“All the Cool Girls are Lesbians” Shirt Banned by Uncool Non-Lesbians

A Boston-area high school student was told by a vice-principal to cover up her t-shirt and never wear it again “because it’s political and offensive to some people.” The t-shirt read, “all the cool girls are lesbians.” According to ACLU lawyer Sarah Wunsch, the school is in violation of the stringent Massachusetts law that covers free speech in schools. The high school’s own rules prohibit clothing that depicts weapons, drugs or alcohol, or anything considered disruptive. The unidentified student has her little gay ducks in a row because she refused to stand for the discrimination.

In a letter to Judith Flanagan Kennedy, mayor and chairwoman of the Lynn School Committee, the student expressed her disappointment with how the situation was handled. She wrote, “Well, frankly I’m the one who feels offended,” and went on to say, “The word lesbian is not inappropriate. Saying it is, is calling homosexuality inappropriate.”

The principal of the school, Thomas Strangie, stood behind his vice-principal’s decision believing the clothing could have been disruptive. It’s always nice when rules are so vulnerable to personal bias that almost anything can be subject to censorship. You can make the ‘political and offensive to some people’ argument about almost anything: an Obama sweatshirt, an anti-choice button, an Ed Hardy tee. Where do we draw the line?

Female students being allowed to wear “I love boys” t-shirts and this unidentified student’s belief that a “Straight don’t hate” shirt would elicit no punishment belies the underpinnings of the school’s actions. Parents have relied on the argument that the shirt raises one group above another in their support of the shirt’s ban. I suppose that’s a valid argument but it’s not one I would stand behind.

The shirt is clearly a joke. We all know humor allows you to explore, and at times flesh out, tensions and prejudices. It’s pretty much my favorite thing to talk about, so when people take jokes that nudge at any group’s superiority (especially in such an esteemed measure such as “coolness”) at face value, it bothers me. Girls wanting lesbian friends to seem hip and unbigoted isn’t a new phenomenon but being less and less afraid to be called a lesbian themselves is. The times are changing and the more people that are in on the joke — who know that any group being called anything in a blanket, catch-all statement is ridiculous — the more people are on our side.

This shirt can’t be treated as a single entity in some vacuum. With every hypothetical change of the last word on the shirt, a new set of baggage is attached. To pretend that who was wearing the shirt had nothing to do with the decision would be naive as well. The student’s letter also stated, “It makes me a little uneasy that by being myself and being proud of that I was scrutinized and disciplined like a girl who was wearing a shirt too low” leads me to believe she’s an out lesbian. Would the shirt still have been a problem if the wearer was the head cheerleader and dating a star quarterback? Would the girl herself be upset if a male student wore that same shirt?

Maybe the school thought she was using the shirt as a recruitment tool and suddenly, believing that they had to become lesbians to remain cool, all female students would hop aboard the Lesbian Express. No matter the reason used to justify banning the shirt, the message is clear: simply having the word lesbian on a shirt is a hot button topic and allows, once again, for discussion of how appropriate our identities are in the eyes of everyone else.

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Brittani Nichols is a Los Angeles based comedy person. When she's not tweeting about white people or watching television, she's probably eating pizza. Actually, she's probably doing all three of those things concurrently and when she's not doing THAT, she's sleeping. Brittani also went to Yale and feels weird about mentioning it but wants you to know.

Brittani has written 328 articles for us.


  1. Lynn Massachusetts resident checking in!
    Thank you for covering this story!!!<3
    This girl is legit my new hero! So proud!

  2. When I first saw the headline I didn’t read far enough and thought Autostraddle was introducing a new shirt design

  3. ok I know this is totally not the point of the article but OMG Brit Marling on autostraddle!! (she’s the girl with the hat in the picture). seriously, my two favorites in life. all I need now is for you guys to do a “50 pictures of Brit Marling” gallery and I’ll be in heaven.

      • Is it bad that the main thing I got out of this article was “Yay, Community!”?

        (In my defence, I am drunk.)

      • honestly, the only episode of Community I’ve seen is that one with Paige and Britta. but, I did hear the news that it’s coming back on the air, and I plan on watching more of it.

  4. “Parents have relied on the argument that the shirt raises one group above another in their support of the shirt’s ban.”

    Ya know, because throughout history us gays have suffered from far too much privilege. About time someone took us down a notch.

  5. I often dream of hopping onto the lesbian express, especially now learning that it can make me cool. unfortunate, joinin the lesbian express would render me straight,thus making me uncool. succor ony is life :(

  6. Will the Lesbian Express take me to lesbian Hogwarts?

    Wait a second.

    Will the Lesbian Express take me to A-Camp????

  7. Oh if only wearing that shirt would have chicks jumping on the lesbian express..I could have actually had a shot with my HS crush..It’s interesting to me that in a state where the marriage equality debate got settled (for the most part) years ago, they are considering a shirt referencing sexuality to be “political and offensive”..Can’t wait to see how they handle her prom date!

    • I was also surprised to see that this happened in Massachusetts (my current state). Then again, suburban conservatism seems fairly universal.

  8. 1. you’re just so funny
    2. i like this shirt i kind of want to make a hipster version by myself and then cut it into a tank top
    3. can we make an autostraddle “all the cool girls are lesbians” shirt series featuring photos of staff members being cool and maybe other people being cool too since all of them are cool

  9. Pingback: Smorgasbord of Gay Feels: Vol. I | The Adventures of Holly Homemaker

  10. I think the real question on everyone’s mind is WHERE can we buy this shirt and join this girl in the fight?!

  11. Man, I never, ever thought i’d be in support of school uniforms when I had to wear one, but at least you don’t get random shit like this being dealt out to you. Mind you, any girl brave enough to wear that shirt in school I think needs a gold star. I used to have enough issues and I am femme-y as fuck.

  12. to be honest, i’m on the fence about kids wearing message t-shirts to school in general because of the constant issue that keeps popping up over racist and bigoted lunkheads and their lunk head parents wanting to wear the confederate flag to school. yet, as i read this girl’s address to her mayor, i understood her point more throughly. lesbian doesn’t inherently have sexual connotations and if does someone, and neither does it inherently have any politcal connotations, and if it does for someone, they need to adjust their thinking. not this girl.

    at the same time lesbians have been and continue to a marginialized group in this country and expressing pride in identifying as a part of marginalized and oppressed group is not the same universe as expressing pride in the socially acceptable, hegemonic group doing the oppressing and wearing t-shirts like “i like boys” which could be seen as offensive and exclusionary to gay people (but rarely ever are).

  13. Seriously, I want this shirt. But in black, white doesn’t get along well with me LOL

  14. And then there are situations like these that makes one realize how much fighting for equality, and rights there is left to do. I do not see anything wrong with her shirt and neither how it could derail students from there classes, it being offensive and political (what?!). I applaud her for standing up for her rights.

    Also, I want that shirt.

  15. why can we say do not love someone..Love is great .. even it is very bad to differentiate as lesbians and straight..why do you say that straight is the normal way of loving..Most of girls may experience a little bit of loving other girls..They refused to express it..Because they will be traced as strange people..

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