Top Five Tools In My Baby Dyke Survival Kit

Autostraddle 5th B'day_Cats plus changes_Rory Midhani_640px (1)
We’re celebrating Autostraddle’s Fifth Birthday all month long by publishing a bunch of Top Fives. This is one of them!

I had done it. I finally admitted that my fascination with Beyoncé’s badonkadonk was more than just envy, that South of Nowhere was (and still is) the shit and that there was a reason I had had to schedule and rationalize my crushes on men.

It's the 15th. Guess I like Dylan now (via

It’s the 15th. Guess I like Dylan now (via

“I’m gay!” I screamed out of my freshman dorm window to the hetero world beyond my door.

“I’m gay!” I announced walking into my university’s LGBTQ Center, which I found with no difficulties because my gaydar was updated and activated upon self-awareness of my sexual orientation.

“I’m gay!” I stated whenever anyone asked my name, an assertion that I hoped would cause any gay within a five-foot radius to applaud and throw glitter.

Those kinds of dreams about my coming out process helped me cope with the bitter reality of being a rainbow in a very cloudy world… so to speak. Suddenly I was dealing with a lot of gay thoughts I had suppressed, and was realizing that the rest of the world was not as excited about my sexuality. Stepping into my queerness was terrifying but survivable. Here are some ways I learned to embrace my queer ladyhood.

Go ahead and throw a cat in the mix for good measure

Go ahead and throw a cat in the mix for good measure

1. Plaid

Seriously. I started searching for plaid things. Maybe this makes me a stereotype, but plaid button-downs are really comfortable and they serve to connect me to all of lesbiankind throughout history. Some days, I really just needed to curl up in a cozy plaid jacket and have all the homo feelings. Some days, I didn’t want to or couldn’t choose if I was feeling more femme or butch (not that I had to be either) so I put on the plaid and let the print speak for itself.


Girls that get dirty together, stay together 

2. Watch all the queer things. Read all the queer things.

In all of the stories I could recall, a happy ending meant that the cis-man and the cis-woman fell in love, got married, and had three kids and a dog. I realized that not knowing any stories that reflected my identities or sounded like a future I wanted or could have contribute to my despair. I felt that I was abnormal and could never deserve a happy ending. Instead, I started reading books like The Color Purple and The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, watching TV shows and web series like Between Women and Pretty Little Liars (the gayest show ever), and watching movies like Pariah and The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love. Also Autostraddle, of course. I consumed everything about gay people, bi people, trans* people, queer people of color, poor and queer people, and queer people with disabilities. Sometimes I even forgot that straight people were real! I had felt insecure about my sexuality because I always saw it as strange or in opposition to heterosexuality. Seeing myself in the literature I read, in the TV shows I watched, and in the movies I saw made my queerness real and its own kind of normal.

Rainbow chocolate gets me (via

Rainbow chocolate gets me (via

3. Chocolate

I’m pretty sure chocolate identifies as queer. Chocolate got me through my first break-up with another woman. Chocolate sustained my straight girl crushes… until said crushes admitted that they were probably gonna stick with being straight. (How do you even say no to a queer lady with chocolate?) One of my gay best friends and I would split chocolate bars and gossip about anything LGBTQ+. Even if chocolate isn’t queer, it’s a great ally.

The Peculiar Kind proves that queer people just look good. Always (via

“The Peculiar Kind” remind me how good queer looks. Always. (via

4. Perspective

In the beginning of my queer journey, I found myself anguishing over how hard it is to be a lesbian. Without a doubt, being queer can be really hard; compounded with other elements like race, gender, class, and ability, queerness can seem more like a punishment than an identity. I had to practice counting my blessings. For one, coming out meant that for the first time I was embracing every part of myself — not just the parts of me that are societally acceptable. Baby dykedom meant that everything was new and exciting — from the feelings I experienced to the people I met as a result of how I identified. My journey also meant that as I explored the realm of romance, romantic rejection just offered me a new platonic girlfriend instead of a new love interest. Not to mention that gaying up my life meant that I was suddenly surrounded by lots of beautiful, uniquely-styled people. Being queer is definitely a struggle, but celebrating the joys and triumphs in my baby dyke experience helped me to understand that queerness is not a bottomless pit of despair.

