Tag: Care

AS Politics Survey: LGBTQ Health Care & Amy Coney Barrett’s Impacts

AS Politics Survey: LGBTQ Health Care & Amy Coney Barrett's

As we head into the 2020 election, our contributing data brain, Himani Gupta, is analyzing data from past Autostraddle surveys to find out what issues are most important to our readers and what is currently at stake.


In this week’s Senate confirmation hearings, Amy Coney Barrett’s reticence to talk about her positions made it pretty clear how much damage she plans to do once she gets to the Supreme Court. Among the many disturbing things we know about Barrett’s political views, her stances on several health care issues are going to inflict a lot of harm on a lot of people.

Autostraddle’s Politics Survey, launched in December 2019, asked about a number of topics related to health care, namely: religious freedoms, reproductive rights and the affordability of care. At the end of July, I followed up with some of the original survey respondents to see if anything changed in terms of how they thought about the affordability issues in the wake of the pandemic.

We’re going to look at just how important these issues are to our community and discuss what’s at stake with Barrett’s impending nomination to the Supreme Court.

Who Took the Politics Survey

Before we turn to those results, we need to start by understanding who took the Politics Survey and who participated in the follow up.

The Politics Survey was available for anyone to take on Autostraddle’s website between December 3, 2019 and January 10, 2020. Over 4,400 people started the survey and just over two thirds made it to the mandatory questions on gender identity and sexual orientation. The analysis is restricted to queer people who identified as women, non-binary and/or trans, which gives us our sample of 2,834 respondents.

At the end of July, I reached out to the 994 Politics Survey respondents who said they were open to being contacted for follow up. Between July 26 and August 16, 662 people completed the Follow Up Survey. This divides our original sample into two subsamples: people who took the Follow Up Survey and people who didn’t.

For the most part, the Follow Up Survey respondents are a similarly diverse group of people compared to those who didn’t take the Follow Up Survey. A slightly greater proportion of trans women and non-binary women took the Follow Up Survey. The gender identities and sexual orientations of respondents to both surveys are shown below.

This image shows the gender identities and sexual orientations of Politics Survey respondents and those who took the Follow Up survey. In terms of gender identity: 64% of politics survey respondents are cis women, 6% are trans women, 13% are non-binary women, 14% are non-binary people and the remaining are non-binary men, trans men, intersex or questioning. On the follow up survey we have 62% cis women, 9% trans women, 14% non-binary women, 13% non-binary people and the remaining are non-binary men, trans men, intersex or questioning. In terms of sexual orientation, on the politics survey: 40% are lesbian or gay, 31% are queer, 24% are bisexual, pansexual or sexually fluid, 2% are asexual or similar, and the remaining are other sexualities which includes trans men and non-binary men who identify as gay, trans and non-binary people who identify as straight and questioning. On the Follow Up survey that's 38% lesbian/gay, 33% queer, 25% bisexual, pansexual or sexually fluid, 3% as asexual or similar and the remaining as other.

While the two subsamples are similar in terms of race/ethnicity, disability status and age, they differ on education. As shown in the figure below, more of the Follow Up Survey respondents earned a bachelor’s degree as their highest degree.

