What Does a Lesbian Look Like?: The Autostraddle Roundtable

What does a lesbian look like? Until a few years ago, mainstream culture was pretty sure they knew the answer to that question, even though they didn’t. A lesbian looked like K.D. Lang or the gym teacher, right?

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Now, all bets are off! The patriarchy and the lesbians have been warned and men are increasingly disarmed to meet girls who “look straight” but turn out to be gay (See: Chasing Amy) while women are increasingly disarmed to meet girls at gay bars who “look straight” (See:  The L Word). Meanwhile, the Obviously Out & Proud Homos wonder why they’re still getting hit on by men, and we’re all wondering why the doctor told us to close our eyes and think nice thoughts about our boyfriend while he administered a painful shot.

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This doesn’t come out of nowhere. For centuries our civilization has measured a woman’s worth by her attractiveness to men, and our ensuing beauty rituals and fashion choices have long been attributed to desiring male attention/approval or acting as mindless slaves to the omnipotent power of the beauty industry.

Defining the minority’s “other-ness” by emphasizing obvious physical differences has been a key technique used by those in power to subject and withhold political & social power from the minority. On a practical level, it’s easier to openly express prejudice when you feel you can visually identify any potentially offended parties in your midst.

It’s weird, being part of a self-identified minority with no absolute methods of physical identification. Of course homos aren’t alone in that weirdness, but in a world where people are accustomed to easy people-labeling techniques, there’s people on every level who seem, in some way, to want to instantly be known and to know others based on physical cues.

It’s weird, being part of a self-identified minority with no absolute methods of physical identification.

But as lesbian culture moves out of silent secret places into the mainstream, and as civilization moves towards accepting style’s separation from Self as they once had to do when reconcving women eschewing dresses for long pants (while realizing that many women would still self-select dresses and other initially successful options), rejecting the maxim that anyone who doesn’t “look gay” must be straight is one of many silent conceptual evolutions that could, quite possibly, redefine gender as fluid, style as costume and labels as an option rather than a necessity. You’ll hear a lot of us complaining about the idea of “butch” and “femme,” but certainly for some people those words are important and useful.what-lesbians-look-like-2

But with this fluidity and increased visibility of lesbians of all attitudes, styles, shapes and colors comes a new set of expectations from others in our community and outsiders. If women are wearing makeup and paying special attention to style for either personal reasons or because they want to look a certain way for other women — it’s no surprise we’re inspiring alternating suspicion from our own, and fear from the patriarchy.

Our cultural gender belief system and societal structure ties masculine & feminine gender roles to biological sex, and therefore people who have traits of one prescribed gender role are expected to fulfill all the rest of the traits too. Thinking that lesbians are like men and gay men are like women is so backwards — the old term is “inverts.”

So, here we are at the crossroads. How do these shifting expectations and judgments play out in our everyday life? When are we guilty of reinforcing stereotypes when judging others? Can you identify a lesbian just by looking at her? Do you want to be identified?

This week we ask:

What do people think they know just from looking at you?

What does a lesbian look like?

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Carly:

little-carlyI’ve always been boyish. When I was a little girl I was able to pass pretty easily as a boy. My standard uniform growing up was jeans (or Hammer pants, don’t ask), a giant Chicago Bulls Starter jacket, a Chicago Bulls hat, and my long hair pulled back into a French braid. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that once, on a field trip, a lady at a museum got into an argument with me over whether or not I was a girl. I swore off dresses altogether in the 2nd grade, which my mother supported, but the rest of my family had a harder time with (we’re all good now, though. My family doesn’t care that I wear ties all the time and loves my girlfriend, so things are good there). I still get called “sir” somewhat regularly, especially recently at my grandfather’s funeral, where many of the elderly folks kept asking my Aunt and Grandmother, “and who is this young man here?”

So naturally, I have a lot of feelings about this topic.

The stereotypes that I find the most annoying are the internal ones, the ones coming at me from other members of our community.

But I’m not entirely sure what side of the stereotype issue I fall on. On the one hand, while I’m generally desensitized to being called a boy, it’s still annoying. But on the other hand, men never hit on me and that’s really a blessing. What I really dislike isn’t necessarily the opinions that might be formed about me by the straight community, but the opinions that might be formed about me by other gays and lesbians.

I hate the term “butch.”

