I dunno how many people have said this to you.
If you’re a woman and look a bit like me, potentially quite a few have called you a “lezza” or some other homosexual slur.
This article will take you on quite a journey. From gender and sex to male violence and me, looking like a lesbian.
Get set. Go!
As heterosexuals, we’re pretty used to being the default
It’s sort of the same if you’re white/born male/financially stable/able-bodied/neurotypical.
I’m a white heterosexual who identifies as her biological sex, so I know that those things afford me certain privileges.
It doesn’t mean life hasn’t had its shitty moments.
But it does mean those things weren’t a factor in why they were shitty, stuff like being a working-class woman can, however create problems. In reality I’m so used to the way I get treated that it’s just a part of life. I have to choose my battles wisely or I’d be constantly angry and fucking exhausted.
Heterosexuals are comfy knowing that they’re the perceived standard.
They don’t ever have to think about their sexuality because there are no negative consequences to being straight.
We can live our lives freely without fear of being “found out”.
But it’s easy to spot “a gay” isn’t it.
By how they dress and how they behave. The media is there to help identify them, portraying stereotypes in all their grotesque glory.
It’s a bit like the way we perceive gender
Is it? Well, I think so and here’s why:
Mr and Mrs Average think there are clear rules about what it is to be biologically male and female. Their reductive reasoning says our genitals are the one thing that defines our identities. I own a vagina for example, so that means I like shopping, cooking, and enjoy films with more than one woman in them.
Because a film that has more than one female protagonist is a chick-flick.
But gender and sex are different things. Gender is a concept formed by societal norms.
We’re conditioned from an early age to be a boy or a girl.
I watched the Horizon documentary: Is Your Brain Male or Female? on BBC 2 and it didn’t reveal concrete evidence to prove that men and women are clearly defined. At least, not in that neat, cut and dried way our society views masculine and feminine.
It’s worth pointing out that societies around the world have different ideas on this. Seeing things through western eyes assumes all cultures are patriarchal, although it is fairly universal, especially among Judeo, Islamic, and Christian societies.
When you only offer a male toddler, so-called ‘boys toys’, he will play with them.
But the parent plants the seed of what’s acceptable for boys to play with. When you encourage your male children to explore and go higher on that climbing frame but make your girls hold back and be cautious, you’re already demonstrating what’s expected of them.
It begins from the moment you have a fucking gender reveal party – parents rabid with excitement as their guests wait in anticipation as to what colour will be revealed from that mini confetti cannon.
You might think your little girl has always loved pink and adored her A La Carte Kitchen but maybe you didn’t offer an alternative. And why does the shit hit the fan when Billy wants to wear a tutu instead of his Spider-Man costume to his birthday party?
“You wanna keep an eye on that, he might turn into a bumda.” Yes, thank you for that little nugget of wisdom, work-colleague-Gary.
The debate over nature vs nurture rages on, and I’m not sure a definitive conclusion will ever be reached.
And you might be thinking, why is this important – who cares?
Well, society cares and as members of society, we should pay more attention as to why it matters that colours, clothing, and objects are gendered. And why we harbour deep-rooted fears about children who don’t act according to their sex.
With every social movement, comes a backlash.
Each wave of feminism sees a resurgence of male dominance (that’s clear to see with the current abortion laws that some states are trying to push through in the US).
And it’s the same with people questioning transgender rights, asking if they should be allowed to participate in sport, and indeed be afforded the same legislation so many of us take for granted.
The path to equality is never easy (or quick).
The science on sex isn’t straightforward either
Biologists and geneticists will tell you that sex is nuanced and complex.
I was reading an article about a woman in Australia who learned after many years (and several kids along the way) that parts of her body were largely chromosomally male.
There are also people who are born intersex. Individuals who present outwardly male or female but have opposing internal/and/or external anatomy. There are so many variations within our biology.
And when a human transitions from their birth sex the hormonal changes are so great that they aren’t the person they were at the start.
I’m not denying there isnt biological sex, that would be a bit bonkers but if the science says things aren’t entirely clear, I don’t think we should argue that it is.
So when your bigot neighbour talks about there being only two sexes “because science” (especially when trans rights are in the news) ignore him. He’s a fucking moron.
I tend to switch off when people have strong opinions on a subject they know fuck all about.
There are usually other reasons why they hold those views. Some folks don’t want to change – what they believe perpetuates their agenda.
Women committing and being complicit in acts of violence seems alien.
The world was stunned that Myra Hindley could murder children because women nurture, they take care of the vulnerable. The reality is, women are conditioned to be nurturing.
They’re expected to take on the emotional labour but having a vagina doesn’t mean you’re an automatic paid-up member of the mummy club.