This image shows demographic characteristics of Politics Survey respondents and those who took the Follow Up survey. For Race/Ethnicity on the Politics Survey: 84% white, 5% Latinx, 5% multiracial and less than 5% Black, Asian/Pacific Islander or indigenous. Among the Follow up survey respondents: 84% white, 5% Latinx, 6% multiracial and less than 5% Black, Asian/Pacific Islander and indigenous. Compared to LGBTQ+ people (data from the Williams Institute) who are 58% white, 21% Latinx, 12% Black, 5% multiracial and less than 5% Asian/Pacific Islander or indigenous. Compared to the U.S. Adults from the census who are 61% white, 18% Latinx, 12% Black, 5% Asian/Pacific islander and less than 5% multiracial or indigenous. For disability status: on the politics survey 15% are living with a disability and 20% said it's complicated. Among follow up survey respondents that's 13% living with a disability and 23% said it's complicated. From the CDC, 26% of adults in the U.S. are living with a disability. For age: on the politics survey 20% are ages 18-24, 32% are ages 25-29, 24% are ages 30-34, 11% are ages 35-38, 7% are ages 39-44 and 6% are 45 or older. Among follow up survey respondents, 19% are ages 18-24, 35% are ages 25-29, 23% are ages 30-34, 12% are ages 35-38, 5% are ages 39-44 and 5% are 45 or older. LGBTQ+ adults are 30% ages 18-24, 26% ages 25-34, 20% ages 35-49, and 23% 50 or older. U.S. adults are 12% are ages 18-24, 9% are ages 25-29, 9% are ages 30-34, 7% are ages 35-38, 9% are ages 39-44 and 54% are 45 or older. U.S. registered voters are 9% are ages 18-24, 8% are ages 25-29, 7% are ages 30-34, 6% are ages 35-38, 9% are ages 39-44 and 61% are 45 or older

Another key difference is that fewer people living outside the U.S. participated in the Follow Up Survey. As a result, more of the Follow Up Survey respondents are registered to vote in the U.S. Once we account for this difference, the two subsamples are similar in terms of what region they live in. They also live in similar types of places, generally. (Note that the U.S. Census uses “urbanized clusters” and “urbanized areas” in its data collection, which are very different from how most people think about urban and suburban.) In terms of income, there is some variation, even after accounting for the differences in the proportions of non-U.S. residents.

This image shows the residence of Politics Survey respondents and those who took the Follow Up survey. On the Politics Survey, 24% of respondents live in the Northeast, 17% in the Midwest, 19% in the South, 24% in the West and 15% outside the U.S. Among Follow Up survey respondents, 25% live in the Northeast, 17% in the Midwest, 22% in the South, 26% in the West and 10% outside the U.S. Among the LGBTQ+ population in the U.S. (according to the Williams institute), 19% live in the Northeast, 19% in the Midwest, 35% in the South and 27% in the West. Among U.S. adults (from the Census) 18% live in the Northeast, 21% in the Midwest, 38% in the South and 24% in the West. Among registered voters, 18% live in the Northeast, 23% in the Midwest, 38% in the South and 22% in the West. In terms of urbanicity, among politics survey respondents, 62% live in an urban area, 29% live in a suburban area and 9% live in a rural area. Among follow up survey respondents, 63% live in an urban area, 28% suburban and 9% rural. Among U.S. adults 71% live in an urbanized area, 10% live in an urban cluster, and 19% rural. In terms of voter registration, among politics survey respondents 85% are registered to vote and 13% are not eligible. Among follow up survey respondents, 92% are registered to vote and 6% are not eligible. Among U.S. adults, 61% are registered to vote and 8% are not eligible. In terms of income, on the politics survey: 15% made less than $30,000, 17% made between $30,000 and $50,000, 26% made between $50,000 and $100,000, 20% made over $100,000, 15% lived outside the U.S. and 7% of the data is missing. Among follow up survey respondents: 15% made less than $30,000, 21% made between $30,000 and $50,000, 27% made between $50,000 and $100,000, 22% made over $100,000, 10% lived outside the U.S. and 5% of the data is missing. Among U.S. adults: 12% made less than $30,000, 13% made between $30,000 and $50,000, 27% made between $50,000 and $100,000, 27% made over $100,000, and 21% of the data is missing. Among registered voters: 10% made less than $30,000, 12% made between $30,000 and $50,000, 29% made between $50,000 and $100,000, 34% made over $100,000, and 16% of the data is missing.

There are, of course, unmeasurable differences between the type of person who would complete a second political survey and the type of person who wouldn’t. That being said, the Follow Up Survey provides important insight into shifts within our community.

