15 Ways To Spot A Lesbian According To Some Really Old Medical Journals

Dell Richards’ book “Lesbian Lists,” published in 1990, contains “a look at lesbian culture, history, and personalities,” through various lists like “19 Lesbian Novelists” and “14 Cult Films With Lesbian Characters.” These lists are both entertaining and educational.

One of the lists is entitled “20 Turn-of-the-Century “Ways to Tell” if a Girl Would Become Gay or if a Woman Was a Lesbian — according to the Medical Journals of the Day.” The list offers an opportunity for us to look back on the silly assholes of Medical History who sought to quell the viral nature of young madiens’ ripe homosexuality by educating the public regarding how to spot lesbians and subsequently convert or destroy them. You never know when a lesbian is in your neighborhood, driving their car down your street, or shopping next to you at the grocery store.

We have selected 15 of the items from this list to share with you today and have illustrated these items with helpful photographs. As you can see, they were clearly completely right about everything and In parentheses you will find the year in which the cited medical journal was printed.

15 Turn-of-the-Century “Ways to Tell” if a Girl Would Become Gay or if a Woman Was a Lesbian — According to the Medical Journals of the Day

(via Lesbian Lists: a look at lesbian culture, history, and personalities by Dell Richards, 1990)

1. Smokes cigarettes in public. (1890)

confirmed lesbian julie goldman smoking cigarettes at poolside


2. Has a capacity for athletics and an incapacity for needlework and other domestic occupations. (1890)

natasha kai, confirmed lesbian with athletic capacities, screams “I hate needlepoint” on a soccer field


3. “Tomboy Habits” (1895)

autostraddle editor-in-chief riese’s girlfriend (a confirmed homosexual) participating in carpentry, a certified tomboy habit


4. Dresses in Boys’ Clothing (1895)

kim stolz, confirmed lesbian, wearing boys’ clothing on a reality television program. after the program, she continued to wear boys’ clothing in other contexts while romancing women of the same sex.


5. Abandons Dolls and Girlfriends for Marbles and Masculine Games (1895)

although these women may not be have been lesbians before this photograph was captured, this riveting game of marbles will surely transform them into lesbians


6. Prefers the Laboratory to the Nursery (1900)

fictional confirmed lesbian lexy is a doctor on the television program “Lip Service,” which requires the laboratory. furthermore, she does not have children or a nursery.


7. Goes to Bars (1900)

“gimme sugar” was a reality television program about lesbians who went to bars and also worked in bars, and yelled at each other.


8. Is Anti-Social (1900)

we are confident that there is a lesbian hiding behind this book

9. Has a firmness to her walk, a long step, and a rather heavy timbre to her voice. (1900)

kd lang, actual lesbian, records musical cds featuring her timbered voice


10. Talks loud and uses slang. (1900)

in this picture, confirmed lesbian sandra bernhard is swearing loudly using slang, probably slang for a vagina


11. Has no breasts to speak of (1900)

shane, confirmed lesbian, is not speaking of her breasts


12. Is square-shouldered and solid (1900)

skyler cooper has shoulders for days, likes girls


13. Has a strong, self-assured look in her eye (1910)

jessica clark, confirmed lesbian, is seducing you with her eyeballs

lesbian jenny shimizu seduced angelina jolie with these eyeballs


14. Shows mental arrogance and is abnormally deficient in natural female shyness (1910)

this photograph is self-explanatory


15. Has intellectual attributes usually associated with men – an acuteness of comprehension and lucid objectivity (1910)

confirmed lesbian rachel maddow hosts an acute and lucid television program

In conclusion, it would seem that the doctors of the 19th century were 100% correct when they made these scientific determinations. I wish you all luck in identifying and executing lesbians in your neighborhood as you see fit.

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Riese is the 40-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in California. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3003 articles for us.


