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Gay man, lesbian groupie. (my perspective).

Maybe it started in my 20s with the feminism class I took at City College of San Francisco. I was one of only three males in the class, and the only gay one. We watched NOW videos, read Gloria Steinem, and listened to Helen Reddy croon "I Am Woman." It was there that I met Beth, a soft-butch dyke with spiky brown hair and a great sense of humor.

"You should meet me and my friends for drinks," she invited. "That's if you don't mind being around a whole bunch of women."

"I don't mind if they don't mind being around a penis owner," I said.

Beth took me more than once to skanky dyke bars down in the Mission District, where we'd knock back beers while listening to a jukebox (which I had never seen in a gay men's bar) and chatting with her friends of all stripes: aggressive young motorcycle dykes, awkward glasses-wearing intellectuals, goodtime party girls who looked like they had just found homosexual paradise. I was almost always the only guy in the bar. Sometimes a random lesbian would come up to me, look me up and down, and snicker, "What's he doing here?"

"He's cool; he's gay," was Beth's stock answer.

I would be looked over once again, shoulders would be shrugged, and another gulp of beer would be taken. At first I was nervous, as if I were entering into some secret society I had no right to be in. Besides, a lot of these women looked like they could kick my ass in one fell swoop. But I soon realized that these were my people. They were assertive, unself-conscious, political, and, most of all, tons of fun. I got more truly smashed with my dyke friends than I ever would with my gay male friends, who were too busy cruising and preening in bars to risk appearing tipsy.

But my lesbian friends never knew exactly what to call me. One night we put our heads together to try to find the equivalent term for "fag hag," only for someone who hangs out with gay women. The best we could come up with was "dyke dog," since I followed them around like a loyal canine. The label stuck.

Later I got my boyfriend, Wayne, in on my "dyke dog" status. We became best friends with a couple, Kathy and Farzana, and the four of us were so inseparable, we started looking like two straight couples.

Wayne and I later moved to the big island of Hawaii, home to Pele, the Polynesian goddess of fire and lava. Without knowing it, we had moved to the most lesbian island in the universe. Lesbos has nothing on Pele's big island. Her goddess energy is tangible everywhere, with wet tropical rain forests, plenty of orifice-shaped steam vents and craters, and an overtly feminine culture (men wear flowers in their hair and sing falsetto). The combined male energy of me and my boyfriend didn't stand a chance. But we didn't care. We were "dyke dogs" now, and we gladly went to women's acoustic concerts out in the jungle, to women-only parties on dude ranches, and on motorcycle trips with our lesbian neighbors from across the street.

What was it that I found in the lesbian world that I couldn't find in the realm of men? I think it was that blunt toughness that women who are without men often need to have in this world. I just relished that ballsy attitude, and I found that it helped me own my own masculinity. That's the strength of queerness. We can harmonize the yin and yang in ourselves, be both sensitive and tough, soft and rough, and do it apart from societal expectations of gender and sexuality. My dyke friends helped me be myself.

When Wayne and I started to rebuild the decks on our house, our women friends came over to lend a hand almost instinctively, the way straight men congregate around the open hood of a car. While we worked our power tools, a gay male friend made a cozy lunch for us inside. Out there on my lesbian island, I didn't have to make excuses for being a fag who knew how to put braces on support beams or how to hammer a nail with just two strokes. My womyn friends understood. Even though I proudly love men and always will, deep down I am truly one of the dykes. Or at least a devoted, tail-wagging companion.

Link wrote the gay and lesbian guidebook Rainbow Handbook Hawai'i (Missing Link Productions).
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Article Details
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Author:Link, Matthew
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 15, 2003
Words:762
Previous Article:Hitting close to home. (reader forum).
Next Article:Rants & raves.
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