What it’s like to be woman loving woman

What it’s like to be woman loving woman

One writer explores the differences, and similarities, between the butch and femme experience.

From elementary to high school, I attended a Catholic all-girls school where no one really looked down on same-sex relationships, except for most members of the faculty and administration. Being a homosexual wasn’t a cause for bullying between students. In fact, we were actually pretty vocal with each other about liking other girls.

Being low-key about my identity as a femme lesbian, I didn’t really attract a lot of attention. Most of my teachers really liked me. I had the luxury of comfortably being in and out of the closet. I was never pressured to figure out who I was or to explain myself to anyone. I was able to come to terms with my sexuality at my own pace.

This is not the same experience for all lesbians though, most especially the butch lesbians. There was a tendency for them to be singled out for looking more masculine than the rest.

I believe the main reason is still the same factor that influenced this in high school.”

To give an example, my friend Naomi who identifies as a butch lesbian, felt that she was often singled out because of how she looked. Despite having no actual correlation, teachers had a tendency to associate more masculine looking students as rowdy, underachieving and unruly.

Back in high school, a teacher found out that Naomi was in a relationship with another student. The teacher escalated it to the principal’s office. Once the principal found out about it, she only wanted Naomi to explain her side of the story. On the other hand, her girlfriend, a femme lesbian, was let off the hook. In order to prevent further disciplinary action, Naomi lied about her sexual orientation and downplayed it as an action coming from a bad place. Given the circumstances, coming out as a lesbian was not going to help the situation.

Despite having the same sexual preference, something as simple as looking or expressing themselves differently changed how they were treated. The principal suggested that Naomi should pay regular visits to a psychiatrist. She was requested to give logs after each session as proof that she had gone. They insisted that this behavior could be corrected. News flash: She liked a girl, what was the problem with that? There was nothing to correct. This is not something any of us chose.

Though the experiences of butch and femme lesbians are very different, the difficulty of being attracted to the same sex is still there. It’s a reality we face sooner or later.”

After so many years — we are now in our twenties — there is still a stark difference in our experience and Naomi is still getting the short end of the stick. I believe the main reason is still the same factor that influenced this in high school. The way we outwardly expressed ourselves. It’s as trivial as the stares received when holding hands with our girlfriends in public and as detrimental as discrimination during job hunting season. She is at the receiving end of judgement and unwanted stares, whereas I am not.

Though the experiences of butch and femme lesbians are very different, the difficulty of being attracted to the same sex is still there. It’s a reality we face sooner or later. We had to grow up in an environment where people made us feel like we had to be someone else in order to avoid judgment and to be treated fairly, or to simply live a normal life.

This is an ongoing battle with no end in sight where our enemies are ignorant people spewing Bible verses and telling us we’re no different than animals (Hi, Manny Pacquiao!), school administrations that try to fix what isn’t broken, relatives and friends who cannot accept who we are, and even the laws that deny us certain rights just because of who we love. Despite the setbacks and challenges, it is something we will continue to fight for because at the end of the day who we love shouldn’t change how we are treated.

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