Posts Tagged ‘ gay ’

On why women who like women sometimes like women who look like men


This post arose from a discussion I had with a friend which may have been the first time I truly pondered the ‘why’ in why are some lesbians and bisexual women attracted to women who look/dress like men

So to start, is it a problem for women to be attracted to women who look like men? The answer is, of course, no; people are attracted to an array of things in any given individual, some of these look or behaviour components may be masculine, others feminine. Rarely are people or their attractions so clear cut as 100% one thing or the other. So why is it perceived as strange? The short answer to this is heteronormative logic, which is in itself faulty. I argue that the question itself is void when removed from the context of heteronormativity.

…And this is where this debate gets a little complicated because to explain this properly I have to go back to the basics. I am assuming many of you will have a certain level of knowledge with the terms that follow (largely taken from queer theory and feminist theory) so I won’t be explaining everything in excruciating detail (otherwise this would end up being a really long post), but for those who are unsure, follow the hyperlinks for more information.

Sex as spectrum

Heteronormativity is any of a set of lifestyle norms that hold that people fall into [two] distinct and complementary genders (male and female) with natural roles in life. It also holds that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation, and states that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between a man and a woman. Consequently, a “heteronormative” view is one that involves alignment of biological sex, gender identity, and gender roles.

All of this is based on the concept of there being only two biological sexes, i.e. male and female which innately gives rise to the gender identities masculine and feminine.  Herein is the first fallacy. There are actually at least five broad sex categories, which are, according to developmental geneticist Anne Fausto-Sterling, male, female and the three types in between (commonly grouped under the catch-all term of intersex and colloquially known as hermaphrodites); male pseudohermaphrodites(‘merms’), female pseudohermaphrodites (‘ferms’) and true hermaphrodites (‘herms’). The actual number of live intersex births varies according to the criteria used (a breakdown of which can be found here), but for a working figure we will use  1/1750. Even within one subgroup of the intersex population, the percentage of male and female characteristics can vary massively, so Fausto-Sterling, among others, posits that sex is actually a continuum or spectrum, not a neat two category affair as we have been lead to believe.

That idealized story [of only two sexes] papers over many obvious caveats: some women have facial hair, some men have none; some women speak with deep voices, some men veritably squeak. Less well known is the fact that, on close inspection, absolute dimorphism disintegrates even at the level of basic biology. Chromosomes, hormones, the internal sex structures, the gonads and the external genitalia all vary more than most people realize. 

‘But I’ve never even heard of an intersexual outside of films and television’ you think. This is because between the 1930s and 1960s medical practitioners took it upon themselves to assign one of the two prevalent sexes to intersex babies and apply surgical and hormonal treatments to such ends. Prior to this intersexuals had been living quite happily with their lot (see bottom of page 4, here). In the twenty-first century, medical practitioners are increasingly leaning toward not performing sex and gender reassignment owing to the psychological trauma caused by bad calls, so intersexuals will be an increasingly common occurrence in our everyday lives—whether those intersex people choose to be overt about it is another matter. It seems, however, that we are playing catch up: other cultures (e.g. India, Pakistan, Thailand) have had more than two recognised sexes for decades.

Gender as spectrum

Western society has since the Victorian era been very prudish when it comes to anything to do with sex and part of this prudishness was reflected in the need to be able to allot all people into manageable, safe categories—i.e. (in terms of sex) men and women—with the outright denial of any variation as detailed above existing. After World War II, the heterosexual model of the family, with the man as the breadwinner and woman as the housewife was heavily reinstated and reinforced, partly to repopulate and partly in retaliation to women’s fight for liberation. This reinforcement of the patriarchal order operates in terms of gender as directly consequent of sex, each of which is the complementary opposite in a binary, cisgender system. Cisgendered people, known respectively as cismen and ciswomen, are people whose gender identity matches their biological sex, e.g. a biological man with a masculine gender ID. The thing that’s patently obvious these days is that there are more than two ways gender identity can play out and they often, particularly outside of the heterosexual experience, have nothing to do with the biological sex of the actor.

In 1990, Judith Butler‘s groundbreaking Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity forever changed how gender would be perceived and discussed. The book itself makes for tough reading, but beginner-friendly synopses can be found on Wikipedia here and in this short post by Julia of Autostraddle. The bottom line is that gender is something we perform, not something we are as a direct result of the particular array of fleshy protuberances and crevices we may—or may not—have dangling between our legs.

On closer inspection of even just the people you might find yourself on the street with at any given time it’s obvious that some men are more masculine than others, some women are more feminine than others. In recent years the fashion colour palettes pitched to men and women have become much more interchangeable, notably, men can now wear pinks without being considered gay; they can even take care with their personal grooming now without aspersions being cast upon their bedroom habits. Is he gay or just well groomed? You’d actually have to ask. The same goes with women. With the advent of ‘boyfriend fit’ jeans—previously such unfitted attire solely the realm of lesbians—and hipster fashions (adopted by lesbians largely thanks to Tegan and Sara Quin) it becomes increasingly hard to discern lesbians from edgy straight girls. And then there’s the increasing muscularity of celebrities, who are despite this overt masculine display of physical power are still considered attractive as women.

