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Why I Hate Being Called a ‘Lipstick Lesbian’

Sexual harassment and the phenomenon of "femme invisibility".

lipstick lesbian
Photo: Sam Lion via Pexels

I am losing my patience with heterosexuals!

Hold on. Let me tick it down a few notches on the intensity dial before the comment section fills up with inevitable judgments about “the angry lesbian.” It’s not a nice feeling to know that when you express frustration, people automatically pigeonhole you as “the angry lesbian.” That said, I’ll be really blunt and probably pretty obnoxious in this column, so consider yourself warned.

I am a beautiful woman. I’m tall. Some people tell me I look like a young Sophia Loren. I like wearing bright red lipstick and teasing my hair up like it’s still 1995, and Cindy Crawford is my live-in lover. Oh, Cindy, if only!

Without question, being attractive has many unfair advantages, of which I reap the benefits on a daily basis, I’m sure. Nonetheless, being a beautiful woman comes with a heavy-duty set of expectations, as well. Pretty women are supposed to be gracious and warm; otherwise, people perceive them as malicious bitches who must be contained. Also, men like to take liberties with pretty girls. Sure, sometimes it’s flattering to have someone say, “Lovely dress!” However, the constant amount of hustling that I get borders on being scary.

“Damn, baby. Shit! Mmmm, you fine!” squeaks the hooded boy on the corner.

“Every time I’m around you, you make me sweat, honey. I don’t know what it is about you,” says the service man as he leans toward me in my bathroom after fixing my toilet.

“Girl, you like a tall glass o’ milk, and I wanna dip my oreo in ya,” says the guy in front of my office, who will not move out of my way, even when I try to walk around him.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: The fact that I am a sexy woman does not give people the right to make sexually harassing comments or sexual advances. It happens to me so much that I am simply at a saturation point, and I’m saying enough is enough!

On top of this already complicated women’s issue, I also have to deal with another layer of complexity, known as “femme invisibility.” HuffPost blogger Megan Evans penned a good piece on femme invisibility a few months ago. She wrote:

Some lesbians can be spotted right away, and there are those who are a mix between masculine and feminine and are slightly easier to spot, especially for the well-trained lesbian eye. But what about femmes? We suffer from femme invisibility. We mainly slip under the radars of both straight and gay people.

In my experience, revealing that I am a lesbian often causes even more trouble, because straight people (men in particular) can’t seem to grasp the concept that a lesbian can be girly-looking. When I went out one evening for after-work cocktails, the buddy of a friend of mine was dumbfounded to learn of my sexual orientation and said, “Oh, I thought lesbians like you only existed on television.”

Also, being called a “lipstick lesbian” makes it appear as though my sexuality is frivolous, and that I’m merely being provocative with my “lifestyle choice.” Verbatim, this is the language I heard once regarding the underbelly of my status as a “lipstick lez.” The bottom line is that I’m not playacting. I’m a lesbian, I’m married, and I deserve respect. Period.

The actual impetus to write this column came from a run-in with a taxi driver last night. By coincidence, I’d written a piece almost a year earlier called “Talking to Taxi Drivers about Lesbian Sex.” In that piece I summarized a variety of conversations I’ve had with taxi drivers about my sexuality. Back then I felt more lighthearted about the whole thing, telling myself, “I’m getting a chance to do some community education. Score, Jincey!”

But these days I’m not feeling too sweet on people crossing the line with me. When men are making sexual advances or flirting with me, telling them that I am a lesbian doesn’t seem to deter them. Divulging that fact often leads to a series of much more intimate and, frankly, inappropriate questions. I really find myself wanting to have a Bette Midler-style meltdown and scream, “Yes, I am a lesbian! Yes, I am a girlie girl! No, I don’t want you to fuck me so that you can help me realize that I am actually straight!”

Short of a UFC-style throwdown, I’m not exactly sure how to handle myself with this issue. In a future column I will bring in an expert to give me and my fellow invisible femmes some tools to help us draw boundaries while staying empowered. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below. Are you an invisible femme? Have you dealt with similar issues? Do you make highly sexual remarks all the time? Do you think I’m blowing the whole thing out of proportion?

Originally published by the Huffington Post on Oct 19, 2012

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