I was around thirteen when I realised that I was not like other girls of my age. I wasn’t particularly sure if I was smarter or prettier. What I was sure of was that I was the only girl in a group of ten who liked girls.
Being in an all-girls school, you would assume that finding love and a happily ever after would be a piece of cake. But as the wise saying goes… the cake is a lie. So I trudged through teenage, succumbing to peer pressure and trying very very hard to like men. And of course hoping that some miracle would happen that would make my very straight friends treat lesbianism with more kindness.
Now that I look back I do realise that a miracle of sorts had happened to me when I was a teenager. While most other parents were busy protecting their children from the crass, evil influences of popular culture, my parents flung me into the deep end of that world and waited for me to wade through and in the process tackle mental illness, sexual abuse, loneliness and angst that came with being a teenager.
Yes, when I was a kid, I grew up in books, movies and music more than anywhere else. Now at thirty, I realise that these borrowed worlds not only helped me through some of my toughest times as a teen, but also influenced me as a feminist, queer creator years later. And so with you I share my list of inspirational mascots, for they need to be spoken of time and again cause a mere thank you is just not enough.
Lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel is best known for her graphic memoirs Fun Home and Are You My Mother. But it is her short comic, “Coming Out Story” is what impacted me most as a fan. A simple six-pager, it isn’t her best work to be honest. But to me, a comic of hope and optimism. I am after all just another queer girl who felt special identifying with Bechdel’s coming out story in this big, bad world.
I had no idea that Billie Holiday was bisexual when I was younger thanks to her love songs for the straight souls. But when I did get to know about her romance with actress Tallulah Bankhead, I knew it was true love. You don’t often find women willing to bail you out of jail having being charged with opium possession…
C For Chavela Vargas
One of Frida Kahlo’s most famous lovers, my interest in Chavela Vargas obviously stemmed from my obsession with Kahlo as a teenager. Though I didn’t understand much of what she was singing then, her androgynous public identity helped me understand gender identity. And did I mention, her greatest hit translated to English means “Put your hand there, Macorina” which made a lot of sense as a queer ballad.
D For David Bowie
David Bowie’s flamboyance is divine. From churning out some brilliant music to shattering myths surrounding gender and sexual identity, most exposed to Bowie know that there is no denying that he is an inspiration. What Bowie taught me was the importance of glam. Considering the sheer references to David Bowie littered all over popular culture, Bowie’s contribution to popular culture makes me love him so.
E For Ellen Page
Ellen Page’s coming out in the most epic manner possible makes her a symbol of hope for all young lesbian women. From shouldering the grave responsibility of being a gay celebrity to exposing her own vulnerabilities, Ellen’s proves to us all how important it is to begin with loving yourself.
…to be continued.