I really don’t like it and I especially hate when people use it to describe me.

Usually it’s people who don’t know me very well or who haven’t spoken to me very much who make this mistake, because if you’re around me for any significant period of time you’ll realize that while I look androgynous, I am most definitely a girl. I take forever to get ready, I am exceedingly vain (as evidenced by the fact that I check myself out — usually my hair — whenever I pass any reflective surface), and I have many neuroses about cleanliness, neatness, and coordination. My concept of gender is probably most similar to that of a gay boy, as those were the people I spent the most time around during my formative early college years, when I was really figuring out who I am. While I am handy around the house and a techy nerd who enjoys objectifying women, I’m also really into style, fashion, and don’t like icky things. [“You also lose in arm wrestling competitions, that’s pretty girly of you.” – Robin]

Carly & Robin Get Ready to Go

Those sartorial phases of attempting to make my outward appearance match the girl trapped inside have never lasted very long. I guess water finds its own level… or whatever.

Recently a fellow lesbian told my girlfriend Robin that she was also into “butchy girls,” which Robin found hilarious. So, earlier this evening when I was thinking what I’d write for this roundtable, I had a realization: the stereotypes I find most annoying are the ones coming at me from the inside. It’s other lesbians who assume I’m “butch” and it’s my gay boy friends who make the annoying lesbian jokes. So until we can learn not to pigeonhole other members of our community, we’ll continue being pigeonholed and stereotyped by the world at large. And perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch but I think there’s something there.

However, I admit that I do exploit my looks and the stereotypes therein and use them to my advantage. I don’t surround myself with straight people who would have generalized ideas about me and I also know that I can maneuver a crowd of straight men and not get hit on once.

So am I really the most reliable narrator? I’m obviously gay and am OK with that but I do think that the heteronormativity still prevalent in our society is extremely harmful and just kind of silly at this point. Assumptions only do one thing and we have all heard that joke before.

current carly2One thing I do know is how to spot another lesbian, so here’s a big hint: there is no set way to figure it out! It’s almost 2010, and while there are still the cargo-shorts-wearing, cell-phone-clipped-to-the-belt, be-mulleted sports fans out there, there are also younger lesbians who look just like anyone else. I think my gaydar is pretty decent but I can’t tell you a specific list of things that I think lesbians have or do, it’s just a sixth sense I guess. Takes one to know one?

Although Robin would like me to add here that when I first met her I didn’t know she was a lesbian, so there you go.

I’ll leave you with a conversation I had with my grandmother this weekend at my cousin’s wedding:

Nana: Carly, when I heard that man call you a boy at the funeral I was just… so mad!
Carly: It’s ok Nana, I’m used to it.
Nana: (shakes her head in disgust.)

This, from the woman who forbade me to wear a pants when I was in the 4th grade. My, we have come a long way!
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Jan: Everyone thinks I’m this big dyke because I wear baggy pants and play sports and I’m not pretty like other girls. But all I really want is a big, fat weiner up my…
Andre: Amen, sister.
But I’m a Cheerleader

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NEXT PAGE: Laneia, Crystal and Lily

Laneia:

The only thing anyone can tell about my sexuality just from looking at me is that whoever is dating me isn’t really into boobs.

Other than that, I think most people assume I’m straight — my hairstyle isn’t alternative, I wear ‘girly’ makeup like blush and lip gloss, I don’t have visible tattoos or piercings, I’d rather wear a pair of kitten heels than Birkenstocks, and I carry a full-on purse.

Fortunately, I only took this external metamorphosis as far as cargo shorts & Chuck Taylors before I realized that trying to fit into other people’s stereotypes is the exact opposite of living authentically.

At first, this bothered me. I felt my look didn’t match my reality — and not just my “being gay” reality, but specifically that as a gay person, I no longer had the rights I’d taken for granted while living as “straight.” A lot had changed in just a few weeks and I wanted my external self to reflect & announce my authentic, gay-ass self to the world.

Fortunately, I only took this external metamorphosis as far as cargo shorts & Chuck Taylors before I realized that trying to fit into other people’s stereotypes is the exact opposite of living authentically.

When I first came out, my mother actually said to me, “You must be the girl of the relationship, since it takes you so long to get ready in the morning!” Like, she actually said this to me. I think I impatiently explained that, of course, we’re both girls, and that’s what makes it gay, and comments like that are offensive and ignorant.

