For My Wife…
Charlene Strong overcomes tragedy to triumph as an activist for Marriage Equality.
For My Wife… is an essential documentary for all LGBTQ cinephiles
It’s a horror story that sadly, many have experienced during the pandemic: to have a loved one pass away in an ICU and not be there with them. But even before the pandemic – as little as seven years ago – many US same-sex couples had to deal with this reality as they were not always recognized as their interned SO’s next of kin.
For My Wife… chronicles one of the many battles in the war for equal rights. Charlene Strong’s battle begins when her wife, Kate, is admitted to the ICU after nearly drowning in a flash flood. Despite having lived together for nearly a decade, Strong was not considered to be Kate’s next of kin, and had to wait until one of her family members arrived to the hospital to be let it. Luckily, she was able to arrive in time, but one can only imagine her terror when she was faced with the real possibility of not being able to say her goodbyes. As if this weren’t enough, when making the funeral arrangements, Strong’s relationship to Kate was continually dismissed, only taken into account when it was time to provide a credit card. “Twice I [was] told that I’m no one,” Kate recalls.
These incidents led her a month and a half later to testify before the House and the Senate, where the Domestic Partnership bill for Washington State was under debate. Her contribution was essential; it gave a human face to something that was continuously demonized. This was key in keeping the debate grounded, given the way in which opponents referred to the bill as an evil step in the “homosexual agenda,” and even at one point included homosexuality within a list of sexual crimes such as bestiality and necrophilia. Watching the documentary nearly thirty years later, it’s shocking to see the kind of rhetoric that was acceptable in a publicly broadcast debate.
For My Wife… is an essential documentary for all LGBTQ cinephiles. Although it is only a snapshot of the journey towards same-sex marriage, it is a reminder of how every right many of us have was hard-fought. In giving Strong the space to tell her story, the audience can fully appreciate the kind of courage that it took to come up against the unapologetic homophobia that was admitted into government offices. Like her wife, Strong is an excellent storyteller: despite the dramatism of her experience, she narrates her story with the tranquil tone of someone who’s clearly had to repeat her tale many times during her years as an activist. Even though there is often hurt in her voice, there is never the fervent anger that dissuades any conversation from taking place. She was, and still is, the kind of spokesperson that is needed to engage and convince those that still believe in a “homosexual agenda.”
While the content of the documentary deserves five stars, we have given four stars simply on account of the editing which seems a little old-fashioned, even for its time. Examples of this include inconsistent color-grading and 2003 Powerpoint-like transitions: small details in comparison to the powerful story that took America by storm and eventually led to the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriages.
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To find out more about the cast, crew, genre and where you can get this film, check out the LesFlicks Film Database.
This article was written by:
Isidora has written for various student papers, offering articles from film reviews to opinion pieces that often had Latin American cultural events or productions as the focus of the piece.
She has just graduated from her MPhil in Comparative Literatures from the University of Cambridge, and will be going on to do her PhD in Hispanic Studies in Toronto.