A new friend told me recently that I didn’t actually look like a lesbian and it was something I have been thinking about for a while, what does a lesbian even look like exactly? Stereotypes are the easiest way for other people to feel comfortable. It’s about the need for society to put individuals into a box; a prepackaged illusion of what particular groups of people look and act like. I have often been asked why queer women feel the need to dress like men if they aren’t actually into men… Apart from the fact that women and men should be able to dress however makes them feel most beautiful, saying that all queer identified women are butch or dress like men is ridiculous and questions the existence and authenticity of women who are innately feminine as if we are some sort of joke. That the presence of femininity somehow disqualifies us from being ‘truly gay’. Butch is beautiful, femme is beautiful and there is beauty in the fluidity of everything in between.
Coming out to your friends and family is almost always frightening and hard but in a small town – it was the absolute pits! I was the ONLY ‘out’ gay kid in my grade and was longing for a sense of community; a place to feel safe, understood and loved. I was deathly afraid that if I appeared too feminine no one would know I was gay – I would never find a girlfriend and then (obviously) I would die alone, half eaten by Alsatians like Bridget Jones imagined she would (in arguably the best movie ever made).
So began my journey into mohawks, faux-hawks and GI Jane inspired looks. My wardrobe was simply a collection of old Melissa Etheridge t-shirts, black jeans and converse sneakers, complete the look with a rainbow necklace and surely my LGBTQi tribe could spot me from a million miles away and accept me! Right?! Perpetrating the stereotype of what a ‘lesbian’ looks like I was totally alienated by the larger community in a lot of ways and completely accepted by the Queer tribe I had been accepted into. I became stuck in the notion that to be a ‘real’ lesbian I needed to act, dress, think, speak and present a certain way.
For years I heard snickering and under the breath comments while getting out of cabs for a night out with friends, paying for fuel, doing my groceries, at school, cafes and everywhere in between; all related to my appearance and the fact that I was presenting in a more masculine/androgynous way. I pretended that it didn’t bother me and that I knew who I was and what I was doing was a service to young kids who needed someone to look up to. Someone who was confident enough to be themselves. I’m a pretty strong person and look, although I wasn’t crying myself to sleep wearing flannel while listening to k.d. lang, it was upsetting that I was being so hated for something I believed was a natural representation of my life and identity. It was society after all that taught me that lesbians either looked like Ellen and PE teachers or were a naked, manicured male fantasy online.
That was then, this is now. The truth is that over the last few years I have been rediscovering myself and what makes me feel like I am living a true authentic life. I have finally realised that being queer – although an important part of my identity – is not the most interesting characteristic of my life. Aside from the fact that labels are so restrictive and dull, sexuality and gender (in my opinion and only in relation to myself, because I don’t speak for YOU) is so fluid that it is impossible for me to identify as anything other than an adult human who is attracted to other adult humans.
I am not interested in looking like anything other than a woman who is comfortable in her own skin; is it so crazy to just want to look like me and not a carbon copy of the way society tells me I should look based on my sexual preferences/identity? If you want to wear a dress one day and pants the next, who gives a flying fuck? Wake up in the morning and get dressed for you, truly see yourself in the mirror and recognise all the things that you offer the world. Change it up, make your mark and love yourself – hard. Fashion, make up and hair doesn’t have to be so serious. That’s the thing about this life that we are living, there are no actual rules, only the ones we create for ourselves. I’m enjoying my new found femininity – on the days that I wish to explore it – and I am thankful that it didn’t take me another 10 years to figure out that I don’t have to deny myself the OPTION to be seen and appreciated for the woman that I truly am today, even if that woman happens to change tomorrow.
Be authentically you, because who you are is beautiful.