The worst part of hearing my mother say something so stupid was that I’d always thought she was more smart and thoughtful about things like that so if she was that close-minded, what did that say for the rest of the world? It was like opening my eyes for the first time. She gets it now, but that was a rough first year.

I still want to stamp GAY on my forehead from time to time. Like a couple weeks ago when I let a van turn left into the line ahead of me while I was waiting to drop off my son at school, because I’m a super nice & curteous person, and I was then able to see the van’s bumper sticker: MARRIAGE = 1 MAN + 1 WOMAN.laneia

I wanted to jump out of my car and scream, “Lady! The super nice, courteous, tax-paying, law-abiding, hella cute person who just let you ahead of them in this line? IS GAY! So fuck you and fuck your bumper sticker!” It’s times like those that I wish my car was a mobile rainbow flag with a P.A. system blasting Melissa Etheridge, just so that bigot would know that a GIANT HOMO had done her a favor that day.

I think the only way to really make a difference — to change people’s minds and put an end to negative stereotyping — is to be yourself, while being as out as possible. If you feel like it, shock them with your alternative lifestyle haircut and lip piercing. Or, shock them with your long hair, perfectly applied eyeshadow, and smokin’ hot girlfriend. That’s what being out is about — being yourself, your big queer self. Stereotypes be damned.


Crystal :

TurtlesMost people assume I’m straight, which I find interesting because my wardrobe is not what most people would classify as feminine: jeans, t-shirts, collared shirts. I wear makeup maybe every other day (this is laziness rather than reluctance). My “fashion sense” is probs residue from the first 16 years of my life, when I dressed in boy’s clothing because, right or wrong, passing as a boy made me feel safer and stronger, like no-one could mess with me.

Passing as a boy made me feel safer and stronger, like no-one could mess with me.

Oh also, lately I’ve had a huge gay pride-looking rainbow running down the side of my converse – part of a hard-to-see Pink Floyd ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ decal. What I’m getting at is that I do get surprised when a dude makes a pass at me or someone asks if I have a boyfriend, ’cause I think if I were outside looking in then I’d assume I was not totally straight. But overall I’m not at all concerned about vibe I give off, in adulthood I’ve never deliberately dressed in a certain way to influence peoples’ assumptions. And I’m happy to correct people if they judge me incorrectly, it’s not something I find awkward or can’t move past. So that’s me.

As for other girls: Around Sydney right now I see a lot of straight girls who could be confused for gay girls who could even be confused for gay or straight boys. My straight friends are more frequently being mistaken for lesbians because they’ve cropped their hair or introduced vests into their wardrobes. And that’s cool, I think fashion is increasingly blurring the lines with regard to  gender and orientation and I like it. I personally appreciate that it’s becoming more and more difficult to look at a girl and guess her orientation – I find getting to know people is far more interesting when there’s more mystery and less room for assumptions.

crystals gay converses

(Crystal’s gay Converses)

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Lily:

little-lily

When I was fifteen my biggest problem with accepting my inherent gayness was that it somehow meant that I’d have to cut my hair off, buy comfortable shoes, and ultimately end up teaching P.E. at some clandestine high school in the middle of Wisconsin. I’ve blocked much of my middle and high school memories out of my mind so I cannot tell you why I thought this way, I just did. But the fact that I, an art school attendee who was raised by super liberal artsy/hippie parents, thought so narrow mindedly has to tell you something about our society’s portrayal of lady loving ladies. Right?

I’ve have one or two people in my life tell me that they knew I was gay just by looking at me, but for the most part I have always “passed” as straight. I’ve always preferred dresses to pants, lip-stick to chapstick, shopping to sports. Sometimes I think I’m attracted to women because I love being one just so damn much.

LilyBut, when passing that cute, trendy-in-the-alternative-lifestyle-kinda-way girl on the street, do I wish I could stop “passing” and start growing rainbows out of my ears, eyes, ass, all body parts possible? YES YES YES! But do I necessarily want those same rainbows present when talking distant family members? When scoring a free drink from an overly excited, clueless college boy?

I’ve always preferred dresses to pants, lip-stick to chapstick, shopping to sports. Sometimes I think I’m attracted to women because I love being one just so damn much.

Perhaps I am not lesbionically politically correct but sometimes I enjoy both privacy from my family and a free drink.

