I was recently asked by one of my gay male colleagues if I could fix the photocopier.
He thought because I was a lesbian that fixing mechanical machines would be an innate skill I possessed.
I stopped, laughed and replied that being a lesbian did not automatically make me adept at handy work or engineering. Even if I wanted to be.
Just because I have a girlfriend and am same-sex attracted doesn’t mean I own a Subaru (with full cred and respect to Subaru’s superb niche marketing campaign in the 90s and the quality of the latest model I had the good fortune to UBER in recently), live in Birkenstocks (now the shoe of choice of inner city hipsters of all persuasions), own a cat (I did have a dog for thirteen glorious years) or wear other comfortable shoes (my shoe of choice for work is the same that the air hostesses wear – a heel midway between comfortable and ridiculously high – so that my years of ankle sprains sustained on the sporting field are not an issue).
As for the daggy, yet incredulously believed “UHaul” joke that is still bandied around – “What does a lesbian take to her second date? A UHaul.”
Just because I am a lesbian, doesn’t mean I have ever moved in with a partner on our second meeting. It took a few months.
My coming out was back in the 90s when lesbian stereotypes abounded. Melissa Etheridge, KD Lang, Indigo Girls, Monique Brumby, Marie Wilson and the Bluehouse were inspirational to me. While I liked their music and I frequented the venues they played at, I was still finding my way with my sexual identity and did not want to be labelled in any way.
Etheridge and Ellen paved the way for mainstream awareness of lesbians, but it still felt like they were the only two visible role models.
While I would have been described as a “lipstick lesbian”, I didn’t quite embody the stereotype. I played netball and tennis, as well as gaelic football. I wore makeup, I kept my hair long, I dressed well (at least I thought I was no stranger to fashion) and was known for my ability to kick a ball a country mile.
The L Word (2004-2009) opened both my own and a lot of other people’s eyes up to a whole new world of lesbians and changed the stereotype of the lesbian forever. The unique style of Bette, Tina, Shane, Dana and Alice were constant topics of conversation amongst my female attracted girlfriends. We would discuss who did you most resemble and who would you most like to be with, and there were regular viewing parties held on a Thursday night. This was way before catch up TV and we looked forward to reacquainting ourselves with Hollywood’s version of “lesbian chic” and Shane’s intoxicating androgyny every week. I described myself as more like Alice crossed with Tina (because she was a publicist), but desired most to be like (and with) Bette.
Enter Orange Is The New Black, Starting from Now and Wentworth and a whole new societal wave of acceptance. These shows put strong lesbian characters on the map for large international audiences. The love stories between Frankie and Bridget and Bea and Allie featured lesbians who were beautiful and powerful, without stereotype.
Working in gay media could arguably be the safest place to be your full self and has opened my eyes up to the many stereotypes in our community. I realise in hindsight that, as I navigated my own coming out journey, I was the person who bought most into the stereotyping and tried to hide who I was.
If I could, I would tell my younger self that is a bullshit way to live, but times have changed and acceptance is now easier. I am proud to be a lesbian without any labels.
Just don’t ask me to fix your photocopier.