By Kirsten Leah
“I forced myself into a box to fit the cliché, basically. And unlike most clichés relating to lesbian-kind, the butch-femme binary is one that I absolutely detest. I guess it goes even further than that; I hate the idea of anyone having to dress to someone else’s preconceived standards.“
“You get your eyebrows threaded?!”
This exclamation from my colleague was preceded by a conversation in which we lamented the little things that lockdown had snatched away from us. I don’t know what she expected me to say, but being doomed for the foreseeable to wander around with two untamed straggly slugs on my forehead seemed quite the imposition.
I’d heard this surprise from people before: when I turned up at a friend’s wedding in a dress and heels; When, shopping with an ex partner, I insisted on buying the Real Techniques makeup brushes instead of any old cheap thing (seriously, they are the best). I suppose people get surprised when I do something a bit girly because a) I’m gay and b) I’m not overtly feminine all the time. I’m just as happy shopping in the mens’ section as the womens’. But because I – and many other women like me – fall into this awkward little in-betweeny space, it throws people off.
I’m sure that the ‘you must be either a butch or a femme’ rule was forced upon lesbians rather than created by them. It makes things simpler, and more acceptably hetero, to be able to look at a couple and know who is the ‘man’ and who is the ‘woman’. And it is such a known trope that I fell into it myself when I first came out. Knowing that I wasn’t pretty enough to be the girly type, I cut my hair short and dressed in baggy jeans and hoodies and unflattering t-shirts approximately 700 sizes too big for me. I claimed that I felt unnatural and uncomfortable in dresses and that I couldn’t walk in heels to save my life.
I forced myself into a box to fit the cliché, basically. And unlike most clichés relating to lesbian-kind, the butch-femme binary is one that I absolutely detest. I guess it goes even further than that; I hate the idea of anyone having to dress to someone else’s preconceived standards. What we wear is important – though not in a Vogue-esque ‘what’s in this season’ way. It’s important because what we choose to get dressed in can say so much. It’s one of the tools that we have to show people who we are. And suppressing or altering that because you’re ‘supposed’ to be the butch one? Fuck that.
So if you too are an awkward in-betweeny, embrace it. Wear those false eyelashes. Wear your battered Docs. Highlight and contour to your heart’s content. Shave your head. Paint your nails. Shop in the men’s section. Follow your 7-step skincare routine. You don’t have to be either-or when there are so many shades in between.
Kirsten is 28, gay, enjoys watching nerdy sci-fi films, embarrassing herself at open-mic nights, and strapping wheels to her feet and hitting people. Apparently, she also likes oversharing with people on the internet too.
Read all of Kirsten’s Confessions of a Lesbian Cliche posts
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