We’ve all had that moment before when you’re on the subway or at the grocery store, and you see a beautiful woman. And you wonder, is she gay? Can she tell I’m gay? Ali Greenberg, founder of SAPPHO Jewelry, was all too familiar with this feeling when she first moved to the city.
“I had a hard time meeting other queer women,” Greenberg said. “I remember wishing there was a way to subtly identify myself and other people as well, for community and dating.”
Sappho partners, Ali Greenberg and Lizz Roberts of LZZR Jewelry
SAPPHO Jewelry was created out of the struggle of femme invisibility, which is a disappointing reality for many queer women. The design is very personal to Greenberg, as Sappho represents the history and evolution of identifying as LGBTQ. Sappho, the Greek lyrical poet from the island of Lesbos, struggled with her own path and in many ways had to cover up her sexuality. She always carried with her an elegant Harp-like instrument called a Lyre, which was the inspiration behind the design for SAPPHO jewelry as it represents “the history and evolution of identifying as LGBTQ,” Greenberg says.
Last night, I joined Greenberg and about 50 other queer women (including host Kiyomi Valentine) to celebrate the official launch of SAPPHO at The Randolph in Brooklyn. The vibe was very much so on point with the SAPPHO design: captivating and elegant. With out musician Julia Weldon playing her vulnerable indie-folk-pop music, it was the perfect atmosphere to mingle with queer women.
We spoke with Greenberg about femme invisibility and how she hopes SAPPHO will help build community.
GO Magazine: Where did the inspiration to create SAPPHO come from?
Ali Greenberg: Basically, I was with a man for a very long time before I came out, but it never felt right because—well, I’m gay. I took the steps to come out to my family and friends. It was hard, but mostly everyone in my life felt they knew this about me and were waiting for me to come out to them. Then, I moved to New York City where I was ready to start a new life. I started going out to the CubbyHole, but outside of those women, I had a really hard time meeting LGBTQ people. … Though I’m now happily married, I still feel strongly about finding more LGBTQ community, which SAPPHO can help with.
GM: When was the moment you decided to go for it?
AG: I was with at a work lunch with five men when they saw my engagement ring and asked what my husband does. I had this inner dialogue of, like, “Do I want to out myself? It’s going to be so awkward, and I don’t want to have this conversation right now.” But I did it anyway and told them about my amazing wife. It was awkward for a moment, but then the conversation went on. I just wished we had ways to identify ourselves, especially femme women, without having to come out constantly. I walked away from that conversation thinking I’m going to do something about this.
GM: What does femme mean to you?
AG: To me, femme is someone isn’t the stereotypical presenting LGBTQ person. However, I also think it can be polarizing to use that word, and that can almost be eliminated with SAPPHO. It doesn’t matter if you are femme, masc, or none of the above—SAPPHO is for anyone who identifies as queer or lesbian.
GM: Do you feel toxic masculinity plays a role in femme erasure?
AG: I definitely do, I think I’m coming from the school of thought that we need to break where these stereotypes come from. We need to break the masculine presenting woman stereotype as the quintessential queer woman. I want to bring the community together with SAPPHO, no matter gender presentation or identity.
GM: How do you hope SAPPHO will bring femmes to the center of the conversation around invisibility in the queer community?
AG: I hope that’s exactly what SAPPHO will do so that people don’t feel invisible in a room of fellow LGBTQ people. For example, I’m in this group for queer women on Facebook of over 14,000 women, but you can feel the different micro divisions within the community. I hope people will see with SAPPHO that we are all in this together. I strive to eliminate this divisiveness and bring the community together.
GM: Can you speak to the struggles you’ve had in the queer community as a femme woman that led you to create SAPPHO?
AG: I think that it can be isolating at times. To want so badly to feel like you are a part of something, but to not be fully seen in that space. It’s a huge aspect of your life, and I think potential being eliminated from that because of gender presentation is really disappointing.
GM: Do you have any advice for young femmes out there struggling to come out because they feel they aren’t butch enough? Don’t own enough flannels? Or have short enough hair?
AG: I would say, first of all, wear SAPPHO. Also, there is space for everyone in this community. Find your people; it’s a great place to be true to yourself. To feel included, heard and seen.
Shop SAPPHO at http://www.sappho.life/.