Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Dress Code

One aspect of lesbian culture that takes late bloomers some getting used to is The Dress Code. From what I’ve read of gay history, the way lesbians dress has been important through the ages. It’s how they spotted each other, even back in the olden days (like, last year). We all know the usual, obvious items – flannel shirts, men’s watches (the bigger, the better), comfortable shoes, leather jackets, men’s clothing.

I once attended a woman’s dance in Boston and went to hang up my coat. There were about 70 black leather jackets hanging in a row. Needless to say, I went out and bought one the next day. How did people spot their own jackets at the end of the evening? Nobody knows.

Late bloomers quickly realize that, unless something changes drastically we are going to be invisible to our new found community. Chopping off our hair and wearing men’s clothes just doesn’t work for a lot of us and never will. Trust me, this is very unnerving to a woman who has spent 50 years honing her style of dressing.

It’s really an issue. If you wear the wrong thing, your community will laugh at you and label you as clueless. For example, Red Hat Ladies … not in the lesbian world. This is strictly a hetero activity. I was at a Palm Springs lesbian mixer once and a woman approached our table. She was very fluffy and femmy, early ‘50’s, and wearing a red hat with a purple bow. She handed us her card and announced that she was running for city council. Someone asked her if she was gay and she replied “No, does that matter?” Well, yes it does. We don’t want to go to lesbian events seeking out our own kind, only to be rebuffed by women who, giggling, reply that they aren’t gay. But that’s an entirely different posting and one of my pet peeves ... don’t even get me started.

But back to wardrobe … a lot of late bloomers (not all) tend to be femmes. As one of those myself, I was very discouraged to discover that I was invisible to the women in my new found community. Lesbian bars and events were very important to my coming out (and still are 8 years later), as it is the only time I can be noticed and taken seriously by “my people.”

This is a problem that all femmes, not just the late blooming variety, face all of their lives, . It’s difficult for us to catch the eye of, and flirt with, women we spot when we are out and about. We miss out on the ‘nod of recognition’ that occurs between two dykes, who are complete strangers, when they spot each other in public. We don’t automatically start talking with other dykes in line with us, as gay women do. If we overcome our shyness and reach out to a strange dyke, they are not sure what to do with us or why we are talking to them. Eventually you can work, my “former partner” into the conversation and that’s a giveaway. But, how else can we make our presence and intentions known?

I have found rainbow jewelry to be very effective, as the vast majority of heteros still have no clue what it means - but all gay people do. I have a rainbow eyeglass holder, one of those chains that hold your glasses around your neck when you aren’t wearing them. It’s got a black background, is tasteful and I can wear it at work. I also wear rainbow ankle bracelets all summer when I have capris or shorts on.

I once read that you should wear your gay jewelry when you fly, as most flight attendants are gay and will give you better service. That hasn’t been my experience, except for once when I was enjoying being patted down by an extremely attractive security agent at the gate. When she got to my rainbow ankle bracelet, she turned beet red and started laughing and waved me on through. Mmmmmmm. Fond memories … LOL!

So good luck to you in your quest to become noticed by other "family." I hope some of these tips help. Anyone have any other ideas?