I cannot tell you how to look at a girl and figure out that she is gay. I cannot tell you how to look at me and know that I am gay. I used to think I had great gaydar; I used to think I could teach other women my psychic ways. But I’ve come to realize that my gaydar abilities stem from my idealistic assumption that the entire world is gay. So here is my my advice: take on this “the whole world is gay” frame of mind—your thoughts will be happier and your days will be filled with more rainbows than you could have ever possibly imagined. Life is better when the whole world is gay.
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NEXT PAGE: Brooke and Katrina

Brooke:brooke-disco

I pass as straight everywhere. I mean, even when I go to lesbian bars/events and LGBT organization shindigs for promoting, networking and the extensive market research I have to perform for Autostraddle, I’m usually approached at least once throughout the night by someone asking me if I’m straight. I find this to be a problem as it shows queer women feed into this stereotype in some ways as much as the rest of society does.

When people find out I work with Autostraddle, they’ll often ask me if I’m gay. I usually say, “Does it matter?”, wait for their mumbled/uncomfortable response and then let them know. However, I take this as a positive since it means they potentially view the demographic is legitimate enough for someone who is possibly heterosexual to be working on a business targeting it. I don’t bring my sexuality up to most people unless they ask or I think it would serve a purpose.  Often, the easiest way to defy a stereotype on the micro level is to let people feel comfortable and then bring it up.

Re-reading this, I see a contrast between going to LGBT events where people ask me if I’m straight and when I talk to people about Autostraddle who ask me if I’m gay.  I’m not sure what to make of that yet, I’ll think about it and get back to you all.

In the end, I’ve personally encountered very little negative response as a result of my sexuality on an individual level. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that every day I’m made more aware of the lack of rights we have as a group and the detrimental social, political and cultural ramifications homophobia and inequality both in this country and abroad are bringing on us.  And yes, it is our job to change this.

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KatrinaKatrina:

When I came out at 16, I promised myself that I would never become one of ‘those’ lesbians. I wasn’t really sure what that meant exactly, but I knew that I didn’t want to be identifiable. Something about how I liked being a surprise or whatever; I liked to defy people’s expectations. This is funny because, without any conscious effort, three years later I’ve become the short-haired, lip-ringed, plaid-and-skinny-jeans-wearing punk I am today. In fact, it was once been said to me, “Katrina Casino, you walk into a room, and it’s like a rainbow carpet has been rolled out in front of you. It’s just like, ‘LESBIAN!.'”

My gay best friend (GBF) is something of a femme lesbian. Last year we both participated in a friend’s project for her gender and sexuality class, and footage of us speaking was played to random people to guess whether we were gay or straight. As I apparently am the blazing becon of lesbianism on American University’s campus, everyone pinned me, obvs, and that was fine. But the most revealing comments came when people tried to guess her sexuality. Apparently she wasn’t a lesbian because she was cute or pretty. She looked like she took care of herself, and she wore makeup.

Girls who pass get written off as biddies; girls with swagger get privilege, but not attention.

katrinaFor some reason telling a girl that she’d be able to “pass” for straight was some sort of compliment.

Upon getting to college, I tried to reverse the trend. Being able to “pass” may have been aesthetically appealing, but being a lesbian with an androgynous appearance was a major way to access power. Girls who pass get written off as biddies; girls with swagger get privilege, but not attention.

Being a lesbian has allowed me to interpret femininity through a totally different lens. From the days of my tomboyhood, I’ve gotten to redefine what it means to be a girl. Trying to strike a balance between butch and femme in my appearance was exhausting, and I finally realized that I didn’t need to try to “look” like a woman or a lesbian, because I was already both those things.

So yes, I am a woman, though unconventionally so. And yes, I am a lesbian, perhaps conventionally so. But what’s that to anyone? The idea of looking like a woman or looking like a lesbian are based on outdated gender stereotypes and roles, and sometimes all I want is to wear my American Apparel (unisex) boy briefs.

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NEXT PAGE: Alex and Robin

girly alex autostraddleAlex:

In my younger years of gayness (high school and beginning of college,) I was deliberately trying to defy the expectation of what a lesbian should look like with my incredibly long/wavy hair and careful clothing choices — I didn’t dress to look straight, but like any high schooler I did dress like everyone else, which meant tighter clothes than I wear now. At that time I really did feel like I had a responsibility to defy the stereotype… or maybe it just made it easier to fit in when I was already feeling really different. Either way, I was straddling the line between typical teenager and token lesbian without trying to be too much of either.