So these women are okay because though they’re extremely muscular (masculine trait) they still have long hair and otherwise look like women (feminine trait)?

So we have a gender spectrum (it’s more three dimensional than that, but let’s work with a spectrum for the sake of ease). On one side we have masculine, on the other feminine and between these extremes a whole host of grey areas including (but not limited to) androgyne, bigendered, genderqueer and neutrois in the centre and varying degrees of  ‘masculine-of-centre’ and ‘feminine-of-centre’.

So is the problem women being attracted to women who look like men? No, the problem comes when the women-who-look-like-men concerned don’t have enough feminine aspects to compensate for their masculinity, don’t have enough phi or are not considered beautiful in the current media climate. Social constructionists conceive of the sexual subject as a culturally dependent, historically specific product —what’s attractive now will almost certainly not be considered attractive by the mainstream in fifty years’ time. Related to this is that natural selection has often lead people to select partners of equal visual attractiveness.

one example of a ‘why is *she* with *her*?’ couple

Does not compute: The erroneous application of heteronormative values to homosexual desire

Trying to apply the heterosexual ‘men like women’ logic to homo- or bisexual desire is doomed from the start.

Queer theory‘s main project is exploring the contesting of the categorisation of gender and sexuality; identities are not fixed – they cannot be categorised and labelled – because identities consist of many varied components and that to categorise by one characteristic is wrong. Queer theory holds that there is an interval between what a subject “does” (role-taking) and what a subject “is” (the self). In the 21st century, with psychology having been such a popular field of study for over a century, why, when we see a woman who dresses as a man, do we see just a man (“might as well be a man”)? The answer is pareidolia.

Pareidolia ( /pærɪˈdoʊliə/ pa-ri-DOE-lee-ə) is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse. The word comes from the Greek para- – “beside”, “with”, or “alongside”—meaning, in this context, something faulty or wrong (as in paraphasia, disordered speech) and eidōlon – “image”; the diminutive of eidos – “image”, “form”, “shape”. Pareidolia is a type of apophenia.

Just because someone looks like a man in terms of dress, doesn’t mean they are like a man in any other respect. Masculine woman still have women’s bodies, women’s minds. Why should they wear their hair long and paint their nails just because of some archaic precept that their genitals should determine their behaviour and style choices?

As Fausto-Sterling notes, “in the everyday world gender attributions are made without access to genital inspection”, so what do you actually know about the person you’re looking at? Just about nothing. A woman may look at willowy and petite as feather, but fight like a tiger behind closed doors. Conversely a masculine or butch woman may look hard as nails on the street, but be the submissive partner behind closed doors. Sweeping judgements based on outward appearance do not work. I look like I listen to metal and punk, but I actually listen to drum and bass much more. You can’t tell. And it is these infinitesimal factors that make up a person, not what fit of jeans they wear or whether they buy men’s shirts or women’s blouses, drink pints or cocktails, have low or high voices. For many people, the varied coalescence of different attributes (some tradition, some not) is the hotness in itself.

Okay, so got that? Sex is a spectrum, gender is a spectrum, and all that ancient social guff tying peoples’ outward appearance to their presumed genital alignment is just that— guff. Black and white are but the shattered remnants of a hopefully never-to-return time. People like people, nothing else matters.

Peace :):-

For more on this subject, follow the links below:

http://jezebel.com/5184318/oprah-aks-if-lesbians-like-women-why-do-they-date-women-who-dont-look-like-women

http://www.experienceproject.com/question-answer/If-Lesbians-Are-Attracted-To-Women-Why-Do-The-Majority-Go-For-Other-Butch-Lesbians-That-Look-Like-Men/155561

http://www.autostraddle.com/what-does-a-lesbian-look-like-autostraddle-roundable-17702/

http://www.autostraddle.com/evolution-of-the-lesbian-hipster-33279/

My love, my choice: on Cynthia Nixon and why gay is sometimes better « Thought Catalog


My Love, My Choice: On Cynthia Nixon And Why Gay Is Sometimes Better « Thought Catalog.

Gay Pride for the less effusively exuberant


It’s Pride time in Bournemouth again. Make that ‘Bourne Free’. The weekend of the year when thousands of gay people come together to show solidarity, be visible, take a stand and, by-and-large, be such over the top  stereotypes that even Mary Poppins or —yes, really— Dorothy would be embarrassed.

This year’s theme? Wait for it… yes, it’s cowboys. What a surprise. An excuse for all the campest of the camp gay men to get their tooshes out and advertise. Whoopdedoo, I can’t wait.

I’d be interested to see a theme that wasn’t aimed at the easiest stereotype to avail or an attempt at toning down (whilst still maintaining a celebration of) the whole thing.

