Book Excerpt: Girlfag: A Life Told in Sex and Musicals by Janet Hardy

janetIn 2005, I came out (publicly, I’d been out to myself for years) as a Girl Fag. What the heck is a Girl Fag you ask? It’s not easy to define, but in a nutshell it’s a mostly female-aligned person who is attracted to men but feels more in step with gay male sexuality than heterosexuality, and for me it’s an aspect of my queer/genderqueer identity. (I told you it’s not easy to define, and has even been attacked as an “appropriative” identity but we’ll get there in time.) A few years ago, I joined the Girl Fags and Guy Dykes  group on Facebook, and was excited to discover that legendary writer Janet Hardy (perhaps best known for her work on polyamory bible “The Ethical Slut“) also identifies as a Girl Fag, and was in the process of writing a memoir about it, funded by Kickstarter. Today Ms. Behaved will share two excerpts from her memoir “Girlfag: A Life Told in Sex and Musicals,” published by Beyond Binary Books, to be followed by an in-depth interview with Janet this coming monday.
-Bianca James. 

girlfagSally Bowles, the protagonist of Cabaret, had big, dark, tragic eyes, and so did I. Sally Bowles wanted – men, money, fame, love, glamour – and so did I. Sally Bowles had a veneer of sophistication that fooled nobody, and so did I. If Sally Bowles could do it, I thought, so could I.

Sally, I knew, had plotted the seduction of her roommate Brian, choosing a slip of lace-trimmed champagne silk and a pair of Cuban-heeled pumps, feigning a chill to ask for a cuddle. Although my old high school buddy Russell resembled Brian – both were reserved, blond, slightly epicene university students – and although I’d known him much longer than Sally had known Brian, I had a feeling that he’d run screaming from the room if I showed up in anything that revealing. And besides, I reasoned, Russell hadn’t had a couple of months in Berlin to warm him up; he was just coming over from Stanford for one night. I chose demure white cotton at the fabric store, sat up all night trimming it with flirty lace, and hemmed it long enough to provide plausible deniability if my nerve failed me.

We came back from the movies and I disappeared into the bathroom. When I appeared in the bedroom door, makeup freshened, bob brushed to shiny perfection, white lace fluttering around my thighs, Russell looked up briefly, nodded a casual greeting and went on unrolling his sleeping bag.

“I… I thought we might share my bed,” I said. (Sally, at this point, sprawled in an odalisque pose practically in Brian’s face, and purred, “Doesn’t my body drive you wild with desire?” It helps to have a screenwriter in these matters.)

“I think I’d be more comfortable here,” Russell said, not meeting my eyes.

“But I thought maybe we could have sex,” I whined.

“What is there about the word ‘gay’ that isn’t clear to you?” Russell asked.

So I began to argue. That’s how young I was: I thought you could argue someone into bed. I argued for hours. I even cried a little, which worked for Sally, eventually, but Russell slept in his sleeping bag.

Gay men, I’ve found, are the best for flirting with. They know the rhythm: the self-revelation, the personal observation, the compliment, the touch, reeling you in, giving you slack, pulling you back in again. Flirting with gay men is lighthearted, consequence-free, an easy ritual.

When you try to flirt with straight guys, there’s always the chance that the flirtation might turn into actual sex. Flirtation becomes a kind of playing chicken – how far can you take it before someone makes an actual proposal, before someone has to say yes or no?

The fact is that even when you flirt with a gay man, sex isn’t necessarily all that distant a possibility; such things have been known to happen. But his gayness gives the flirtation some plausible deniability. You can flirt with impunity, which means you can flirt very well indeed.

If you’re worried that you’re too old or too fat or too unattractive, then you’re not going to be flirting very well – in fact, you probably won’t be flirting at all. Confident people flirt; insecure people beg. When you flirt with a gay man, he’s not supposed to notice what you look like because of course he isn’t going to fuck you anyway, so you can just go for it.

You know who else is really great at flirting? Babies. If you want proof that great flirting is an end in itself, consider this scenario: you’re sitting there in the diner having a cup of coffee and reading the paper, and suddenly over the top of the banquette in front of you appears a pair of enormous blue eyes. You smile, or make a face, or stick out your tongue, and the eyes disappear bashfully behind the red vinyl, and you hear a muffled giggle. You go back to your newspaper but now you can’t really concentrate: she’s got you. And sure enough, a tuft of fluffy hair rises up, followed by a round forehead, and again those big eyes, now crinkled with merriment.

From here on out you’re hooked; you can forget about the newspaper. You’ll be making faces, playing peekaboo, performing puppet shows with your slices of bacon: babies are not always so good at figuring out when to stop flirting. But they are superb at starting, and even better at continuing, which are, after all, the hard parts.

But, you know, a baby isn’t tall enough to see over the back of a banquette. All that fabulous flirtation is performed standing on the lap of a loving parent who will pick her up and soothe her if someone, say, sticks a couple of straws up their nose to be a walrus and startles her and makes her cry. Flirt with The Weird Lady In The Restaurant; get comforted by Mommy. It’s the perfect, safe setup. Like being gay, but with looser pants.


Excerpt reprinted with permission from Janet Hardy. Purchase Girl Fag: A Life Told in Sex and Musicals here. Read more book excerpts on Ms. Behaved here


  1. Hi, thanks for sharing


  1. […] an excerpt from Janet's memoir Girlfag: A Life Told in Sex and Musicals on Ms. Behaved here.] I think “girlfag” can be either a sexual orientation, a gender identity, or both. In […]

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