3 min

Playing spot the biggest lesbo

You get points for being in a couple

Credit: Xtra files

There’s a game I play when I go to my local Loblaws store. Who will be the biggest lesbo in the store?

If I’m there on a weeknight, there’s not much competition, and the title is mine. But it’s a different story on a weekend afternoon. The field is full of contenders.

There aren’t any hard and fast rules to this game, but there are a few guidelines: Couples beat singles anytime unless the solo shopper is a celebrity of some kind or has a trans flavour.

I give the pairs extra points not because there is reward for coupledom, but simply because there is strength in numbers. And besides, in all too many cases, some lesbians are never mistaken for lesbians unless they’re with their more overtly lesbian girlfriends.

If you’re going head to head with a couple, a classic butch-femme pair has the edge over most others, except if there appears to be an additional dimension – say, an interracial couple or an intergenerational couple or anything else that reads clearly as transgressive.

I give special consideration to pregnant lesbians, but no additional points for the presence of children. The speed of the play prohibits the determination of parental status and, anyway, the children might merely be on loan and therefore useful only in the event of a tie.

It can be particularly satisfying to leave the store, smug from claiming the title, and running into a friend who can then carry the lesbian torch during her visit to the store. I usually walk away with the biggest lesbo award, perhaps because it’s my game and my rules, but also because I happen to fall into an easily recognizable dyke category. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Even though I gave up Birkenstocks and T-shirts with political slogans years ago, short hair, no makeup and a taste for men’s clothing add up to big dyke.

This is largely an amusement of course, but it’s a way to feel a little less isolated in the sea of apparent heterosexuality. Let’s face it, being the biggest lesbo on Church St at any given time is a significant achievement (though you sometimes get lost in the crowd), but most of us spend more time outside the village; who we are and how we appear everywhere else is important, too.

As much as looking like a lesbian to other homos has its peculiar charms, looking like a lesbian to the general population is even more loaded. I’m not delighted to be the biggest lesbo going through customs at the airport (turn to page 11 for more on Canada Customs’ attitudes).

Sure, no one has to wear their identity on their sleeve, or allow themselves to be defined by rules set by others. But recognition is a powerful factor.

I often envy gay men for their sometimes-obvious appearance, but there’s more to it than looks. Gay men often sound different, too; they reside in a category so distinct from straight men. The same contrast is more elusive when it comes to straight women and those who are not straight. Does this have anything to do with the fact that most straight men work hard to make sure they’re not mistaken for queer, whereas straight women needn’t be as concerned?

For me it always comes back to a kind of contradiction. Lesbians are the same in some ways, and completely different in others. It’s not just about our choices for the object of our attraction and love because if it was, there’d be a lot less angst about coming out. And it would be easier to embrace a more fluid model of sexuality.

Being out on Church St and during Pride is great. Being out at Loblaws is a bit trickier.

But it can be fun. So let’s say, Saturday, Christie and Dupont – wear leather or denim, wear lipstick or patchouli, wear boots or heels. It doesn’t much matter; just don’t blend in. The big lesbo title is always up for grabs.

* Maureen Phillips is a member of the board of Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtra.