My entire life — or my entire out life, for what that’s worth — people have told me that I don’t look gay. This is relevant now because a girl I’m sleeping with said it to me yesterday, casually and effortlessly and factually. You don’t look gay. I can’t totally parse what it is about this that gets so deep under my skin. It’s an insult uttered flirtatiously. It undermines my identity while implying there’s something hot or alluring or sexy about a girl who doesn’t present queerly. It shamelessly buys into a history of systematic sexist oppression. It says to me that I am too pretty, too soft, too normal looking to be gay.
We are already othered by nature of our sexual orientation. Why do we do this to ourselves? I am 26, and I have come to terms with my sexuality based on the fact that I enjoy fucking girls. Not based on my haircut, or my clothing, or whether or not I paint my nails. I refuse to conform to the conceit that we need to look a certain way to be taken seriously as queer. She actually said to me: “You’re secretly queer”, which I find so deeply offensive as it implies that the way I present to the world is a farce. That I am playing a game and the game is that I am secretly gay. I am not secretly gay. I am openly gay, I am out to everyone I know. I have radical politics, and I am loudly outspoken. My gayness is absolutely core to my identity. It is not inconsequential, it’s not a sidelined fact about me, like my having brown eyes. It, like my feminism, shapes my worldview, my interests, my personhood. It is deeply and truly and in the most essential way who I am.
To look a woman in the eye and tell her that she doesn’t look gay, that she doesn’t check off the goddamn boxes on the lesbian checklist, is absurdly unfair. It trivializes her identity. It is sexist. It reinforces dangerous stereotypes. And it doesn’t feel good. We need to stop.