For example, Randi Weingarten’s profile has much more about her position as president of the American Federation of Teachers than her sexuality.
“Randi came out really late in her career thinking that it would affect her career. And it didn’t,” McHugh said. “We’re in a nation where some people that still think we shouldn’t have a gay teacher, so how could the head of all teachers be gay?”
Writer Linda Villarosa
Those are the kinds of people that McHugh selected for The L Life, though there are a few that seemed to be missing from the first book about well-known lesbians. Perhaps the most glaring omission: Ellen DeGeneres. McHugh said she did try for Ellen, but was told the talk show host doesn’t participate in books or interviews much. Another person readers might assume would be part of a book called “The L” anything? Ilene Chaiken.
“I tried but I got a ‘no’ from her as well,” McHugh said. ” I talked to [Ilene’s people] at length and I thought it was going to go through but it was a time when she was focused on The Real L Word and [The L Word] movie.”
The L Life may have some lesser-known lesbians on the “famous” scale, but that doesn’t mean the subjects are any less powerful or inspiring. In fact, the book is almost better because of it. Where else do we get to hear about Lupe Valdez, the out Latina Dallas County Sheriff? Or the Executive Vice President and General Manger of Logo, Lisa Sherman?
“I don’t think any of these women get enough attention,” McHugh said. “What I was trying to say was these particular women are heroic in their lives to come out as lesbians. I felt like if you’re famous and a lesbian but you haven’t stood up about it, then I don’t really care.”
Activist Urvashi Vaid
Back to the idea of the lesbian phone tree. It really helped McHugh that some of the women in the book are ex-girlfriends.
“There were a lot of people who helped me and said, ‘I’m going to contact this person for you’ or ‘I’m going to write this person for you’ — that kind of thing,” McHugh said. ” And every one of them really opened up, and my huge worry was how am I going to do these people justice?”
The L Life pays every lesbian included her due, and with a gorgeous accompanying photo of each in her element. Alison Bechdel poses in front of her Vermont home, and in her studio at her desk; corporate exec Sally Susman dons a pair of pearls with her hands on her lap; Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum stands with an altar between two rainbow flags; Lupe Valdez looks on from outside of her police car.
“We tried to have the locations be places that speak to the person,” McHugh said. “You know, you don’t want to do that sort of thing at an office.” Unless, of course, that person is at home in her office, like Tammy Baldwin.
Urban gardener Mary Seton Corboy
“I want people to say ‘here are some interesting women who have become universal,’ like Jane Lynch,” McHugh said. “[Jane] said that in her lifetime she wants being gay to be as odd as being left-handed. And I hope that everybody buys [the book]. I hope that parents buy it for their gay daughters and I hope the gay daughters buy it for their parents and it helps them understand. I hope it gets some universal coverage; some mainstream coverage, even if I don’t get to sell it that way. I hope straight people buy it or even just talk about it.”