How Do You Know a Dyke Is a Dyke?

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How Do You Know a Dyke Is a Dyke?

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)

Comments [9]

studd's picture

so true.......

so true.......

C's picture

Great piece Staceyann- I've

Great piece Staceyann-

I've been a fierce fan of yours since the first time I saw you at MWMF, and I especially appreciate your comment:
"Are we not acting like we are no longer oppressed?"

Bingo- especially for dykes, queer womyn.
I also strain to find our culture's commonalities and identifying characteristics sometimes. Personally, I find myself being drawn less to the visible, physical markers you describe as having been so important in the 90's (and oh, they were!), and more to the action-oriented, words-spoken, ideological and political stands-taken. As you point out, now that we don't all necessarily look 'the part' anymore (not that all of us ever did), actions and words speak louder than silver thumb rings and the possession of the complete indigo girls collection.
So if my lesbian sister, wearing purple pumps or sensible shoes, isn't standing up or speaking out against rape, pay discrimination, homophobic federal laws, health rights, etc., I probably don't recognize her these days. But if she IS taking that stand, on the street or on twitter- doesn't matter to me- I have that happy *lightbulb* moment of: Aah, there's another one like me. Niiiiice.

deedee's picture

Harden Nipples!! Man ,I

Harden Nipples!!

Man ,I could get into that.

Erin Blackwell's picture

re next week's blog: just

re next week's blog: just write about the crevice

Not2Taem's picture

Do you really lead with

Do you really lead with fisting? Cause even some of the fiercest dykes I know may give you the eyebrow on that one. Laughing out loud

Keep the ice cumming! :twisted:

Tex's picture

Definately the eye contact,

Definately the eye contact, Sharp Shooter.....and shopping at Bean's or REI!

A good gaydar helps,


Twitter Time @kdhales

minniesota's picture

This blog reminds me that I

This blog reminds me that I was walking on campus last week and spotted two lasses happily hugging and kissing in front of the athletic building. It reminded me how far we have come since I was young, many moons ago.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

K I T's picture

[many moons

[many moons ago]


Minnie is talking about you (or your fam?)

winks ~ smiles ~ lol

Annie Oakley's picture

eye contact & vibes, not

eye contact & vibes, not necessarily in that order!

or maybe some cutie tells you she's going here: