Lesbian Lexicon

The idea for the Lesbian Lexicon came to me after watching some videos on YouTube that did a very bad job of explaining lesbian terminology. I wanted to do an illustrated lexicon from femme to stud–or, since blogs read in reverse, you’re reading it from stud to femme. I decided to only use terms that I hear regularly here in the Boston Area, rather than try to include everything I’ve seen online, so I did not cover words like futch, boi, or aggressive (referring to a stud). I also did not include trans, as I have recently realized that I am still working through issues and prejudices around transsexuals. (Probably the result of my own deep trans-desires I’m still struggling with.) If you want to write a guest post on these or any other term you think I missed, comment below.

I decided to use all celebrities, and as many out artists as I could. You’ll notice Mo’Nique in there, with a disclaimer. No there’s no disclaimer for the rest of them. Am I saying their Lesbians or at least bi? Well I’m not saying they’re not…

I also want to ask you to please refrain from making comments about “how stupid it is to label people.” Labels are just language that people use to try to understand and explain their environment. Obviously there is a wealth of depth in each person, regardless of where they fit on the spectrum, and I think everyone, male and female, has at least some traits from each.

Butch O'Meter

Butch O'Meter

Where You Shit

The right, or shall we say, privilege to go the bathroom is one of the biggest things you miss on the streets. I feel so strongly about this that ten years later I stormed out of a restaurant after ordering when they didn’t have a public restroom. (When the restaurant went out of business a few weeks later after 50 years I felt vaguely guilty, as if my uneaten hamburger and negative energy were the culprit.)

Oh, going to the bathroom wasn’t such a big deal when I started on the streets in Cambridge: there was Au Bon Pain, the Garage, and that nice little church that gave out free coffee. If you had to pee at night there were a couple bushes, and us newbie girls would leave little bits of pilfered toilet paper in desultery heaps there.

It wasn’t until I hit sunny (ha ha) San Francisco that going to the bathroom became a big issue. Oh, everybody’s had the experience of having to go to the bathroom somewhere and everywhere they go it says “no public restrooms,” storming up and down the street until you beg plead or bully your way into a John. But on the streets that was every single time. Oh not every time: I became adept at peeing between cars and in bushes–peeing in a half crouch and forgoing toilet paper to drip dry. There was one very special alcove off Haight Street with some plants that I watered regularly, their big leafy branches shielding my squatting form from the public eye.

But what to do when you had to number two? If you had money you could buy some time and the restroom key at a coffee shop or restaurant. But what if you had none? What if it was late at night and everything was closed?

On one such a night I was loitering on the street with my sole possessions and a few neer’ do wells. “Where can I poop?” I asked them. I had to go so bad!

“No problem” Said the gutter punk next to me, streetlight glinting off of his spiked hat and vest. “Just go down to the park.”

Ookay. I walked with him down to the panhandle with him. There was no privacy in the well-lit, sparsely tree-d park, cars zooming by on all sides. There were also no people.

“Well, go ahead” He pointed to the skirt of a tree, right there in the open.

Feeling nervous unsure, I gamely squatted down.

“I can’t.”

“Sure you can!” He squatted a few feet away and took a big old junkie shit. To this day I can’t remember if he wiped or what he wiped with.

“No, I really can’t”

As we walked back to Height Street, him feeling much relieved and me worse than ever, he spotted a shopping cart.

“Get in! It will be a cool ride!” He then proceeded to push me on the shortest, scariest ride of my life. If you ever want to get the (proverbial) shit scared out of you, let a junky push you drunkenly up the steep, uneven streets of San Francisco.

When we got back to the doorway we had been hanging in, a guy who was only slightly sketchy offered to take me to his friend’s pad to use the bathroom.

***

Another time I found myself struggling with #2 was late at night at N Judah, the end-of-Judah, the beachy home where we slept either wrapped in tarps in the dunes, or later in sleeping bags in a garage/storage hall. Again I confided my situation to an older, more street smart compadre:

“Just poop in the bushes up on the hill.” He advised, gesturing with his scraggly beard at the steep dune that separated the beech from the street.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, sure! People do it all of the time!”

“Well, I really have to go.” So I wended my way though the scraggly paths between low lying bushes. Since it was dark and private-feeling, I was able to accomplish my mission, although I had no means to bury it once the deed was done, only covering with a used bit of toilet paper.

***

A few days later as I was hanging out in front of a coffee shop across the street I watched a fellow street person wend his way through the bushes with a bag in his hands. He came towards us dragging his foot and grimacing.

“I just went up to get my bag from where it was stashed and stepped in human shit!” He exclaimed.

“Ew that’s disgusting!” said the dread-locked girl next to me.

I–wisely–said nothing at all.