    • 13/15…and um…according to me (and i think a lot of other people) these are all really GOOD traits for a woman to have. i also think all the dapper gentlemen of victorian society were so busy trying to think of ways to secretly have trysts with other men that they didn’t notice that their women were doing the exact same thing. tipping the velvet is NOT revisionist history…it’s fact, y’all

  1. 2. Check
    3. Check
    5. Check
    6. Check
    8. Check
    10. Uses slang, but I talk softly – Semi-check!
    *Funny how it’s called “mental arrogance” when it comes to females though, yet for men, the title they are given is “confidence.”
    13. Check
    14. Check, except I’m shy too – Semi-check!
    15. Check

    Swing, batta, batta! Strike 1, strike 2, strike 3! You’re “out” of here, “lesbo!!!!” *rolls eyes*

    P.S. – They missed #16 – 2D:4D ratio of fingers (although that came later in comparison to the aforementioned history). My ring fingers are both longer than my index fingers, which is perfect for “needle working” *ahem* *coughs* I mean finger banging Dell Richards! *smirk* Sadly, a lot of people still use these types of lists to assume one’s sexual identity, orientation, etc. On a side note, while doing a little “digging” I ran into this: http://www.rictornorton.co.uk/social26.htm, then ran into this… http://rictornorton.co.uk/index.htm, pretty interesting stuff, I must say. Oh and I totally laughed my ass off at this list as well, so thanks Autostraddle! I now want to come up with my own list, just for shits and giggles.

    • ^LOL! I use to put mine in the freezer… don’t even ask. Fuck, I hated playing with dolls. I remember some girl inviting me over to play and she had all her dolls lined up in a circle and tea cups, well, I took one look at that and cut that invitation short. I walked home (a few houses down) semi annoyed and complained to my parents that she wanted to play dolls with me, like it was some abomination. Lego’s was where it was at, as well as jumping off home made ramps with my skateboard, bike, etc.

          • By age 7 I had done a hackjob of haircuts on all my barbies (Butch Barbie? Is this a thing yet? If not, why?) and took Ken to my friend’s house where we used him as “dinosaur bait” for his collection of plastic velociraptors. Naturally we then drew all over his (naked) ken body with red permanent marker–blood, obviously. We were just being realistic; one can’t escape dino feeding sessions unscathed!

          • I recently assisted my young cousin in “fixing” her Barbies hair after she did a hackjob on it. I naturally gave the Barbie a mohawk to match mine. My poor cousin cried for an hour over her Barbie’s new do.

          • Oh man, I also remember using my mom’s curling iron and putting it on Barbie’s hair, which ended up frying her hair completely. She looked like she got electrocuted, lulz. I was too young to know her hair was not real, but synthetic. I also thought that my mom’s multi-colored collection of eyeliner was coloring pencils, so I used them to draw artsy things. Of course, I admitted this to my mom when I was a lot older and apparently, she had no idea what I was doing with her stuff. Curious, little antiant was curious and still is. Usually I’m thinking, “Hmm I wonder what this will do, let’s test it! Social experiment time!” “Oh fuck!” *runs behind a peep hole to see what ensues* I know not of what you speak, I’m innocent. *whistles*

            All these Barbie stories are fantastic, it reminds me of this site: http://www.iusedtobelieve.com

          • I gave my barbies alternative lifestyle haircuts long before alternative lifestyle haircuts were a thing. Look at that fucking (5-year-old) hipster.

      • I remember taking the firefighter truck from the boy next door, even though my mom bought me all kind of Barbies. She eventually gave up and I got the most amazing collection of Hot Wheels, RC cars and Legos. That was until I lost my life playing Pokemon.

      • I really like undressing my Barbie Dolls, especially when they came out with those newer ones with the rubbery (and a tiny bit more realistic) waists. I was a little too old for Barbies when they were made, but also really excited and overly obsessed with dolls that looked like replicas of girls in bikinis on the beach. (god this sounds so creepy…)

        • we weren’t allowed to have barbies, so i could only play when i was at somebody else’s place, and this is sort of weird and out of character for me in general because i was a super-modest kid who died at the thought of anybody seeing me or me seeing any other human beings in any stages of undress, but for some reason i was always undressing the barbie dolls! i remember having to beg my cousins to let me play with them again after i’d been banned because i always made the barbies be naked.

      • Yes! I used to take my barbie dolls to my brother’s room and dress them in his Action Man (GI Joe) clothes and tried to fit the weapons and guns in her hands. I’m basically a pacifist now. Funny that.

        Up until I was about 14, when I would get upset due to being tired or whatever (and thus annoying to my parents), I would then go to my room, find my toy box and take out my toys like dolls and Lego, and would just play with that for a little while and I found that it always calmed me down. Even just dressing up a doll. It calmed me down. Maybe it was a familiarity thing? I know I come across as a total “big baby” but it worked for me as a kid…

  2. Based on these items: I’m all over the place. Based on my personal spotting system: I’m all over the place. Irrefutable proof cannot be refuted, or so I’ve learned from the Science. These items are Truth.


