Something funny happened the other day that I wanted to share. I was on my lunch hour, paying for takeout at a nearby deli and the always friendly cashier was making small talk with me as she usually does. But this time, she got more up close and personal, and the conversation went something like this:
Cashier: Are you excited for the weekend?
Me: Totally! I am so glad it's Friday.
Cashier: What are you going to do?
Me: I really don't know yet, but I think I'm just going to play it by ear.
Cashier: Do you have kids?
Me: No, I don't have any.
Cashier: Are you married?
Me: No, I'm not married (Note: At this point, I wanted to just blurt out that I was gay simply for the fact that from the look on her face, I got paranoid that she was concluding that I was a straight woman who couldn’t “get a guy to commit.” Even the thought of it was painful to me.)
Cashier: Do you have a boyfriend?
Me: No, I don't have a boyfriend. (Laughing) God, you must think I'm a loser, right? But see, I'm gay. And I have a girlfriend!
Cashier: Oh my God, you're gay? You don't look like a lesbian, you're so… pretty! And funny!
Me: That’s so funny! Thanks!
But my bolstered confidence quickly dropped after telling a gay co-worker the story back at the office, when he responded that he was offended for me. He went on to say that if anyone ever told him that he didn’t "look gay," he would confront that person on “what do you think gay looks like?”
He definitely had a point, and it really got me thinking. Did the pride that I took in the cashier's compliment betray a subconscious shame that I felt in "looking like a lesbian?" Was I so conditioned by popular culture to believe that lesbians were all mannish and humorless?
Or was it something else, along the lines of internalized homophobia? Could it be that I took a certain level of pride in being grouped with straight women who are not only glamorized in the media as idealized beauties, but also are what many of us are conditioned to see as plain old socially acceptable? Did I want to be in with the in crowd?
In theory I am proud to call myself a lesbian, I like being attracted to women, and have tons of lesbian friends. But maybe in practice, just as gay men continue to put each other down for not conforming to masculine ideals, many of us, no matter how "butch" we are, continue to prize a more feminine, lipstick lesbian ideal of womanhood?
I don't know. Tell me what you think. Have you ever experienced a similar pride in passing or "fitting in" in the straight world? If so, why do you think that is?
By Jenny Stewart
Originally Published 2009, PlanetOut.com, Gay.com -- click here to read original article and comments