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But You Don’t Look Gay, And Other Absurd Things I’ve Been Told

By Aela Mass |

I used to think it was my long hair, or the fact that I like to wear dresses. But I’ve since realized it has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the preconceived notions so many people have about what gay looks like. Defining the word gay is seemingly simple enough. But try to define what gay women look like, or act like, or live like, or love like, and stereotypical images go dancing through the mind.

If we’re a slightly older generation, the stereotypes lead us to see unkempt women in flannel shirts, with mullets and denim so bad that mom jeans seem cool in comparison. Or Ellen DeGeneres. If we’re middle aged: Gay women look like the suit pants-wearing, loafer-sporting, if-I-had-to-guess-she-probably-golfs woman. Or Ellen DeGeneres. And if we’re younger, we think of the Justin Beiber lookalike, the softer face, the shorter hair, the sometimes-it-takes-a-second-glance-before-I-can-figure-out-your-gender look. Or Ellen DeGeneres. And if we’re a straight man, gay women look like sex-crazed supermodels just waiting for “the right guy.” Or Ellen DeGeneres’ wife.

None of that is me.

I’ve been accused of not being “gay enough” and of being “a bad gay” by both straight and gay friends. People are uncomfortable that I don’t fit their definition of what gay looks or acts like.

I’ve been accused of not being “gay enough” and of being “a bad gay” by both straight and gay friends. People are uncomfortable that I don’t fit their definition of what gay looks or acts like. For awhile, I was too. In the early years, when I wasn’t yet out, I questioned my gayness simply because I knew I didn’t fit into any of the stereotypical categories. How could I be gay? I don’t like playing sports. I don’t even like watching them. I love dresses. I can’t stand rainbows or Pride parades. I never wanted to sleep with my best friend (aside from one drunken night in which I’m forever grateful she turned me down). I want children. I don’t hate men. Me, gay? Nah.

And I lived that way for years. Straight. But miserable. My relationships — all of them, with family, with friends, with boyfriends — were painfully unhealthy. Of course, at the time, I didn’t realize any of this. And it’s not as though my life was without happy moments. But it wasn’t until I first allowed my adult self to recognize my feelings for another woman that I ever dreamed in color. I remember being amazed when I woke up, realizing that I had been dreaming in black and white for 25 years. My whole life was so emotionally dulled that even in my dream state I wasn’t awakened.

Enter my now-wife Sara. OK, not really. She wasn’t the reason I started dreaming in color, but WOW do I wish that was the story …

Fast forward through some life-changing breakups, heartbreak, piss-poor decision making, heartbreak, some more bad decisions and heartbreak, and we arrive at Sara. My greatest blessing and my wife.

She totally looks gay. All those stereotypes? 97 percent true for her.

And we want to have babies. We want to become mothers together and raise a family. I want to grow her fertilized egg inside of me and give her children. Or at least, a child. That’s the dream. We’ve only just begun this journey. In fact, we haven’t even seen a fertility specialist yet. We have no idea what we’re getting into. But we know what we want. It’s not so different than what many people want: the simple (or not so simple) life of a family.

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About Aela Mass


Aela Mass

Aela Mass is a lesbian writer and editor living the dream on Martha's Vineyard with her wife, Sara, and their dog, Darla. She miscarried her twins at 17 weeks and has undergone numerous IVF, FET, and IUI cycles. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post among other publications. For more of her work, visit her blog Two Moms Make a Right. Read bio and latest posts → Read Aela's latest posts →

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6 thoughts on “But You Don’t Look Gay, And Other Absurd Things I’ve Been Told

  1. bunnytwenty says:

    I find it bizarre that these stereotypes persist, considering the huge variety of personal styles and lifestyles among lesbians. My lesbian friends range from the so-butch-she’s-mistaken-for-a-dude gals to political punk-ettes to gals who basically look like you.
    And don’t get me started on stereotypes of what gay guys are like…

  2. julia says:

    I’m very excited for you! Thank you for your heartwarming story.

  3. TiffanyinSF says:

    @BunnyTwenty – I think these stereotypes persist because lesbians are largely invisible in our culture (except for Ellen DeGeneres). I’ve actually been thrilled to see Babble add a gay voice for just that reason.

  4. People say the same things about one of my relatives all of the time. Not gay enough…what does that even mean?? Best of luck on your pregnancy journey!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree this is probably worse for people who are gay/lesbian because they are not well understood, but some degree of stereotyping exists out there for everyone. People assume, for example, that because I identify with a more ‘AP’ way of parenting that I must be a liberal and non-religious…which isn’t true. People like to make a lot of assumptions about others, unfortunately. It’s really terrible that they would accuse you of being ‘not enough’ anything just because you don’t fit a stereotype! But I see it happen all the time. :(

  6. Rachael says:

    I get this same reaction. Apparently I don’t look gay. I don’t feel like I have to look a certain way. People just assume things and want to put a label on me. I have since given up on trying to make people see me for me and not some stereotype or label. Gay does not define me and my look does not define my ‘gayness’.

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