As far as I am aware, the first time a lesbian romance was portrayed on the silver screen was in the 1982 film Personal Best starring Mariel Hemingway and Patrice Donnelly. (Cinema history buffs may know better.) My partner, Dee, and I had been together for 5 years, and we’d only recently found the gay community in Little Rock. The movie was shown at the newly constructed Cinema 150 at the intersection of Asher Avenue and University Boulevard. The theater featured a huge screen, tiered seating, and Dolby Surround Sound. It was a big deal that this movie was playing at the premier new theater in Little Rock.
What a thing — to see two women kiss on that big screen! Dee and I went back to see the movie several times, even though the ending was depressing. On one viewing, I even sneaked an old cassette tape recorder into the theater to capture some of the dialogue.
In 1983, the British film The Hunger was released, starring Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon (and David Bowie). This was a “vampire” flick, not my favorite genre. But the love scene between Deneuve and Sarandon was electric.
Then, in 1985, we had Dessert Hearts starring Helen Shaver and Patricia Charbonneau. Oh, heartbreak, and the complicated, gentle passion. Critics hailed the film Desert Hearts as a one of “undeniable power, unique in its portrayal of the intimate relationship of two women in love.” It remains one of the top-grossing lesbian features of all time.
1991 brought us Fried Green Tomatoes. Another wildly acclaimed movie with a lesbian theme, but for some reason, I prefer to share the “Towanda” clip featuring Kathy Bates as it is just plain funny.
A trilogy called If These Wall Could Talk 2 was released in the year 2000. Ellen DeGeneres was the “big name” star in the third part of the trilogy. But it was the second vignette, featuring Michelle Williams and Chloë Sevigny that ripped my heart out. This vignette was set in 1972, when feminism was rife, and even lesbians taunted those of us who identified as “butch.” Still makes me want to cry and scream, for why can’t people just accept the diversity of who we are? This clip is a must see for anyone who identifies as a butch lesbian, gender queer, for FTM.
A lot has changed over the years. And so in 2013, we had the debut of Orange is the New Black, with a pivotal role played by actress Laverne Cox. See what Laverne has to say here:
I’m shy in talking about sex — yes, really!! “Cisgender,” for those who may not know, is the term adopted by the transgendered community to refer to a person whose biological gender matches their gender identity — that perception of who we are that we carry between our ears. Sexual intimacy, at its best, is the highest expression of human love and trust. There’s a world of difference between the following:
- a cisgender woman and a cisgender man making love
- a lesbian and a cisgender man making love
- a lesbian who is really transgendered making love to another lesbian
- a lesbian who is really transgendered making love to a cisgender man
- a transgendered man making love to a cisgender non-lesbian woman
- …and many other possible combinations
I’ve been in a few of those shoes. This is one reason why my marriage to my wife and our intimacy meant so damn much to me. What a shame that she debased the gift of myself that I offered up to her with lies, treachery, physical abuse, and deliberate harm.
In the end, love don’t need a reason, and we all need to love and respect each other a bit more. The following beautiful song written and sung by Michael Callan at the 1993 March on Washington for GLBT Rights, my first trip to the nation’s capitol:
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