I was in an East London boozer a couple of Saturdays ago, enjoying the sort of weekend thousands of people do on a routine basis. It was busy, the pints were flowing and the chairs were in short demand. So the girl I was dating sat on my lap. We were a bit pissed and chatting to my mates. No snogging. A nice but fairly standard evening in the pub.
As two girls with ‘alternative’ hair styles, dressed in jeans and t-shirts and sitting so closely we got a few stares – nothing unusual about that.
Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, we were aggressively reminded about our sexuality, about our ‘other’ status. Six heterosexual women individually approached us to ask awkward questions such as: ‘How long have you been together?’ (we’re not, but cheers for highlighting that) and: ‘Where did you meet?’ (at the bar, not that long ago, please go away).
What began with one woman saying we looked like a great couple, lead to another saying we were ‘very striking girls’ and another saying how ‘rare’ it was to see two ‘masculine lesbians’ together.
Now, I’m not averse to basking in the glow of a compliment every now and again but the persistent nature of what at times felt like an interview grew instantly tiring – and embarrassing. I also don’t identify as ‘masculine’, but again, cheers for tacking that label on me.
As the night progressed and a whisky-stained haze enveloped the bar, one woman staggered up to us and, after a small amount of polite chit-chat, asked: ‘So which one is the man in bed then?’ with all the subtlety of an atomic bomb in a bungalow.
Is this sort of over-domineering acceptance actually accepting? The women who spoke to us are not homophobic – yet their actions reduced me to feeling hyper-aware of, and embarrassed about, my sexuality.
I imagine some people would tell me to shut up. They’re not chasing after us with pitchforks so what’s the problem, right? It’s acceptance. It’s a compliment.
Except it’s not.
I asked my heterosexual friends if this had ever happened to them. And they all replied with a resounding ‘no’. Why is it, then, that some straight women feel the overwhelming need to validate gay couples’ relationships?
And by this sort of aggressive acceptance are they actually reversing homophobia or actively encouraging it? By highlighting us as lesbians and making sure we know we’re different – no matter how seemingly nice they’re being – do they really think that makes us feel like them?
If you’re really that accepting, then just leave us alone. I’m not saying we won’t be noticed - the Lord Morpeth may have an unusually large lezza community, but we’re not a majority in East London just yet.
Of course we get noticed; all gay couples do. But how about, instead of making us feel self-conscious, you just carry on with your lives? Or if you really want to show you’re OK with us, give us a smile – that’ll do. Everyone loves a smile.
That is the best kind of acceptance we can ask for. Not to be singled out. Not to have to answer personal sexual questions from nosy drunk strangers so unaware of their own egregiousness that they flout all social norms and just leave a nasty and unwarranted sense of shame hanging in the air.
I don’t need your approval. Just let me awkwardly flirt with this hot girl and drink my pint in peace.
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