Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lesbian visibility; short hair and men's clothing

I saw this picture from postsecret on sociological images

it reads "because I'm a LESBIAN I feel obligated to cut my hair short and wear men's clothing... I'm actually really girly"

When I first came out, someone told me that I couldn't be a lesbian because I had long hair. This 'someone' was a lesbian... a 'real' lesbian... who had never dated men, had short hair, wore men's clothing, and had plenty of other lesbian friends. I, on the other hand, had hair that was long and curly and that I stubbornly refused to cut (not because I liked the long hair, but because I didn't want to conform to any stereotypes). I also wore tight clothing that was considered stylish by most, spent lots of time doing my makeup... basically looking 'hetero' by conforming to what the magazines had told me to do since I was a teenager.

This made it very hard to get a date. I think there were two reasons for this. First is visibility... when dressed 'girly' other lesbians couldn't identify me as a potential dating partner. The other reason is related to biphobia, as having children and an ex-husband meant that I wasn't really "one of them" which made finding a dating partner difficult even when the people around me knew I was gay.

Once I started to dress more masculine, things got easier. I cut my hair (more because my long hair was completely fried and damaged from hair dye than for reasons related to conforming). Once I cut my hair, I also found myself wearing jeans and T-shirts everyday. I found lesbians start to pay attention to me. And I started to get more credibility as a queer person.

Even now, when I am going out to bars as a single person, I will dress more masculine than if I am going to the bar with a date so I am not mistaken for a straight girl at the gay bar.

My clothing style is not particularly masculine... I am a HUGE fan of big sweaters and leggings, but I still have short hair and never wear makeup. The grad student association has a semi-formal coming up, and I have had several people specifically request photos of me in a dress and heels because they have never seen me dress feminine before. I have also been informed that I am supposed to shave my legs for the occasion... but I digress

I think the point I am trying to make is that although there is a practical reason for lesbians (or women who date other women, whatever label they use/don't use to identify themselves) to dress in masculine clothing and have short hair, it makes me sad to see that someone is changing who they feel they are in order to conform to a specific standard. How is this any more liberating than having to wear heels and makeup in order to attract men?


  1. Great post. I totally agree. I've found that people want to put me in a butch/femme slot and resent having trouble doing it. They say I'm a butch in a femme clothing. WTF.
    Also, I want to hear more from you about biphobia.

  2. Thanks. Another thing I find throws people off is consistency. If you dress "femme" one day and then "butch" the next, people tend to have trouble finding a box to fit you in, which some resent (I particularly enjoy this).

    As for biphobia, I am currently writing an autoethnographical assignment for my qualitative research class on biphobia within the university, as well as doing research on bisexuality for a really great study, so I am sure it is going to come up a lot over the next little while.

  3. It's pretty obvious that when a girl wears men's clothing and always have short hair is a lesbian. In my own point of view, as a bisexual, I appreciate lesbians and find them more beautiful and attractive when wearing feminine clothes and slight make up.

  4. it don't matter the way your dress and I think its the whole point being a lesbian you need to look like a women hello why getting a girl that looks like a guy I really think u dress how you want too not other people you just need to be you that's all

  5. i recently came out as a lesbian 2 years ago . i am 45. i truely connect a buzz cut with lesbians!! i mean buzzed up the back and sides as long as an eyelash .. but the top longer with a femme touch. kind of confusing or maybe im still confused and afraid to buzz the whole thing!!
    i feel much more sexual with my head buzzed. i keep my girlie clothes.