The Angry Lesbian Trope

“I'll take all the angry lesbians and send them straight to hell.”

I was in Old Town Pasadena doing some shopping last week. 'Tis the season and all that. As my friend and I walked into a store some hipster transients playing their ukuleles by a storefront conveniently belted out the above line right as we passed in front of them.

Now, that could have been completely coincidental, but I'm unconvinced. They weren't singing before we passed them.

Let's look at the angry part of this equation: I may have been scowling. Or frowning. Shopping isn't my favorite activity but society tells us we have to wear clothes so I will do my part as a citizen and comply to such a request. Or, perhaps I was deep in thought. I'm on the prowl for a skinny black tie and I may have been thinking about which of my flannel shirts such an accessory would match. I can tell you I wasn't “angry” until I heard them play that little ditty.

I'm bothered by the whole notion that we think someone can “look” like a lesbian. I was wearing chucks, skinny jeans, a v-neck tee, and a snap-back. Those people were probably jealous of that hat, honestly. It's pretty cool. My friend has short hair and was wearing a beanie. Neither of these outfits make us “look gay.”

I once stood in a taco joint late at night with another friend who got hit on while we were waiting for her food. After my eye roll reaction she exclaimed, “What? I just obviously look straight.” Newsflash, my dear friends: sexuality is not an appearance-based characteristic. It just isn't. Using some stereotype to categorize people into assumed groups simply because they are wearing flannel, or because their hair is cut a certain way really cheapens the experience of getting to know another person.

Before I learned about the horrendous practices of Urban Outfitters towards LGBTQ people and quit shopping there (more info. here and here), I found out people like to go into that store and play “hipster or lesbian?” You look at a person and decide solely based on their appearance if you think they are a hipster or a lesbian. It's pretty self-explanatory, really. This alarms me deeply.

  1. What gives people the right?
  2. What makes people think those are mutually exclusive categories?

They could be both! You will never know because you're deciding what you think based on a shirt and a haircut. It's also annoyingly reductive, as if the only thing about who I am as a person that I'm trying to express through my appearance is that I want to settle down with a nice lady and adopt some kids in the future. Not to show my love for my favorite band. Certainly not because I like the way shades of green bring out my eyes. I would never layer a button-up shirt and a cardigan because the evening SoCal weather is a little chilly.(If this message is still unclear, please view this helpful video.)

The angry lesbian trope exists because we're constantly getting bombarded with assumptions and stereotypes that make moving about our day much more difficult than it needs to be. I should be able to buy a tie without someone live-narrating my appearance through song for me, because there is not a spectrum of gayness contingent on the contents of one's closet. My flannel addiction doesn't make me any more or less gay than a woman who wears a bow tie.

I don't know why ridicule seems to be the first line of defense against people who don't dress like us, or look like us. Maybe because we won't have to understand things if we destroy them? Because someone is obviously jealous of my Derby Dolls snapback, they feel it necessary to condemn me?

I think Janelle Monae says it best with, “Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.”

That person in the snap-back is gay, Christian, sarcastic, a rock climber, a wonderful cat-sitter, and a film buff. But you won't know that just by looking at my shirt.

As for sending the angry lesbians to hell, well... I'm pretty sure I met Jesus and His kingdom more fully the moment I came out than any time before.