Story by Cat Flores
Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of femme lesbian relationships in media, or at least not any that were realistic with depth and storyline. The only femme-on-femme action I witnessed was over sexualization in music videos when two hot girls made out. My idea of what a lesbian or queer person could be was so narrow because I was only fed one stereotypical version of gayness: Lesbians were girls who looked like boys.
In reality, lesbians are femme, masc, everything in between, both or neither — anything they want to be. I’ve come to learn this over the years slowly through lessons as a Planned Parenthood peer advocate, queer delegates caucus meetings in Youth and Government, and interactions with gay people both young and old. My understanding of what it means to be queer has expanded so much beyond what I could ever have imagined. I feel more free in my sexuality now than I ever have.
But then I become too comfortable in my sexuality and I forget all of the things I haven’t learned to conquer yet: people’s stares when me and my girlfriend show each other the slightest of affection, our relationship being sexualized by men, or the fact that some people don’t know we’re dating because it would be better not to tell them.
When I receive this negative attention from people, I feel like I revert to the girl that was too afraid to act a certain way because I didn’t want people to think I was gay. I get overcome by this feeling that people in their heads are thinking “damn these hoes really have the audacity to be gay in public,” and I immediately feel ashamed, like I’m doing something that I shouldn’t be doing. It destroys my confidence and makes me feel invalidated and sort of lost. I feel like I’m meant to feel like I don’t know what I want and that my attraction to women is a phase. I’m reminded that my relationship isn’t “the norm” and that I can’t be who I want without it being weird in the eyes of others.
People in straight relationships have such an immense amount of privilege to be able to act however they want around their partners. No one has ever questioned the legitimacy of heterosexual attraction.
It’s a shame that queer people have to rely on self-validation, because no matter how much people preach that what others think don’t matter, public acceptance means a lot more to someone than their own acceptance of themselves. And I think that in the long run, it’s more damaging to encourage people to focus on their own self-acceptance instead of working to change a culture that actively enforces homophobia and forces people to find all validation in themselves because other people won’t accept them. That being said, self-acceptance is still the most important thing and it is the only thing that truly validates your identity as a queer person. Knowing who you are is enough.