Eventually we all change and come into our adult selves… and cut all our hair off. Right? Right.

alex cuts the hair

During the past two or three years, I think I’ve found a comfortable balance of androgyny in my physical appearance. Probably I’ve just become more comfortable and non-apologetic about my sexuality. I wouldn’t say I’m trying to seem gay as much as I’m just being me.

My “alternative lifestyle appearance” definitely comes under criticism from my family. Specifically the length of my hair… which usually leads me to wonder why men are held to such a different standard of appearance than women in life. It pisses me off to hear ‘Why don’t you grow your hair out?’ from my Dad who’s never had to have long hair, more than it would if like Janice Dickenson told me the same thing. Is that weird?

I have no idea what we can do to change the world, but I know I’ll probs just keep cutting and growing my hair if I want to.

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young cute robinRobin:

I’ll admit it now: I don’t think I read gay. I’m not sure that if you met me on the street, unless we had a lengthy conversation, you could guess my sexual orientation. I turn more heads at sports bars than at lesbian clubs. Does not bother me… anymore.

I don’t accept when people say things like, lesbians don’t carry purses or gay girls don’t wear heels, because I’m gay and I defy all those stereotypes. Sure, I went through the 6 month period where I had short spiky hair and wore baggy pants, but most of my adult life, I’ve always appeared straight to people.

It was hard to explore my sexuality when I couldn’t just say it with my hair or my clothes or my voice or even my interests.

When I was in college, I wormed my way into a group of lesbian friends at one point, but always felt like the outsider in a sea of cargo shorts and alternative lifestyle haircuts. It was hard to explore my sexuality when I couldn’t just say it with my hair or my clothes or my voice or even my interests (although I did have an Ani Difranco phase), I had to actually get to the point where I could openly ask and talk about my sexuality.

I hate hate hate the word femme and also the word girly (and also the word “panties”, but that’s a whole ‘nother story), so I will use the term supergirl since then I can think of myself as some sort of stereotype-defying superhero.

current cute robinThe most annoying thing about being a Supergirl is that look of shock, confusion and surprise people still have when they find out that I’m gay. I had a portfolio review with a dude that will remain unnamed a few months back. We sat down to chat over lunch and I immediately got a feeling he had taken my invitation to view my portfolio as an invitation to some sort of pseudo date. So I just came out with it, like I have to. Its hard to hint at it, since the word “girlfriend” is still thrown around even amongst young people still. He was all, “Wait wait wait, really?” and then without skipping a beat, “hot.”  No buddy, it’s hot to me, not you!  You should find this fact disappointing.  Moron.

I understand why people use the word “partner” to mean girlfriend. I sat down with a client the other day and talked about my girlfriend for about 15 minutes. Following this, she added, “Oh she works in TV, MY girlfriend works in TV too.”  I wanted to scream, “You have a girlfriend AND a husband? How… modern of you!” I hate it when straight women use the word “girlfriend.” You don’t have a girlfriend, you have a friend.

Just like I don’t have boyfriends, I have guy friends, or man friends, or mands if you are Tyra Banks and like to invent words. (Smize = smiling with your eyes)

Being a supergirl has given me certain advantages: Men love the supergirl.  They do.  Its a gross fact, but I’ve come across many straight men, and surprisingly many gay men, who think it’s just so adorable that I’m queer. So in a way, I guess being gay for me has never been a disadvantage.  At the same time, I know there have been many many people in my life who waited, and maybe are still waiting over five years later, for my “phase” to end.  Some who might look at me now and say, “who is she fooling!?”  If it weren’t for ladies like Portia de Rossi, no one would have a point of reference for a girl like me.

But alas, I’m queer and I love having long red hair and wearing skirts and dresses with heels. The higher the better. I love curling irons and mascara. It’s how I feel my best.  It’s who I am.  So when people are confused or surprised or just plain oblivious, I tend not to take it personally.  They are either ignorant or just plain old.

