A familiar sight.
The process of self identifying as gay is hard enough but to many this is not where the identifying stops. You only have to walk into a gay enviroment to immediately realise there's a classification system in place and you're left wondering "where do I fit in?" Do clothes refelect disposition and roles? If you are none of the pre-affixed categories you may be left feeling more isolated then you were in the closet.
The main categories of lesbians (particularly in the black community) are stud and femme. Confidently identifying as one of those assures you're place on the gay spectrum and people are (supposedly) able to work out who you are based on these roles. But, it doesn't quite work out that way. I've overheard much talk in the club about whether someone is a "real" stud because they had the audacity to wine on the dancefloor. But men wine. Real men. Look i've even got documented proof (via YouTube) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3oIKvrIEHM&ob=av3e. If he can wine, why can't studs? I've overheard similar talk about femmes. "She talks too dirty/is too muscular to be a REAL femme". So it seems saying swear words and caring about your physique is contradictory to the feminine ideal. In worst case scenario's questioning peoples identity can lead to violence all because of these boxes we place ourselves in. A prison cell is box shaped and we are imprisoning ourselves in the metaphorical sense. By classifying ourselves in this way, are we inhibiting the development of our true characters? And why, after declaring to the world (and ourselves) that we're gay and proud then decide to slot into these hetro normative ideals?
There are of course many other sub categories like "stem" (inbetween stud and femme) or "skater chick" (skates' wears heavy eyeliner.) But no label I've ever heard has any suggestion of character. I hear people complaining all day long about the lack of substance in our community but if labels didn't stop us crossing party lines we may discover that there's more substance then we can handle. We live in a world where we are primarily judged on our appearence. An inconvenient truth. Although in the gay community we look at someone and decide if they could potentially be our life partner based on whether they wear a tracksuit or a skirt.
Being different is one of the lonliest feelings one can experience because when you are different there is no-one to understand how/why you're different because no-one is different in the same way you are. It's understandable we use the hetrosexual world as our template because it's images are comfortable, familiar and what we've been flooded with our entire lives. But I've been an "out" lesbian for 11 years and the classification system has only served to be divisive. If we are not our hair then we're not our clothes either and judging people on fashion or whether they wear make up or not seems to be at the heart of the "lack of substance" so many of us bemoan. Everyone I speak to declares they're an indivivual yet when I ask them for a label most readily supply one. This is a shame in a world where we individually we have so much to offer. I want to live in a big gay world without barriers where I won't have to tolerate the side eye simply because I refuse to subscribe to the idea that clothes say who I am. I am unique. So is eveyone else. Let's not sacrifice one of the few things that unite us all. Try and let go of the labels and just be you. We may not be able to un ring a bell but maybe just maybe we can forget the sound. Let's not hide our individuality with camoflage. We are doing ourselves no favours.
Sirena Reynolds, Editor