Clementine Ford sets the record “straight”

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Actress Clementine Ford is best known to AfterEllen readers from her time spent on The L Wordand she recently performed a personal piece at the LA storytelling series Don’t Tell My Mother where she discussed how she came to identify as gay while on the show. But Clementine’s sexual identity has been changing her whole life, and her being a public figure (as an actress and as the daughter of Cybil Shepherd) added some scrutiny to what she provided to the press. In her story, “Words in My Mouth,” Clementine shared how she feels about labels and labeling herself, which you read below.

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My best friend, Samantha, and I were 10 and playing house, or more likely Back to the Future—I was Michael J. Fox— when she asked if I wanted to practice kissing. I said “Yeah, duh,” and we mashed our lips together like an old soap opera couple. It wasn’t exactly the height of romance, but that didn’t stop us from marching into my mother’s room where I declared, “Mom, we’re lesbians.”

She looked up from the book she was reading, totally unfazed, and said, “Okay. And what do you want to do about it?”

I shrugged. “Call Jane?” Because who else are you going to call when you want to meet chicks but your lesbian godmother in Knoxville, Tennessee? Plus, at 40 years old, she was the youngest lesbian I knew.

Growing up we talked a lot about sex—a lot. Nothing was private or inappropriate. We watched videos with songs about our body parts, one of which went, “We all have an anus, so no matter what you’ve heard, remember that anus, is the proper word.” We also studied the classics:

Where did I come from?

What’s happening to me?

And, of course, The Gentleman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman.

But sexuality was different. It was never discussed. People coupled up how they coupled up, sometimes men with women, other times women with women, still others men with men. It was what it was, for lack of a better expression.

In high school, I started to see there might be more to it.

I was 15 when I met Catherine in the girls’ bathroom. She was coming, I was going and it felt like a leprechaun jumped out of her face and kicked me in the chest. I couldn’t breathe. I don’t remember the exchange because I was so busy trying not to hyperventilate, but she invited me over for her birthday and I said yes.

She was getting dressed when I showed up at her house, drenched in Bath and Body Works country apple spray. She stood topless in front of her full length mirror for just a little longer than was necessary, so I came up behind her and put my hands on her boobs, because what else are you going to do? She turned around and kissed me. Then she produced the biggest, pinkest, vibrating dildo I’d ever seen. The only big, pink, vibrating dildo I’d ever seen, but whatever. I was clueless, so she showed me what to do with it. And because we were minors, I’ll leave it at that.

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Monday, I felt like the fucking Fonze. I floated into school—I had a girlfriend and I was good in bed. Boom! And then a friend came up to me and said, “What the hell did you do to Catherine this weekend?!” She looked stricken, so I knew she wasn’t asking for sex tips.

“Um, whatever she told me to?”

“Dude. She’s telling everyone that you basically raped her. And that you tried to make her a lesbian!”

She said lesbian like it was a bad thing. What did it even really mean? Besides that we liked each other?

Catherine transferred back to Beverly and I decided I was done with girls, partially because the only girls who may have been amenable to making out were interested as long as there were horny teenage boys watching—not my thing. Plus they probably would have fainted at the sight of a vagina that was not their own.

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