What’s HIS name?
Lesbian. If I asked you to picture ‘a lesbian’, I wonder what you would see. Coming out, though now much easier and common than years gone by, is still something that many LGBTQ+ people spend years dreading before making the decision to tell their friends/family. Coming out for me was a fairly easy thing to do, I timed it perfectly, wrote my mum a note, left it on the side, and went to visit a friend in Connecticut for 2 weeks, as you do! I am very lucky and my family mainly joked about how long they’d suspected before I’d told them. So that was that, I’d told my family and some of my friends and now I could just be me..Or so I thought.
Being what the mainstream opinion of ‘feminine’ in appearance is, meant that this was not the case. I didn’t realise that I would have to come out over and over again. Every time I started a new job, every friend of a friend that asked me my boyfriend’s name, every encounter where I’d have to correct someone for assuming that my partner was a ‘he’. Among my lesbian friends, this seems to be a common experience which is very annoying to put it mildly.
My confusion though, is this- the widely accepted idea of what a lesbian looks like; short hair, plaid shirt, Dr Martens- ‘butch’ is so very under represented in the media. Take programmes like The L Word, Eastenders, Coronation street, Waterloo Road, the lesbian characters are always what its described as ‘femme’ or feminine presenting. OITNB is mainly dominated by feminine lesbians, and even the 2015 film Freeheld, which I loved and am not disputing was a very important and well handled film, ‘femmed up’ the characters, which is clear as the film shows a photo of the real women, Laurel Hester & Stacey Andree at the end.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining at the representation of feminine lesbians on TV, but, if the mainstream media fails to represent ‘butch’ lesbian characters then what is this obsession within the general public? Unless you are Lea Delaria’s OITNB character Boo, then you are ‘too pretty to be a lesbian’ or ‘haven’t found the right man yet’. Another response I know that many women have received is the old favourite, ‘Oh, you don’t look like a lesbian!’, which, if, even said in a naive way, is very insulting. Hopefully we will get to a time when no one has to ‘look’ like anything and people will realise that it really doesn’t matter either way, but until then, lesbians of all races, and all ‘styles’, what ever the length of their hair or whether they choose to wear make up or not (its laughable really!) should be represented widely in the media to help speed up the process.
(I wrote this piece under specifications given to me regarding word count, target audience and how in depth I could go. It is part of a longer more developed piece I am still working on.)