Musings on Life for the Queerly Inclined

“You don’t look queer.”

“Your nails are too long to be gay.”

“She probably cut her hair to get people to notice her.”

“Just wear plaid or get a tattoo!”

“Well…you just look straight.”

“Wear one feather earring–that’s a queer thing.” *

“If I can’t see you, how am I supposed to know you exist?!”

Okay, now that I’ve gotten them out there, all of these comments can go die in a fire.

Currently, all the new Mount Holyoke students are mid-orientation.  This is a magical time of getting acquainted with Moho and having the most jam-packed long days of activities, yet somehow they’re still managing to blog about it.  Earlier today, on Tumblr’s #mount holyoke tag, someone posted the following:

Some immediate thoughts:

  • How do you even have time to write this stuff?
  • Fuck you!  Maybe I don’t wanna wear plaid every day.
  • Poor firstie, you can’t find the community you want.
  • BUT FUCK YOUR WELL-INTENTIONED IGNORANCE
  • You’re trying so hard AND FAILING SO MUCH HARDER
  • I’m sorry you’re lost and looking for friends and feeling queer-deprived.  I so want to help you out.  But this here is some BS.  Check yourself.

The way I saw it, there were two potential responses.  A) Reblog her post with some helpful commentary about LGBTQ+ orgs on campus, or B) declare loudly to myself “fuck you, we’ll wear what we want” and go make a glorious plaid-free lunch.  I was sorely tempted by B, but I decided on a compromise.

Fast forward several hours.  I went out to dinner with my fam–flowy skirt, matching bag, and 3″ heels included–and returned home to find that this firstie’s post had accrued 90 notes.  Two of those were mine and a friend’s, both calling her out and suggesting some places she might meet the people she’s seeking.  Most of the comments were along the lines of “OMG yesssssssss!  Can this be a thing?  Can we collectively buy into the notion of visible markers of queerness and condemn anybody who doesn’t follow?!

No.  Stop.  Just shut up before I fight everyone this blog post gets even longer and angrier.  Femmes are not necessarily incognito; we are not a group to be “weeded out”, much to your aggravation.  We are not an annoyance.  Just because we are not decked out in rainbows and plaid doesn’t mean we’re not there.  Or ya know what?  Maybe we are sashaying past in plaid and rainbow jewelry, but you’ve been conditioned not to recognize us.

What do “gaydar” and “reading” someone’s sexual orientation actually mean?

We are, in fact, not describing sexual orientation at all–we’re responding to gender transgressions.  Obviously there are cases in which you see two people whom you perceive to have the same gender making out and you think to yourself, “Wow, they’re pretty queer.”  Yep–in that situation, you’re probably right.  That aside, most people who are described as “looking LGBQ+” are feminine men and masculine women.  Those gender presentations are culturally coded as not straight.  Tada!  Conflation of gender presentation and sexuality.

What comes to mind when you think “queer woman”?

All too often, the image conjured is white, short-haired, masculine, either very stocky or very slender (either way, no curves allowed), and wearing some combination of the following:

  • Bean boots, baggy jeans, boxers, androgynous suit, rainbows, plaid, ear gauges, facial piercings, down vest, flannel, etc.

These clothes–as well as women enjoying “manly” activities/accessories/ hobbies–are coded as queer and are understood as markers of “legitimate” queerness.  The people who embody these stereotypes are “really queer.”

What happens to the rest of us?

According to this model, femme and other feminine-of-center women can’t possibly be queer, or at least aren’t “queer enough.”  It’s clearly our fault we’re not seen: we’re in hiding, we just haven’t learned yet how to be truly queer, we’re new to the queer community, we don’t understand how things work, our presentation is just not right.  It’s up to us to change.

NO.  Fuck that.  I will dress how I damn well please.  I’ve wasted too much time trying to rearrange my wardrobe, interests, and style to fit these bullshit standards that privilege masculinity.**  If you overlook my femmeness, that’s your loss.  The problem is not that you can’t see us; it’s that you choose to ignore us.

* Most examples of this are super appropriative of Native American cultures and modes of dress.  That shit’s gotta stop.  Like now.

** Oh hey there, patriarchy!  Can’t forget about you.

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Comments on: "I May Not Look Queer, but I Do Look Like I Might Send a Stiletto to Your Face" (5)

  1. arbitrary articulations said:

    Reblogged this on arbitrary.articulations.

  2. I find it’s the same the other way around; if a straight girl decides she wants to wear a beanie or a plaid shirt (or-god forbid-both!), she is automatically hit with this butch lesbian image. Yes, I wear plaid shirts. I look good in plaid. Yes, I wear rainbow jewelery. Rainbows are freaking awesome. Do I do either of these things because I want other lesbians to be able to recognize me? No.

    • Here’s what’s the same: a) people making assumptions about women’s sexualities based on what we’re wearing and b) by commenting/telling us what (not) to wear, they’re attempting to control our gender presentations and how we dress.

      Here’s what’s different about the situation you’ve described–the plaid-wearing straight woman–and the one I addressed. I’m talking about a marginalized group (queer communities) using tools of the oppressor (misogyny, the devaluing of femininity) and perpetuating them against its own members, thereby further marginalizing them. Masculine queer folks gain legitimacy in their own eyes and the eyes of straight society at the expense of feminine queer folks. More about that here (https://adventuresthroughheteronormativity.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/i-totally-support-femmes-theyre-so-hot-terrible-opening-line/).

      While it’s true that being perceived as LGBTQ+ can be dangerous in places, in most cases, being misread as lesbian will just be a nuisance for the plaid-wearing straight woman. From hipster fashion to artsy-alternative to farm-inspired wear, there are many media images that affirm straight women wearing plaid and beanies. They’re cute, they’re the “boyfriend look” etc. When femmes are told we must wear certain types of clothing in order to be taken seriously as queer, it’s not a nuisance; it’s a method of silencing us.

      • you’re right with what is similar, and I now see your point about the queer community perpetuating those stigmas and such on their own… and it really seems to be an issue. Very thought-provoking post

    • Thanks for reading and commenting! Glad you see what I’m getting at here.

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