My experience of gay bars has been very limited - as a teenager I was into the rock scene, and found rock clubs to be much more friendly, inclusive and relaxed than gay bars. Gay bars seemed to be mostly men, with the few women being on the more masculine side, who did not hesitate to tell me that I didn't belong there. My femininity led to them to assume I was bisexual, or even straight. I was unwilling to make myself into something I wasn't, just to appease narrow minded strangers, and short of wearing a tshirt that stated 'Life-long gold star lesbian, actually!' there wasn't much I could do about it. Neither of us have ever felt entirely comfortable in the cliquey world of gay bars, so it was easier to avoid, and the narrow-minded judgements from people in them, altogether.
More recently its with sadness that I've started to see such comments popping up again. I noticed a comment on Twitter making a joke about National Coming Out day obviously not applying to femmes, which really irritated me. I can't speak for every other femme, but I think I am safely speaking for myself, my future wife and our circle of friends when I say none of us dress in a feminine way as a form of hiding our sexuality. Not all girls are girly girls, regardless of sexuality, and I respect that. However, likewise, not all lesbians are pre programmed to have an aversion to anything feminine. I do not need to prove my sexuality by advertising it through the way I dress, and I am not making some huge political statement about 'the way lesbians look' to the wider world. I am quite simply being me. I don't walk around in heels and dresses 24/7 - I own a lot of Converse and I have had a life long love of leather jackets, but I also love doing my nails, makeup, and having long blonde hair, however do not exaggerate these points to try and prove a point. I don't love any of those things as a way to prove I'm attracted to women or hide the fact I'm attracted to women. I am comfortable enough with myself to look in a way that I feel is 'me', and I am beginning to feel such pity for those who feel such pressure, one way or another, to conform to stereotypes in order to make themselves feel better about who they are / what their sexuality is.
The number of feminine lesbians in the media and public eye has slowly increased since I was a child, starting with Carol and Susan in Friends, various femmes in Bad Girls, Willow and Tara in Buffy, and more recently:
|Julie Benz (who I adore!) playing femme lesbian Robin in Desperate Housewives|
|Brittany & Santana in Glee|
|Sophie & Sian in Coronation Street|
|Lesbian witch Stella in new ITV series Switch|
If anything, I have found it difficult to be a femme lesbian, it's far from the cop-out so many people assume I'm taking. Of course, lesbians who aren't femme have struggles too, and I have huge respect for any gay girl that refuses to dress femme if it isn't her, just to fit in with societies expectation of what a woman should look like. But likewise, I would appreciate some respect for the fact I am not being someone I'm not just to conform to what society thinks a lesbian should look like. It irritates me further that the idea that looking more masculine makes you 'more gay' is so evident within the gay community. I mean, aren't we all supposed to be standing together and wanting acceptance for ALL of us and our relationships, not judging each other on who is 'more gay'?!
Far from meaning you never have to come out, being femme means you never stop. Very rarely does anyone (gay or straight) realise I'm gay, usually resulting in me having to spell out my relationship with L with every new person I meet, something I wouldn't do if I was trying to hide my sexuality! I don't come out by wearing stereotypical clothing, I come out by telling the world how much I love my fiancee because I'm too proud of our relationship to ever want to hide it - hardly a weak, half hearted sentiment.
I recently started volunteering at a youth group, and I could see the doubtful way the teenagers looked at me; one boy asking numerous questions about me to find out my sexuality, replying "oh! So you are a lesbian, then?" in amusement when I mentioned my girlfriend. It would've been inappropriate of me to reply ''yes, who I am attracted to isn't linked to my choice of footwear or hairstyle actually", as much as I would have liked them all to begin to realise that!
I don't know where this stops. We are judged by the world at large because we are living in a same sex relationship, we want to get MARRIED (not Civil Partnered) and THEN we want to be parents. We are judged by people who are supposed to be 'on our side' because we don't conform to some pre-defined code of dress that shows our belonging to the lesbian club. Its a shame we can't just stop all this judging, wave goodbye to it all and replace it with acceptance. Acceptance of each other, for all of our unique differences and for our similarities too, acceptance for families in all their forms, acceptance that the way people dress and what their interests are does not have any relevance on 'how gay they are'. I really wish people would stop judging me, making assumptions about me and my relationship and just accept that love manifests itself in many forms and the world would be such a happier place if everybody could just embrace that and find peace and happiness with who they are, instead of wasting time judging those around them.