I wish I could say this was the only time that my identity has been called into question on the basis of my choice of dress. But in fact, this happens to me more often than not. From men in muscle tees who feel that it is their godly duty to ask me out while I'm on a date with a woman to the patrons who are genuinely confused by my presence at a lesbian bar, it's hard to navigate a world where feminine defaults you as straight. More insidiously, feminine women tend to be mistrusted, as if our flowing skirts and flushed cheeks signal our submission to the patriarchal world.
My outward appearance makes my sexuality a hot-yet-fleeting phase to men or a cause of concern to masculine-presenting women who date women. After a particularly uncomfortable train ride that involved a man staring at my chest and gawking at a date, I told a friend that I felt as if my personal space was continuously violated. Worst of all, I didn't quite know what to do about it.
Queer feminine women tend to stand on the outskirts of our own community. I realize that because I have passing privilege, I won't get beaten in the street. I will always be the pretty "straight" girl who can expect to secure jobs and get doors held for her. While I am invisible to fellow LGBT people when I walk down the street, I am alienated, met with suspicious glances, or seen as a joke when I attempt to live openly.
I am the woman who still gets told I'll "figure it out" one day. I am the woman who's still asked if it's my first time at a lesbian bar (for the record, I've been "out" for nearly five years). But I’m not confused. I’m confused that you’re confused.
I believe that change starts at home. To create true spaces of inclusion, the LGBT community must recognize and celebrate the diversity of its members —and that includes presentation. It's time we stop questioning queer feminine women and start treating them as full members of this vibrant community.
Before you approach a woman rocking a dress and heels at your local lesbian bar, step back and think, "Would I ask a masculine presenting woman that?" If you wouldn't, a hello is always a safe bet.
Diana Denza is a 25-year-old New Yorker and proud Endangered Bodies NYC member. She loves a good cup of coffee, swingy skirts and dresses, and exploring new places.