You never forget your first: Which lesbian film was important to you?

By on

Last Saturday night, while I
was forgetting to record Tina Fey

on SNL, a friend
of mine excitedly told me that she’s finally going to see the movie Personal Best
when it airs on Logo (AfterEllen.com’s parent company)
Wednesday morning.

My friend has seen plenty of
lesbian movies — we’ve seen about a zillion together — but this one
is rarely on TV and was only recently released
on DVD
, so she’s
never managed to see it. And there are a number of reasons to see

Personal Best. It’s Mariel Hemingway‘s first lesbian role — and, for a
straight woman, she’s played a lot of lesbian
roles
.

It’s also a great sports movie,
and provides an interesting glimpse back at the Olympic Trials gearing
up to the 1980
Summer Olympics
.
But most important, it was a watershed lesbian/bisexual
movie
. For many
of us who were first struggling to come out in the ’80s, it was the only
mainstream lesbian or bisexual movie on our radar.

Although I plan to record it
on Wednesday, I’ve already seen Personal Best. In fact, I’ve
seen it several times, but I certainly recall the first. (And my poor
mother probably recalls it, too.) It was 1986. I was 17, intensely drawn
to all things lesbian and desperately trying to convince myself that
this fixation didn’t mean anything significant. (Turns out, it did.)
I was determined to watch Personal Best when I saw it listed,
but due to the, um, adult-oriented channel that it was on and the specifics
of when I would watch, I could not be as discreet as I would have liked.
So I gave my mother some long-forgotten, probably really stupid and
transparent reason for wanting to see it, and I watched. And my liberal
mother, who already feared that I would tell her the things I told her
a few years later, did not try to prevent me. But she was clearly not
happy about it. And that is the story of my first lesbian movie.

The other ’80s lesbian movie
that was important to many lesbians my age was, of course, Desert Hearts.

I surreptitiously rented this
one while home from college and, this time, I knew exactly why
I wanted to watch it. And I didn’t want anyone to know I was watching
it. So I hid it, watched when no one else was home, watched one scene
several more times, and then hid the movie and returned it when no one was
looking.

But as important as both of
these movies were to my nascent lesbian self-awareness, I experienced
my most important lesbian movie moment in a non-lesbian movie, Bright Lights,
Big City
.

A few months before furtively
watching Desert Hearts, I was at the movies, holding hands with the guy I was
dating, watching Michael J. Fox snort lines of coke with a couple
of girls at a club — when my spidey-sense began to tingle. Fox’s character went searching
for his new acquaintances, barged in on them kissing in a bathroom stall
and, BAM, I was alert. And really, really aware that I did not want
to be holding hands with the boy sitting next to me. (I didn’t really
want to make out with coked-up girls in bathroom stalls, either … but
that was certainly closer to what I wanted.) I didn’t come out because
of Bright Lights, but that moment, coupled with a handful of other epiphanies,
led me to come out a few months later.

And that is my ramble down
memory lane. There were many more lesbian movies and lesbian movie moments
in subsequent years, but none were quite as poignant or tortured or
memorable as the first.

So, if you have access to the Logo channel
and have never seen Personal Best, check it out at 8:30 Wednesday
morning. And in the meantime, what were your important lesbian movies
and lesbian movie moments?

More you may like