Recently I have been feeling the invisibility many femme lesbians experience. Not only are we invisible to other lesbians, but also to gay men and heterosexuals. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been in a gay bar and had someone make a comment either questioning why I was hanging out there or saying how cute it was that I was so supportive. Really?! Yes, you’re right, I am supportive. I’m SO supportive that I’m here looking for a woman. No not another female to have fun making out with in order to get attention from guys, but another woman to actually get to know. No not as a friend. Could it be that this girly appearing female is actually looking for a real relationship with another woman? I know, I know, I don’t LOOK the part, right? But yet here I am at the same bar as you having fun and, just like you, hoping there’s a chance I may run into the next girl to make my heart race.
In a 1996 article titled Butch, Femme, and the Woman-Identified Woman by Connie Carter and Jean Noble, the contradiction of being both femme and lesbian is discussed. As stated in the article, “trying to construct self-presentations that read as both femme and dyke seem to work continually against each other” (p. 26). This article is over ten years old, but still today many people have trouble believing feminine-looking women can genuinely desire another woman. I’m sure there are many femmes out there that have been told that they don’t “look” like a lesbian, or were asked why they “chose” to not date men. Some heterosexual men just don’t seem to be able to comprehend the possibility of a lesbian not being obviously identifiable. But what about the gay men? They make assumptions too. A friend of mine recently had a gay guy steal her cab and tell her to go find a straight bar! I guess she just looked too femme. And that’s just covering the surface of what was wrong with that situation, but that is for a whole other blog post.
And then there’s our fellow lesbians. Typically, unless someone is in the same circle as a femme and recognizes her, femmes are assumed to be straight, even if they’re at a gay bar. This is so unfortunate. Often we’d love to be approached. Everyone enjoys the compliment of getting hit on right? But unless we’re the ones to initiate conversation and set the flirty tone, everyone else in the bar assumes we’re straight. So us femmes must either put ourselves out there and initiate conversation, or stand from afar and ogle the girl who catches our eye hoping she’ll notice and come over to talk. But even in doing that, unless I’m at a known lesbian bar, I’ve gotten the weird looks back that say, “why is that straight girl looking over here, hasn’t she ever seen a lesbian?!” Obviously that’s not the reaction I was going for. So for the lesbians out there eyeing that cute femme at the bar…go ahead and go talk to her. You may just be the one to make her heart race.
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Dawn is a Chicago area native and loves the city she calls home. With a strong passion for both the field of psychology and LGBT issues, she strives to combine the two through gender and sexuality research. As the Women’s Outreach Chair for the Illinois chapter of the Human Rights Campaign she reaches out to the lesbian community to further their involvement in the fight for equality. Whether putting on fundraisers or spreading the word about equality at local festivals, she is always thinking of new ways to serve the LGBT community. When not doing research or fighting for equal rights, she loves to take long walks around the city, enjoy the street festivals, go camping, and hunt for the best Persian food in Chicago!