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An Exhaustive Explanation of Everything in Pop Culture That Is Undeniably Lesbian

In this exclusive essay from the buzzy new book Girls Can Kiss Now, writer Jill Gutowitz walks you through the current lesbian canon, as it stands.

lips parted, holding a cherry between them
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Nowadays, queer teens have no idea how good they have it, with their lesbian-outfit Instagram accounts and their dreary homophobia movies and their JoJo Siwas. Back in my day (2003), finding something gay to be horny over was like navigating the Oregon Trail. You’d have to run home from school and sit in front of the TV for hours waiting for the “Me Against the Music” video to play on MTV just so you could get a sliver of gay, and that would be your only shot at seeing gay that whole day. No quietly streaming Netflix on your laptop in your room, no saving photos of Cara Delevingne and Selena Gomez showering together to camera roll, no “every Jamie and Dani scene in The Haunting of Bly Manorcompilation video on YouTube. Just a single queer bait moment of the day with absolutely no idea when it would come or ability to plan for it. Just sit and wait for Britney and Madonna to flirt. Oh, you have to go to the bathroom? What if you miss it? No, you’ll be fine, just go. You missed it. The flash of a moment where Britney pins Madonna against the wall and they almost kiss is gone. Sorry you ate too many SunChips and got diarrhea and blew past the only possible lesbianism you could find today. You died of dysentery. You missed the gay; try again tomorrow.

99% of lesbian movies are still about two women hiding behind a harp together.

Yeah, admittedly, things aren’t “perfect” or even “good” today, given that 99 percent of lesbian movies are still about two women who hate themselves hiding behind a harp together and being like “I would die of tuberculosis for you” or whatever. But still, we have lesbian movies (and lesbian-outfit Instagram accounts and JoJo Siwa and YouTube compilation videos). The breadth of sapphic art, and what can be considered sapphic art, expands with each passing day. But in a vacuum of explicit queerness, generations of queer people were left with no choice but to celebrate the implicit. The instinct to collect the implicit—despite having an oeuvre of explicit queer art today—has not disappeared. And that right there, the ever-growing list of implicitly sapphic stuff that we’ve culled from the absence of gay, is called lesbian canon.

Quick explainer, if you’re like “lesbian canon, the whomst, now?”, “canon” is just another word for “official.” In fan fiction, the word refers to the “official” storyline that the fanfic is based on. But with so little “official” lesbian content in the ether, the concept of such has become an in-joke. Anything can be “lesbian canon”—a person, a television show, a concept, an object, a song, your DAD. If a queer woman identifies with or feels “seen by” an art, a person, a thing, then that item is lesbian canon.

Girls Can Kiss Now: Essays by Jill Gutowitz

If it’s still not clicking, I’ll give you an example before diving into the current lesbian canon, as it stands. The best possible case I can think of is Neve Campbell. Neve Campbell, as far as the official public records show, identifies as heterosexual. But doesn’t she just…seem really lesbian? And not even like in an explicitly “has definitely hooked up with women” way. But her energy, her essence, her breadth of work is so, so queer. There are other elements that could, of course, contribute to making someone or something lesbian canon. Like, Neve Campbell played queer in (one of the greatest movies of all time) Wild Things, alongside Denise Richards. So like, her work technically is or has been queer. But like, her character in Scream seems gay but isn’t…right? The way she speaks, the way she has bangs, wears tank tops, that she typically plays a tomboyish hot goth girl and existed in the ’90s—these are all factors that would lead me to believe that Neve Campbell is queer. But she isn’t! Neve Campbell is probably not gay. But she is lesbian canon.

That said, where are historians on this? Why is no one recording the thousands and thousands of things that queer people have declared lesbian canon for posterity? Years from now, when a teen opens a book hoping to learn what is or isn’t lesbian canon, how will they know? They won’t. No one else is doing this work, so I have to. I won’t call this the official official recorded list of lesbian items, but this is at least my official list of lesbian items. Again, these are things that aren’t officially gay but seem gay and thus are lesbian canon.


  • Oat milk.
  • Vape juice.
  • Blood (all types).
  • Coffee.
  • Tea.
  • Hot water with lemon.
  • Elderflower syrup.
  • Anything lavender-flavored.
  • Rose water.
  • Dakota Johnson’s brand of sex wax candles (once liquefied—if they’re solid, doesn’t count).


    • Bad fashion: Vests. Tevas. Zip-off shorts. Shapes of clothing that shouldn’t exist and actually seem like a mistake.
    • Good fashion: Denim. Leather duster jackets. Dressing like you’re a hot vampire and/or in The Matrix and/or a Sith Lord.
    • Tracksuits (exist between bad fashion and good fashion).

      The Elements

      • Water.
      • Earth.
      • Fire.
      • Air.

        People and Their Body Parts

        • Winona Ryder—wore a lot of leather and denim in the ’90s. Also, shoplifting because you’re bored is gay.
        • Eliza Dushku simply existing.
        • Shiri Appleby.
        • Jordana Brewster.
        • Sandra Bullock in The Net.
        • Julia Roberts in Mystic Pizza, Flatliners, The Pelican Brief.
        • Michelle Trachtenberg in Harriet the Spy and Gossip Girl.
        • Linda Cardellini truly just breathing in any movie or TV show.
        • Basically every brunette actress who was popular in the ’90s/2000s.
        • Parminder Nagra (fucking obviously—Bend It Like Beckham is lesbian art-house cinema, as far as I’m concerned).
        • Lucy Liu and her lesbian paintings (Lucy Liu has, somewhat inexplicably, been painting and exhibiting sapphic art for the past few years but has never explicitly come out as queer—it’s quite opaque, and being a mysterious artist is lesbian).
        • Neve Campbell at every age, especially with bangs.

          Jill Gutowitz is a writer from New Jersey. Her writing has appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vulture, and more. She lives in Los Angeles with her partner and a very small cat. Girls Can Kiss Now is her debut essay collection.

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