Susan Green and Robin Phillips. Picture: Supplied
Susan Green and Robin Phillips. Picture: Supplied

A love story that spans 50 years, two generations

By Marchelle Abrahams Time of article published Apr 10, 2018

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The Marriage Battle: A Family Tradition is a story of parallel love affairs and civil rights struggles in one family. Marchelle Abrahams chats to co-author Susan Green.

"They say it’s not the big cut that will kill you, but those every day little nicks that eventually cause you to bleed out.” This was Susan Green’s honest reaction when asked if she ever experienced racism or homophobia in the 17 years that she’s been with her now-wife Robin Phillips.

Theirs is a love story that spans not only decades, but finds parallels in Green’s own childhood. The product of a loving marriage between a black American airman and a young white woman from Liverpool, her parents married when their union was illegal in many US states in the late 1950s.

Now based in Arizona, it sparked the couple to document their own journey of being an inter-racial lesbian couple in a new book The Marriage Battle: A Family Tradition.

During Green’s busy schedule, I managed to catch up with her for a quick Q&A session.

Question: What was the creative process behind writing the book?

It all began with an article about 5 years ago that I wrote when same sex marriage was being debated in US courts. I wanted to write a story about my parents’ marriage and my marriage with Robin and the parallels we went through to get people to accept us as normal. I wanted people to realise that it had been less than 50 years ago that my parents’ marriage had been legalised.

LOVE STORY: ’The Marriage Battle: A Family Tradition’ was co-written by Susan Green and Robin Phillips.

How did you and your wife Robin meet?

Robin and I actually met in New York City in 2001. We had gone to an event for LGBT to watch a women’s basketball game. I pretty much knew I was in trouble the first time I saw her. I had actually been set up with someone else, but when I saw Robin I knew there was no other person for me.

Can you recall any instances where you as a couple were subjected to racism and homophobia?

On our first date in New York City we walked into a restaurant and the waitress wouldn’t look at me, she would only look and speak to Robin. That happens often!

Your book is raw and real. Did you find the experience cathartic?

Was it hard? Certainly. It’s never easy being willing to show everyone your “dirty laundry”, but this book would not have been honest without it. There were times when it was difficult to write, but I had made a promise to myself when I sat down. That promise was that I wouldn’t sugar-coat life.

READ: 'Treat same-sex unions exactly the same'

SA’s political landscape has a similar history, and lots of couples in the LGBT community still fear reprisal if they come out. What is your advice to them?

My advice is to make sure you are telling your story at the right time for you. I knew I was gay for several years and was terrified that someone would find out. I always say that people don’t have to approve of me, either as a mixed race child or a lesbian, but they have to respect me. That was always my mantra, and I have to admit it helped me as I was coming out person by person. 

Against all odd: Iris and Ray Green were married illegally in the late 1950s.

I had great friends and family, but I also had a conversation with myself saying I had to be willing to lose some friends over this and that was okay. The only sad thing in my life is that my father never got to know Robin before he passed. But, every day I look at her I thank my dad for teaching me that no matter how hard it might be to love the person you love, you just love them harder. Yes I am a mixed race lesbian and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

* Purchase The Marriage Battle: A Family Tradition on marriagebattle.com/

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