CATEGORY: AmericanCulture

Coming out as a male lesbian

Last week I flew to California. A middle-aged lesbian couple disembarked ahead of me. Looking at them, I suddenly realized we were dressed exactly alike—tee shirt, Patagonia fleece, baggy Levi’s, Merrill slip ons with a backpack (complete with carabiners) and a ball cap.

When I remarked on this to my son, he shrugged, “This is California. Everybody here dresses like middle aged lesbians.” It was a clever line, but it’s not true. With the exception of urban youth, most heterosexuals wear tight, form-fitting jeans and all heterosexuals, even urban youth, wear designer jeans that have embroidery or are washed out or faded or something, not plain old Levi’s.

The more I consciously observed it, the more striking it was how closely the people in a group dressed. Indeed, I spent time in the airport on the way home observing people returning from the bathroom and predicting which group of people they would rejoin simply based on dress. It was surprisingly easy to do. Those three twenty somethings with the acid washed jeans and the Euro cut car coats are together. That elderly couple wearing track suits. The family from Wisconsin. People spend a lot of time choosing clothes that signal to the world exactly which group they belong to.

Therefore it must mean something that I dress like that lesbian couple. That’s not my only connection to homosexual women, though. I also like cats more than dogs. I have short hair. And I like to sleep with women.  Maybe it’s time for a little honest soul-searching. Could it be that I am a lesbian?

I decided to consult a gay friend of mine. He lives in grand house in Hollywood Hills, in a prestigious neighborhood cops call the “The Birds” because the streets have bird names. He is obsessed with his own coming out, even though that happened over thirty years ago, and talks about it all the time. So I figured he could counsel me through the process. I told him I was thinking about coming out as a male lesbian.

He didn’t know many lesbians, but he admired them. “Property developers follow lesbians, you know. Look at Silverlake. That used to be a tough neighborhood, then the lesbians started colonizing it. Pushed the gangs right out. Lesbians don’t take shit from anybody. They’re tough. Property developers know they’ll turn neighborhoods, then sell out and move on to the next one. Great investment, lesbian properties.”

I swelled with pride at his description. “See, that’s what I mean. Nobody admires old white guys. We’re a joke. People think of Newt Gingrich or John McCain. But lesbians are tough and hip. Now that is a group I could be proud to be a part of.”

He shook his head. “But coming out is so painful. What will your family say? Will they be okay with it? What about your kids? How will they feel knowing their father is a male lesbian? How will they introduce you and your, ahem, ‘wife?’”

“I don’t know. But I don’t feel I can continue to live the lie. I need to deal with this,” I said.

“But what will it possibly gain?” he persisted.

I thought about that for a moment. “Well, I could be me.  I could stop hiding who I am.”

“What does that mean?” he snorted.

“Hey, being a guy these days is hard. We aren’t allowed to be crude or aggressive. We can’t be gruff. If we are, we’re macho assholes. But lesbians can be as macho as they want.  They can be who they really are.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “How do you think lesbians will feel about you coming out? Aren’t you afraid they’ll beat you up? Believe me, it sucks to get beat up just for your sexual preferences.”

I looked up defiantly. “I think they will accept me warmly. They will get me.”

He smiled. “Really? You think that?”

I thought about it. It doesn’t matter.  I have to be who I am—a proud male lesbian.

8 comments on “Coming out as a male lesbian

  1. Of course not. There’s a great Trevanian (the author of the Eiger Sanction, Shibumi, et al.) quote that says, “All stereotypes are true, else they wouldn’t be true, but they are true in the aggregate rather than the specific. All lesbians do not have cats.”

    Thus, while it is certainly not uncommon to find lesbians who dress as I described, certainly my lesbian friends in Manhattan don’t dress that way, and would probably burn their closets if they found a Patagonia fleece in them. Nor are they particularly tough or macho.

    • What’s funny in all this for me is that while i t’s humorous, it’s also grounded (if accidentally) in all kinds of solid academic scholarship regarding fashion and the way how we dress and groom ourselves serves to establish all kinds of identity, including subcultural affiliation. And gender, which is far more than male/female, but in a larger sense goes to socially constructed identities that can cross all kinds of borders.

      I’m telling you, do some research and draw this out to 500 pages and you have a dissertation on your hands.

  2. “But lesbians can be as macho as they want.”

    If we want to be mocked by even other lesbians, yes.

    “I think they will accept me warmly. They will get me.”

    No. We don’t. A Lesbian, by definition, is a woman. Who is attracted to other women.

    We lesbians think you’re a dick.

    • I do have a dick. Lucky me.

      But your comment is proof of what attracts me to this culture–tough, macho, gruff, totally without self-awareness or sense of humor. I love it. That’s the type of lesbian I want to be. You’ve made me so happy.

    • I was looking at that Tumblr link myself. It’s a little disheartening how few people are capable of reading something and grasping it if it isn’t butt-obvious. Gods, they’d crucify Swift if he were writing today….

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