Having lesbian friends, or How to tell if a girl is gay, just by looking

A while ago, in an email chat with Laura and Sarah of Sprezzatura, the girls mentioned that they didn’t have many/any other friends who were in lesbian relationships. Whilst I completely agree with them that the internet is a wonderful place to meet other people who are similar to you – straight, gay, whatever – I still struggle to remember that not everyone has a super gay friendship group like Stace and I do.

I know that Stacey and I are lucky – as well was having each other, we have a number of friends who are also girls who date girls; I can think of around 4 couples immediately and I have a few single lesbian friends too. I joke to Stace about this quite often, but it sometimes feels like she and I don’t have any straight friends – other than the folk we both still know from school and our colleagues. Even our male friends are more likely to be queer than straight.

Dark haired girl, blond boy
Do you think I look gay here?

Mainly, the reason for having such a strong LGBT friendship group comes from the fact that I (and Stace, although slightly less so) was so strongly involved in the University of St Andrews LGBT society, as I’ve mentioned before. Being on the committee and going to a number of their events meant that I met so many friendly gay faces in St A, and a number of them became the people I think of as my closest friends.

If you looked at any of these girls, there’s no way that anyone would glance at any of them and immediately think **LESBIAN** unless they had seriously good gaydar. That’s not because they’re ‘femme’ per se, but none of them conform to lesbian stereotypes either. There are no shaved heads, cropped haircuts or checked flannel shirts – but one has an amazing half sleeve tattoo, another has stunning red curly hair, and another has a wonderful collection of humourous t-shirts. I guess that if you wanted to classify us, I would be the most ‘femme’ – but really, that’s hugely subjective. (And even I went through a ‘must look super gay so that people know I’m a lesbian’ phase when I was first coming out!)

Girl sat on doorstep feeding two ducks
Do I look gay here?

My gay friends are all doing very different and wonderful things with their lives. Two will soon be doctors. One is an art student. Another wants to be a teacher, whilst her girlfriend is a psychologist. I know lesbians who are physicists, personal trainers and even one who works in a circus. The common thread? None of them look ‘like lesbians’. Why not? Because whilst some girls who like girls may cut their hair short and wear baggy jeans all the time, that is no prerequisite to being gay. At the end if the day, the way you look has no effect on who you fancy; the girl in a dress and heels us just as likely to have a girlfriend as the one who in converse and hoodies, but really? The majority of gay girls are most likely to be somewhere between between those two extremes.

girl sat on floor in the playground
What about here?

There’s a lot of chat at the moment about ‘femme invisibility’ – particularly from Megan at What Wegan Did Next. Whilst I fully support ANY campaign to increase the visibility and acceptance of LGBT people in the UK, I wouldn’t want to focus just on those who identify as ‘femme’. I think it’s really important that the world realises that what you look like has NO effect on who you get into bed, and (as the girls in the L Word find our in that episode where Lara and Dana get together) that you can’t pick out a lesbian just by looking at them. People shouldn’t just be accepting of the obvious lesbians, or the ‘pretty’ ones. There are gay girls in every industry, every community, every walk of life, and they all look different. They are all as deserving of visibility as one another.




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7 Comment

  1. Sarah says: Reply

    I really enjoyed the article and this is the kind of thing I want to show my parents as i’m sure they think every lesbian must look a certain way! I also support Wegan’s ‘femme visibility’ campaign and I think that the more role models, famous and non-famous, that come out and show that being gay doesn’t mean your ‘not-normal’ the better. I think part of my parents fear when I came out was that the next time I saw them I would have tattoos and a shaved head, it is taking time but I think they are seeing that actually nothing has changed in (or on) me personally, it’s just I am with Laura and not a guy. (And we look forward to meeting you soon, while we LOVE our straight friends it’s great getting to know fellow lesbians).

  2. Carley says: Reply

    I think that the general population has this belief that ‘Gay girls look like X’ and ‘you don’t look like X, so you can’t be gay’. So many people are narrow-minded and can’t see that ‘gay people’ are actually just the same as them, but they happen to like members of the same sex!

    I really hope that your parents ‘come round’. I completely understand what you’re saying – before I came out (even to myself) I had a male friend who came out to me when we were 17. Our parents were friends and we’d even been on holiday together! When I eventually told my mum that Dan was gay, her immediate response was shock and disappointment. When she saw him again, about a year later, she expressed her surprise to me that he was ‘exactly the same’. It was hard for me not to say ‘Well, duh!’. Eventually she realised he was exactly the same boy she’d watched grow up – in fact, he was just himself. I think that because she’d experienced Dan coming out meant she was a lot more accepting when I came out to her myself.

    Can’t wait to see you guys either! I’m struggling at the moment to work out when I’ll be free (I have work out by Gatwick on Thursday, and have been invited to the Secret Cinema showing of Bugsy Malone) but I’ll drop you guys an email and a text when I know more!


  3. Great post! Cori and I don’t have any strong friendships with other gay women and it may be largely due to the fact that we don’t “look the part”, which is also why we love Wegan’s Femme Visibilty campaign. Thankfully we met some amazing lesbian couples via internet, who we are excited to meet, hopefully soon!

  4. […] got to know, and in some cases even met, some fellow lesbian couples who blog. I’ve written before about how lucky Stacey and I are to have lots of other lesbian friends (like our friends in […]

  5. […] I’ve talked before about how my gay friends don’t all look alike; we don’t all wear flannel shirts and undercut our hair or wear Doc Martens. But it’s more than that – my friends all wear the clothes they want to wear, they style their hair in ways that makes them happy – the way they look has nothing to do with who they sleep with. This means that you shouldn’t be able to tell whether or not a girl is gay without asking her – because there is no one single common factor which marks all lesbians. And yet… I genuinely believe that there is such a thing as Gaydar. […]

  6. Emma says: Reply

    ha ha ha ha…”do I look gay here?”

    No one ever thinks I’m a lesbian. Nor my partner Ryan. And then they look at our two black babies and think “what’s going on here?” It would make it so much easier if we just wore our I AM A LESBIAN shirts and put some I’M ADOPTED onesies on the babies. :)

    1. Carley says: Reply

      I swing between finding it amusing and frustrating when people try and tell me I can’t be gay because I don’t look gay… I guess you guys must get it even worse, with the babies! I think your t-shirt and onesie idea is actually pretty good in its, ‘we really don’t care what you think’ mindset!

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