On another note though, I don’t think it’s surprising that if girls like me are gay, that men still hit on “gay looking” women.  After all, have you ever been to Williamsburg, Brooklyn?  It’s crawling with girls with alternative lifestyle haircuts on the arms of my skinny-pant-wearing boys.  As we progress as people, the fluidity of sexuality, gender and the outward expression thereof should be accepted and embraced.dotted-divider2

NEXT PAGE: Riese and Tinkerbell

What’s truly faked, of course, is high-maintenance “femininity,” with its Sisyphean plucking, shaving, coloring, creaming, curling, straightening, nipping, tucking and starving. We would fight anybody who didn’t think women should have the choice to do all of those things … But it also seems a little Orwellian that women who chose not to get involved in major personal overhauls—in other words, those women among us who look most like real, natural, unadorned, unconstructed females—are the ones who get dissed for not looking “feminine” and/or “trying to look like a man.”

-The Girls Next Door, by Lindsy Van Gelder & Pamela Robin Brandt

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Riese:

Firstly, I have this theory, which’s that all women are bisexual, so that’s what I assume until you declare/display allegiance to the straights or the gays. No one’s shocked to hear that I have a girlfriend, but nor was anyone surprised when I had boyfriends. Is it possible to look bisexual? If it is, I think I might … or maybe it’s just that I’m so used to feeling misread that always keeping one thing back is what I’ve become used to.

little-R

No one ever guesses anything correctly about me from just looking, and most innocuous questions I’m asked – about my family, home, religion, job, history, education — ensure a weighted/complicated answer, it’s like I can’t stop being undercover. I’ve had phases where I used my controversial factoids (which I’ll withhold here, for everyone’s sake) as party tricks but now, in line with my overall efforts to be a less abrasive human being, I have learned to evade questions, tell jokes or accept inevitably uncomfortable pauses. This isn’t the first alternative lifestyle I’ve affiliated myself with in action or appearance.

So, this includes sexuality-related inquiries.

As a little tomboy girl-child, I was frequently mistaken for male, which I usually liked, ’cause it gave me access to power, The Baseball Card Club and better soccer teams, as well as confusion and concern from relatives. My parents raised me “gender neutral” and I still lack any instinctual knowledge abut wearing makeup or outfits. I performed an elaborate Fork in the Garbage Disposal dance to prevent my grandmother from weaseling a paralyzing dress onto my badass tree-climbing monkey ‘bod. I’ve never had long hair or pierced my ears. So I’ve always had a really flexible idea of gender.

[I’d like to add that I don’t think we don’t give enough attention to how much body type factors in to our perceived gender. If we agree that gender is unfixed—fluid, created by society—then our physical appearance and attitude contributes to our gender identity insofar as it determines how the world around us will react to us. As a tall and skinny girl, my tomboyishness isn’t particularly subversive, even in adulthood. And to be fair I’m curvy enough to go full-out girly, too.

I think heavier women face a much harsher jury when considering their gendered presentations. All of society’s derogatory images of lesbians, and particularly their vocabulary—bulldyke, diesel dyke, bulldagger—imply “butch” women to be large, imposing, gruff and mean. Rosie O’Donnell’s “butch” haircut was panned as evidence of her Radical Lesbian Personality—meanwhile Suicide Girls.com can have the same haircut and people pay money to watch them make out.

ALSO there is nothing wrong with wearing birkenstocks and  flannel and having short hair! Who cares? I don’t like the attitude that there’s something inherently BAD about genuinely fitting into the “stereotype” of what a lesbo looks like. TO EACH HIS OWN.]

See; something is changing. Whereas a few years ago I noticed most women identified strongly with one end of the gender spectrum or the other, something lately has granted so many of us permission to not make that choice — and we’re not talking about androgyny. We’re talking about wearing a dress on Monday and a tie on Tuesday.marie_5773

Entering the GLBT community in my early twenties, I felt like I had to pick Boyish or Girly and then acquire the corresponding girlfriend, or that there was an expectation that accepting my sexuality would coincide with some physical style shift or enable a more honest, solid, specific sense of self. Like being gay would be the end of confusion, like coming out wasn’t that different from growing up.