“Anyone Who Would Discriminate ‘Based on Their Religious Beliefs’ Should Not be in Health Care.”

Far too often religion becomes the justification for mistreatment in health care, particularly when it comes to LGBTQ+ friendly and, especially, trans-inclusive care and reproductive rights. Based on a poll conducted by The Economist/YouGov in October 2019, Americans are conflicted in their views on a government regulation allowing medical providers to deny services because of their religious beliefs. Those divisions are largely along partisan lines with 81% of liberals opposing such a measure compared to 55% of conservatives supporting it.

Autostraddle Politics Survey respondents were in resounding opposition. Going beyond that question, several people further emphasized in free text comments that providers who have religious qualms about providing services should not be working in health care.

The figure below compares the results from the Politics Survey to the Economist/YouGov poll.

This image shows Autostraddle Politics Survey respondents' views on religious freedom in health care. When asked if they supported or opposed allowing medical providers to refuse to provide any services which violate their religious beliefs to any patients, 95% of politics survey respondents opposed and the remaining either supported were not sure. This compares with an Economist/YouGov poll conducted October 2019 where 28% of U.S. adults support allowing medical providers to refuse to provide any services which violate their religious beliefs to any patients, 50% oppose and 23% are not sure.

While the topic of religious freedoms in health care specifically didn’t come up in the confirmation hearings, Barrett’s views on religious freedom more broadly are well established. Earlier this week, writers for the Washington Post laid out Barrett’s disturbing history of supporting “preferential treatment” for religious expression. It’s likely, based on her record, that if a case on religious freedoms in health care were to make its way to the Supreme Court, she would rule in favor of those who are denying health care.

It’s also very possible that a case on this exact issue will make its way to the Supreme Court soon. In May 2019, the Trump administration created “conscience” protections that would prevent health care institutions from accessing federal funds if they took disciplinary actions against health care workers who denied services because of their religious beliefs. A few months later, in November of that year, a federal judge struck down the rule.

Anti-Trans Discrimination In Health Care Was Already A Big Problem. And Then the Trump Administration Intervened.

The Politics Survey asked respondents if they had been denied health care because of their gender identity or presentation. Among the overall sample, 5% of respondents said they had been denied services and 8% said they were unsure if that had happened to them.

But those overall numbers mask a deeper story. The figure below shows the stark differences in responses to the question on denial of services by the gender identity of the survey respondent. 50% of our trans women respondents had either been denied services because of their gender identity or presentation or had an ambiguous experience along those lines. About a third of our non-binary respondents shared that experience as well.

This image shows responses to the question from the politics survey about being denied services by a medical provider because of gender identity or presentation. 1,784 cis women answered the question and 6% were unsure if they had that experience. 154 trans women answered the question and 22% had been refused services while an additional 28% were unsure if that had happened. 342 non-binary women answered the question and 5% had been refused services while an additional 18% were unsure if that had happened. 368 non-binary people answered the question and 10% had been refused services while an additional 33% were unsure if that had happened. 91 people of other gender identities (non-binary men, trans men, intersex or questioning) answered the question and 14% had been refused services while an additional 18% were unsure if that had happened.

In addition to the responses shown above, several people shared other negative experiences in free-text comments, such as being discriminated against in other ways, traumatized and mistreated by trans-incompetent health care providers. Others mentioned putting off health care to avoid mistreatment and discrimination.

In an effort to address some of these issues, in 2016 the Obama administration implemented anti-discrimination protections on the basis of gender identity. In June of this year the Trump administration eliminated those protections. Mere days later, the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County. In the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that discrimination against trans people qualifies as “discrimination on the basis of sex.” Although that case was dealing with employment protections in the Civil Rights Act specifically, the same logic applies to a whole swathe of other legislation, including the Affordable Care Act. In fact, in August, a federal judge struck down the Trump administration’s attempt to end trans health care protections, citing the Bostock decision.

