is a type of opposite-sex
marriage in which the spouses do not have the same sexual orientation
and have wed to
conceal the homosexual
orientation of one or both spouses. In
, the heterosexual
spouse in a lavender marriage is
referred to as a "beard
for a wife
or, less attested, a "merkin
" for a husband
there have been a number of prominent lavender marriages in
history, the phrase itself came into colloquial use during the
1920s, when the imposition of morality clauses into the contracts
of Hollywood actors caused some homosexual stars to enter into
marriages of convenience to
protect their public reputations, and preserve their
The destruction of the career of MGM
actor William Haines
who refused to end his relationship with his male partner Jimmy
Shields and enter into a marriage at MGM's direction, was said to
have prompted a number of marriages of this type.
While the term is no longer in common usage, rumors suggesting that
some high profile celebrity couples marry to conceal the sexual
orientation of one or both partners continue to circulate.
Among the couples and individuals who have been reported to have
entered "lavender marriages" are:
- Actor Rock Hudson, who, under movie
studio pressure and worried about rumors that Confidential magazine was
planning to expose his homosexuality, married Phyllis Gates, a young woman who worked in the
- British diplomat Harold Nicolson
and his wife Vita
Sackville-West, who were bisexual early in their marriage but
after the birth of their two sons returned to their original
homosexual preferences and engaged in same-sex love affairs.
The plot of the 1993 film The
centers around a lavender marriage between
two Chinese Americans.
In an episode of the Simpsons Troy Mcclure enters into a lavendar
marriage with Selma Bouvier to conceal his unusual sexual desire
for fish/aquatic animals.
- Nicolson, Nigel. Portrait of a Marriage. London:
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1978.