The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gays v lesbians

It’s all happening in China. After launching the country’s first free hotline for gay men, the Chiheng Foundation in Shanghai will offer a similar service from this Saturday for lesbians and women confused about their sexuality. “In the past, we noticed that lesbians needed extra help compared with gays,” Yang Shanping, a Chiheng Foundation officer, told The China Daily. Another officer at the foundation, Shen Yimu, added that when the gay hotline was launched in May, many lesbians rang for help on the number too. “But all the volunteers for that hotline are gay men. They don’t know much about the detailed issues that most lesbians are facing,” Yimu noted.

It took me back to my teenage years in the heady days of the mid-’80s when there was no internet and no access to queer zines, if there were any, if you lived in a small town outside London where marriage to an opposite-sex partner and breeding were deemed the holy grails of working-class existence. Thank goddess for phone books. For it was inside these tomes of numerical excess that I and my best friend at the time, Wendy Williams, found the numbers for Gay Switchboard and Lesbian Line. Many a teatime was spent ringing these hotlines, each of us taking turns to splutter out the words, ‘I think I might be gay’ – or ‘lesbian’ if we were phoning the latter – before hanging up and dissolving into fits of giggles.

Gradually, though, we (well okay, I) became more adventurous and stayed on the (lesbian) line a bit longer. When a nice, earnest woman asked kindly why I thought I might be a lesbian, I replied, ‘Because I’m in love with Joan Collins.’ Now see, this is where segregation doesn’t work – because there are exceptions to every rule. I didn’t want to then be asked silly questions about why I was in love with Joan. I didn’t know it at the time, but I wouldn’t have needed to use up time, energy and money to explain that to a gay man – he’d just know why.

Some lesbians simply have more in common with gay male culture. On Saturday night I had the opportunity to hire a lesbian butch-femme romantic comedy, Mango Kiss, from my local DVD rental store. I chose Sunset Boulevard instead. And after my girlfriend and I watched it for the third or fourth time, we squealed with delight about how fabulous Gloria Swanson was for a good five minutes, and then promptly amused ourselves for another 10 by seeing who could do the best impression of old Glo delivering her famous final line, ‘All right, Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close-ups.’ Will the Chinese lesbian hotline cater to our sort of lesbian? I certainly hope so.

Meanwhile, let’s hope Bali follows China’s lead. The Sydney Morning Herald reported at the weekend that Schapelle Corby has vowed not to have sex until she is released from jail in 20 years time. Quick. Someone give her a phone…

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