It seems almost inevitable that trans health care protections will find themselves before the Supreme Court sooner or later. And while Barrett’s views on the rights of trans people did not come up in the confirmation hearings, her use of the term “sexual preference” when asked about LGBTQ+ protections speaks volumes about how she views the community as a whole. Though she later apologized for using the term, her ties to a law firm that has fought to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ+ people have also been reported this week.

Reproductive Rights Have Been Steadily Eroded for Decades.

Even before Barrett was nominated, the alarms were sounding that Roe v. Wade would be effectively gutted by a Supreme Court with a conservative-majority. In many ways, it already has been. Abortion is such a hot button issue that any law that gets passed, whether at the state or even a long-shot attempt in Congress, inevitably will make its way to the courts and, often, up to the Supreme Court. That small handful of people wields an incredible amount of power when it comes to reproductive rights.

Barrett’s views on abortion are clear. She has a long history of explicitly opposing the right to choose. Yet, when directly confronted on the issue during the Senate confirmation hearings, she, unsurprisingly, punted, claiming she would not be going in with an “agenda.” I’m not sure how someone who sponsored a “right to life” ad in 2006 can claim to not have an agenda on this topic.

Respondents to Autostraddle’s Politics Survey could not be farther from Barrett in their views. There was near unanimous support for abortion with almost 90% supporting that basic right to choose in all circumstances and another 10% wanting it to be “legal with limitations.” That was, more or less, consistent no matter how I sliced the data. In contrast, a Monmouth University poll from June 2019 found that while nearly two-thirds of American adults want abortion to be legal in some capacity, only 29% fully support it in all circumstances. The figure below compares these results.

This image compares views on abortion from the Politics Survey to U.S. adults (based on a Monmouth university poll conducted June 2019. Among politics survey respondents, 89% think abortion should always be legal and 11% think it should be legal with limitations. Among U.S. adults, 32% think abortion should always be legal, 31% think it should be legal with limitations, 24% think it should be illegal with exceptions, 10% think it should be always illegal and the rest don't know.

The High Cost Of Health Care Hits Our Community Particularly Hard.

Alongside these battles over what medically-necessary services are legally permissible is the fight over the prohibitively high cost of health care. A well-established problem nationally, this is another aspect of the health care system that especially harms our community. The Politics Survey asked whether respondents to indicate whether they or someone in their household had forgone needed services because of they could not afford them. Results from the Politics Survey are compared to a Monmouth poll conducted May 2019 in the figure below. Note that all results discussed in this section exclude Politics Survey respondents who live outside the U.S. because of the policy-specific nature of this issue.This image compares responses from the politics survey to a Monmouth university poll conducted May 2019. When asked if they or someone in their household had gone without needed health care in the past two years because they could not afford it, 63% of politics survey respondents said yes and 27% of U.S. adults said yes.

Once again, the overall numbers hide a deeper story. The Monmouth University poll found substantial differences in the response to this question by income, which is unsurprising given that cost is the underlying issue. A similar pattern was observed among Politics Survey respondents, as well. This comparison is shown in the graphic below.

This images shows responses to the question asking whether the respondent or someone in their household had not gone for needed care in the past two years because they could not afford it. It compares data from the politics survey and a Monmouth University poll conducted in May 2019 by income level. On the politics survey, 565 respondents had an income over $100,000 and 43% of these respondents said they had gone without care. 733 respondents had an income between $50,000 and $100,000 and 65% of these respondents had gone without care. 475 respondents had an income between $30,000 and $50,000 and 73% of these respondents said they had gone without care. 427 respondents had an income below $30,000 and 82% of these respondents said they had gone without care. On the Monmouth university poll, among people with an income over $100,000, 17% had gone without care. Among people with an income between $50,000 and $100,000 30% had gone without care. Among people with an income below $50,000 34% had gone without care.

