I’m not sure why, but lately I have been obsessing over finding a snappy label for the particular subculture of dykes that I joined when I came out.
If I’d been born in another era, I could have been a monocle-wearing mannish lesbian in 1920s Paris, or a high femme with a hard-living butch lover in 1950s America. Or even a radical lesbian separatist clearing land for a commune in the 1970s.
But instead, I came out in 1993 in Vancouver. Nothing against the time or the place or the people–it’s just that I find it hard to describe my particular scene in a few potent words.
The women in my coming-out scene were in their 20s and 30s, mostly white, mostly not from Vancouver. A lot of us had been to university and had earned not very useful degrees in Women’s Studies. We came out in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Everyone in this group was, or had been, in a feminist anti-violence collective. (These collectives were pretty much in their death throes and have since become hierarchies–but that of course is a whole other story.) A lot of us ended up in these collectives not only because we had a sincere desire to fight violence, but also because we wanted to be part of a group of feminist dykes.
We went to demonstrations and fought about identity politics and had painful crushes on each other. And then every Friday we went to women’s night at the Lotus (the lineup stretched south down Abbott St and around the corner onto Pender).
We were ardently political and also pro-sex and anti-censorship. We protested violence and counselled battered women and read porn and made porn and did SM. It didn’t seem contradictory.
Though my group included femmes as well as butches and androgynous women, none of us started removing body hair until the latter half of the ’90s. And a lot of us had undercuts–shaved back and sides, long on top. You didn’t get an undercut at a salon; your friends did it for you or you did it yourself if you were really talented.
A lot of the time we wore Mac jackets, shorts over leggings, long T-shirts that covered our bums, and various garments associated with cycling and/or rain. It was difficult to see the exact shape of anyone’s body except when we went topless at Folk Fest or Pride or on summer nights at the Lotus.
If this description rings a bell for you, let me know if you come up with a good label for us. Feminist Anti-Violence Pro-Porn Collective Member Cyclists is not really snappy or evocative enough for my memoirs.