Pearlie posted an update 1 year ago
I wanted to say a few words about the bad old days. I am getting on in years. I have reached a point where my sex life consists entirely of distant memories; I am so grey and wrinkly that I would frighten away anyone of any gender even if they had just been released from ten years of solitary confinement.
When I was about 11 years old the only lesbian lit available were Radclyffe Hall and the Beebo Brinks books, and you must understand that it was some sort of law that any lesbian relationship in books must end badly. About the same time the first serious movie to touch on lesbianism was The Children’s Hour, in which Shirley McLaine and Audrey Hepburn were falsely accused of being lesbians and the mere accusation was so godawful that one of them hung herself. So that was the ambiance which prepped me in my formative years.
And at that time we were all (male and female alike) called Queers. And, yes, it was supposed to be an insult. If you were a dude you might get beaten to death, if you were a girl you might get beaten and/or raped. Finding similar persons was not so easy because revealing oneself was extremely risky. This is probably still the case, which explains a lot of gay teen hysteria, because it seems when your pairing turns sour that there’s nobody else on earth for you except this one person who’s a bad fit. Turning 21 (or at least looking that old) could get us into bars that were hospitable to our kind, and we might find more matches that way — and an awful lot of us developed drinking problems as a result.
And then in the early 1970s we actually organized. We rejected the Queer label and called ourselves Gay – which I think was total sarcasm. Then in the late 1970s we decided that to be Gay required a Y chromosome, and so women insisted on distinguishing themselves as Lesbians, so G became G&L. At some point in the 1980s we added the Bi contingent, not really distinguishing between male bisexuals and female bisexuals – I guess that bit of fragmentation still awaits us.
The mid-1980s brought the AIDS epidemic and the Lesbians were somehow drafted to do a lot of the nursemaid work for very sick gay men – at a time when heteros were refusing to do their nursing, their laundry, their housekeeping, etc. The two populations hadn’t really been that close but the plague brought out the feminine nurturing characteristic that many of us had thought we had buried away. Someday I hope the boys will return the favor. Anyway that charity was necessary for only 3 or 4 years and then medical science assured everyone that AIDS wasn’t some sort of airborne flu.
Sometime around the late 1980s or early 1990s, lesbian sex got to be big with the non-gays. Rumor was that women would enjoy lesbian sex more than the hetero kind. Men resented lesbians, wanted to learn their techniques, and also wanted to watch for their own jollies. Women evidently were tempted – I heard lots and lots of stories of “experiments” by non-lesbians. By this time, however, I was well past my prime so nobody wanted to experiment with me, nobody wanted to watch me.
Nowadays it seems that a movie is as likely to have a lesbian sex scene as it is to have a hetero sex scene (and considerably more likely than it would be to have a male gay sex scene).
I think I was born too early. If only I were in my 20s or 30s right now I could be having the time of my life.
Thank your for your comment and being one of the pioneers of our community.
As Turanga Leela says “Oh Lordy!” I’m old but I am definitely not old enough to have been a pioneer. Believe me on this, I am not old enough to have spoken Greek with Sappho. By the time I came along there was a lively underground of lesbian life, although very much secretive and surrounded by myths. For example, the very very prevalent myth that EVERY lesbian was a bulldyke, dressed like Marlon Brando in motorcycle leathers … and was, on top of that, a veritable pressure cooker of dangerous vengeful temper. Some of us new to the lesbian scene somehow felt this was the obligatory uniform even if it didn’t fit. It took a while, and a lot of painful lessons, to find our proper personae. Someone should write a book about those days – humorous, not tragic (it seemed that, at the time, movies and books were forbidden to have lesbian romances end happily). But I am VERY grateful for your expression of appreciation!
I throw in my suspicion that the legalization – first in foreign countries, then in a few brave states, and finally through a Supreme Court decison – of same sex marriage was not an unalloyed benefit to all gays everywhere. It was a rose with thorns. This may sound odd but to many of us (probably to gay men more than lesbians) the temporary nature of the couplings was regarded as a good thing. The impermanence of same sex relationships back then meant that the romantic spark had to be kept alive, and when it went dark and cold the two would move on to others with a minimum – I said, a minimum – of ugliness and rancor and legal expense. Now that a legally binding marriage is an available option, some relationships that looked like they’d be fun (for a few weeks) are being avoided for fear that they’d be pure hell stretched over decades.