A direct consequence of these disparities in access to care by income level is disparities in access to care by other demographic characteristics that are correlated with income, including gender identity, race/ethnicity and disability status. So while the rate of forgoing health care because of the cost among our community as a whole is 63%, among trans women and non-binary people that rate is 70% and 73% respectively, among Black and Latinx people it’s around 70% and among people living with disabilities it is a galling 78%. Health care is just one more arena where some of the most marginalized members of our community face the dual threats of identity-based discrimination and poverty.

The Growing Appeal of Medicare for All

Several policy ideas have been floated in the last few years to address the high cost of health care. A single public plan like “Medicare for All” has gained substantial traction on the left and dominated much of the conversation during the Democratic primaries. Among Politics Survey respondents, over 80% wanted to move towards a universal public system either immediately or eventually. The American public, of course, is much more divided. The figure below compares responses from the Politics Survey to a Monmouth University poll conducted in August 2019.

This image shows responses to questions about how respondents would like to see health care handled from the politics survey and a Monmouth University poll conducted in August 2019. From the politics survey, 69% want to get rid of private insurance for a single public plan like Medicare for all. 13% want the option to opt into Medicare or keep private coverage but eventually move to a universal public system. 7% want the option to opt into Medicare or keep private coverage and always have that option. Less than 5% of respondents selected any of the other choices for how health care should be handled. Among U.S. adults, 22% want to get rid of private insurance for a single public plan like Medicare for all. 18% want the option to opt into Medicare or keep private coverage but eventually move to a universal public system. 33% want the option to opt into Medicare or keep private coverage and always have that option. Less than 5% said they want the option to opt into Medicare or keep private coverage and are unsure what should eventually happen. 7% said they wanted to keep insurance private for people under 65 and regulate the costs. 11% said they wanted to keep insurance basically as it is. And less than 5% said other or don't know.

Support for a single payer was substantially higher among Politics Survey Respondents than U.S. adults, regardless of income. But, nonetheless, a greater proportion of our lower income respondents wanted to move towards a universal public system at some point than our higher income respondents: 88% of respondents with an annual income below $30,000 compared to 78% of respondents with an income above $100,000. There wasn’t much variation in support for Medicare for All by gender identity, race/ethnicity or disability.

I was curious to see if the pandemic led to any shifts in how people viewed Medicare for All, so this same question was asked on the Follow Up Survey. Among the people who took the Follow Up Survey, support for moving to Medicare for All at some point stayed about the same. The urgency, however, changed. In the Politics Survey (conducted December 2019 – January 2020), 70% of Follow Up Survey respondents said they wanted to get rid of all private insurance compared with 14% who preferred an opt-in with eventual transition to single payer. By the time of the Follow Up (conducted July – August 2020), that had shifted to 77% and 9%. The change is modest but not statistically significant.

The Supreme Court Could Affect Single Payer Health Care in Many Ways

One of the drawbacks of a single payer public health plan is that, depending on who’s in power, it might not cover politically divisive but medically necessary procedures like hormone therapy, gender reassignment surgery or other trans-inclusive care, contraceptives or abortions. If recent history is any model, it’s fair to assume that even if Democrats managed to pass a plan like Medicare for All that covered all of these things (more on that in a minute), private companies would start suing left and right and the matter would make its way to the Supreme Court. Conservatives on the Court have already proven that they will side with religious freedoms at the expense of contraceptive care, as we saw in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. All evidence suggests they would act exactly the same way if there were a single payer law with a mandate for covering trans-inclusive care or abortions. And we know Barrett will fall even farther to the right on this than the conservatives currently on the Bench.

