Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Lesbian? Moi? How can you tell?

Oh, how I long for those halcyon-early-coming-out days - when girls were women, women were wimmin, and those wimmin were probably dykes and dykes were ..... well, you get my drift. I came out in the late 70's/early 80's in Britain. I don't know what it was like for US dykes, but in the UK when you came out and it was 1979-84, you HAD to be a man-hating lesbian separatist. I went from a lipstick-wearing, bra-sporting, high-heeled teetering, straight married gal, to a buzz-cut, flick-knife-wielding, no-make-up, hip-flask-toting, Doc. Marten-stomping dyke separatist living in collective households, churning out feminist, dyke-separatist polemic on mimeographed sheets. We were dykes and there was a revolution to be fought, demos to march in and wimmin to save!

In Britain, if you were a lesbian and a feminist you HAD to have short hair - it was the rule! I had short, spikey, punked out hair with a slew of holes punctured up and down my ear-lobes. Every available wall in our houses sported feminist posters, we were festooned in Sterling Silver labyris and double-women symbols. I was newly vegetarian, could result Adrienne Rich's treaty on "Compulsory Heterosexuality" by heart, was 26 years old, or thereabouts, and felt like I finally belonged somewhere. Even then, I was a flambuoyant separatist. I wore painters' overalls, dyed in bright colors. I bought my earrings at the local Indian grocery store...they jangled, dangled, spun and shimmered and were bright and colorful. I took some flack for being so femmey, so wore bigger boots than anybody else and was "Ms. Ultra-Separatist" to make up for the earrings and bright attire.

Cut to 2006, and I no longer know if I'm allowed to call myself a lesbian. The rules got away from me, and I can't tell - does it matter anymore? What happened to my fervent, young dyke feminist politics? My partner was born biologically female, always felt hirself to be male, isn't a feminist, and doesn't understand why it's so hard for me to be a lesbian in a relationship with somebody who doesn't like their female body. How the fuck did I end up here? (That's going to be a later blog, I promise!) It felt much easier when I was 26 years old, than it does in my early 50's. I look in the mirror at this woman, the woman I have become, with my traditional hairstyle, my tastefully applied make-up (not too much, not too little) and my conservative clothing and I barely recognize myself anymore. I long for a short spikey hair cut. I don't own a pair of Doc. Martens, but sure wish I did. I don't have a community around me now, leastways not a lesbian community, although I have lesbian friends and I go to an open discussion group that picks topics to talk about each month. There was a time when another lesbian could see me out the corner of her eye and her gaydar would go off. Now I have to come out on purpose, because people can't tell. Is that important? Can we afford to relax more now that we're older? I don't know the answer to the questions, but I sure wish I did.


Blogger WordsRock said...

Fascinating post.

I went through what I call my "in your face" stage not long after I came out. This stage manifested with rainbows everywhere and a "hate is not a family value" bumper sticker on my car I also had several obnoxious t-shirts that scream I'M A LESBIAN, but not in those exact words.

I don't feel the need to advertise anything anymore. Nor do I feel the need to hide. I'd rather people know all of me, my sexuality being just one part of a much greater whole.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Sapphique said...

Wordsrock, always good to hear from fellow travellers. I'm with you re "sexuality being just one part of a much greater whole." I'm so sick of definitions of me that only include the people I get naked with. I feel kind of embarrassed now when I think back to those days, while at the same time understanding that that "in your face" phase is an important developmental stage in coming out. Thanks for your comments.

11:25 PM  
Blogger DaraQW said...

I had long hair all through my growing up and into adulthood. At 25, as a newly-out lesbian, I got it cut off for exactly the reason you mentioned: dykes did not have long hair. Well, unfortunately, my hair is very, very fine and so I got it perm'd so it wouldn't be so hard to manage. Put together that with the flannel, jeans and Birkenstocks and I looked like a suburban housewife getting ready to clean out the garage. It just didn't work for me.

It took another ten years and the Internet before I figured out I DID belong to the lesbian sisterhood--as a femme.

11:53 PM  

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