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So I just finished a summer job hostessing at a nice local restaurant. I liked the job, the pay, and my co-workers, and I’m planning on returning next year. However, I found myself stuck with a problem: I need help being perceived as queer.
I’m pretty used to getting read as straight by strangers because a) my sense of style is pretty feminine: long hair, winged eyeliner, skirts, etc. and b) heteronormativity is a thing, especially for people my age. This isn’t usually a problem for me, though, because once people get to know me they tend to figure it out pretty quickly (and by “get to know me” I mean “talk to me for longer than like 30 minutes”).
However, the workplace is a different situation. Most of the relationships I have with my co-workers are extremely casual, and our conversations, if they stray from work at all, stay mainly in the area of school and the weather. Thus, I keep getting read as straight. This comes with a variety of undesirable consequences, ranging from my fellow hostess trying to set me up with her brother to having to wait for weeks to find a way to work my girlfriend into a conversation with the gay bartender in a way that didn’t come out of absolutely nowhere. Not to mention getting hit on by far too many men in the 20-50 age bracket. Gross.
So, I need some help with finding ways to be perceived as a lesbian, barring cutting off all my hair or getting Ellen DeGeneres’ face tattooed on my forehead.
2014: the tabloids are ripe with alternative lifestyle haircuts. Celebrities from Riri to the Jenners are sporting tomboyish style; strictly queer style is ambiguous at best. Are they, or aren’t they? The answer is a little grayer than the days of flagging and secret lesbian speakeasys.
First things first, your style sounds lovely! I’m a sucker for winged liner and cute skirts. Yes, it’s super annoying to be constantly perceived as heterosexual as a default. In struggling with the same thing, I’ve come to a few realizations. Mainstream society seems to perceive female-identified bodies that subvert gender norms as non-heterosexual (whether that is true or not). So fucking with gender is an easy way to start that conversation. Shorter hair, tomboyish clothes and the ilk could be an easy way to visually communicate your lady loving ways. This is not to say that there is one way to “dress queer,” because that’s untrue. But if you aren’t naturally masculine leaning in your sartorial choices, how do you let everyone know about your lady-loving? What if all you want to do is wear traditionally “femme” clothing? I’ve got some answers for you, my sweet!
In Work Attire
You didn’t mention if you have a dress code at work, so I’m unsure how much personalized clothing you can wear while on the clock. Nina wrote a wonderful guide to signalling that you are, indeed a non-hetero person, even while femme presenting. If it’s within the restaurant’s employee requirements, I recommend wearing queer-friendly tees; Autostraddle’s merch store is chock full of them! Top it off with a denim vest for some extra queer power.
You could also find some super cute pins on your shirt/apron/top etc. A little gander on Etsy brought up several super adorable pins, badges and patches that would customize your outfits and start conversations in which you can be more vocal about your sexuality.
You are going to have to find creative ways of getting to the point. It might not always be quite as quickly communicated as you’d like, but sometimes a simple “I totally have a crush on Hannah Hart. She reminds me of my girlfriend,” works wonders if you’re talking about pop culture or Youtube or crushes. I usually find ways to sneak my sexuality in (at work) by enthusiastically talking about random cuties in a totally respectful way. You could also just go around introducing yourself as the resident lesbian, but you know, you do you.
In Awkward Romantic Interactions/Suggestions
Now, regarding people trying to set you up with their brothers or random older dudes hitting on you, I’m not entirely sure that is something that can be completely eradicated from your life. In my personal experience, regardless how often I sport resting bitch face or dress more on the tomboy side of femme, street harassment/random catcalling/being hit on does not cease. Thanks patriarchy. In my ultimate vision of the universe, we wouldn’t have to put up with this bullshit, babydyke, but that’s not the universe we live in. Making it known at work that you’re queer will certainly help your co-workers refrain from sending you on dates with their little bros. But it probably won’t stop Joe Blow from telling you that “a pretty girl like you should spend some time with a nice guy like me.” Annoying? Yes. Infuriating at times? Of course. But you’ll learn ways to defuse those awkward situations and shut them dudebros down. My default is a death stare and “I’m not interested” but that might not be the best approach in a customer service environment.
So, my dearest, what I’m saying is this: you can sneak in markers, slip comments in to conversations and wear cute badges and t-shirts. At the end of the day, there will always be those close minded folks who decide what your sexuality is before you even open your mouth. And quite frankly, you do not need to pay them any mind. You’re flawless and you don’t need to prove your authenticity to anyone. Go forth!
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