“I kissed a girl, and I liked it”

People, we are living in some rather dykey times.  Just when you thought people had forgotten about lezzbians, we’re suddenly in every corner of the media.  Used to be you had the occasional big splash: Ellen coming out, Madonna snogging Britney, or um, that-Brookside-storyline-I-hate-having-to-reference.  Now we’ve got the sensational, but fairly well-received Lindsay Lohan being all loved up with Sam Ronson and Jodie Foster outing herself at last in an acceptance speech.

Really, it’s all just one big elbow in the ribs for me to get out and make some comment as the Grand High Lesbo that I am.  Let’s turn our attentions to the issues of the day, or whatever I just clicked on from the Guardian homepage as the case may be. 

Since I tolerate commercial radio during my driving lessons, I got the super-catchy “I Kissed A Girl” by Katy Perry stuck in my head.  Not being able to absorb lyrics until I hear them through my earphones, I made a quick iTunes purchase when getting ready for work tonight.  As soon as I got the jist, I couldn’t help but smile.  It’s funny, it’s feelgood and it references cherry chapstick.  Sure, it’s all ‘oops, don’t tell my boyfriend’, but the ultimate message is kissing girls = a very good thing.  How can I disagree with that?  And yet, as soon as the iPod shuffled on to the next track, I mulled over the possibility that a percentage of the gay community would be up in arms over this trivialising lesbian relationships.  Predictably, today’s Guardian has this.  No doubt we’ll be hearing about a Stonewall boycott before long, and while I didn’t know about her previous single which is a little bit more pejorative about the homos, I just can’t bring myself to get worked up over a little bit of name-calling.  With all the honest to God oppression still going on in this world, can we really devote so much time and energy to reclaiming the word gay?  It’s the same as this stop bullying campaign which only deals with kids being bullied for homosexual tendencies.  Guess what?  Kids get bullied.  Not ideal, but why should the gays be exempt?  Maybe I’m just sheltered because I didn’t ‘realise’ until out of the pressure-cooker school environment, but it just doesn’t feel like a priority. 

I should preface my next item by pointing out that I haven’t actually read The Well of Loneliness.  Sure, it’s sitting on my bookcase, somewhere near the bottom of my haphazard ‘to read’ pile; there was never any doubting my access to it, given that I live with a double-Masters expert in books and queerness.  I struggled through Oranges are Not The Only Fruit out of a misplaced sense of obligation, and generally resist any recommendations about books that are formed purely from them being about the lezzbians.  Reading this article I’m tempted to conclude the label is in fact defunct.  Mostly I used to feel a little self-conscious about hitting the Gay/Lesbian section in Waterstones Piccadilly, but more because I thought people would assume I was looking for p0rn than because I was ashamed of my sexuality.  Surely though, the whole essence of a good story is that it ‘transcends genre’ as my bezzer expressed it (with her customary eye-roll) last week.  Some of the greatest books I’ve ever read have had, on the surface, so very little in common with my own life. A skilled author, however, can take anything from the life of a magician’s assistant, a homeless man, or a teenage terrorist and make it resonate with me.  While the historical breakthrough is something we ought to be grateful for, since acceptance in the arts can go a long way to acceptance in society, I think doing away with the label of ‘lesbian’ fiction can only further that progess.  Think of the close-minded sorts who might never pick up something like that, but who could stumble across it and gain just a little bit more tolerance from a story well told, something that can humanise the abstract idea they held a prejudice against.

To round off a busy few days, it seems the Archbishop of Canterbury no longer bemoans our very existence.  So long as we don’t shag around obviously, but then churches are that uptight about the heteroes as well.  Maybe he mellowed because there just aren’t that many lesbians on TV these days.  Maybe there would be more if the L Word wasn’t so utterly rubbish.  Thank God the torture is almost over, and as long as I avoid the constant late-night repeats on cable, I won’t accidentally sully my brain with any more of it’s unrealistic nonsense.  To think what a vehicle it could have been for the lesbian community, and instead we get poorly-acted soft p0rn with no basis in reality. 

With that, I’m off to stare at the latest promo pics from House, because a girl needs some eye candy after thinking all these serious thoughts about her lifestyle.


12 responses to ““I kissed a girl, and I liked it”

  1. Excellent post. My problem with the gay rights movement was always that it seemed to get bogged down in political correctness whereas my approach was always that sexuality isn’t something that should even be an issue in right-thinking society (of course I know that’s not actually the case, and while I haven’t got around to my own post on gender issues in the Catholic press yet, which relates to some of these themes, you were privileged enough to hear the draft rant, haha). Just thinking about that banned Snickers advert, and Kaite saying “when even I’M rolling my eyes, you know it must be ridiculous.”

    So pleased that the Archbishop of Canterbury has now acknowledged that promiscuity is the “moral” issue, not who you’re in a committed relationship. It’s not any of his business at all of course, but if only Bigot Devine would follow suit, eh?

