I outed myself at an office Christmas party one year by bringing my girlfriend along. I was working in the credit department of a bank and I lived to regret the decision. Sure, we were the intrigue of the moment, and you can be sure that free drinks flowed all night long, but by the time Monday morning came around the attention I was getting from my straight female coworkers was getting to be a little bit much.
My cubicle became the scene of an excruciating Q&A session/ confessional. “Have you always known you were a lesbian?” “I guess I could admit that girls are pretty hot, though I’m not a lesbian or anything.” “I’ve always been curious of what it would be like to be with a woman.”
They eventually dispersed back to their cubbyholes, except for one especially curious girl. “I hope you don’t mind me asking you this” — blush, bite lower lip — “but how does it work exactly with two women? You know, sexually?”
Hmmm, let’s see. Did I mind being asked to describe how I go about fucking my girlfriend to half the female audience in the office? I thought of creating a PowerPoint presentation outlining the finer details of lesbian sex, or perhaps I could even organize an interoffice porn night. Speaking of porn, I suppose I could’ve just leaned in and whispered, “Follow me to the washroom and I’ll give you a few pointers.” Insert porn bass line here.
There was a time when the world of lesbianism was equivalent to a big shiny question mark. How much we exposed of the mystery to the straight world was completely up to us. We could give them some tantalizing details or we could keep our mouths shut and smirk, confident that we were having way better sex than they were. It was up to us to tell them that their questions were inappropriate for the water cooler.
Then The L-Word came along and let all of our little secrets out of the bag. The show threw our bedroom doors wide open, albeit a rather plastic and pornographic version, and straight gals are big fans.
While many queer women watch the show because they’re happy to see some sort of vague representation of lesbian life finally entering the mainstream (albeit in a skinnier, hotter version where the women spend 90 percent of their time in a hip coffee-shop), it seems an increasing number of straight women are watching the show as if it were some sort of infomercial.
Even the glossy women’s mags are getting lesbian envy. In a recent issue of Marie Claire the magazine dedicated a whole eight-page spread to the growing “phenomena” of lipstick lesbians who seduce heterosexual girls.
Suddenly that big shiny question mark is more of an exclamation point.
You’ve seen them, straight girls by the busload squeezing themselves into Tango all wide-eyed, holding each other by the arm like kids on a bizarre field trip. I bet they’re hoping the place will look like the set of The L-Word, all of them secretly hoping that a Shane look-alike might corner them in a darkly lit washroom and show them the ropes.
But Tango isn’t The Planet and Toronto is no LA, so they usually end up drinking too much before jumping up onstage for a breast-to-breast with a drag queen. “I’m straight but I’m open to suggestions!” The crowd roars and she’s given a shot of some alcoholic blue Jello-like concoction.
This is fairly harmless compared to what seems like an escalating number of straight couples who are showing up in queer spaces shopping for a lesbian of their own. They roam our bars looking for the perfect lesbian to take home. These couples usually don’t manage to find what they are looking for, but by the end of the night they’re in a corner of the bar, making out and wondering why we wouldn’t be interested in such an open-minded couple.
But what straight people have such trouble getting is that our queer places, especially places that are meant to be just for queer women, are quickly becoming endangered, and to have them invaded as if a lesbian night was some sort of “dykemart” is completely unacceptable.
Even on-line we can’t get away from them. A quick scan of Craigslist.com’s women-for-women forum turns up a ton of straight couples openly trolling for queer women to try out. It’s enough to piss off any lesbian.
While I’m certainly not suggesting we discourage straight folks from exploring same-sex attractions, I don’t see why we should be the ones to show them how it’s done. Let them rent a movie or publish an ad that reads, “curious straight girl seeks same.”
Just don’t come looking for a guided tour. This is our life, our space. It’s not some sort of tutorial room for the inexperienced. We’ve got better, hotter and gayer things to do.