I did cut off my hair at one point ’cause I was sick of being harassed by men on the street (it’s common in NYC) — and no longer cared if that meant I was never approached by the guys I actually did like, either.  It’s not that I wanted to seem gay. I wanted to seem MALE. It worked. I grow it out, I cut it, it’s all play. Now, I’m totally at peace with gender being performance and not choosing. I like wearing dresses sometimes (with combat boots or sneakers, usually) sometimes I like dressing comfy/boyish.

haircut-marchBut much like growing up, coming out isn’t the end of your search for identity and it doesn’t necessarily break you out of confusion into the clear. And my sexuality is really only one part of me. I like to think that we’re not really all bonded here ’cause we like to fuck girls, but because we share a common state of mind that’s super common amongst people who’ve absorbed the same societal clues & experiences associated with being someone who likes to fuck girls. ‘Cause a lot of AS readers aren’t gay, and also aren’t bothered by the gayness. ‘Cause it’s about something bigger than that.

So I think perhaps we should attribute various appearances to certain “types of people” not by who we sleep with but what we dream about. It’s more interesting, and far more optimistic.

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Tinkerbell:tinkerbellreadingw

Hello Autostraddle this is Tinkerbell. If you look at me and assume that I am a stuffed dog with the personality of a lincoln log, then you will never know that sometimes I have candy in my special pouch, that I used to be a purse, or that I love Littlefoot.

Because of my Mother and her friends I did not realize that some boys liked to be with girls until I had my feelings for Littlefoot. Loving Littlefoot does not make me look like other dogs or gay or straight. For example I am nothing like Tinkerbell the dog of Paris Hilton. I am much prettier and also poor. I am not like the Taco Bell dog who careos tacos. I don’t even like tacos. If every girl dog who liked dinosaurs looked the same, that would be boring, and also more competition for me, Tinkerbell. So back off.

Thank you love Tinkerbell.

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  1. I am coming to this late, real late..i think all of us have to look at others and accept them for whatever..personally i hate the use of partner..i have a partner in another country and he and i collaborate on our art and teaching every single day..i am sure his wife has no idea…it makes no diff..we are true partners in the best sense of the word..as to looks..some in my community look stereotypical but never seen ties…never..i am a tomboy but always very casual but nice casual…no belts ( reminds me of work when I worked) and no slacker clothes…and i wear short hair and nails…i am a swimmer and have been for many years….have very wavy thick hair..long hair is not an option and nails are killed in the chlorine. Here in Canada, no one asks…it is rude anyway…love whomever and screw all stereotypes!( PS most people even the gay ones do not think I look enough gay) LOL!

  2. I have the opposite problem. I am a ‘bi’ girl i hate that label but I do like men and women. I feel like straight people think i’m ‘too gay’ coz i like rainbows and *shock, horror* kiss my girlfirend in public, and gay people think i’m too fem /straight coz i wear dresses have long hair and have only had one gf.

    Its rediculous, if i’d never had a boyfriend i still think i’d struggle to fit in any box, i like outdoor adventure sports, bugs dont scare me, neither does mud, wrestling (arm or not) is fun and I love a bit of banter (along with lots of my other ‘masculine traits’ but I have long blonde hair, wear make-up (some of the time), and love my pretty dresses, tight clothing and skirts.

    So stuff if with boxes and label, i think while they can be helpful there are often limiting and exclusionary and we are never going to full live up to what they perscribe.

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  4. I love this article because it’s so varied: I also love what Riese says about ” We’re talking about wearing a dress on Monday and a tie on Tuesday”, because that completely sums up my gender presentation! While my gender stays (fairly!) constant at female, my expression is super fluid, and I definitely am more androgynous on some days and more femme on others. Thanks!

  5. As a nearly androgynous transwoman who identifies as lesbian this was always a problem for me. There is a tendency to be mistaken for an effeminate gay male, butch female or just plain vanilla male depending on the day.

    I have found that people tend to signal their sexual identity most reliably in very subtle ways that have more to do with body language, mannerisms, spoken language on an interpersonal level rather than mere fashion. You have to own your own identity and project it as best you can all the time to find the ones who will really love you for who you are. We all exist on a spectrum and it is a wide one.

    As others have commented, it shouldn’t matter if the whole world knows your preference, just the ones your interested in.

  6. I’m still trying to accept myself as more gay-leaning than bisexual at this point in my life. Along with that comes issues of how I present myself. The good news is, I’m getting more comfortable with just being myself! This article was a nice reminder that I don’t have to look any one way, and I can just be myself (and that it’s okay for that to change as I change – it’s all valid). Thanks for that. <3

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