5. Embracing My New Queer Family.

Misery loves company. Queers love a party. I’m not alone. Baby dykes are literally everywhere! Why? Because we all start somewhere, and the experience of “wondering if getting coffee with the cute girl from Intro the Gender and Sexuality is a date” has been experienced by brand-new gays for centuries. I am not the first brand-new queer to wonder if it’s still called an alternative lifestyle haircut when straight people are getting it, too. (I see you undercut.) Also, the other queer people I met throughout my baby dyke journey were the best support systems I could have ever asked for. I brought all of my baby dyke questions to them and they offered advice and insight without fail. They were and still are my family when my biological kin are less than supportive. They are the shoulders I cry on and the human pillows I cuddle with. They are my dance partners, but they also challenge my beliefs just when I think I’ve got it all figured out. They inspire me every day and remind me that there’s no shame in being a baby dyke.

There is more than one way to be a baby dyke. Some baby dykes watch the The L Word. Some spend Saturday nights at lesbian bars awkwardly staring at women they are too shy to approach. Some skip right to adult queer womanhood. What I take away the most from my baby dykedom is that I must revel in all that I am and to let myself feel exactly how I feel without judgment. There is indeed no shame in who I am.

Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” column exists for individual queer ladies to tell their own personal stories and share compelling experiences. These personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.

Header Image by Rory Midhani

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Helen McDonald is a 20-something Black lesbian feminist living off of pizza, social justice and a lil snark. By day, she's a community educator, teaching young people about healthy relationships. She also discusses the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality on her personal blog and is a contributing writer at

Helen has written 40 articles for us.


  1. The plaid thing you guys. SERIOUSLY. It was like ‘OMG plaid. Look! It looks good on me!” I never ever thought I’d EVER wear plaid, now it’s the first thing I look at in the store.

    • I totally get that. Once I accepted my gaydom, I practically started craving plaid. I had avoided it for so long! I also feel this way about boots.

      • OMG the thing about boots. Like leather books. I have been trying to find a pair of chukkas for like the last month and a half.

    • I like to layer but sometimes I catch myself desiring to layer different plaid flannels. I have to stop myself frequently.

      • mixing plaids is so amazing! it’s maybe more “advanced plaid 305”, rather than “intro to plaid 101”, though. when executed well you look like a fashion genius. So go for it!

        • Plus, I think layering patterns is a thing right now. Confuse people playing “Lesbian or Hipster.”

  2. Awesome, awesome, from one lil’ Scrappy Dyke to another. I look forward to being a full grown Scooby Dyke so I can be the one answering all the questions and helping the babies grow up big and strong (also, howling “SCOOOBY DOOBY DYYYYKE”in my head is a lot of fun).

  3. Aw plaid. I still dunno if my penchant for it is a result of gayness or just the fact that I’m born-and-raised midwesterner. (Okay, the fact that I’ve got a plaid shirt that’s got multiple colors to the pattern and could be accurately enough described as “rainbow” colored skews it a bit towards gay now that I think of it)

    This list pretty much nailed it though. #2 especially – I definitely read, watched, and listened to (gay punk!) all the queer things possible circa age 16.

    • New England also has the regional plaid thing going on. Maybe that’s why I haven’t felt sure if plaid is gay or straight. All the women I know from home wear it. But in the city, it’s definitely feeling queer-er.

  4. Speaking of stereotypes, I read this to my girlfriend and she was SO disappointed that you weren’t recommending actual tools (like a hammer or duct tape..)

    • On the duct tape front, Duck Tape now make tape in many different prints, I was given some as a gift with penguins on. I recommend it!

    • aw man, there’s nothing like referring to my “lesbian toolbox” and being like, no it’s ACTUALLY a toolbox with ACTUAL tools, like a hammer and duct tape. And wrenches. Wrenches are important.

  5. Yep. I definitely watched and read ALL THE GAY THINGS. I mean, I was kinda doing that before, but I really threw myself into it and there was about a six month period where I don’t think I read or watched a single straight thing at all except maybe Harry Potter. Which I feel like is a serious accomplishment.