In addition to legal scrutiny over what could be covered in such plan, a single payer plan will very likely find itself in court for mandating health coverage, the way the Affordable Care Act has on multiple occasions. Here again, history is instructive of what the future may hold. In 2012, the ACA was narrowly saved with Roberts writing the majority opinion. As a legal scholar explained in a recent interview with The New Yorker, a key issue in that case and the one that will be heard by the Court the week after the election is whether requiring people to purchase health insurance is “an unconstitutional act of coercion.” In the 2012 case, Roberts ruled that the ACA, specifically, was not because of the fines imposed on people who did not purchase health insurance (which Roberts viewed as a “tax” and therefore under the purview of Congress). After Republicans did away with the fines in 2017, the latest challenge to the ACA argues that the current form of the ACA is now coercive.

Many are concerned that Barrett’s hasty nomination to the Court will be the end of the ACA once and for all (a Republican dream and Trump campaign promise). In the hearings, Barrett, of course, punted on the issue, but she has previously criticized Roberts’ 2012 opinion that saved the ACA.

It’s hard not to imagine that all of this would replay itself in one form or another if a public, single payer plan were to somehow become the law. Once again, the Supreme Court has tremendous power in determining the shape of health care in this country.

Biden, of course, does not support single payer, though Harris did during the primary. As the pandemic has worn on, Biden’s moved closer and closer towards it. In July, a “unity task force” between the Biden and Sanders campaigns put forward a plan to expand health care access substantially. While not single payer, the plan will lower the qualifying age for Medicare and includes a government-run public health insurance option. That public option would be available to anyone but would automatically enroll low-income people who lose their jobs. Again, what a conservative court will do with such a law remains to be seen.

Is Everything Doomed?

Barrett will be confirmed before the election. Republicans are bending every rule and norm to make that happen. We will have a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court in a matter of weeks. Roberts’ seemingly liberal sleight of hand votes that have, bit by bit, undermined policies that enshrine basic rights will no longer put off the inevitable. So where do we go from here?

The only say we have over who’s on the Supreme Court is through who we vote into office in the Senate and the Presidency. For his part, Biden continues to dodge questions about court-packing, which leaves us with something to hope for. Last week, Natalie covered the close Senate races; If you have the money or the time, donate to and volunteer to campaign for those races. And after the election, the phones need to start ringing.

Help Improve Cancer Care for LGBTQI+ People

Help Improve Cancer Care for LGBTQI+ People

Cancer is awful no matter who gets it. Yet there are few tailored cancer resources for LGBTQI+ people, although an estimated 81,000 of us are diagnosed with it every year. That’s why the National LGBT Cancer Network is launching a new survey to help inform cancer care for the LGBTQI+ population.

National Cancer Survey

Out: The National Cancer Survey, seeks to learn about LGBTQI+ experiences of cancer treatment and survivorship. Scout, the executive director of the National LGBT Cancer Network and principal investigator for the study (and also a transgender father of three), explained in a press statement:

We ran a smaller scale survivor survey years ago and the insights were profound, people telling us how their families would shun them, how they had to drive miles out of their way to find a welcoming provider, how their partners weren’t really made to feel welcome. This time we hope to get a larger and more diverse group of respondents, to really get a picture of what healthcare is like for our people right now.

Another project goal is to receive enough responses to publish a report on the experiences of Black and Brown LGBTQI+ cancer survivors. The Center for Black Equity is a major partner for the study. “Too often my community is not represented adequately in research, but our experiences are not the same as others, we need to elevate and explore those differences,” said President/CEO Earl D. Fowlkes, Jr.

“We want to use these findings to educate healthcare professionals, and show that as a whole, we are not adequately caring for this population. We need to do better for our LGBTQI+ patients diagnosed and living with cancer,” said Jason Domogauer, M.D., Ph.D., resident physician in the Department of Radiation Oncology at NYU, and a member of the study Advisory Board.

If you are an LGBTQI+ person who has/had cancer, please consider taking part in the survey. It takes about 30 minutes and your answers are completely anonymous.

No, this is not specifically related to parenting, like most of my posts. But I lost both of my parents to cancer, and I wouldn’t wish that on any family, queer or otherwise. If you can help by taking the survey or spreading the word about it, please do.

