Lesbian jewelry and etiquette

I was at work and ran into a friend of mine there, a woman originally from Barbados. She’s a very nice person and good at her job, and I think highly of her. We’ve always had a pleasant, friendly relationship. (Sometimes she offers me “a spot of tea”!)
However, on THIS occasion I saw dangling under her chin a labrys necklace. My reaction kind of surprised me: I was so taken aback I stopped and stared. It was so out of any context that I was expecting, I was literally at a loss for words. (It was my understanding this woman was married to a man; I believe she said as much. She certainly had been divorced from a man in the past.)
We weren’t having a very deep conversation and she said something about it being a “Cretan ax” before we parted company. (Note: She was wearing a loose turtleneck, so there was no chance that my staring could be interpreted in any other way as at her necklace.) So now several things/possibilities are running through my head:
1 - I’m worried about my own weird reaction. Other than being very tired and surprised, I don’t have any real explanation for it. Should I just shrug and go on with my life? The issue is not her orientation, it’s whether or not I acted weird and made her uncomfortable. Is there any way to address THAT without mentioning the cause of my own behavior and getting into that issue? Should I even bother at all?
2 - Her being a foreigner (technically) maybe it really IS just a “Cretan ax” to her, and not a symbol that she is a lesbian. In that case, should I clue her in on how it might be interpreted, i.e., that she’s sending out a signal that she isn’t aware of?
3 - She IS a lesbian, but some how has been in the closet all the years I’ve known her (this is a rural region; its highly unlikely many people around here attach any meaning to a labrys at all.) While we are on good terms, she has very British manners, and rarely talks much about herself.
4 - She is a lesbian and isn’t in the closet, doesn’t feel like talking about it (hence her saying it was a “Cretan ax”), even though she is publicly wearing a lesbian symbol around. That seems a bit strange. But if she didn’t want to mention it, should I just assume that tells me where she stands on discussing it, and forget the whole things?

I hope someone has some ideas here!

I had no idea about the double sided ax being a “lesbian symbol”. I also don’t think it is any of your business unless you also happen to be a lesbian.

Many years ago, when I was around 10 or 12, my grandmother gave me a t-shirt withthis on it. She thought it was Pablo Picasso.

Your own cite shows two distinct meanings.

Moreover, she directly told you, Cretin Ax.

Where is your confusion stemming from exactly? It seems simple and clear.

Unless you are interested in dating her whatever you think she is signalling with her jewelry is totally irrelevant.

Move along… nothing to see here. “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.

At first I thought this was an unfortunate misspelling, but then I started to think maybe that’s actually what the co-worker meant…

Let it drop. It is wisest not to bring up things like this unless invited to discuss them by the other party. Particularly at work.


All this time my female dwarven clerics of the god of war (with two-handed, two-headed ax damnit!) were lesbians and I never knew it. In fact, the LARP weapon I made with my very own hands and which now hangs on my wall is a labrys, and considering who I was with at the time I suspect there would have been mentions (bunch of Scotts with more, uh, interpersonal connections than a family tree of European royals).

First news of any relationships between labrys and lesbianism. FTR, I’m definitely not American. Or from wherever lizards hail from.

I wouldn’t even bother with the shrug before getting on with my life. What business is it of yours?

applauds dies of laughter

So Gimli’s a lesbian then?

I’m still worried sometimes that I want a Subaru. I thought I knew myself so well.

Totally. Those rumors about Tolkien’s female dwarves being beardless? Those aren’t females, they’re drag dwarves.

Lizard, you’re assuming that everybody (not even just in your own country but everywhere on Earth) will know the meaning of something which was specifically chosen as a secret signal. That’s a bit of a contradiction in terms. It’s like when my coworker Ene was asked “do you understand?” “well, I understand some things, I do not understand other things, and right now I have a strong suspicion that whatever you mean by understand is not what I mean by understand, so if you care to explain maybe I’ll understand? MY understand.” (Turns out that no, she didn’t understand. That is, she’s straight).

I think that the concept of Gimli as a drag dwarf makes the copious Legolas / Gimli erotic fan-fic that’s out there even more awesome. :smiley:

It seems to me that you guys aren’t quite answering his questions. I will attempt to do so. I do think I have some relevant experience, even if I’ve never faced this particular situation.

No, you really shouldn’t bring up the awkwardness again. That only calls attention to it, creating more awkwardness. And, anyways, chances are the awkwardness was a bigger deal to you than to her. This is one of those situations where you pretend nothing happened. Because, really, nothing really did.

If she is a lesbian, then she avoided telling you by deflecting your question. So she clearly doesn’t wantyou to know… So both 3 and 4 are things you don’t need to worry about. By politely asking her what the symbol meant, you cleverly avoided that entirely. Good job.

The question I can’t answer with experience is whether or not you should tell her that it is commonly used as a lesbian symbol. I personally wouldn’t, because it would bring up the awkwardness again, and, if she is a lesbian, it would be even more awkward with her having to pretend not to know. But I do understand the desire to let her know that she might be mistaken for a lesbian if she didn’t know.

That said, I don’t think there’s really much danger there. She could find out from someone else, even if that’s when a lesbian hits on her. It may be awkward, but not that big a deal. So the downside of telling and making things awkward again seems higher than the downside if you don’t tell her.

When in doubt, unless it’s an emergency, it’s okay not to say anything.

Damn, it’s been such a long time since I saw that particular lesbian symbol, like since the '70s, I thought it was no longer in use. Be that as it may, I’ve always felt its origin was the term “battle-ax” and its being a pejorative symbol of a strong, assertive woman.

Anyway… I’m hoping you don’t bring up the subject of your astonishment, and just get on with things. Does her sexual orientation really mean anything to you, one way or the other? If not, let it be.

Thank you. It only took until post #14; this doesn’t help what I already believed: that most people have no clue what “etiquette” means. I guess most others were too busy failing to be funny to actually click on the link in the OP too. The labrys as a symbol is about as obscure as the pink triangle or a rainbow.

In specific places and for people familiar with that specific social group. You assume everybody will know that symbol, I assume everybody will know that other people’s sexual life are none of your business unless you’re a part of it. Why would being told so by someone in a message board have more weight than being taught so in your childhood is the part I really don’t get.

Is that so? Because I’m an actual real live lesbian, and I have never heard of it.

Is it an American thing? I’m British, your friend is Barbadian, maybe this concept just doesn’t travel.

Anyways, why are you in such a flap about the idea in the OP? That’s what i can’t understand.

I live in a city with a very large and visible gay and lesbian community, and I’ve never encountered the symbol. I’ve never seen it online, either.

I loved Tel Aviv.