  2. Agree with herself up there. Excellent post. Now, I’ll be back to comment further when I’ve had more coffee innit!

  3. a) you referenced lezzzbian literature without linking to my book? DUMPED.

    b) there’s a hilarious parody of the music video on youtube, where it’s being sung by two really butch women. It’s kind of awesome.

    Also, it’s interesting to compare Katy Perry’s song to Jill Sobule’s song of the same name, which also has two girls with boyfriends hooking up…

    I think that by allowing the word gay to be used as an insult, we’re allowing the same attitudes that lead to homophobic violence foster in our own communities, and the hell am I taking that.

    Traditionally, especially thanks to Section/Clause 28 (depending on which part of the Uk you live in), teachers have had a hard time tackling homophobic bullying and the attitudes that lead to it. It’s hard to condemn an abusive action when the general, if misinterpreted, reading of a law says that promoting the thing that triggered the abuse is illegal. A lot of teachers just don’t know how to deal with it, and that’s not even taking into account personal prejudice. A message has to be sent out that it’s unacceptable for kids to be bullied for any reason, and that’s what Stonewall was saying. It’s the ‘equal rights are not special rights’ argument – I’d love it if we didn’t have to fight for basic equalities, but sometimes we still have to.

  4. That should be ‘focus of abuse’ rather than trigger. sloppy phrasing, sorry.

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  6. well, fighting over the term ‘gay’ seems a bit silly, since its such an old, oft used term that has meant so many different things. Its a word, and words only have power against you if you let them.

    bullying is bad BUT as bad as it is, if you single out and protect a kid from it, then you’re going to have to be singling out and protecting that kid for life, because the playground never stops even when you grow up and leave it.

    And having those sections in bookshops is stupid. always has been, always will be. Fiction is fiction. A few loose divisions based on what happens in the plot, sure. But divisions based on who wrote it and who the sellers think should read it? marketed as such? that’s just a nice pc and acceptable form of the same segregation that people would rail against in other forms. I’ll never pretend to be in the majority, but i just don’t give a crap about the sexuality of an author, and only care about the sexuality of the character if there’s a reason for it to be mentioned in the story.


  8. “It’s the same as this stop bullying campaign which only deals with kids being bullied for homosexual tendencies. Guess what? Kids get bullied. Not ideal, but why should the gays be exempt?”

    C’mon, this is so ass-backwards. If kids didn’t grow up learning so many prejudices they wouldn’t pick on the gay kids, the effeminate kids, the fat kids, or the kids who have trouble reading. The answer is not, “Oh well, that’s what kids do.” Bullying needs to be approached on several fronts, and one of them is tackling what’s at the root of so much of it – the belief that different=bad.

    There are still teenagers dying for being gay, there was a case in California a couple months ago. We really can’t afford to be so flippant.

  9. Well, nobody is saying that bullying is acceptable, thats not the point.

    The belief that different = bad has been at the route of everything we’ve ever done as a species, ever. We’ve not managed to stop it so far.

    People all over the world, especially young people, are dying for the colour of their skin, their sex, their age, their sexuality, the colour of their shirts, their religion, their lunch money…

    Bullying = bad, and that any way we can find to teach that = good

    But waging campaigns that focus on one element, that only single out one aspect and tendancy, does no good.

    And personally speaking, everyone can always afford to be flippant about everything, otherwise the world is a dark and unliveable place.

  10. Wow, you ignore the internet for a day and look what happens!

    @the actual LYG: I think that with the really big battles having been fought and won, the ‘movement’ is getting bogged down in details these days. Shame when there’s so much still to do internationally.

    @Kaite: Dude, I’m not your PR girl, pimp your own book! :p I think kids calling each other gay will fade just like all the highly inappropriate names we all called each other as kids. The education that it’s wrong sinks in over time.
    Re: the s28 thing, I see your Thatcher dig! No pancakes for you. But the answer to that is that teachers can use their common sense. If someone is anti-gay, the legislation isn’t going to affect what they tell kids either way.

  11. @ Cate, thanks for the comment first of all! I appreciate your point in that I do wish being gay wasn’t one of the things kids picked on each other for, but I bet a fair percentage of kids being called names or being beaten for being effeminate aren’t even gay, it’s just evolutionary principles at work in the playground. I watched my cats interacting with the other kitties in the ‘hood since we moved, and sure enough the bullying principle is alive and well because they all pick on my little tabby who wouldn’t say boo to a goose. I’m sure there is more that can be done to at least *reduce* bullying, if not reduce it, but (in particular) Stonewall’s implication that the gays need special protection is irksome to me.

    @ Jay, who is definitely not a gurrl: Leave that girl and marry me! Well don’t, actually, I don’t want to give you nightmares! Both of your posts are spot on in terms of what I’m trying to say, and going back to the books issue, too much labelling does scare people off. Now that I principally my books online, I go from individual recommendations and have stumbled into genres and cultures I may never have discovered otherwise. A murder mystery is a murder mystery, it doesn’t matter if the detective investigating likes boys or girls, etc.

  12. I agree with the comments on book labelling, but if certain books hadn’t been labelled queer, I would never have discovered them when I did, and would probably have felt a hell of a lot more alone as a teenager.

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