Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Oh, so you are a lesbian?

As a femme lesbian, I've had unintentionally insensitive remarks from straight people pretty much all my adult life. However, I've noticed recently that these comments are just as likely to come from within the LBG community.

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
Not to mention out actress Portia Di Rossi, plus BBC series Lip Service, and both The L Word and The Real L Word featuring femme ladies. Perhaps the fact that femmes are increasingly visible in the media, but not to people in everyday life, indicates that femme lesbians are just glamourous television portrayals, who are viewed by the majority in the same way supermodels are, unachievable unrealistic images. A friend's boyfriend recently told her that he thought me and L were  "pretty, like movie lesbians, not like lesbians you see in real life" - which, although meant as a well meaning compliment, kind of proves a point!

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.


  1. I get this all the time, too. I like to call myself Fetch. I wear make up everyday, have long hair that I actually like to have down instead of up all the time, and I do like to paint my nails once in a while. However, I love my jeans, converse, and t-shirts! Yet, give me a reason to get dolled up and I'm there! My take is just be who you are, you're the best at it. Everyone else can throw rocks when they live in glass houses. Oh, and wait until you have kids! Then it's REALLY assumed you're straight and that there's a dad somewhere instead of the other co-parent/mom. It's frustrating and hopefully, letting it roll off you gets easier.

  2. C has issues with this a lot too. People assume she can't possibly be married to a woman to the point that someone even asked her if she meant husband when she said wife. She used to feel she had to dress a certain way but very quickly realised they were the ones with the issue. Great Post.

  3. This is such a great post! I've had my sexuality doubted and questioned as a ploy for attention because I don't look gay enough. After that I thought an undercut and converse sneakers would help, but to be honest I'm more comfortable with my hair long and dressed more femme. Now that Angele and I are planning our wedding together I haven't had to explain to everyone as much.

  4. Well said Sarah. My daughter is a femme and bi, so she finds it hard, and awkward, to come out to both straight and non-straight people. No one believes her at first and even after some time, many still expect her to "change her mind" eventually. Madness, isn't it. Simple acceptance is, as you say, all that's really needed.

    Personally, I'm looking forward to the day she marries the girl of her dreams and the day I hold my first grandchild, but I realize it's her life and I'll accept her choices.


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