What Does a Lesbian Look Like? Gender Expression and Societal Assumptions Regarding Sexuality
We live in a culture that relies on visual cues to classify individuals based on gender and sexuality. It is considered an anomaly if a feminine woman identifies as lesbian or a butch woman identifies as heterosexual. Historically, a woman’s worth or physical beauty has been defined in terms of her attractiveness to men – and that attractiveness is determined by her compliance to social norms regarding femininity. I read a great blog article on Autostraddle, a lesbian culture blog site, about precisely this subject. There was a quote
It’s weird, being part of a self-identified minority with no absolute methods of physical identification.
In other words, even for an individual within the gay community, it is difficult to pick out other gay people and in turn establish a concrete sense of identity within a group.
Even if someone “looks” and is gay, many are closeted and afraid of what others may think and do in response to their sexual preferences. The way we as a society understand gender and sexuality is relative to established heterosexual ideals, and as a result, individuals are placed into a category characterized by both the way they look contrasted with the way they are “supposed” to look, and also the role they take on sexually. Male goes with female. Dominant goes with submissive.
When homosexual relationships are brought to the table, mass confusion ensues. Even our understanding of sex itself is called into question. To end on a lighter note, I would like to discuss this lovely “Is It Sex?” flow chart.
Obviously, it’s meant to be satirical, but I think it does a good job of presenting the idea that there are many different ways to define sex – particularly with the “do you feel like you’re having sex?” option. If we’ve learned anything from the malleable nature of gender identity, it’s that when it comes to sexuality we need to derive our knowledge from an individual basis and not from what are often societal misconceptions.