  3. “executing lesbians”

    If “lesbians” is a maneuver by which I get with a lady, then yes, I will be executing lesbians, particularly those with an ability for athletics and a firmness to their walk.

  4. I laughed my arse off at all of this but my favourite part was the fact that that Claire from The Real L Word totally looks fake and crazy in that screencap.

    (I am ashamed that I know her name, stop judging me.)

  5. This post made me laugh. It’s really funny, tinkerbell. I am so glad Marni found you and returned you to Riese so you could write this! I just went to a gay bar and can confirm that I saw many of these behaviours being acted out.

    I can’t believe they didn’t write anything about lesbian drama in the 1900s… Or perhaps everyone was really dramatic then? Or maybe they didn’t know because there was no texting. Texting is really queer, to me.

  6. My mum gave me Lego and a trike and a chemistry set and other ‘boy’ toys right from the start and I never came within ten feet of a Barbie my entire childhood on account of her being a Raging Feminist. Clearly if she’d read this list she’d have known what to expect!

    Wait, maybe she did. Maybe she was programming me! Thanks, mum!

  7. Could you please put a warning on your articles containing photos of Rachel Maddow. It blindsided me and I sat here staring and drooling at the screen for about 5 minutes. May have been longer.

  8. Oh, lord. 14/15 in particular (“abnormally deficient in natural female shyness” / “intellectual attributes normally associated with men”) made me so sad & angry for women living under that bollocks. I can’t imagine living in a time when I am expected (and policed) to be ‘naturally shy’. Wtf even.

    All the photos of lesbians helped though. Yes. Good.

  9. I was laughing really hard until I got to Skyler’s shoulders and then something in my brain short circuted.

    According to this list I’m not really a lesbian, I just want to be around them. Naked.

  10. Well, it seems that I can’t even pass as a ‘good’ one according to the list. No wonder I can’t get a girlfriend at bars! The only clue is that I did’t play barbies and spent most of time working on assembling the Gundam toys.

  11. I went to a shop near the neighborhood that Natasha Kai grew up in and they had a signed poster of her there. I tried to be discreet as possible but I was overwhelmed by all the hotness in that picture.

  12. I always know when a lesbian is in my neighborhood, driving their car down my street, or shopping next to me at the grocery store. You call it creepy. I call it living in a small town.

  13. If anything this list confirms my bisexuality. Consider the evidence:

    Lesbian attributes:
    -I am terrible at all things domestic.
    -Pretty sure some of my habits are “tomboy habits” since I was considered a tomboy as a kid.
    -I have bought things from the boys’ section before.
    -I hated dolls.
    -I am a contralto, and I assume “low voice” is what they meant by “heavy timbre”
    -Talks loud, uses slang, SWEARS
    -Definitely interested in intellectual pursuits

    Straight attributes:
    -I am also terrible at all things athletic.
    -I don’t smoke.
    -I’m not particularly into marbles, either.
    -I don’t like going to bars (you know, because I’m ANTISOCIAL. Seriously, aren’t those items a bit contradictory?)
    -Definitely have breasts to speak of.
    -Not particularly square-shouldered.
    -I don’t have a “long walk.” At least, I don’t think so. Never really analyzed the way I walk.
    -I’m shy.

    So, it all evens out!

  14. This is a public service announcement. This article has been cross posted at Jezebel and the comments section there is full of straight but outspoken, intelligent and marble playing women realising their homosexual potential. Autostraddlers, I think our services might be required! Much is at stake. I hope you all like missionary work ;)

  15. Awesome list on dyke swagger! Except Sandra Bernhard is not a lesbian although she did play one on TV (Roseanne show was the first lesbian TV kiss!). Sandra Bernhard and Madonna tried to capitalize on the ‘lesbian chic’ craze in the 90’s by saying they were doing it with each other but they much later said it was a lie for publicity.

    If you are a dyke history geek and wanna read more about this check out Lesbians are so CHic (that we don’t even really exist) BY LAURA COTTINGHAM.

    • Sorry, but no. Bernhard is an out bisexual. Just because she’s apparently monogamous with a woman does not negate the fact she’s been out as bisexual since at least 2007.

  16. ……. Oh good god.
    I am now glad I was born in this decade.
    What in the name of treethulu is this…
    Apparently every woman I have ever known is a raging homosexual.

