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Looking like a revolution

 

Lou is on the same page as the Niamhs

I guess I should start by saying I am a girly girl. I completely reject the label ‘femme’ to describe myself, but girly is a characteristic that I can’t deny. It’s not so much clothes I don’t think. True I know how to manoeuvre a pair of tights better than a football but at times I’ve been told I have ‘gay hair’ and I’m not aversed to the odd pair of chunky boots.

Reading what the Niamhs have had to say on Gaelick the last few days finally got me motivated to start writing about something I feel quite strongly about; the ways people are perceived because of their appearances and the affect this can have on social interaction, especially when it comes to sexuality. When Niamh amháin talks about seeing the girls in heels and dresses being turned away from the door of a gay night, that is an all too familiar scenario for me. I’ve been that girl on many occasions. Well not so much now, but this could be because I’ve ditched the heels as they’re not really conducive to running for the Nitelink.

 

Walking the walk

 

Clothed in a barrier

Where she questions whether ‘femme’ girls are welcome on a male-dominated gay circle, it really resonated with me. On gay nights out, my clothes, hair, make up – my whole appearance – seem to act like a physical barrier between me and positive interaction with well, the majority of other people that are out of an eve, not just the bouncers.

A regular gay night out for me will entail: being sought out in by the few straight men that always seem to be lurking around, being groped and told I’m ‘too pretty to be a dyke’ (offensive on so many levels) in an environment where this isn’t supposed to happen. Being assumed to be a ‘fag-hag’ by gay men and flattered by them until they realise there’s no ‘gay best friend’ to be set up with. The awkward conversations with other identifiably gay girls; who either feel judged themselves by me assuming I’m up on some ‘femme’ high-horse and make self depreciating comments about their own appearances, or the gay girls who do the judging and put me down or who make lewd comments about always wanting to ‘score a femme girl’.

Girly, but does it make her any less lesbian?

 

To always be mistaken as the ‘straight tag along’ if with a group of gay people, and have conversations that go ‘gay blah gay blah gay blah – oh sorry you wouldn’t understand’. To be persistently and invasively questioned about my sexuality by people of all genders and sexualities; are you sure, are you experimenting, you’re just looking for attention, etc. I realise this probably happens to a lot of people but this always has the tone of ‘because you look so straight’ running through it.

 

Labels? We got them all

Straight and femme seem to be interchangeable labels. When people first see me they assume straight, then when I correct them transitions into labeling me as femme, which has the connotations of not really being gay, that initial impression of straight still lingering.

Thankfully I’m very comfortable with my sexuality and have accepted my inherent girliness long ago. It does worry me however, how intertwined a persons looks are in whether their sexuality will be accepted by society. I understand that for many, clothes are an expression of their sexuality, and they are an integral part of their identity. For me though, it’s just not the case. If I go to stock up on clothes I never wonder about how ‘gay’, or rather ‘straight’ they’ll make me look. How I look and my sexuality are completely separate (well, apart from the odd attempt to look sexy!).

I’m confident in saying that there are masses of women (and I imagine men too) out there not feeling like they can openly identify with their sexualities because they don’t fit the gay mold. I was never really interested in having a completely ‘gay life’ as I could see other people around me did once they came out. I didn’t give up my straight friends, change my style, or immerse myself in only gay social activities. My life continued on much the same (apart from the sex!!); work, college, socialising.

 

 

I bet she rocks her pjs

It was through this that I began to encounter other women and girls like me; not welcome to be themselves in gay places, not free to be themselves in straight. They don’t look ‘gay’ their lives aren’t surrounded by everything ‘gay’ they may even not be ‘gay’ but they ain’t purely straight either and where’s the place for them?

 

Pumped up in Pjs

In Niamh eile’s discussion about pumps vs pants she made the very good point about well, not looking the same every day. As I sit here writing this I’m in what my sister so eloquently describes as my ‘house uniform’ (you know, those comfy clothes that you can’t bear to part with but can’t leave the house in either – for me it’s a raggedy hoody and tracksuit bottoms with hair dye splattered on them). I have no make up on and my hair is scraped back. If you were to put me in a sort of straight line up today, given peoples’ predisposition to stereotypes, I’d certainly be picked out as the lesbian. But that’s the thing though, for the majority of people, when it comes to sitting at home or even going to bed at night, all of the markers that society defines as ‘butch’ or ‘femme’ or ‘straight’ or ‘gay’ are quite literally stripped away. Pj’s are the great equaliser!

Years ago, my best friend was showing one of her friends a picture of me. Her friend knew I was gay and when she saw what I look like exclaimed ‘she could be any one of us!’. While I found this equally amusing and disturbing, in a way she really hit the mark. What does gay look like? What does straight look like? What does any sexuality look like?

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5 Comments

  • I so get your point here. My late partner and I were ‘femme’ or ‘Lipstick Lesbians’. When going out we liked to look as good as we felt. We were young, we were in love, and we enjoyed the energy of life. Dressing down wasn’t our thing. I don’t know how many times we faced the same discrimination you describe. At times I got where I just wanted to scream at people. My god, we were holding hands, we were dancing the slow dances totally tight together, we were kissing each other. What part of Lesbian do you not get, people? I wanted to tell them in no uncertain terms that we were not going to dress to fulfill their expectations of how we should look.

    Okay, rant off.

    Karen T. said:
  • All of this! I cannot understand this attitude in “gay” venues and I think it really sets the lgbtq community back when we feel the need to discriminate against ourselves. As if there aren’t enough people willing to jump on that particular bandwagon.

    Last year my partner (now my fiancée) and I went to a Dublin gay venue for the birthday of a friend. I have to note that while I wouldn’t call myself butch by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t fit into the femme category either although that’s how my partner would possibly be categorised (fumes at stupidity of labels). While waiting to collect our coats at about 12 a guy took it upon himself to ask “what is it girls? Do yous not like the whole gay thing?”. Standing with my arm around my girlfriend of four years I was frankly upset to be treated with such a horrible attitude in a place that is supposed to be “for us”. Apparently leaving at a reasonable hour because you have work at 8am makes you a hater…

    I was later asked/told “sure you’re not gay are ya? Oh my God really is she your lesbian?” that entire interaction was just made of wrong. This is the ultimate rant but yes please can we stop judging on appearances (and stop using ownership terms regarding our partners because I’m just not cool with being reffered to as “my/your/her lesbian”.

    Sarah said:
  • Hear hear! The other thing that bothers me is that over time, girls go from being “just themselves” to adapting to the whole butch sensibility just to “fit in.” On the other hand, a friend, who only came to terms with her own sexuality about 5 years ago, has actually gone even more feminine, because she no longer feels the pressure to cope with what she once perceived as a “masculine side” (but she is kinda eccentric to start with).

    shoegirl said:
  • Since I acknowledged my sexuality I too have become more comfortable with my feminity. Its like by finally acknowledging what I found attractive in others has helped me appreciate myself my body and how being feminine isnt a weakness but a pleasure.

    Nora said:
  • Thank you for your comments! Really appreciate them :)

    Lou said:
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