Next week will be my most “visible” Lesbian Visibility Week (Apr 24-30th) to date, for one reason: I now look recognisably queer.
This time last year, a colleague kept telling me that I "didn't look like a lesbian". But this all changed when I cut my long hair short.
What surprised me was how much difference having a more “masc” haircut made.
Cycling home the next day, a man rolled down his car window to shout "lesbian" at me. I'm not sure exactly what his motives were, but I felt wonderfully visible!
Although lesbians come in all flavours and not all gender non-conforming women are queer, it's nice to feel seen as who you are.
It’s surprising how strongly people hold onto stereotypical ideas of what lesbian looks like (spoiler: short hair does not define us).
One complicating factor is that I'm now regularly misgendered, especially by older patients. But being perceived as male has its benefits, so I’m enjoying experiencing a touch of male privilege!
Still, I wonder why short hair makes such a huge difference when nothing else about me has changed.
It’s clear that we still have a long way to go with lesbian visibility. A friend told me she was surprised by my argument that we should use the word lesbian more. She had thought it was an offensive word, making me wonder how many others believed this too.
Lesbian culture and interests are often overshadowed in mixed spaces, and the pressures of misogyny can challenge embracing our womanhood. Having a strong community is crucial, but it can be difficult to find dedicated spaces for lesbians.
Those spaces that exist, however, are exhilarating. It's hard to describe the euphoria of a night like Butch Please, surrounded by other female couples and free from predatory men.
Going to see We/Us, a photography exhibition centring working-class butches and studs, I am awed by the strength and beauty of these women.
When masculine women are often viewed as perverse, it's powerful to see this important facet of lesbian identity celebrated.
Lesbian joy is particularly subversive - in a patriarchal world, the rejection of men as sexual partners is liberating. But it can also be dangerous.
This week is an opportunity to honour lesbian culture and identity and take pride in our colourful and varied community.
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