Depending on what era you came out in (or are coming out in), there was likely one big lesbian film or TV show that was your first. Maybe you’ve been gay before Desert Hearts hit theaters, or you were figuring out your really intense friendship during the ’90s with All Over Me. For some young queers, Blue is the Warmest Color might be their introduction to lesbian sexuality on screen.
No matter what it was, you never forget your first. (Unless you’re Dara Nai, apparently. Nothing is sacred.)
So, group, what was the first film that you purposely sought out for some gay lady viewing?
Dana Piccoli: My first lesbian film was The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love, which to this day means a tremendous amount to me. I went to an all-girls prep school and came out the summer before my senior year. My friends were incredibly supportive and made me a promise that I wouldn’t have to navigate this new world all alone. We rented a lot of movies back then, and they agreed that for every two mainstream movies we rented, we could rent a lesbian movie for me. Not that there were a ton of them, but we all did our best. I can’t tell you how much this gesture meant to me.
They really liked Two Girls, by the way. The same could not be said for the unfortunate and universally traumatic choice of Sister, My Sister, which over a decade later, they still give me shit about. I didn’t know the title was literal!
Elaine Atwell: Man, I remember the first time I saw a poster for a lesbian movie. It was Imagine Me And You and I can only assume that it ended up on the wall of the movie theater in Boone, North Carolina through an error on the part of an employee.
I remember exactly where it was placed (the wall next to the bathrooms) and I just gaped at it for minutes thinking: “Why am I staring at this? Has anyone noticed me staring at this? FOR GOD’S SAKE, STOP STARING, ATWELL.” Months later, I had pretty much the same reaction when it appeared in Blockbuster, just gliding past the DVD over and over. I didn’t know what to do with my intense feelings about this obscure British film until I realized I was gay, and then I rented it probably five minutes later and watched it ten times. And when my little sister realized she liked girls too, I rented it with her and we quoted it back and forth to each other for about the next five years. It still gives makes my heart pound to remember how sweaty my palms were the first time I took it up to the Blockbuster counter. I might as well have been renting Georgie’s Bush.
Valerie Anne: I don’t remember which movie was my first, exactly. I remember spending entire summers going to Blockbuster and waiting until it was mostly empty and sneaking into the teeny gay/lesbian section (which was close enough to the foreign films that I could pretend that’s what I was looking at if someone walked by) and picking whichever movies were the least obviously gay based on the cover/title. Actually the first one might have been D.E.B.S. – when my parents came home and found me watching it, I feigned innocence. “I thought it was just about Catholic school girl spies!” (They absolutely didn’t care either way, I was just paranoid. Obviously only lesbians watch movies with lesbians in them, right?)
What I do remember, with perfect clarity, was the time I was doing my usual sweep of the New Release walls and I stopped short in front of the shelf that was proudly displaying a dozen copies of Imagine Me and You. I had never heard of it, but there were two girls holding hands (behind the backs of their beaus) on the cover. Right out in the open! Surely it couldn’t really be a lesbian movie, displayed so boldly, and on the New Release wall of all places! Obviously I rented it. Obviously I loved it. That was when I finally started to realize that maybe the whole world didn’t think of lesbianism as this big, wrong thing, if this was a movie that was popular enough to make it to the New Release wall.
Heather Hogan: I lucked out. The first lesbian movie I saw was D.E.B.S. because one of my friends told me it was like ’66 Batman with boarding school chicks, which turns out to be 100 percent true, actually. That campy delight is still one of my favorite movies. I followed it up with Fingersmith, Saving Face, and Imagine Me and You. So you can guess how jarring it was when every other lesbian movie I watched after that was nothing but death, dismemberment, psychos, and shoddy production values. I peaked in round one. Ah, well. At least we have ABC Family now.