Gold Star


I brought the best white elephant gift last year. I had ordered a t-shirt bearing the word “gold” and a yellow star.

I love lesbian slang.

A “gold star” is a woman who has never had heterosexual sex.

She might also be a “hundred-footer,” as in “you could tell she was a lesbian from a hundred feet away.”

By the way, that woman is probably sporting “Dyke Haircut Number 5.” And no, there’s not an actual list with pictures, like at the barbers. You just say number-whatever, as in “does your Mormon sister know she just got Dyke Haircut Number 9?” It’s short. It probably includes a non-ironic mullet.

I ripped open my t-shirt package, ready to sport my gaydom, but the screen printer had sent me a child’s medium, not a woman’s medium. The t-shirt fit ages five to seven.

I’ve already picked out which of my friends’ children are going to be gay. (I lick my thumb and press it to their foreheads just to be sure the gay sticks.)

I asked my wife if I could give it to little Aster for Christmas.

“No,” my wife said. “That’s inappropriate.”

Instead it went to the white elephant party. A good-natured guy won it. He even put it on, risking self strangulation in the process.

But little Aster and the t-shirt reminded me that coming out—to self or others—may be a dying art. I have a friend whose son is 25.  She can’t remember him coming out. He was always just…gay. And they always just loved him.

As an activist and a human, I’m all for this. I would love to see a world in which we cease to label people, a world it which it was okay to “play for both teams” because we were already on the same team.

However, as a writer, I confess, I love the closet.

Growing up gay in the early 1990s was like living in Jane Austen’s England. You couldn’t just ask a girl out! There was an intricate dance of flirtation and conversation surrounding the revelation of homosexuality. It’s the perfect recipe for a romance novel. Romances must have obstacles. What better obstacle than a secret that the lovers share but cannot disclose, a secret linked to their mutual desire, a secret that could cast them from society? How poignant. How powerful.

There is no unrequited love as completely and absolutely heartbreaking as a teenage lesbian’s love for a straight girl. This is a scientifically proven fact. Forget Twilight; those kids had it easy.

It’s easier for everyone now, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Still I remember being fourteen. No one knew I was gay. I knew no gays. I had no gay books. There was no internet. I remember traveling in a large East Coast city with my father and seeing the double female symbol painted on a parking meter. I traced the graffiti with my gaze, and I knew. My people were out there waiting for me. I was lonely, and the world was large, and I wouldn’t trade that moment of revelation for a Gay Straight Alliance in every grade, even though that is what I wish for young queers today.

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