1. Are you really a lesbian? You don’t look like one.”
Interesting question, but one rooted in a lot of confusion. Two major stereotypes regarding the appearance of lesbians exist: that of the “butch” masculine lesbian who decidedly rejects society’s vision of women by wearing short hair, plaid shirts, and loose-fitting clothing, and that of the highly sexualized, feminine lesbian common in pornography and advertising. In reality, lesbians are as diverse as any other group, and that’s reflected in their appearances and mannerisms. No group of people fits into a particular mold or has the same exact comforts or expressions through appearance as everyone else.
2. “When did you become a lesbian?”
Hmm, when did you become straight? A sexual identity isn’t something anyone really becomes; it’s something people are. Sexuality isn’t a choice. Even if your friends from middle school swear up and down that you had a crush on Timmy in the eighth grade, it doesn’t mean you weren’t a lesbian at the time.
3. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Tell you what? About my sexuality? For most members of the LGBTQ community, there are a lot of reasons that we don’t explicitly talk about our sexuality, the most common one being that we are not yet comfortable being out. The coming-out process is a difficult one and operates on many levels: It entails the risk of being fired from our jobs, disrupting our family units, or subjecting us to prejudice in our neighborhoods.
4. “Who’s the guy in your relationship?”
Ouch. Some aspects of the patriarchy and heteronormative strains of society simply don’t apply in same-sex relationships, and someone having to be “the guy” in a lesbian relationship is one of them. Women can coexist without a male figure or influence, just as male same-sex couples don’t require someone to be “the woman” in the relationship.
5. “I don’t know how you two can deal with each other’s emotional mood swings. I drive my boyfriend crazy enough!”
While no relationship is perfect, the idea that lesbian relationships are more volatile or turbulent because women are inherently moody and clingy is offensive on multiple levels. Straight or gay, not all women are not flighty, emotional creatures begging to commit on the second date, and the outdated idea that all women are indecisive and overdramatic does not apply to lesbians (or straight women) across the board.
6. “Did something, you know, happen to you to make you afraid of men?”
No. In spite of people claiming that there is a correlation between lesbianism and sexual abuse, nothing happened to “turn” anyone into a lesbian. Lesbians are not afraid of men or penises, just as gay men are not afraid of women or vaginas or were all abused by straight women in their childhood. Homosexuality isn’t something that happens as a result of a bad, scary thing.
7. “At least you don’t have to worry about STIs or getting pregnant, right?”
Actually, lesbians can spread STIs like anyone else; that’s why female condoms and dental dams exist. Also, when it comes time for same-sex couples to have children (if they make that decision), it can be a time-consuming, frustrating, expensive and exhausting process. Being reminded that they can’t get pregnant on their own isn’t always a welcomed relief.
8. “So how do you actually have sex?”
Some of my sassier same-sex friends would tell people who ask this question to just Google it, but I disagree. Although there is some pornography made for “real” lesbians, I disagree with the idea that anything in the media defines or represents the real sexual nature of any coupling, straight or gay. All people have different comforts, likes and dislikes in sexual activity, and not all lesbians enjoy the same things. If some lesbians enjoy using sex toys, this doesn’t mean they’re emulating the penis. If others enjoy oral sex, it doesn’t mean they’re feeding into the male fantasy of lesbian pornography. And just because a particular act — such as fisting — rarely makes it onto the screen in commercial pornography, that alone does not make it any less of a “real” sex act than any other intimate activity in which two women might engage. How lesbians have sex is often treated as a great wonder because of the lack of a penis, but that wonder has more to do with a patriarchal society and gender norms than an actual need for anyone to know about anyone else’s sex life.
9. “So have you ever thought of having a threesome?”
This question comes from straight men, straight women and other women in the LGBTQ community. My personal answer is this: No. My wife and I are strict monogamists and aren’t interested in experimenting with others in the bedroom. However, some members of the LGBTQ community like to have threesomes, and that’s OK, and lesbians who enjoy them aren’t sex-hungry animals desperate to turn straight women gay or put on a show for straight men. Straight or gay, people have different sexual comforts, and the sexualization of the LGBTQ community, especially lesbians and women who have sex with women, is not accurate or acceptable.
10. “Well, I’m not a lesbian, but I’ve always wondered what it would be like.”
If you want to experiment, experiment! Only you can determine what your sexuality is. No matter how much you hint or flirt, you shouldn’t expect a lesbian to lean over and whisper that they can just tell you’re truly a lesbian or ask if you want to hook up and find out. Lesbians aren’t here for you to experiment with if you’re curious about your sexuality. No women are sex objects here for someone else’s pleasure or experimentation, and that includes lesbians and women who have sex with other women. Whether you’re a male or a female, don’t expect lesbians — or anyone you’re attracted to — to be one-dimensional beings without feelings or comforts outside their sexuality.