Thais reviews The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite – The Lesbrary

Susan reviews The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

I hadn’t been super into romance before I had Olivia Waite’s Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics. I sought sapphic representation when I chose books, but I was mostly a reader of literary fiction, so understandably a lot of what I was read didn’t have a happy ending. I didn’t even realize that was something I craved, and I was so giddy when I cracked open this historical romance and found myself enthralled.

I was very eager to read the sequel, The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, another regency sapphic tale. I was intrigued by Agatha in Lady’s Guide and definitely detected queer vibes coming from her, so it was no surprise when she turned out to be one of the protagonists of this book. A no-nonsense small business owner who always seemed to entangled with artists, scientists, and subversives of all kinds, Agatha was intriguing when she was introduced as a side character, but she is delightful here—grumpy and direct, but also caring and cautious when it comes to her own romantic feelings.

I also loved Penelope from her very first moments on the page, which is something I appreciate about Waite’s books. I always struggle to stick with a lesfic romance when I dislike one of the main characters. Waite always write heroines who are quirky and not necessarily traditionally likable, but they hook me completely exactly because they jump off the page as whole human beings, with flaws and unique perspectives. I loved Lucy and Catherine when I read Lady’s Guide, but I think now I love Agatha and Penelope more.

A beekeeper, Penelope comes to Agatha’s aid when the printer finds a beehive nesting inside her warehouse. After Penelope manages to carefully remove the bees and suggests placing their new home just outside Agatha’s business building, the two start corresponding.

As Agatha and Penelope started exchanging letters, I found myself nearly racing to finish the book, because I just wanted these two to be happy already. I had to read it again to appreciate some of the story beats and I’m sure I will read it one more time to swoon over the beautiful prose Waite writes, but the first time had me breathless with anticipation, and even the promise of a happy ending that comes with a romance couldn’t make me relax and slow down.

I don’t usually enjoy characters who pine for each for very long. One of the reasons I loved Lady’s Guide was that there was little wait before the main characters got together and the focus was on their burgeoning relationship and past wounds. I wasn’t sure if I would be the audience for a book that withholds the payoff for so long, since I tend to resent when there are too many misunderstandings and obstacles and people just won’t talk to each other. This book is unabashed about the pining and the silly misunderstandings. But it’s so well-done, with Penelope’s hesitation to come out and Agatha’s resentment of Penelope’s marriage and assumptions about what that means, that I was captivated.

I did miss the diversity from the first book, however. Lady’s Guide has more than one character of color and really came alive for me for painting a portrait of what Regency Britain might really have been like. Waspish Widows has several queer characters instead, which is nice, especially as Agatha and Penelope spend a lot of time supporting and conspiring with the other queers, but I still craved more diversity from the book, probably because I know Waite can deliver it and do it well. I assume Mr. Biswas is Indian, but can’t remember him being that big of a presence in the book, and that’s a pity.

I also really appreciated the side story with Queen Caroline and the real danger it brought to the characters that we cared about. I just wish the plot had been wrapped up a bit better. I felt like we heard way too much about this historical context in the beginning and then interest seemed to wane and narrow on the fictional plots that sprouted from it, but that too is sort of set aside at the end, and we only get an assurance that it was resolved by a certain character moving away. I was a bit disappointed.

The middle of the book has amazing tension due to Waite weaving so many threads exceptionally well and creating explosive confrontations. The writing is well-paced, so it propels you forward, making you want to know how it will all come to a head. So I felt a bit cheated that main antagonist in the story disappears off-page and the political tensions are resolved by people just losing interest.

