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


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 (’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


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


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?

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