She looks like a lesbian - can I say that?

I was talking to my wife about collecting our kid from day care. She asked who was on duty, and - not knowing their names - I said - “Oh - the one that looks like a lesbian”. She said “Yes - I know who you mean. Oops - can we actually say that?”.

This was a private conversation between consenting adults - so no harm done, but is it acceptable in this day and age to say that someone “looks” gay? I know that this assumes a stereotypical look, but is it offensive? Any different to say that someone “looks” rich, say?

Just don’t say “the one that smells like a lesbian”.

Well, it’s stereotyping and I suspect not in a positive way. ‘Looks like a lesbian’ tends to steer towards some quite negative images of lesbians as ‘frumpy dykes’ - for the record, most lesbians don’t actually ‘look like lesbians’, you just don’t notice them.

But private conversations between husband and wife are just that. Just don’t say the same comments in the office.

Agree with the above. You and your wife know each other, and know what you mean when you use a phrase like between the two of you in your own home.

I wouldn’t say it to someone I didn’t know, or somewhere I could be overheard.

What if you changed it is, “the one who looks like the sterotypical image of a lesbian, acknowledging that not every person with that look is a lesbian, and not every lesbian looks like that”?

I think it’s perfectly okay to take shortcuts with language, because mutual comprehension is the only real objective. Besides, that lady knows how she dresses, and presumably she’s not trying hide in a closet. Would she really be offended?

On your assumption that she is, in fact, a lesbian? Or that she just ‘knows’ her personal dress sense marks her as such?

There are some descriptions which are more loaded than others. Describing someone as the ‘rich looking guy’ isn’t very loaded - expensive dress, expensive hair, fair assumption, and who doesn’t want to be rich? ‘Lesbian’ on the other hand has LONG been thrown about as a term of abuse, both towards actual lesbians and towards women who are just a bit too ‘unfeminine’, too ‘unattractive’, too opinionated, too challenging to men. I still can’t help but wince at the word myself, even though I am ‘actually’ a lesbian.

OP, how about you imagine whether you would say it to a work colleague? How does that sound? Ok or not ok? There’s your answer.

I don’t disagree with what you’re saying but, we’re talking about a husband and wife having a private conversation. Each person KNOWS that the other isn’t a hateful bigot. Basically, there’s a level of trust here that you don’t have when speaking with colleagues.

At worst, the OP is guilty of “lazy” articulation. His intent was obviously not hateful (and I know you’re not accusing him of being such). And I think that is what’s most important.

There’s a yardstick that’s just begging for trouble…

Do tell: What does a stereotypical lesbian look like?

I once asked an anti-abortion picketer what should a lesbian do if she gets pregnant by rape? His reply was (and I quote) “Most lesbians are too uguly to get raped.”

I cannot begin to tell you what’s wrong with that statement.

I think the comment being responded to here was from the post above, not by the OP.

The first three examples that came to my mind:

Sabrina Matthews

KD Lang

Elvira Kurt

Oops! Need to start reading for comprehension I guess. :slight_smile:

I knew someone for many years that looked like the first two pictures. She’s since moved away, no one has seen or heard from her in years. Let’s call her Marcia. In close company, I/we tend to say “she reminds me of Marcia” to convey what the OP is asking about.

In private conversation I would be fine with it as long as I was sure me and the other person were on the same page in terms of what we meant and all. My wife would understand what I was describing (which to me is more the perfectly-made-up-fashion-model than the rolled-up-flannel-sleeved image most people have) but most people wouldn’t and it would just confuse the conversation.

You were talking to someone who knows you and you identified someone quickly and accurately. No harm, no foul IMO.

I have two very good friends named Joe. They are both bald. They are both beer drinkers. They are both retired. The quickest way I can ID which Joe I’m talking about when I talk to my gf is their race. I will say, “I hung out with Joe today”. She’ll ask which Joe and I’ll say, “black Joe” or “white Joe”. It seems vaguely “wrong”, but she immediately knows who I mean.

What did you mean when you said it?

Well, there has always been stereotyping of gay people by people who don’t know any better. Gays are stereotyped as effeminate and “limp-wristed”. I heard one gay guy use the term “swish” to describe that stereotype. Lesbians are stereotyped as looking masculine with short hair, muscles, a gruff personality, etc. I’ve heard the term “butch” to describe that stereotype.

What’s “wrong” about them is that they show ignorance and lack of understanding, and they are dehumanizing to boot.

And I totally agree with you - there’s many a conversation I might have with my wife which I wouldn’t air in public, or words we use which are totally inappropriate, safe in the knowledge that we aren’t actually bigots.

I think they’re wrong if they are applied as absolutes. The three women I provided as examples of what a “stereotypical lesbian” looks like are, in fact, lesbians. I suspect most women who bear a similar appearance are lesbians too, but it’s important to also acknowledge that this is not universally so: there are women who match that stereotypical appearance who are not lesbians, and there are lesbians whose appearance does not match that stereotype (is “lipstick lesbian” considered offensive/pejorative?).

I suggest that kind of stereotyping is generally not a great idea. Lesbians don’t fit neatly into two extreme boxes.