    • I would hope that Harry Potter is very gay indeed. Hopefully with Severus Snape.

      -sigh- A girl can dream, right?

  6. Yes to all of this! Especially reading alllll the gay things, and watching a potential love interest turn into an excellent friend (and resource). I’m totally a baby gay too. So much so that a gay dude was asking me to diagnose what was broken with his car today and I was like you’re asking the wrong person and he was like girl, what kind of lesbian are you? Lol – not that kind.

    I’m very much looking forward to building a queer family, as 95% of my friends are 99% straight. I’ll be going to GAYBIGAYGAY 2014 on Sunday (covered previously by AS!), and it’s really the one time in the year I feel “normal” and completely accepted by everyone around me.

    Agree so hard:

    “What I take away the most from my baby dykedom is that I must revel in all that I am and to let myself feel exactly how I feel without judgment.”

      • Hello fellow Frances as well! Oops I did not signup for reply notifications. Thank you for the good wish!

  7. Wear all the plaid! I was so happy when plaid shirts came back in fashion and were easy to find again. Yey 90s revival. We should all stock up now.

  8. Sometimes I even forgot that straight people were real!

    This happens to me a lot. I read queer things. I write queer things. I consume/create all of the queer media, but then like I read a kids’ book from the library and I’m like “where did all the homos go? :(”

    Also, nthing the plaid thing. My favorite plaid item in my closet is the one with the spikes on the shoulders.

  9. This is adorable and funny and hopeful, thank you! Timely inspiration for me to stop denying the pure love in my heart for all things plaid and cozy.

  10. Could someone please tell me what I need to do to get my gaydar updated and activated? I clearly didn’t follow the coming out instructions correctly :)

  11. For one, coming out meant that for the first time I was embracing every part of myself — not just the parts of me that are societally acceptable.


  12. WELCOME!

    I love baby dykes. I just want to guide them through queer community and take them on a magic carpet ride over Pride Week! #wholenewworld

  13. Maybe this makes me a stereotype, but plaid button-downs are really comfortable

    Yessssss, i type, on a day where i am wearing a plaid button-down. Such comfy. Much plaid. Wow. Some days i’m literally a walking MST3K riff: “Can i borrow a cup of plaid?” “Brought to you by the Plaid Council.”

    It’s funny, because my sexuality’s always been fluid, so back in 9th grade i was like “oh i’m bi”– because a friend made it known to me (the sexuality, that is) & then i might’ve had a crush on her so i gleefully was like “I’M BI HEE HEE”. But i’ve never ID’d with any sexuality i’ve been until a few months ago (which has made it difficult to have any kind of queer “family” or “community” because people really like to shit on you when you don’t heavily ID w your sexuality). So now i’m definitely like, what books can i read? What media can i consume where it’s not going to be Straight People Everywhere, which to my mind right now is boringggg? I’ve got a few books right now (i’m not a big TV/movie watcher, so bleh), but even going through lists on Goodreads hasn’t helped me find a lot. Where do you guys find lists/suggestions of good queer stuff to read? Because i’m very open to suggestions. c:

    Also, that rainbow chocolate is sooooo prettyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

  14. “Some baby dykes watch the The L Word. Some spend Saturday nights at lesbian bars awkwardly staring at women they are too shy to approach.”

    Bout dat life.

  15. This has to be my new favorite post. Number 2 is most accurate except for the expectation of glitter being thrown in celebration. I def wish that was more common lol

  16. to this day i am still convinced secretly watching The L Word online under my covers with the volume turned all the way down is what actually turned me gay. i blame shane and bette’s power dyke suits.

  17. I love this and relate to all of these so hard! Especially these two ideas:

    “I realized that not knowing any stories that reflected my identities or sounded like a future I wanted or could have contribute to my despair.”
    I read all the time, so the most terrifying part of being queer for me (at first) was not having any narratives at all to reference. Catching up on that ish was so important and I felt so much better (of course I’m reading and expanding my narratives every day still).

