For as long as I can remember, lesbians have scared the absolute living shit out of me. My mother had one lesbian acquaintance when I was a kid, and my memory of her is crystal clear. She was a badass chef. She sauntered into each and every room vagina first, like she was slinging guns across her pelvis! She rode a motorcycle. She had a smoker’s rasp to her voice and close-cropped, raven-colored hair (classic ‘90s dyke style) and that intoxicating “don’t f*ck with me” look gleaming in her ice-colored eyes.
How did I know she was gay? My mother told me. “She’s a lesbian, darling” she purred in her English accent. I looked at her quizzically. “She loves other women. Sort of like your Uncle Peter…” She didn’t need to say another a word. It clicked. There were female versions of gay Uncle Peter, and clearly, they were the coolest (and scariest) creatures on the planet.
In middle school, I had a lesbian gym teacher. I couldn’t breathe for the entire 45 minutes of her class, and that’s not just because I’m a lousy runner. Her swaggy cool-girl lesbian energy turned me on, which was terrifying and confusing at once. I distinctly remember seething with jealousy as I watched her interact with my classmate Brittany a toe-headed wonder-athlete. What’s so unique about being able to hit a goddamn ball over a net? I would bitchily think to myself as hot Coach Dyke complimented Brittany on her impressive volleyball skills.
Then there was the lesbian waitress at the trendy restaurant I went to with my parents every time we visited my older sister in Boston. She was my first real crush, and I forgot how to speak whenever I was in her presence.
“What would you like for dinner?” she’d ask. I would vacantly stare back at her with big dumb eyes unable to think of a single word in the English language. My intuitive older brother would swoop in and come to my rescue.
“She’ll have the burger!” he’d answer on my behalf.
“Yeah” I would murmur my eyes a-glaze, “I’ll have the burger.” I was a strict vegetarian but so distracted by the lesbian waitress, I would’ve eaten a human child had she served it to me.
It was at this point that I started to realize I was a total lez, because a) I only had sex dreams about female entities and b) I was rendered a complete blithering, drooling idiot when I was around queer women. I had never understood why my best friend Ruba would completely lose her signature sharp wit around boys she was attracted to, until now. Sexual attraction clearly made people stupid.
As I got older, it didn’t get easier. It got harder. In my late teens/early 20s, I would use my fake ID and venture out to lesbian parties at a bevy of dive bars strewn across LA and feel like an outcast loser. Was it because I was attracted to every lesbian I laid my thirsty eyes upon? A little, honestly. I’m naturally attracted to a wide array of lesbian “types” (which is a polite way of saying I’m a bonafide horndog). But mostly, I believe, it all stemmed from feeling like an outsider in the lesbian scene.
There were a million surface reasons as to why it appeared I didn’t fit the lesbian mold. I’m over-the-top feminine in appearance. I grew up in a fashion-crazed family—and my taste, for better or for worse, is very “designer bitch.” If we’re going to get down and dirty with the ugly truth, I’m actually a shameless label whore. The lesbian community doesn’t always take so kindly to shameless label whores upon first introduction. (We’re an acquired taste.) I could feel the pin-prick of keen lesbian eyes shoot like daggers into the back of my heavily hair-extensioned head, as my chunky bracelets loudly clanked against the bamboo handle of my oversized Gucci bag. I once overheard a girl whisper to her friend, “ugh… straight girl alert,” as I timidly ordered a glass of champagne from the bar.
It’s a very specific kind of pain to have finally mustered up the courage to come out the stifling closet you’ve spent your entire life self-destructing inside of, only to feel like you don’t look “the part” and should crawl back inside.
It was deeper than just the style, too. It was my energy. My natural shyness mixed with my acute sexual attraction toward everyone (mixed with the fact that I looked like a low-budget Zara Hilton drowning in a sea of effortless cool-girls clad in effortless cool-girl sneakers and distressed skinny jeans) fucked with my vibe. Since I felt like an alien, I acted like an alien. My jokes didn’t quite land correctly. I’m usually a master flirt, but at the lez party, I couldn’t even bestow anyone with a smile. It was like that Radiohead song “Creep” played in my head every single time I was in the Sapphic stratosphere.
“I just don’t think these are my people,” I would whine to my gay boy friends (which I had in abundance).
