How to dress gay when you look straight


Within my first few weeks at Trinity, I realized I didn’t feel any pressure to like men, so I didn’t. It wasn’t until months later that I realized I was a lesbian. First I came out to myself, then to my friends.

My family still doesn’t know I’m a lesbian, and — quite frankly — I was hesitant to write this for that reason. I have, however, decided not to let fear rule my life — although not coming out to your homophobic family is just as valid.

I started telling everyone I knew, “Did you hear, I’m gay!” and I was met with nothing but love and support from the Trinity community. Then I called my lesbian friend from back home — we’ll call her Sarah.

Sarah has always had a very “lesbian” look; all the queer women knew she was gay. She wanted to be a police officer, and all the men felt intimidated by her. Then there was me. All those years of tennis had hardly made my wimpy arms any stronger; I didn’t want to be a police officer but rather a writer; I liked to wear skirts and cute shoes. To be honest, I felt intimidated to tell her that I was gay. What if she didn’t believe me?

I called her anyway and yelled into the phone, “GUESS WHAT? I’m GAY.”

She began laughing and said, “Really?”

I suddenly felt like a 14-year-old boy trying to prove myself. “Yeah man, women are so hot.” By the end of the night, that phone call left me feeling very… Straight.

Then I met my other friend, Emma. We work together in the Diversity and Inclusion office, and that’s where our queer-bonding friendship began. Emma is a queer girl who, despite my knowing her for a relatively short period of time, has had a huge impact on my self-acceptance journey.

When I first met Emma at work, she had long brown hair. Then summer approached, and she decided to cut off most of it. Her hair looked so good, so fitting and so… Queer.

I felt inspired. I decided to get my hair cut a little above shoulder-length, but I felt that I still didn’t look “gay.” I just looked like a girl with short, cute hair — not gay hair. In hindsight, this all sounds ridiculous — “gay hair,” “gay face.” What does that all even mean anyway?

Queer visibility is important because it’s how queer people spot each other and become friends or lovers. I love to dress the way I do, but above all, I want to be loved and acknowledged as a valid member of the LGBTQ+ community. I love my dresses, but I don’t love the heteronormativity that comes with them.

Fashion is important to me. When I wear my poncho, I wear it proudly at a school where Latinos are a minority. When I wear my vibrant jackets or yellow painted nails, I’m expressing my joy of being alive. Yellow has always been my favorite color.

When I wear my orange tennis shoes, I’m sharing my love for the color orange in a world that discourages vibrancy. My dresses are flowy and complex like the never-ending thoughts that consume my days. I walk around in clothes that scream I love bright colors. They scream I’m Latina. But too often, I find myself wondering if they scream that I’m a lesbian.

But why must we all look one way? Femme lesbians are considered straight because we’ve been trained to believe that women who wear dresses do so for men. Lipstick is for men. Long hair is for men. To be honest, my dresses aren’t for the gazes of men or women — they’re for me.

My invaluable friend Emma helped me realize that the way to dress gay is to dress as I am dressing right now. My dresses are gay because they belong to me. My hair is gay because it’s on me, and every breath I take is gay because I’m the one breathing it. Other people may not know or think I’m gay, but I know I’m gay. My friends know I’m gay. Above all, the woman I marry will I know I’m gay.