Sally tries to keep the focus on our daily lives and equal rights for all.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw lesbians on TV (if you don’t count Wimbledon). In the early 1980s—years before our goddess Ellen cracked daytime TV’s lavender ceiling—Phil Donahue hosted a panel of unabashed, openly lesbian lesbians on his talk show. The Amazon grapevine buzzed like crazy. We all tuned in.
The host introduced his guests, all groomed and smiling in the TV studio’s swivel chairs, ready to chat with the affable, white-haired husband of Free to Be You and Me‘s Marlo Thomas. What could go wrong? Donahue was a respectable show. Phil would keep things civil. Wouldn’t he?
The lesbian guests talked eloquently about themselves, their communities, how they were people like everyone else. Gays and lesbians, they said, all too often lost jobs, custody, homes—and sometimes their lives—because certain people considered queers a danger to society (just the same as now, only there were fewer allies then to raise a stink).
What a thrill to watch confident, out-of-the-closet lesbians advance our militant homosexual agenda of getting folks to stick up for us when our basic human rights are violated. Ya gotta give Donahue props for bringing it to daytime TV.
He turned to his studio audience. Someone in the back row had a question. Phil jogged up the theater steps and reached his mic across the row. The camera zoomed in on a husky, 30-something guy in a baseball cap. The whole world was watching. His question? “Is cunnilingus still the main deal?”
I kid you not.
Keep in mind this was back in the pre-wardrobe-malfunction day, a time of un-bleepable, non-delay, live TV broadcast. Poor Phil Donahue. He was stunned. His erudite discussion had just plummeted straight into the gutter.
Here was the chance of a lifetime to explore the insights of these amazing women into human dignity, equality, and justice. Then some tool reduces their entire life experience to genital stimulation. Hello? “I’m gay” does not mean “Let’s talk about sex.”
That mentality should have been scrapped decades ago. But no.
Just last week, the Honorable Gary George explained why he is cosponsoring a bill to repeal Oregon’s antidiscrimination law. And I quote, “My advice to the gay community is SHUT UP—just don’t talk about it. If you walk around talking about what you do in the bedroom, you should be on the pervert channel.”
Again, I kid you not.
The Pervert Channel? Here is a supposed representative of the people pushing an initiative to take away peoples’ protection from discrimination, and he calls us perverts?
It’s so not about what we do in the bedroom, Senator. A law dictating what my domestic partner and I do in our bedroom would have to regulate folding laundry, working crossword puzzles, and flea-combing cats.
Senator George and his Repuglican co-sponsors have a bad case of xenophobia. Difference freaks these people out. What differentiates gay from straight, by definition, is the gender of who we have sex with—even though that criterion has its exceptions (Senator Wide-Stance “I’m-not-gay!” Larry Craig, for example). Still, you don’t see us obsessing over what heterosexuals do sexually. We don’t have to. That information is everywhere—one recent case in point being Eliot Spitzer, New York’s now ex-governor, who joins the pantheon of heterosexual public officials whose sex habits dominate the media. As I understand it, though, those antics didn’t take place in the governor’s bedroom.
Even so, curiosity is human nature. You can find lesbian sex info on The L Word (fiction), bad porn (sexist), and Dan Savage (gay man), but when can you really ask a lesbian? I kinda see where the Donahue-audience guy was coming from. In honor of Senator George telling me to shut up, I’ll tell you what I know.
Besides our struggle to end antigay discrimination, hate crimes, rejection from relatives, and religious condemnation, I would say most lesbians’ main deal is groceries, dishes, health care, work, family, and community. OK, OK, and maybe sometimes, on a good day, cunnilingus.
Award-winning columnist Sally Sheklow sat- isfies curiosity from her home in Eugene, Oregon.