So I did the worst thing a girl who feels like she doesn’t fit in can possibly do. I avoided the scene entirely. I didn’t brave lesbian parties anymore. I spent my weekends hiding out in the gay boy bars bitterly watching all my friends flirt and fall in love and have one night stands, as I became an increasingly angry love-less, sex-less, friend-less, sad dyke.
One night after a healthy dose of tequila, for reasons I unbeknownst to me, I decided to drag my friend Eduardo into a bar that was holding court to a lesbian party.
It was one of those nights when the partying stars gorgeously align. You drink just the right amount. The moon burns bright. You’re surrounded by a friend who makes you feel like the most confident version of yourself. Your outfit is killer. Your wit is on fire. You’re lit up like a million glorious Christmas lights.
Every party girl knows what I’m talking about, right?
Eduardo and I were totally feeling ourselves as we cooly breezed through the doors of the party in matching black leather motorcycle jackets. I’m pretty sure we were both wearing red lipstick. We were in one of those moods where we gave zero fucks about what anybody thought of us.
And because I wasn’t trying to “fit in”—I wasn’t self-conscious and shame-spiraling over what an ugly failed lez I am—I actually talked to people. Not just people, but lesbians, baby! And yes, my window dressing was entirely different than theirs. Still, I began to realize that window dressing doesn’t tell you that much about a person.
The girl you assumed was too cool for school might be a wild-child freak like you, who just so happens to prefer plaid button-downs and hipster glasses over your signature fishnets and glitter. That night I was a wild success in the lesbian bar! I got phone numbers! I made out with people! I danced! I had fun. Most pressingly, I learned that as long as you show up to the lesbian bar, dressed to the nines in whatever makes you feel hot AF, and don’t slump into the background because you feel like you don’t belong, you’ll realize how much of this narrative you’ve orchestrated in your paranoid head.
Because guess what? It’s impossible to be an outsider in the queer scene if you’re queer. Every single queer babe fully belongs in the queer bar regardless of what they look like, act like, talk like, or do for work. And when you own your fabulous individuality instead of apologizing for it, you’ll fit in seamlessly. You’ll fit in not because your style will suddenly be synonymous with every other lesbian’s style; you’ll fit in because you stand out. And those who stand out are the true stars of the queer scene. I mean, what lesbian isn’t drawn to a woman who does her own thing and shakes up the room with her refreshing energy?
So literally, the answer to the dilemma is actually super simple. Stop focusing on how “different” you are. Stop obsessing over how “alien” you feel. Stop complaining about how “no one gets you.” Merely show up to the party (or the soccer game or the goddamn poetry reading or the knitting circle… you do you, girl) and stand tall. Take up space. Boldly walk up to a group of girls you don’t know and introduce yourself. You might even find that the girls you’ve been so wholly intimidated by, have actually been intimidated by *you* all along. That happens to us “misfits” all the time. We think everyone is gawking at us talking about what loser weirdos we are, but really they’re just admiring our leopard print coats and ability to pull off dark purple lipstick. Or most likely, they’re not even judging us at all! That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned: Most people don’t care. They’re too wrapped up in their own self-criticism to have time to criticize anyone else.
And guess what? For years now, I’ve been showing up to Lez Volley beach volleyball tournaments in white tulle skirts and false eyelashes. And I love all the lezzies who rock the sporty classic lez attire, women I would’ve been convinced I had “nothing in common” with all those years ago, and they love me back (at least most do)! Once I let go of all these preconceived notions about the lesbian scene, I learned I have so much in common with everyone!
Lez get real: We all know what it’s like to have our heart smashed by another woman. We’ve all been through U-Hauling hell. We’ve all stayed in relationships with narcissists who were great at sex for far too long. We all have had to come out at some point in our lesbian lives. We’ve all experienced #LesbianProblems regardless of where we are from or what we look like. In fact, one of my favorite parts about being gay is that it exposes me to different kinds of people. If I was straight, I would probably just hang out with other fashion bitch girls and be utterly convinced those were the only people I “connect” with. (Which couldn’t be further from the truth.) Isn’t it badass that being queer lures people from all walks of life into the same bars and parties and forces us to drop our guards and find common ground?
So stop complaining. Go as your bad self. Not just in the lesbian bar, but in everywhere in life. As long as you’re wearing your own skin, you’ll be an insider in the most important community in the world: the community of you.
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