How Do You Know a Dyke Is a Dyke?

When I first came out as a young fierce dyke, I did fierce dyke things.

When I first came out as a young fierce dyke, I did fierce dyke things. I wore fierce dyke clothing and wrote fierce dyke poems and said fierce dyke things like, “If men were smarter beings, they would let women rule the world.”

I listened to young fierce dyke music — Ani DiFranco, Tracy Chapman, Indigo Girls and a host of other women who were writing music that featured the guitar and referenced soft loving and hard times. I didn’t even know I was a disciple of the vaginal order when I was steeped in Melissa Etheridge’s “Yes I Am.” But it clued in other dykes that I was open and ready to play when I swayed and called out to some genderless being, begging for it to come to my window, crawl inside, wait by the light of the moon — if that is not a dyke scenario, I’m not sure what is. Tori Amos and her bleeding songs about Jesus being a girl or Sarah McLachlan and her softly cloaked references to untraditional love had me wet in the panties, and I did not know why. Many of us did not know why, but we congregated and met and fell into each other and were surprised when we all came out to each other.

I say all that to say that in the early 90s, it wasn’t so easy to find women who were open about their desire to date women — and certainly even harder in Kingston, Jamaica. But in the frenzy of the unknown journey, there were clues — faint, but clues nonetheless — that told you that you were among like-minded-bodies. A silver thumb ring, a very short haircut, a propensity for comfortable, unfashionable shoes — these were things that signaled that cunnilingus was commonplace in this sexual zip code.

As I have grown older, I have remained a dyke, but my fierceness is less about what happens to my body on the outside. (In fact, it’s more about what I let someone do to the inside of me, or what I actually do to them all over… but I have to focus… it must be this bloody heat!) Anyway, I still listen to Tori and Sarah and Ani and Tracy, but my perfectly positioned silver thumb rings signify nothing in this era of fashion and free spirits. Dykes have taken to dressing like they are on set at The L Word. In New York City, comfortable shoes are the order of the day and a short haircut is the style sported by Rihanna and a sea of older women with good sense. In short, the fierce dykeness of my youth has become nothing more than fashion.

So my question to the young fierce dykes of today is, how the devil do you all know each other in covert spaces? And is there need for covert in these times of open doors and free love and fluid sexuality — even for straight girls? Since the silver and the hair and the music are not the fashion markers of lesbos of the 21st century, are there other ones that I am too old to be privy to? Do girls with locks or twists or in-line skates or purple pumps mean anything? If I weren’t so closed-minded and wanted to approach one of you under 30s, what would I look for? How would I save myself the embarrassment of asking some New Age Christian girl who is just fashionable if she wants to be fisted?

In these hot hours before the evening, when my personal funk is at its height, when I am least likely to go running, when I am dousing my t-shirt with ice cold water and watching my nipples harden, questions like these come to me. Call it curiosity, call it old age, call it idleness, call it I-really-need-to-find-something-interesting-to-write-a-fucking-blog-about, but I really have to know. Is the era of the fierce dykeness over? Have we been mainstreamed by The L Word? Are we not acting like we are no longer oppressed?

Anyway, I have to go get some ice to put in this water that is now as warm as the crevice between my breasts. Hopefully there will be a blog of greater significance and fierce dykeness next week.

(Staceyann Chin is the author of The Other Side of Paradise: A Memoir)