Originally published 11-14-08
As a PR pro I subscribe to Prof Net, a service on which journalists post queries for interviewees. If you ever wonder where Oprah finds with “lesbians with lesbians for moms” for her show, that is where. Last week I ran across an intriguing request from the New York Post looking for an expert for a story on Lindsay Lohan and the idea of women who are not gay but are in relationships with women. The reporter wanted to know if such a thing exists and if it is a new trend.
To the chagrin of many, it is real, and it has been around a while. One of my best friends, a quietly gay actress who stars on a popular soap opera, recently tied the knot with her long-time love, a gorgeous, statuesque model, who my friend says is not gay. Though they plan on staying together forever, my friend says that if they were ever to split, her beautiful wife would surely go back to men. “She is only gay for me,” explains my friend.
This phenomenon is not a one-off anomaly, and it goes both ways. Way back in vintage lesbian cinema one can find an example in the seminal art film “Go Fish.” Remember the little butch who sneaks off for a tryst with a boyfriend? She is hit with a barrage of disapproval from her friends, but she defends and defines herself matter-of-factly as “as a lesbian who sleeps with men.”
If seeing it in black and white is not evidence enough, there is the insight offered by my cousin. She’s a wonderful woman who developed an illegal prescription drug habit after a bad toothache, got caught and is currently doing time in Camp Cupcake, where Martha Stewart was incarcerated. She writes me about the girls locked up with her who are “gay for the stay.” They are not lesbians but sexually promiscuous women who are “nasty and needy.” In contrast, she says, the actual lesbians in prison keep to themselves.
Before I settled down with my partner Kira, I myself had an experience with an engaged woman who wanted a lesbian fling before marrying a man. My wary friends referred to her as “tri-sexual”–as in “try anything.” Like my friends, many lesbians are suspicious of these women who dabble in our way of life. Some call them “bisexual;” others call them “heartbreakers.” Surely all of us know a lesbian who’s been left for a guy.
I cannot be too critical because I was married to a man many moons ago. I understand being romantically involved with a member of either sex. Hardcore dykes-from-the-day-they-hit-puberty just cannot fathom it, but for some of us, it is possible. Most lesbians have slept with at least one man in their day, but they mark it up to experimentation or peer pressure. This notion of temporarily gay just does not jibe for them.
Lindsay Lohan has brought the issue out into the mainstream with her very public, first-denied, and now pussy-footed around relationship with Samantha Ronson. The media are not sure how to deal with it, and neither are lesbians. We wonder if we should embrace Lohan or keep our distance.
In recent interviews Lohan describes her sexuality as on a continuum, stating she’s not sure what the future holds, but right now she’s in love with Ronson. She says she defies labels. While this is the sort of non-classification that makes many lesbians uncomfortable, it is fine by me.
I certainly do not begrudge anyone her or his own path to love and fulfillment. Nobody can define a lesbian as a woman who exclusively loves women anymore than Proposition 8 can define marriage as between a man and a woman.
My only worry is that we will have to add another letter onto the acronym of GLBT; and already I get hungry for a lettuce-bacon-and-tomato sandwich every time I say it. And what would the letter be anyway?