Marching Orders For...

Marching Orders

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Straight Guys

Crystal Meth Dealers

Gay Drug Users

Queer Health

Gay Parents

Gay Sex Workers

The Writers of 'The L Word'

Gay People Who Have to Go to a Lot of Straight People's Weddings and Baby Showers

Seattle Homos


The Media

Gay Rights Groups

Pride Calendar

My girlfriend and I have an unconventional arrangement, one that's kept us together—and kept us from cheating on each other—for the past five years.

Here's how it's supposed to work: We're out on the town, at the newest lesbian club night, and one of us turns to the other to point out someone who's really hot. "Can I make out with her?" one of us (usually my girlfriend) asks. "Sure. She's a cute dyke. Go for it," the other (usually me) replies. Then she gets to have a little innocent fun (if the other gal's interested, that is), and I know that it's a one-night, contained-to-the-club, not-at-all-serious thing.

But here's how it usually works: We're at a bar with friends, and one of us turns to the other to point out someone who's really hot—and she turns out to be straight. Why do all the cute girls tend to be hetero? Not that it matters, given that plenty of straight girls—especially those who have been drinking—are more than happy to play along. In fact, the last two times we've utilized this arrangement, we both ended up making out with a straight girl.

It's not that we have a thing for non-lesbians, it's just that it's pretty slim pickings in the gay world. A lot of the lesbians out there aren't very cute. In fact, many seem to be going to some effort to make themselves unattractive.

When girls come out, the first instinct, unfortunately, is to chop off all of their hair, throw on a pair of oversized pants, don combat boots. "It's a nod to their lesbian elders, or something," explains one of my cutest lesbian friends, from her perch on a Pine Street barstool. "It's so they can find their community." Her drinking buddy for the night, a gay guy, shakes his head. "I'll never understand it."

I understand. I did the same thing in high school, when I was hanging on to a long-distance relationship with a boy, but falling hard for the girl in the attendance office. My first step out of the closet? My first feeble attempt to send a signal to this girl that I liked? I shaved half of my head—only the bottom half, so I could hide it from my mom. Oh, and I threaded rainbow laces through my shoes. How embarrassing.

My cute lesbian friend is right: Adopting the lesbian look—however terrible it is—allows us to pick each other out in a crowd. That girl over there with the mullet, the flannel clogs over woolen socks, and the ratty button-up shirt she pulled out of the free box in the corner of her apartment building's laundry room? Definitely gay. The gal with the DIY crewcut, the surly expression, the oversized sweatshirt, and the rainbow gear? Definitely gay. The chick with a vintage punk band T-shirt, a DIY skirt, and a shoulder-length layered 'do? Hard to say.

But who decided that our signals had to be so... so... damn ugly? Who picked the weirdest hair, the worst fashion sense, and the hairiest legs to be the universal signifiers of lesbianism? And isn't a lesbian making herself ugly to attract a girl the equivalent of a smart gal dumbing herself down to get a guy?

I'm not arguing that lesbians need to adopt a homogenous style, ditch the butch aesthetic, or meet a certain minimal beauty standard to be a part of the dyke club. I'm definitely not saying that lesbians have to be supermodel gorgeous, rail thin, or spend hours on hair and clothes.

But I am tired of lesbians whose sense of personal style seems to be constructed around doing everything in their power to avoid catching the eye of a—gasp!—straight guy (eschewing bras as a tool of the patriarchy, for example). I'm tired of those who think that looking like schlumps is a brave act of rebellion. I'm tired of the pseudo-feminist girls who whine about how attractive the cast of The L Word is.

What's wrong with looking good? Short hair does not have to mean bad hair. Clothes don't have to be four sizes too big, even if you're avoiding an overtly feminine look. There are comfortable shoe options beyond flannel clogs and athletic gear. Even the lesbians whose dream girl is Le Tigre's butchie JD Samson—teeny mustache and all—appreciate dykes who put some effort into their getup before going out on the town. Those who get off on brains over beauty probably won't complain if that gray matter happens to come in a nice package.

So let's stamp out the "scary lesbian" look along with the "ugly bull dyke" look. Let's go for a new look, one adopted from our gay boy friends. Let's be the best dressed, most put together gals in the room. That should make it pretty easy to find each other. ■