How about rendering the rainbow symbol in pastels to represent the gentle gays (and lesbians) or dusky colours to represent the less flamboyant, in your face of us. Something to paint us in less than stereotypical colours for a change, to alienate us less from our hetero peers as opposed to the current and pervasive trend of driving a wedge.

Now I’m not saying that a lot of gay, straight and trans people don’t enjoy and appreciate the über-camp thing…

…and visibility is important and yes, without events like having this taken place over the years  I wouldn’t  be free to be who I am. The events are important.

I’m just saying that a little more balanced representation would go a long way.

For example, more representation of gay women. This is true in other gay arenas,  the most obvious of which is gay clubs, most of which are so male-oriented that the majority of lesbians don’t go there. Or, for that matter, [gay] people who don’t want to listen to stilton-caliber cheesy dance music or the Village People or —I can hardly bring myself to type it— Steps.

Rant over.

An interesting article regarding the tendency of gay parades to include or rather disclude clothing is here.

Animation: [heteronormative] gender stereotypes?


Found this while looking for revision material. Yes on YouTube. What’s wrong with that? Anyway, it amused me because as much as I’d like to disagree with the simply animated and aptly orchestrated message, it wouldn’t be funny if it wasn’t largely true*

That said, it may be more true for hetero[sexual]s than gays.

Then again, there are a hell of a lot of stealth lesbians and gays out there, some –but not all– of which may indeed merely have their gender roles reversed from heteronormative folk.

Is the issue clear?

As mud. Always has been, always will be.

Diversity rocks :):-

“Homosexuality is wrong, kids, God says so.”


happy to hate

Rachel Williams reported in the Guardian about the so-called U-turn performed by the government regarding sex education in faith schools, i.e. allowing Catholic schools to teach that homosexuality is wrong and ‘discourage’ the use of contraception.

What I’d ike to know is, how has this been passed? Religious freedom notwithstanding, surely it’s better to teach kids all sides of something and let them make their own minds up. Teaching that homosexuality is wrong because ‘God said so’ (aside from the ambiguity of the actual ‘truth’ here) is just going to perpetuate and exacerbate hate [crimes], misunderstandings and inhibit diversity.

In the words of Stonewall:

Some people are gay, get over it.

In addition, does the country need any more breeding teenagers, really? With very few exceptions, having a baby young is a waste of the lives of all concerned – the teenagers who don’t get to have a life until they’re in their 30s, the kids raised by kids who haven’t probably learnt some of the most valuable lessons to pass down.

A spokesman for the Dept for Children, Schools and Families, has said

“…schools will be required to teach full programmes of study in line with the principles outlined in the bill, including promoting equality and encouraging acceptance of diversity. Schools with a religious character will be free to express their faith and reflect the ethos of their school, but what they cannot do is suggest that their views are the only ones.”

However, this translates to ‘a Catholic school will be required to teach the factsabout contraceptives and contraception, but would be free to contradict it all by foregrounding and reinforcing their views on the subject.

The question remains: who ensures that a balanced message of tolerance, objectivity and free will is  getting across?

Equality Bill beeswax & Pope Benedict


In response to the BBC News article on Pope Benedict’s attack of the UK government over Equality Bill…

Just a few things,

1) “The taxpayer in this country is going to be faced with a bill of some £20m for the visit of the Pope – a visit in which he has already indicated he will attack equal rights and promote discrimination.”

Fantastic! Who agreed to pay for this hate peddler? Do only Catholics have to pay for this visit?

2) Religious leaders have voiced concern that the Equality Bill could force churches to employ sexually active gay people and transsexuals when hiring staff other than priests or ministers.

The question here is why would actively gay people want to be employed by organisations that don’t agree with them?

3) Peter Tatchell said the Pope’s comments were a “coded attack on the legal rights granted to women and gay people… His ill-informed claim that our equality laws undermine religious freedom suggests that he supports the right of churches to discriminate in accordance with their religious ethos… He seems to be defending discrimination by religious institutions and demanding that they should be above the law.”

But Catholic MP Ann Widdecombe said: “This isn’t a debate about homosexuality, this is a debate about religious freedom.”

Now, if this was coming from a Islāmic voice, how would we feel about that?

4) Widdecombe goes on to say  “If a faith teaches, as major faiths do, that something is wrong, then quite clearly you cannot have somebody who believes that it’s right actually occupying a very senior position… That we have accepted as natural justice for a very long time.”

The counter here is threefold:

the first is as above in point 2)

the second is a disagreement with the ‘inclusive ‘we” of her statement (although it’s acknowledged that this may have been taken out of context)

the third is ‘natural justice’ – what is this natural justice? Darwinism? God’s Law? Accepted for a long time? Hmm, the Luddites spring to mind. That said, faith is faith, you believe or you don’t. Surely there are enough fragments and divisions of the church by now to accommodate all – gays included. Perhaps gays shouldn’t attempt to force the ‘anti-gay’ divisions of the church to accept them and find a division that does and the Pope who is “not getting into party politics” –or the running of a(nother) country?– should do as he claims.

%d bloggers like this: