Living Outside the Box of Lesbian Stereotypes
Jul 06, 2021
By : Andie Vitug
How to State It Loud and Proud After Pride Month
June rolls around every year to mark the celebration of Pride Month, which celebrates the LGBTQ+ community. As dreamy as it sounds to be able to go to a Pride March and wave our flags, there’s usually a long road before people can be fully confident with showing their identity. It isn’t always as simple as showing up as soon as you come out or come to terms with this newly discovered part of yourself. I can relate to this because even though I knew who I was pretty early on in my life, I didn’t really know what that meant right away.
After realizing that I liked girls — and only girls — when I was eight years old, way before I had any solid sense of self, I felt the need to squeeze into stereotypes of what being a lesbian should be. The things I felt were expected of me as a lesbian were highlighted by the lack of representation in media.
For example, in the lesbian community, there are widely known labels and categories that people like to use to categorize themselves or others into. These labels include popular terms such as butch and femme. The term ‘butch’ is used to describe lesbians who outwardly express themselves close to the conventional appearance of men, such as having short hair and masculine clothing. You might’ve seen butch lesbian characters in media, such as Big Boo from Orange is the New Black. Femme lesbians, from the word feminine itself, look like the exact opposite of butch lesbians. They often wear makeup and wear dresses and skirts, much like Santana Lopez from Glee. Growing up, I felt like I didn’t fit in either of these stereotypes or their variations. I didn’t look or feel like Big Boo nor Santana Lopez (though I always had and always will have the biggest crush on Naya Rivera).
As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who felt out of place. Over the years, I had people ask me, “Aren’t you a lesbian? Don’t you want to cut your hair short like *insert name of my other friends who also liked girls*”. No, I don’t want to cut my hair. I’ve never felt the urge to look like Justin Bieber circa One Time music video, but that felt wrong sometimes. Was I supposed to look like that so people would believe I was a lesbian? Was it the only way to?
I spent a lot of nights Googling results for more labels because I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to be a part of something and I didn’t feel like I was anything if I don’t fit society’s standards of a lesbian. I didn’t want to cut my hair short and wear suits, but I didn’t want to wear skirts and dresses either. I felt like I was in an awkward spot in the middle.
Now that I know better and more conversations are happening on identity and expression online, I’ve come to realize that a stereotype is just a stereotype. I no longer feel like I have to change how I look or want to do in order to satisfy a checklist that I was so sure people had ready to verify that I was a lesbian. I may not be categorically butch or femme, and that’s okay. At the end of the day, that’s no one else’s business other than my own. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone, and I can just be myself, and isn’t that what we’re fighting for?
While there’s more room to grow in the LGBTQ+ representation in media, we’ve come a long way from Big Boo and Santana Lopez. There’s so much more lesbian representation in shows like Dickinson, Sex Education, and The L Word: Generation Q. It doesn’t stop there, there are also really good sapphic ships featured in Euphoria and Feel Good. I’m really excited for the new generation of queer kids who have so many characters to look up to.
Pride Month shouldn’t be the only time for you to remember that there is nothing wrong with being who you are. There’s also nothing wrong with taking your time to get to a place that feels right for you to do that. Everyone’s journeys and timelines are different, and there’s no need for anyone to feel bad about their progress. After all, our favorite shows are online all year-round. There’s no rush in self-discovery and finding your own identity through the shows and characters you love.
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