman of strength and honesty may, if she chooses, sever her
marriage and marry a new male mate and society will be upset that the divorce rate is rising so --
but there are few place in the United States, in any event, where she will be anything remotely
akin to an ‘outcast’. Obviously this is not true for a woman who would end her marriage to take
up life with another woman.”
Hansberry then suspends this line of argument for a paragraph to reflect briefly on the ethics of violating
marriage vows, which she does not condone. “Not so much because of any sacredness of our dubious
social morality, but rather because it involves the deception of another human being – and that, as
63
Marion Zimmer Bradley, “Some Remarks on Marriage,” The Ladder, July 1957, 14.
64
Ibid., 15.
65
Lorraine Hansberry, “Readers Respond,” The Ladder, August 1957, 27.


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