Lipstick lesbian is a phrase with two related but very different meanings depending on location. In the United States of America, the expression is slang used to describe lesbian and bisexual women who exhibit a greater amount of feminine gender attributes relative to other gender expressions, such as wearing make-up (thus, lipstick), wearing dresses or skirts and having other characteristics associated with feminine women.
The term was used in San Francisco at least as far back as the 1980s. In 1982, Priscilla Rhoades, a journalist with the gay newspaper The Sentinel, wrote a feature story on "Lesbians for Lipstick". In 1990, the gay newspaper OutWeek covered the Lesbian Ladies Society, a Washington, D.C.–based social group of "feminine lesbians" that required women to wear a dress or skirt to its functions. The term is thought to have emerged in wide usage during the early 1990s. A 1997 episode of the television show Ellen widely publicized the phrase. In the show, Ellen DeGeneres's character, asked by her parents whether a certain woman is a "dipstick lesbian", explains that the term is "lipstick lesbian", and comments that "I would be a chapstick lesbian."
A lipstick lesbian pride flag was designed in 2010 by Natalie McCray, who is a designer living in NYC. The flag uses seven stripes of color, which is similar to the gay pride flag. The colors are various shades of reds and purples that represent femininity and womanhood. The lips print in the upper left hand corner represents lipstick.
According to Penny Marshall of the Daily Mail, the term is used to imply either a curiosity, or a willingness to entertain for attention, or shock, in public. Marshall claims lipstick lesbianism was exemplified during the 2003 MTV Awards in which US pop singers Britney Spears, Madonna and Christina Aguilera kissed.
Marshall claims parents will be disturbed by females kissing one another and suggests that "for previous generations, exhibiting any type of gay behaviour was certainly considered 'harm done'."
- Lynch, Patsy (4 April 1990). "Lesbian Ladies (or where did all the femmes go?)". OutWeek. p. 44.
- Keshia Kola (2007-11-16). "The Shesaurus: America's First Women's Dictionary-Thesaurus". Retrieved 2007-11-18.
- "Issue 71" (PDF). G3 Magazine. April 2007. p. 10. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
- Marshall, Penny. "Lipstick lesbians: How this kiss sparked a teenage trend that will disturb every parent". The Daily Mail.
- Image of Britney Spears kissing Madonna during the 2003 MTV Awards show opener on the VH-1 website
- Butler, Judith (1999-09-01). Gender Trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. (Paperback ed.). New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-92499-5.