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  18. I smoke but am trying to quit.
    I am bad at needlepoint and the like but also not a sports girl. Oh wait, I lied,roller derby! On of the most lesbionic sports ever.
    Does climbing trees, having swordfights with sticks, collecting water guns and building things out of mud as a child count as tomboy habits?
    Meh, I wear mostly ladies clothing but have a few unmistakably male pieces that I never go to the women’s section for.
    I did play with boys toys and their games, but I did like to have my Barbies marry eachother.
    I don’t like children. I like to learn.
    Bars rock.
    I can be anti social or wildly social depending.
    Firm walk, maybe, heavy voice, maybe. Never really been complimented on those features.
    I have a loud voice at times yes. And a bad habit of using slang. Ah, here’s the kicker, my rather large breasts are often, often spoken of.
    Im more lower body solid than upper.
    Self assured in the eyes
    Mentally arrogant (what an awful mysoginistic way of phrasing it!)
    Posses a strong sense of lucid objectivity.
    Oh my. Im super gay except for my breasts which i had no control over! What am i to do? Teehee ; p pppfff

  19. Only 12/15. I don’t smoke or play sports and I have big breasts. I love “prefers the laboratory to the nursery” because I’ve literally chosen a career where I spend time in the lab over having kidlings. I think that these old medical scientists were really in the dark about certain types of femme lesbians, though… ;)

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  21. Smoke in public, loud and confident but have shy days too, no boobs really, tomboy habits, go to bars, wear guys clothing, self assured look, antisocial behavior.
    I kept my barbies for a fair while, but they were lesbian barbies. I had two guy dolls, but they just got left in the toy box.
    But up until december last year I had been with guys, in my first relationship with a woman, definitely the best I’ve ever had. Always liked girls, but they never wanted me, whereas guys couldnt get enough. So I went with them rather than be alone. Does that make me Bi or lesbian? lol bearing in mind I never enjoyed sex with guys, it was quite gross.

  22. I don’t have short hair, don’t smoke, don’t use slang, don’t wear guys clothing… Guess I’m the acception to these rules hahaha I am, however, guilty of going to bars, having a lot of confidence, having tomboyish habits, and having very small boobs. So I guess based on this I’m half lesbian? Or just really good at hiding it

  23. I tried this sight to find any medical test to prove my wife a lesbian, As i married her but she prefers to engage herself with her girl friend and left my house after taking almost all valuable items of mine , even my parse and quit my house, She said me just few days after marriage that her friend is more important than me . In this situation i am helpless. In India all rules are in favour of ladies, and Men only suffers, I cannot marry until she gives me divorce, whether she stayes with me or any other person, . This is India, and our rules. Really I hate to live here. Lack’s of people are suffering at this type of cases. In this way girls marry any person takes all things ,money etc. make that guy suffer and herself enjoys with other people.and after that inform police false aligation against her husband. In a latest verdict by Hon. Supreme Court of India almost all cases of this type are false and womans in india are taking advantage of this rule 498A- which says that if a woman complains against a man of any type after marriage whether phisiclly ,mentally etc torture the local police will arrest all family members of the men ( even old mother or father of the husband)and put in jail, whether is is a false aligation or not will be judged later. We men are living in jungle Rule in india.

    • so you like being dependent on a man, look what society tells you to look like, bear a lot of ungrateful children, be weak and vulnerable, and rather be stupid, insecure and talkative than being confindent and think? Good for you. You gotta live easy, simple life.

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  25. What a load of fucking crap for 1 I smoke cigarettes in public and where boyish clothes and I prefer my own company But does that make me gay NO im purely straight and that’s the way I tend to be get your facts right before u say such rubbish.

  26. Pingback: Daily Juice: Holland Taylor Gives Sarah Paulson Perfect Review, Plus 15 Medical Ways To Spot A Lesbian | KitschMix

  27. Wow they totally would have thought I was a lezzie! I’m not but I am a huge tomboy! Just goes to show women who don’t follow convention must not be “right” to guys meh. Those men can go fall off a cliff.

  28. Pingback: Lesbian quiz: How doctors in the past knew | Lesbian News

  29. oh my god all of this is me. literally every single item on this list. electrical engineer, grad student ( smokes in public), former cross-country runner with no breasts to speak of, no interest in children, and learned feelings from a textbook. where’s camping, though? i feel like that’s a classic

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