As a Lesbian
March 26th, 2018
CONTENT WARNING: SUICIDE MENTION
Women’s History Month. It’s a time of awareness, intersectionality, and commentary on the effects of sexism and misogyny in both the United States and the world as a whole. Thankfully, the feminist march you’re going to will usually have a few signs protesting the treatment of LGBTQ+ women and women of color, despite an overwhelmingly white and non-LGBTQ+ crowd.
Being a woman has shaped my perspective of the world. It has affected the way I walk down the street, the way I talk, the way I act, and so much of my personality. But being a lesbian has shaped my perspective of being a woman, my gender expression and my appearance, the way I interact with straight girls, the way I interact with men, and probably even more of my personality. It’s fun for sure-- the gay community is famous for being a pretty fun place, but hearing about hate crimes, transphobia, the Orlando shooting, teen suicide, experiencing homophobia first hand… it gets difficult. Straight and cisgender women (and men… to some extent) in New York City tend to be pretty aware of this-- acknowledging the difficulties the LGBTQ+ community faces is an important part of activism here, and I am so thankful to live in a city where going to a march doesn’t mean going to a space where I feel alienated, but instead welcomed.
Being a lesbian also means being subject to the near-scientific curiosity of straight people, often girls. Sometimes, I feel like I’m a test subject, being questioned for a survey that’ll be sent to someone far up on some straight command chain. There are places I have been where I have been the first gay person someone has met, places that turn a fun summer camp experience into an interrogation room, and the bright sun into harsh, cold light on the back of a metal chair I’m not handcuffed too, but tied by label. I’ve been asked if I’m actually gay, the sincerity of my lesbianism, if I’ve ever liked a guy, if I’m out to my parents (which is none of your business!) , whether or not the asker is attractive or if I “have a crush on them.”
“Oh, my cousin/relative/friend/associate is gay! I know what it’s like!” It’s difficult to navigate a space where I am the only LGBTQ+ person in the room. Despite the friendly allies saying things like the aforementioned example, I still end up being the only one who knows what it feels like to be in (or out of) the closet. I still smile and nod along when the people around me are talking about crushes they are comfortable discussing, but it takes a toll to shove something that important away where nobody can see it.
Being an out lesbian is a very different experience to being in denial or closeted. Being able to open the closet doors is more of an exhale than a yell. It presents different challenges to being closeted, so I can’t really say if one is harder than the other, but personally, in the city I live, I much prefer being out to being hidden. I feel comfortable chopping off my hair, and instead of worrying that people will suspect, I hope that I flag. The more comfortable I get with the phrase “I am a lesbian” being said by me, the more comfortable I get with my clothing choices, not being feminine but not feeling like I have to wear all 7 of my flannels to be accepted.
Being a lesbian is a different experience than being a woman. The way you move through the world has to adapt, to be forced to fit in, to be comfortable, to not be too harsh or “too gay” or too loud and proud. Sometimes you want to be a model minority and sit back while straight people pretend your words come out of their mouths. But women’s history month is a yearly reminder that you can peel the tape off your gay lips and speak for yourself, to unite with a community you are new or familiar with, to march to the beat of a revolutionary drum and chant for the freedom of your community, as a woman and as a lesbian.