She looks just like an angel, but she sings so out of tune

Keep those questions coming, my friends. Anything you can offer as fodder to get me through NaBloPoMo will help.

But what’s with all the blathering to myself recently? Three posts in a row with nary a comment. Am I that dull? (No, don’t answer that. Well, okay, you can answer that, but only if you suggest something I can write that would be more interesting for you to read).

Anyway.

J. asked: Until very recently I didn’t know what you looked like, and after reading this blog for however many years, I was surprised to find that the image of you that I had in my head didn’t really match to the real thing. What generalizations do people make about you based on the way you look?

The first thing that comes to mind is that people assume I’m straight. (Have I written this before? I’m having deja vu but I’m too lazy to look through my archives right now).  I’m out to EVERYONE. My job title even includes “GLBT.” I’m gay for pay, and I like it.

But I’m a femme girl, and I “pass” as straight, though it’s never on purpose. It was hard when I first came out because I thought that in order to truly be part of the community the hair in my armpits had to be longer than the hair on my head. I spent a lot of time unnecessarily agonizing over this and wondering if I looked girly because The Man told me I should. I’m sure there’s a lot to be said for this, and every time I cough up the $15 for a bag of razor blades I rant and rave about how The Man just wants us to spend our time shaving and our money buying crap to keep our legs silky so that we don’t have the resources to take over the world.

At some point I figured out that, The Man aside, this is how I’m comfortable. It still annoys me that men hit on me way more often than women, but really, I’m in my thirties and have a wedding ring and a kid and tend to hang out mostly with people I already know, so you can guess how often that’s actually happening these days. And it’s really fun to be subversive in a way that’s not immediately apparent. (This reminds me of my friend C., whose mom, when C. came out as a lesbian, said “Honey, you don’t have to be a lesbian to be a good feminist, you know.”)

Besides that, I think I have the nice Southern Girl schtick going. Again, it’s not on purpose, it just is what it is, but a lot of people seem to read me as a Nice Person. This is not necessarily a compliment. My career, which has mostly been in queer health, HIV, and family planning, throws a lot of people for a loop, since Nice Girls Don’t Talk About These Things or Marry Girls and do other Subversive Things.

Being a femmey white girl with an open face invites all sorts of weird things. I get out of speeding tickets (file under Driving While White), I wangle aisle seats on airplanes, I sneak into stores as they’re closing to buy One Quick Thing, and I hear all sorts of weird confidences from people I’ve just met – health care providers tell me about their anorexic daughters, family friends tell me about secret crushes, social workers who I work with professionally come out to me, and so on.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

What assumptions have people made about YOU based on how you look?

***

ETA: a propos of nothing whatsoever in this post, I started a Queer Parents group on NaBloPoMo. As of this writing, it’s me and Shannon. You can’t say you’re not in good company, so don’t leave us all by our lonesome, ‘k?

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6 Responses to She looks just like an angel, but she sings so out of tune

  1. cmp72 says:

    I see that you are reading Baby Love. I read it a few months ago and would love to hear your thoughts.

  2. I will throw in a few questions: What are your five favorite CDs? I am looking for some new music. Also, when you first got Roo, how did his arrival change your relationship with NSG? I want the good, the bad and the ugly.

  3. Lo says:

    I think people read me much as you describe yourself: femme, Nice Girl. It was hard for me in college because “looking queer” was such a big part of the community that I really didn’t feel like I could be a part of it….(but now whenever I read the alumni notes, more of those lesbians who barred the door to me are married to men….)

  4. Clare says:

    Hmm. I think I am commenting less on people’s blogs because I am desperately trying to come up with my own topics for NaBloPoMo, That said, I liked your topic today. As another one who is read as straight (and was asked if I was going to cut my hair). That said, now that I am in Latin America the whole community is funny to me and hard to read because there are so many femme girls down here.

  5. j says:

    People assume that I identify as ‘butch’ because I am a masculinely expressed woman, married to a out, queer, whitegirl, femme. Who has many of the same issues that you do. Interesting:)

  6. Lilymane says:

    Sixteen years ago, my partner Bet and I were training for a triathlon while she was in Div School. She wasn’t out yet (even to herself) but her friends kept trying to set her up with women. She would ask me why. I didn’t know how to answer that. Her friends were very confused about us because they kept hearing her refer to me as her partner (we were only training partners at the time – not the life partners we are now). They were relieved when she clarified the “training” part and told her I was absolutely “the straightest girl” they’d ever seen. It rankled then. It still rankles now. I was a young mom, Southern (yeah that Southern nice thing kills us, doesn’t it?), and I guess I’m femme. I never felt “pretty” enough to be really femme but I guess I looked like a poster child for the churchy casserole brigade until I pierced my lip and even later cut my hair. I like that I still look exactly like me (to me) but now other people aren’t sure what to make of me. I still don’t ping anyone’s gaydar unless I’m physically holding Bet’s hand – and even then we more often than not get asked if we’re sisters. Grrr. I’ve learned to smile and say, “Even better, we’re life partners.” But it’s hard. Balancing between being transparent and out versus (what my mother calls) obnoxiously in people’s faces just to get acknowledged is hard. It’s very interesting (and affirming) to read of others’ experiences. Thanks y’all.

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