A lipstick lesbian is a lesbian whose gender expression is typically more feminine, so for example, wearing makeup (thus the term ‘lipstick lesbian’), wearing dresses or having characteristics commonly associated with feminine women. However, in popular use, lipstick lesbian is also used as a way to define feminine gender expression of bisexual identifying people. a
The term ‘lipstick lesbian‘ was originally used in San Francisco in 1980s. In 1982, Priscilla Rhoades, a journalist with the gay newspaper ‘The Sentinel‘, wrote an article on ‘Lesbians for Lipstick.’ Then 1990, the gay newspaper OutWeek covered the ‘Lesbian Ladies Society‘, an organisation based in Washington D.C, based social-group for feminine lesbians, required lesbians to wear feminine things (e.g. skirts/dresses/make-up) for it to function, but the term is thought to have originated in the early 1990s.
In addition, a 1997 episode of the television show Ellen popularized the term. In the episode, Ellen DeGeneres’s character was asked by her parents whether a certain woman is a ‘dipstick lesbian‘, explains that the term is actually ‘lipstick lesbian.’
Some authors have commented that the term lipstick lesbian is also used to describe feminine bisexual or heterosexual individuals who have shown romantic interest towards the same gender. For example, Jodie Brian, in the 2009 Encyclopedia of Gender and Society, Volume 1, states, “A common depiction of lipstick lesbianism includes conventionally attractive and sexually insatiable women who desire one another but only insofar as their desire is a performance for male onlookers or a precursor to sex with men.” Here, she is reinforcing the idea that lipstick lesbians dress in a feminine manner; in addition, in, ‘Intersectionality, Sexuality and Psychological Therapies,’ a lipstick lesbian is defined as, ‘a lesbian/bisexual woman who exhibits ‘feminine’ attributes such as wearing makeup, dresses and high heeled shoes.’
In terms of colour scheme, the lipstick lesbian flag has different shades of pink, which have connotations of femininity; in addition, the lipstick represents the traditional act of putting of make-up.