Cole's Notes: Losing It on Lesbian Chic

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COLE'S NOTES: Losing it on Lesbian Chic.

Welcome to the Gay '90s. Are we having fun yet? We're supposed to be, now that gays and lesbians are officially chic. I have to say that I've been waiting for this to happen. It was just a matter of time before anyone with a tad of entrepreneurial sense or a nose for demographics figured out that gays and lesbians are a marketer's dream.

We have high disposable incomes, fewer dependent children than straight couples and we share a value system that any marketing consultant can tap into with ease.

But homophobia has proven a powerful force, stronger even than the appeal of guaranteed profits. A writer friend of mine recounted to me how she could not convince her publisher to mention gay aspects of her murder mystery on the back cover of a paperback, even though she could prove that such a strategy could guarantee sales to a sizable and quantifiable market. The resistance to gay marketing reminds me of Gloria Steinem's astonishingly futile attempts to convince major car corporations to buy advertising space in the fledgling MS magazine. No amount of data detailing women's impact in the work force and their rising buying power could overcome GM's fear of feminism.

So too has Hollywood waited, hiding its homosexuals in a frenzy of panic, while we waited and groveled for any shred of evidence that lesbians and gays existed, or were, can you imagine, sexual and sexy. We have been desperate enough that a three-minute sequence featuring a three-second kiss on L.A. Law between a bisexual female and a confused heterosexual woman caused a sensation among lesbians who had never seen such a thing on prime time TV.

Until now, that is. Now, they're coming out on TV, out on film, out on stage and, thanks to our own k.d. lang, out on record - and on the record.

When I saw lang grinning off the cover of New York Magazine and the headline blazing Lesbian Chic, I was thrilled to the bone. This, I thought, is exactly what we need, something to promote lesbian life. In high school classes, where I've done media literacy seminars on violence and sexuality, kids' consciousness of gay-positive anything was way behind even their sketchy understanding of male violence. Why shouldn't kids get the message that it's hip to be a lesbian?

My friends, especially those who, like me, work with kids, were not so sure. They worried that young people on the verge of coming out would be intimidated by the idea that they had to be beautiful to matter, or worse, that they wouldn't come out unless they fit into a conventional beauty mold. They also wondered whether gay and lesbian values were not being co-opted by media's attempt to make us look like just another groovy group to exploit, at the same time eviscerating our community's values to the point where we stopped looking like a force for social change. …