    “For one, coming out meant that for the first time I was embracing every part of myself — not just the parts of me that are societally acceptable.” Yes, yes, and yes. Nearly every time I came out to someone they showed me that they were supportive of whoever I was, all the way. And even the ones who weren’t 100% cool inspired me to still feel 100% okay with myself. And somehow this gave me the confidence and motivation to be a lot more assertive/ radical/ badass/ confident in all kinds of things, some vaguely related to sexuality (haircuts and boy’s clothes, wut wut) and some not at all (career-wise, socially, what I choose to spend time on, etc.).

    Thank you for this amazing toolkit/ reflection on my babygay days! :)

  18. your feels are all my feels in my baby queerdom. consuming all the queer culture has helped with the days when my otherness feels overwhelming, along with curling up with my favorite hooded plaid button up. anything with a hood is infinitely better (side eye).

  19. I just came all the way out of the closet yesterday. I have known I was gay since preschool and I’m 25. I can totally relate to this post. For the past 2 years I found and watched every episode of the l word, the real l word, anything and everything in the gay and lesbian section on Netflix and immersed myself in everything gay online. The only thing I haven’t done yet is actually date a girl…yet. :-) This post was funny and made me feel like all the things I’ve been doing are normal.

  20. My D-cup & curvy frame do not agree with button-up plaid shirts and it breaks my heart :,( It sucks because there is seriously no other article of clothing that signals “psst… Hey, Girl: I like girls” as cheekily as a button-up plaid shirt.

    • This! I feel like I need all of the sewing skills to modify all of the plaid/button downs I can get my hands on.

  21. Omg, thank you for this. I’m currently at that baby dyke phase. I just want to make some friends and find a girlfriend….but I’m broke :(.

  22. Sigh, this was exactly what I needed! Spending the last 23 years convincing myself I wasn’t gay finally got old last week, and I made out with a hot girl in public for a nice long time and came out to all my friends…. And now I’m like, what’s next… Plaid shirt shopping it is!!

  23. You know, I never realized that plaid was a lesbian stereotype for a long time, and I wore my friend’s plaid jacket I stole from him to an lgbt group meeting at my college and wow I probably looked a bit like a stereotype without even realizing it. ;)

  24. The plaid speaks to me on a spiritual level and I never understood why I fascinated plaids this much until this.

    Though I’ve been out for a while so the term baby dyke might not fit, but definitely many of these still somewhat apply to me, haha!

  25. This was so perfect to read right now. I’m struggling trying to figure it all out and come out. How did you find a queer community to be around? I know I’m surrounded by queers and I could easily go to a bar and meet people but it doesn’t feel like that’s the best way to meet quality people who can be there for me for more than just going out drinking.

  26. This is totally me, all the way! I have been out for less than a year, and I can feel myself slowly becoming a stereotype, but I just can’t control the gay! It’s like I’ve been bottling it up my whole life and now it has exploded into a thousand rainbows :P Luckily, my girlfriend doesn’t seem to mind my constant need for queer things.

  27. In all honesty, I didn’t realize how much I loved plaid untill after I came out. There’s no way I’m the only one…

  28. This really helped me not feel so crazy and alone:

    “Suddenly I was dealing with a lot of gay thoughts I had suppressed…”

    Thank you. A lot of this helped, really.

  29. UGH THANK YOU. I don’t really have anything new or interesting to articulate here, just so much gratitude for this article. It was exactly what I needed to read today… And if anyone has any suggestions for how to handle newfound sex drive…??! Like I thought I might be ace (which was also something I was comfortable with embracing about myself) until I stopped dating dudes and now I have ALL OF THE FEELINGS. Confusing but great? Hard to process.

  30. This website is awesome! I’m 40 and just coming out. I’m loving the advice. I went out today wearing my plaid shirt, white singlet, blue jeans and some cute necklaces. I wore my shoulder length hair pulled back in a low bun.

    I couldn’t believe how many girls I spotted that walked into my path and held eye contact in recognition. I can’t believe how many were wearing plaid! I feel like I’m just discovering the lesbian matrix? Thanks so much?

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