It wasn’t until I told Josh, my 26 year old very fabulous gay boyfriend, about my troubles wearing nail polish that I realized just maybe the world had changed.
He simply couldn’t believe it when I mentioned that a girl I had a crush on in college told me my red nails meant I wanted to be fucked by men. Do they really?
“Apparently, Yes.” I told him. “A lesbian said that to me in 1985.”
I graduated from Tufts University in 1987. I read Andrea Dworkin and Alice Walker and Gloria Steinem and Pat Califia. But my mascara seemed to be the salient issue in my quest to be a feminist. “You want to work at Planned Parenthood? You want to March to Take Back the Night?”
I fell in love at first sight with a cropped haired bleach blonde motorcycle dyke who wore black leather pants and had a gap between her front teeth. (Of course I did.) She told me I should get my hair cut. I loved her. I cut my hair. But that didn’t make much of a difference given my proclivity for all things girly. She left me.
I was brought up by my Grandma, a French Canadian Lady who wore white gloves to shop at Filene’s. So giving up my first girl was hard, but giving up my lipstick was out of the question.
I was the only girl in a dress at my first Gay Pride Parade. 1988. There were lots of boys in dresses. I thought, Maybe I Am a Drag Queen.
I worked in gay bars when I was 26, 1991. Wore minis with high heeled boots, grew out my hair again, and put on my make up. I was the only queer girl in a skirt. In Boston. The girls asked the other bartender questions about me. “What is she doing here? Is she really gay?” Really.
I was there but not there, seen but invisible.
1993. Cindy Crawford shaved kd Lang on the cover of Vanity Fair. Peek a boo! But Cindy was still a straight girl.
Many of the coming out stories I knew told of disapproving parents and feelings of isolation in the straight world. But my story is different. My parents didn’t skip a beat, and the straight world accepted me.
“Really? You don’t Look Like a Lesbian.”
My coming out involved convincing girls that I wasn’t going to leave them for a boy. My coming out meant being the only girl at the BBQ who didn’t play touch football or drink beer. My coming out was about being who I was and wanting desperately to be accepted in a subculture that refused to see me. Stubborn, silly me. I thought being a feminist meant I was free to express myself in a way I thought was beautiful, creative, powerful, fierce and lovely. What’s lipstick got to do with it? I didn’t want to Look Like A Lesbian. I just fell in love with girls.
Then came Ellen. And Anne. (Then not so much Anne). Then The L Word… and… finally Portia!
Josh, (b.1985, ‘what’s an LP?’ Really? Really.) used my coming out experience as part of a performance art project. He portrayed me as a frustrated ballerina trying to pirouette to punk rock. His generation of lesbians wear lipstick, leather, lace, and flannel… high heels and motorcycle boots… or not. They kiss girls and boys – and dress like boys and girls… and dance with whomever they want. To him, I am a queer sexy fashionista auntie. We shop.
2010. Lesbians don’t necessarily Look Like Anything any more. Phew.
But I am still invisible.
My tomboy niece and I went to the park one morning where she ran around with the boys. One of the Moms wondered aloud if my husband and I thought our daughter might grow up to be gay.
“Oh, she’s my niece, and I think it might be too soon to tell. But… is that your daughter over there… in the tutu?”
Alicia Leeds is Founder/ Director of Full Life whose mission is to provide services and products that help people improve the quality of their lives through better health. Full Life’s services include Personal Coaching for better weight and health management and the HMR at Home Diet Program. Alicia blogs about food, weight and health at www.fulllifeservices.com.