Nevertheless, none of that ruined my enjoyment of the book. It’s a testament to Waite’s brilliant storytelling that even when my brain is picking on tiny things and I’m frustrated with bits and pieces, the whole narrative is still impactful and satisfying. Her character work in particular shines. All these people she creates stay in your imagination. Those characters live outside the page, leave a mark on the reader. When Catherine appeared briefly for a cameo in this book, I nearly shouted in excitement. When Mr. Frampton was mentioned, I felt nostalgic and sad that we hadn’t seen him in this book yet. And I would pay any amount of money for a book focusing on Joana Molesey and Aunt Kelmarsh, because there are so few sapphic romances between older women, and after reading Waspish Widows, I would love more.

I certainly can’t wait to go back to this mini world and see them once again, and while I know that Waite has only planned one more book for this series, I can’t help but hope she will pen many more historical sapphic books. I would certainly read them.

Thais is a Brazilian WOC queer. Her degree in Media Studies has slowly grown useless, even though she literary Majored in how to be good at social media (but can’t understand it better than twelve-year-olds) and she currently lives with her parents. She is an Editor and has too many opinions on books she should be reading for fun.

You can find her on Goodreads or Twitter (@ThaisAfonso).

Sera reviews The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waites – The Lesbrary

Susan reviews The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

When I first read The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, I remembered being enchanted by the writing, the world building, and the gorgeous, tender romance at the heart of the story. It was one of the smartest historical romances I’d read in a long while, and it fed both my heart and my brain. In the same spirit, The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, while markedly different in pace and character, satisfies in the same way.

I’m a sucker for first lines, and enjoyed the way Waite’s novel catches the attention with these:

“The corpses were giving Agatha the most trouble. They looked too much like people.”

Besides grabbing the reader, the opening is excellent as an introduction to Agatha Griffin, a forty-five year old widow who runs a print house. She worries about her son’s penchant for staying out all night, as well as his inability to keep his hands off her brilliant assistant, Eliza. She also worries about keeping the print press going given the political climate, the oppressive taxation, and her son’s lack of business sense.

When she finds a beehive in her warehouse, it’s the last problem in the world she needs.

In comes Penelope Flood, a gorgeous beekeeper who helps her remove the beehive. Living in a small village where everyone knows too much about each other, Penelope spends much of her time with her bees, while her husband and brother work as whalers and are often at sea. When she and Agatha meet, it sets off a friendship that grows into love.

It takes time for the relationship between two women to develop–they don’t actually share a first kiss until three-quarters of the way through the book. However, what we do get is a great deal of deep connection and pining, evolving into a smoldering passion that sweeps Agatha and Penelope away. In the meantime, there are subplots involving Queen Caroline and Penelope’s village, as well as discourses on the politics of the time, the workings of print presses, and the art of beekeeping. I enjoyed the political commentary about the importance of a free press and the need to maintain its independence from the state, a topic of direct relevance to the times we live in today.

It also thrilled my 40-ish heart to see older protagonists depicted in romance, and especially in a Sapphic romance as this one, where both women have lived rich and interesting lives and are no longer at their peak. It’s an important story that isn’t often told. Even with the obvious constraints on the lives of Agatha and Penelope, both because of their gender as well as their sexual orientations, these are two fully-realized women who also find a way to be happy.

As a corollary to this, secondary queer characters in both novels have satisfying relationships that are not shrouded in secrecy and shame, but accepted by others. It is high time to modify our understanding of queer relationships throughout history, how much more common they were, especially Sapphic ones, which had a bit more space within which to be carried out.

Waite makes a point of centering women’s occupations, and illustrating their value. She demonstrates this brilliantly in the The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics and continues to expose the reader in this novel. The entire arena of female engagement is revealed, from print shops and beekeeping, to poetry and political activism. The story of Queen Caroline weaves throughout the fabric of the story, providing a wider historical arc against which Agatha and Penelope’s love story develops. The centuries change, but what matters to women doesn’t.

If you are looking for an intelligent, layered, historical romance featuring women of a certain age, then you will enjoy the book. It works well at the level of historical fiction, though as a romance, it does take a minute for it to take off. But when it gets there, the passion is wild and gorgeous. It is a romance that rewards a reader’s patience.