Women are judged more harshly when they leave their families.
They are held to much higher standards. And when the fall from grace they fall hard.
We’re not so shocked when a man shirks his familial responsibilities. We expect them to be unfaithful and treat their spouses poorly.
We’re told that men can’t “keep it in their pants” so we afford them right to fuck up and make mistakes.
You only have to read how male rapists are written about in the press, how some get a lenient sentence so their crime doesn’t impact on a “promising career”.
I remember reading an article about a father who killed his wife and son before killing himself. The framing of the piece was off – “wife drove husband to murder family”.
Because that’s the other thing – women will often get blamed for the bad behaviour of men.
If you think this is helping men, you’d be wrong
Encouraging men to only emote when displaying aggression is a recipe for disaster.
If society perpetuates the idea that men should feel entitled, are the better, stronger sex, men will not only continue to be favoured above everyone else but they will be able to do harm without much consequence.
If they aren’t raised to communicate and deal with problems through discussion and intimacy, this kind of shit will carry on.
And many more male suicides will follow.
When you have hyper-masculine dominance and a sympathetic society to what it means to be a “real man”, male violence and mental health issues will continue to be a problem.
Statistically straight white men commit the most acts of violence.
Check out a handful of serial killers, you’ll quickly see most tend to fit that profile. And women bear the brunt of this violence but all other social groups are affected (including other men).
Sexuality and gender are intertwined
So, this brings me (finally) back to being mistaken for a lesbian.
To some in the heteronormative world, I appear to be gay.
Suspend the reality that all lesbians are not the same, just for a moment. I know it’s hard but do try. Let’s be honest, if you’re straight and reading this, you might think all gay women are butch. You might have said in your head or out loud (if you’re a twat) “I wonder who the man in the relationship is?”
That’s your heteronormativity talking.
I have been told (on more than one occasion) that I look like a lesbian.
My family members have said it, more recently when I had my hair shaved (because straight women don’t do that unless it’s for a cancer charity or they actually have cancer).
A man online sent a DM saying, “I’m glad your hair is growing, now you don’t look so much like a dyke.” Because of course, ultimately if I’m not fuckable to men, what even am I?
Who would have thought a haircut was a subversive act.
Heterosexuals use it as a pejorative term when they describe women as looking gay.
But I take it as a compliment.
It’s true that I have a penchant for excellent tailoring, follow Ms. Magazine and own many KD Lang albums.
But it isn’t just the way I look, my politics, or my choice of music heroes.
It’s a vibe I give off (apparently) I have a certain “masculine energy”.
That sounds like a crackin’ 1980s fragrance – Masculine Energy by Coty.
Remember what I said about gender?
We have clear views on masculine and feminine traits. So when I show confidence, assert my opinion, take control, show dominance, swear, tell filthy stories, I’m immediately belying my sex. I’m viewed with suspicion – and thoughts of “she’s probably not straight” enter people’s minds.
We like binary choices.
It makes life easier.
Having only two options means we don’t have to apply much thinking.
The reality is there isn’t one human that lives an absolutist version of themselves. To say we’re all different is obvious and yet we don’t really live that philosophy when we judge others.
We all succumb to bias.
Most of us don’t realise it, some of us don’t care, and others are trying to understand more about it. Raised on a diet of patriarchy, heteronormativity, and white supremacy is bound to have an impact on how we view and treat people that aren’t like us.
These things are systemic because they’ve been happening for centuries.
We almost take perverse comfort in the status quo, where even women are complicit in the belief that they are subordinate and a “poor man’s” man. Their own internalised misogyny telling them “this is the way it’s supposed to be”.
When I was a kid my dad asked if I was gay
I had a best mate and we used to dress up a lot and film funny sketches.
We were unusual children.
We created alter egos who were failed, 1960s pop singers called John and Mike.
It never occurred to us that our parents might wonder. We just thought women dressing up as men were hilarious. Our comedy heroes French and Saunders did it all the time.
At age 13 we watched the iconic gay classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We LOVED it. So we did a sketch about it. My dad was horrified. I was made to feel shame. From that moment I knew being me was going to cause some problems.
As kids, we hadn’t yet learned to view being gay as abnormal.
And we spent much of our teens (and beyond – hence this post) being asked if we were gay.
We’re so uncomfortable when we can’t place people in neat little boxes.
I’m seen as “wearing the trousers” in my marriage because we’re equal partners. Because my husband doesn’t infantilise me and I get to enjoy my own autonomy, I’m viewed as dominant. Being less than and conceding to my partner will (because he has a penis) is still for many, the natural order of things.
We define our identities and that has fuck all to do with dicks and vaginas.