Sitting on the tube this morning I looked up from my book only
to notice a man staring at me. As we made eye contact he smiled
and, not wanting to seem rude, I smiled back. I gave a friendly
smile, but the one he offered to me was one of those
smiles. You know the ones where he hopes we women think:
"Oh-my-god-he-bestowed-a-smile-upon-me"? Yeah. That kind of smile.
Inwardly, I cringed and gladly returned to my book. Now, I've got
nothing against men and nothing against smiles, but my inner
lesbian wanted to scream about stereotyping and assumptions. You
see, the thing is, Mr. Hopeful w/ Dazzling Smile, I'm a lesbian. I
have a one-way ticket to lesbo land - no men permitted.
Don't get me wrong, my encounter with Mr. Hopeful made me grin,
not out of flattery, but because all I could think was, "Bless, if
only he knew…" You see, I'm frequently told that I don't look like
a lesbian, (like a lesbian, or like your idea of a lesbian?) I have
long hair, I wear make-up, I like to paint my nails and I like to
wear girly clothes, which all stereotypically indicate femininity,
but when I come out to people, they find it hard to comprehend. In
a 1996 article titled
Butch, Femme, and the Woman-Identified Woman by Connie Carter
and Jean Noble, the contradiction of being both femme and lesbian
is discussed. As stated in the article, "trying to construct
self-presentations that read as both femme and dyke seem to work
continually against each other". Shock! A feminine lesbian? Surely
Society seems to direct a large portion of critical remarks
towards lesbians, and it seems it is only when the lesbian (or
bisexual) in question is pretty and feminine that society
gravitates towards her. For example, Clare Balding was forced to
complain to the PCC after being called a "dyke on a bike" by a
Sunday Times critic, whereas reports on Megan Fox's supposed
bisexuality (she has since retracted) suggest that she is
desirable, and only exists to fuel men's fantasies. So when I tell
people that I'm a lesbian they are often surprised and don't know
how to react; torn between my "dykeness" and femininity I'm met
with a variety of responses:
1. Men want to join in because we (my
partner and I) conform to their fantasy.
2. Men think that because of my
femininity I am obviously in denial, and I just haven't found the
right man. Yes, Mr. Drunk-Neanderthal, you are my soulmate. *Rolls
3. "So, who's the man in the
relationship then?" As you've noted we both have the necessary
parts to be considered female. We are in a lesbian relationship.
Neither of us is the man, thanks.
4. Straight women either avoid me
because I'm "faking it", or flirt with me. Baffling.
5. Other lesbians are suspicious of
One response in particular makes me chuckle - when my partner
and I are out and about holding hands people glance at me, then
her, then our hands and proceed to glare at her. Like she's taken
this wholesome straight girl and turned her into (whispers) a
lesbian. Well no, she hasn't. I figured it out myself a long time
ago, with my little girly brain.
I just can't win. In a world where stereotypes are firmly wedged
between assumptions and generalisations in the "Social Dictionary",
people are going to assume I'm straight, unless I'm kissing my
other half - then of course, they'll probably assume that it's a
show for their benefit and store it in a mental space for, uh, the
privacy of their own homes.
Proof that we are out there: