Lesbian Stereotypes & The Pressure To ‘Look Gay’: My Queer Style Journey

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One of the first questions, among many, when I came out was “do I even want to wear a dress?” Many people in the LGBTQ+ community feel the need to scream to the world that they are gay through their choice of shoes. It can be a daunting task to fit into this community. There is not much of a difference between squeezing yourself into cisgender, straight passing rules and abiding by the gay ones. Many people feel they are going through second adolescence because every aspect of your identity is up for debate and alteration.

I will chronicle my journey from dress-wearing, straight passing to my now soft butch comfort-driven style.

I was cultured female: dancing to Enya’s “Only Time” in a homemade princess lace dress or pretending to comb my hair with a dinglehopper (aka fork) like Ariel. Dresses were mainly a dancing prop. I started to amass a basket of lip smackers, various hair clips and rocked the skort. I appreciated the feminine flourishes, floral prints and feeling my scalp heat up from my mom’s curlers singeing my hair before a Christmas concert. I had one rule: no pink.

As a preteen, my appearance was the lowest of my priorities. I wore my hair in a loose bun, bought boys swim trunks (cut out the netting), adopted the trainer bra and sported American Eagle t-shirts. I was all about what would accommodate my bike riding, water balloon fights, and grounders on the nearby school playground.

Then middle school happened. Nothing is passive about this time. I felt removed from my body that had populated with hair and invasive acne. Not to mention being at the mercy of angry and temperamental ovaries. My parents had conservative fashion rules in place due to going to a private Christian school all my life. I wore Bermuda shorts until I was seventeen, but real talk, I have come full circle and prefer to wear those now.

I didn’t purchase my first bikini until grade twelve when I secretly stowed it away for my school Mexico trip. Many of my high school style choices didn’t arise from self-expression, but the desire to be liked and accepted. For a lot of my life up until I left the church, I focused on being what I thought people wanted me to be. I had a mould, and I stayed locked into it. I went through the green jacket and infinity scarf phase. I wore maxi skirts with crop tops. I looked nothing like a queer woman, as there was nothing ‘gay’ about how I presented myself to the world. My coming out was a bit of a shock to my friends and family because I never looked the part. It was upsetting that I had to use my dress to prove that I like women.

I have a hard time remembering what my closet looked like before I came out. Flannels, leather jackets, buttons ups, and lace-up boots quickly became security blankets a month after coming out. I felt that l had to look like a stereotypical lesbian to feel validated in my identity early on.

I am a proud soft butch. I relish in my bleached silver undercut and clunky, scuffed Timberland boots. I will most likely keep my hair short, but there have been many things I never thought I would do… and I ended up doing in the future.

I experiment every day with touches of femme in combination with my butch energy. Sometimes I have enough energy to throw on a layer of foundation, or a thin layer of mascara. More often I don’t wear a lot of makeup.

My advice to people just coming out, don’t try to prove anything to anyone through how you dress, no matter how cute or influential they seem in the LGBTQ+ community. If there is nothing consistent or stereotypical to your style, then embrace that. I would say that is pretty queer to me.

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