My Second Arrest

My second arrest happened one weeknight as some friends and I congregated on the otherwise empty street. It was late, and I was–unfortunately–sober, and dreading the bus ride “home” to my squat. This time I was arrested for the dastardly crime of “obstructing the sidewalk” (from ghosts, apparently) without ID. Yes friends, in San Francisco standing on the sidewalk without ID is a crime!

So one minute I’m chatting with friends in an empty storefront, and the next two cops are on my like slavering dogs wanting my ID. When I don’t have one they charge me with obstruction, ask me if I have any weapons (I say no) and cart me back to the friendly holding station, where they once again handcuff me to the chair.

A guy comes out right away and exhorts me not to sing–but its ok, I don’t really feel like singing. I sit there miserably for an hour or so until the pressure on my bladder becomes unbearable, and then holler out my request to go the bathroom. After I’ve been yelling for a while, a stocky Latina policewoman struts out and uncuffs me, leading me to the nearby bathroom. Here’s where things start to go down-hill.

So she’s standing there watching me try to pee, and I just can’t do it. I just can’t pee with this heavy bitch staring at me. So I ask her, as politely as I can, to please turn around. Well, it’s at this point it occurs to her that I haven’t been searched yet. Who knows what crazy shit she expects me to do in the moments I’m planning on using to void my bladder–so she pulls me off of the toilet, and starts searching me, only to find a pocket folding knife, a double sided dagger-style letter opener, and, once again, my box-cutter (remember this was pre 9/11).

She responded as if I had smuggled a pocket sized nuclear bomb into the precinct, or at the very least. Shock. Outrage. Horror. Holding up my letter opener she yelled “This is a felony offense! A double edged blade!”

Me: “It’s a letter opener. It’s not sharp.”

Officer: “Double-edged blades are illegal in the state of California. And this!” (holding up my folding knife) “Another illegal weapon.”

Me: “It’s a pocket knife. Under four inches.”

Officer: “We’ll see about that! You’re going down for two felonies!”

Me: “Can I at least pee first?”

My First Arrest

The first time I was arrested was for littering without ID. Picture me at 17: big boned but skinny–short hand-cut brown hair, size 8 pants with holes in the knees, a riot police vest festooned with ragged  multi-colored patches. Everything I owned on my back and a flute case over my shoulder. I was stoned out of my gourd when I made the mistake of attempting a philosophical conversation with an officer. Honestly, he probably would have arrested me anyway, but when I threw a hand-rolled cigarette butt on the cement (anti-littering to my mind–which would biodegrade first?) he saw his chance.

Turns out anything that you do in San Francisco without ID is pretty much illegal. Even if you pick up the trash instantly, it’s your word against theirs.

They took me to the station, where they went through my stuff.

“You know, this is a weapon, I could take it.” The cop found my box cutter I had tied on a string to my belt and tucked into my back pocket.

“It’ a box cutter, you can buy it in any hardware store,”   I told him scornfully. (This was pre- 9-11.) He dropped it in the brown paper bag that was becoming the new home for my possessions. Between the four pockets of my vest and the four in my pants I had a lot of stuff. A matchbook missed the bag and fluttered like a moth to the floor. Before I could grab it, The cop snatched it up.

“Groundscore!” He cried triumphantly. “See,” he said, giving me the smirk of a disobedient child, an expression I would see often from Frisco cops abusing their power, ” I know your slang.”

They handcuffed me to the chair for hours, and I occupied myself with belting out tunes: Amazing grace, Nothing Left to Loose, Mercedes Benz, Redemption Song…at one point a big black lady cop added her full throated voice to mine. Finally an officer asked me to be quiet, and I accommodated. I was tired by then, and coming down.

They took me downtown and finger printed me under a false name. Since I had given them a false birth date as well, they put me in a general pop holding cell. The holding cells in downtown Frisco are glass cages lining a big room full of cops doing paperwork. On one side was a cell crowded with men in orange jump suits.

I was put in a room with two other women, a working TV and a broken pay phone. (The pay phone seemed redundant, as all of our money was confiscated when we were booked.) In the corner a girl lay shaking on the cold bench. She had sores all over her face and the shakes real bad as she came down off junk.

The other woman was middle-aged and slightly off. She kept waving at the police and trying to get their attention. It seemed that she knew or was related to each of them in some way or other. She looked pityingly at the girl in the corner.

“I would never do heroine.” I agreed. God, that looked awful. Coming down in jail had to be hell.“I only smoke pot” she paused as I nodded my agreement, “and crack.”

The show changed on TV to Billy Grahame. No, just no. I thought. This was cruel and unusual punishment. Examining the set-up, I managed to perch on a bench and just barely reach the controls on the TV.

“You’re not supposed to do that.” The woman said as I flipped through the channels. “Can you put on Cops?”