Even Today, It's Unexpected That You're Gay

I read a lot of articles about how femme/femme couples find that they are not perceived as a couple in day to day life. The conclusion of these articles quite often seems to be that the whole world assumes lesbians are giant butch monsters and THIS IS BAD because lesbians are actually girly girls like everyone else. I personally don't feel this is an accurate conclusion. The truth is, some of us are butch, some of us are femme and the majority of us are somewhere in between. While I'm so sure that not being perceived as a couple is super annoying, I don't think it's just about people expecting lesbians to look like Sandi Toksvig to be totally honest. I think people's struggle to recognise femme couples is people's dedication to the idea that heterosexuality is the norm and gay people are a surprise.

This might sound a weird point to make, living as we do in the radical science fiction world that is the 21st Century, with the world at our fingertips and a whole lot of freedom, not least when it comes to our sex giving us no constraints on the type of family we create for ourselves in adult life. At least in Britain, you turn on the TV and it's not hard to find gay people: they're in dramas (Orange Is The New Black, Orphan Black...) and they appear in trashy reality TV too (I've seen gays on Snog Marry Avoid, Don't Tell The Bride and Sun Sex and Suspicious Parents, just to name a few). I can't really complain too much about the handling of being gay in the media - it's made very much into a non-issue. I was even pleasantly surprised when watching BBC3's new show Hotel of Mum and Dad (in which a couple who live with their parents move out) that gay couple Andrew and Jordan's coming out stories remained their business and their sexuality was not addressed by their parents! But from my experience as a gay person rocking about the world, you know, living their life... people remain surprised by it.

That femme couples both look like girly girls is not why people are surprised. It's that being gay, full stop, is still unexpected.
As I discussed in my previous article, Who is the Butch and Who is the Femme?, Taylor and I, as far as appearances are concerned, look pretty heteronormative. Although we are both as big fashion fans as the other, she'll head to the women's department while I'll always be in the men's. If you looked in our closet, and just saw our clothes, you might even get the odd idea that we're a straight couple (although my rainbow "I came out of the closet and all I got was this gay t-shirt" shirt might give it away). Does this heterosexual wardrobe prevent the stares? Does it heck. If anything, the more heteronormative Taylor and I look the more stares we get.


There is literally not a more surefire way for us to turn every single head than for us to be heading out for a glam night in formal dress. This will normally mean Taylor (looking drop dead gorgeous!) in a fitted dress and killer heels, and I'll be in a jacket and tie. If we walk down the street like this, everyone turns to look at us. This is potentially because we are both perfect specimens of humanity (just kidding! or am I...) but I think it has more to do with us being a totally unexpected couple. People cannot believe that they have just seen something which looks so like a traditional straight couple... and yet isn't.

So being a butch/femme couple does not save you from the stares. It does mean we normally get read as a couple, but we definitely still have all eyes on us. I don't think why people struggle with two girly girls being wife and wife is because they're both dressed in women's clothes, because you can be dressed in totally heteronormative outfits and you'll still get the stares, just for a different reason. To be honest, strictly butch/femme couples are about as rare as two super girly girls in a relationship. I don't really have experience of butch/butch romance personally but based on the stares my partner tells me I get as a solo butch, and the stares I've seen butch friends of mine receiving when they're not looking, I'm going to put my money on that this doesn't absolve you either. If someone is going to be disbelieving about your status as a couple, or surprised by a same sex partnership, it's not about what you look like. It's about their attitude, and they can think they're as liberal as they like, but ultimately if you're staring at a gay couple, or you don't perceive a gay couple as a gay couple, that's representative of the homophobia which still remains in our society. Even though the gay community has come so far - and even when you're a woman in a tie! - we have a way to go yet because we as gay people remain the unexpected.


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