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Butch, femme: There's not just one type of lesbian, writes Broward teenager

A guest editorial from Shelby Curran, a 17-year-old lesbian from Broward County:

Short hair. Boxers lying just above the waist. Masculine jeans. No make up. The image comes to mind whenever one thinks of a "stereotypical lesbian." Girls with select masculine features that can be spotted right away, and pinned as "lesbians" through the technique of what some may call: an accurate "gay-dar." The reality is, more often than not people discover that their predetermined judgments are true: they are butch lesbians.

With this in mind, it may be an unfamiliar thought to consider the fact that not only "one type" of lesbian exists.

Welcome to the femme world- where gender expression does not determine sexuality and where curled hair and the latest BCBG dress meets pride parades.

The world "femme" is derived from the French word for "woman." It is used to refer to lesbians that do not fit the stereotypes. In other words, a woman with long hair who dresses in "girly" clothes and, indeed, is attracted to other women. You know just the type of woman I'm talking about. Does someone like Portia de Rossi come to mind? The media also portrays feminine lesbians on TV Shows such as Santana on Glee or Alex on Orange is the New Black, indicating that perhaps the world is becoming more aware of the vast diversity within the lesbian community and our expression.

Regardless, millions of feminine lesbians across the globe (including myself) still suffer from the universal "femme fact": we are all caught in a stereotypical world, and invisible to both the homosexual and heterosexual community.

The issue is clear. The straight community assumes that femme lesbians are also heterosexual, while simultaneously, homosexuals tend to look past femmes by judging that they aren't also homosexual. For instance, there have been many instances when I have been out to dinner with a significant other and our friends and have gotten "hit on" or groped by a guy. Yes, even with an obvious girlfriend present. Either they thought she was my twelve-year old brother (oh- ha ha!) or they would shoot me the comment: "You're too pretty to be gay!"

While it may seem like an easy fix, I could never bring myself to trade in stilettos for a new haircut just to be recognized.

And to all the femme lesbians out there: why should we? The out-of-control and common idea that femme lesbians are the ones "going through a phase" and "can be turned straight with male attention" is sending a message that increases stereotyping.

It does not stop there. Unfortunately, invisibility within our own community of LGBTQ people cannot be ignored. I'm not saying that we are chastised and looked down upon, there just seems to be a lack of representation-- at least where I live.

Being Jewish, I can't help but relate this to meeting other Jewish people. You can recognize someone's last name and immediately think "Jamie Cohen" shares your faith (and probably most of your family friends, too). These instant connections never really occurred between me and my other gay friends. I would never want someone to think "lesbian" or "Jewish" as a first impression of me, but it would be nice to show up at an LGBTQ youth retreat or pride event without people thinking: "Oh look! An ally! How wonderful!" We need to shed stereotypes within our own community, and go from there. (Not only that, but it is also extremely hard to find dates when other lesbians overlook you!)

We are here, we exist, and we are just as "out, loud, and proud" as the short-haired masculine butch girl you pinned as lesbian when you were at the mall last Saturday.

And...well...can you really blame me? Have you seen Essie's new summer 2013 polish collection?


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What kind of a perverted column is this promoting underage sex and trying to recruit underage girls into destructive lifestyles. The Herald should remove this column and fire the writer.

Ed Jenkins, I don't think this is promoting underage sex whatsoever. Never in here does it mention her sex life and you should not be one to judge. Being gay is a fine lifestyle that is not destructive. This is showcasing an issue on her personal feelings of being a femme lesbian and you do not need to criticize her personal life.
Everyone has the freedom of expression and I imagine you would react differently if it were a Heterosexual female. Shelby, I think this is a great article that points out a lot of key issues in both the LGBTQ and straight community and our habit of assuming before we know.

ed come on man thats not cool show some respect

I completely agree with this... I hate the fact that everyone assumes I'm straight. And when I'm talking about an ex, that it's a man... It just feels so unnecessary to continue to come out over and over and OVER again to people. I just with people wouldn't assume..

Wonderful article. Well presented. I agree wholeheartedly. There are a myriad of LGBTQ people in the world. Remember RAINBOW :)

I find it really hard to identify femme lesbians because there is no real 'signature' thing about them that differentiates them from hetero femmes. Could you like, wear a bracelet or something to let us know?

Lovely post!! I guess you could say I do find myself judging other femmes based on the thought that they can be easily moved by a male that gives them attention. Maybe its because I have yet to find a 100% femme lesbian. Or maybe its because out of all my past relationships, the femme seems to always make her way around back to men (and I have had a lot of relationships!). Even butch lesbians are having relations with men!! Im not here to judge though, because I am considered butch and have not always been a lesbian! Mainly because of my family... no one supported me and I struggled with my own self for years! still am till today! lastly I think maybe its because I live in Texas, which is the ultimate bible state! Lol with all these judgements 24/7 365, I could see how hard it would be to fully accept who you love! Ahhh I cant wait to leave from here to a more liberal/non conservative culture!

Being gay/lesbian is no more a lifestyle than being straight is. We don't pick lesbian pumpkins, do lesbian laundry, or eat lesbian dinner: we lead the same lives as our straight/hetero counterparts. Who we love and how we live are entirely different aspects of who we are.

I am a Jewish femm with long curly hair. My parents don't believe that I am gay

www.shelbycurran.com to read more!

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