I don’t mean this in an offensive way, and I am gay myself, but it is something I have always wondered and still wonder.
I have known many girls who dressed stereotypically “feminine” with long hair, makeup, and looked “hot” by societal standards, who after they admitted to being a lesbian, chopped all their hair off, started wearing less makeup and dressing in a more androgynous fashion. Likewise, I have known guys who looked more stereotypically “masculine” and then came out as gay, and now they dress like hipsters or another more “alternative” style and look more stereotypically gay.
I have looked the same, before and after I came out. I never had a desire to look more like a woman when I came out, and frankly I would think most LGBT men and women would be attracted to someone who looks the epitome of their gender. Why do so many people change their style once they come out, in a more androgynous way?
Is it because they think that to be gay you have to look “different”? Is it to rebel against societal norms and essentially giving the middle finger to the patriarchy? Or is it that they didn’t like looking stereotypical for their sex before and finally are being who they always wanted?
One is psychological. Maybe when someone is unsure of how they fit in, they work really hard to maintain appearances of normalcy and conventionality. The insecurity and angst that someone feels by being in the closet makes them very self-conscious and conscientious about “shoulds”. Maybe on a subconscious level, they think if they fake it, they’ll “make” it. Then when they are more honest with themselves and the world, they lighten up a little and drop the act.
The other is cultural. People dress the way the people around them do. If your straight girlfriends all dressed like straight girls, then you will too. Then, when you come out and acquire a whole bunch of gay friends, you start dressing like them.
I don’t even know if this phenomena that you describe is real. But assuming it is, those are my guesses.
I think a large part is to signal that you’re gay so other gay people know you’re a possible romantic partner. Only a couple percentage of the population is gay, so if your looking for love, just blindly approaching people you feel are attractive is going to be only 5% as effective as it is for straight people (and even with straight people, its pretty hit and miss).
But wear a tight T-shirt and talk in a soft voice, and you can signal what gender your interested in without having to figure out a way to work it into every conversation.
I don’t think I know anyone who radically changed their style after coming out. Do you really know many people who suddenly changed their style when they came out, or are you perhaps making a generalization based on a small sample of people or making assumptions about the reasons for the change in their appearance? A friend of mine in college (who’d been out as a lesbian for a couple of years at this point) shaved her head and a lot of people assumed she was trying to look more butch, but she actually did it out of solidarity with a relative who was undergoing chemotherapy.
Beyond that, a lot of people make some change in their appearance when they experience a change in their personal life. It’s kind of a cliche that women change their hairstyle after a major breakup, and that college students get tattoos or piercings once they’re away from home for the first time.
I actually wanted to ask a very similar question to this, but wasn’t sure it was worth a whole thread. I also wasn’t sure how exactly to ask it. So, if you don’t might the slight hijack, the apples fell, I’ll add my own experience, and maybe ask a question or two.
There’s a woman I went to school with who was, at two different points, in a relationship with two of my male friends. She was never terribly worried about her looks, but she had long hair etc.; she looked “normal” but not vain.
Recently I noticed on Facebook that she has short hair and generally looks like someone you’d probably guess is a lesbian. She’s also posting quite regularly about various LGBT issues, feminism, gay bars, etc.
She doesn’t strike me as someone that would feel the need to be closeted. She has always been fairly individual, there was (almost) no bullying at our school and her parents seem quite open-minded about such things. I don’t know how I could really ask her about this without offending, or at least seeming too nosy. But I wondered if it’s common to only realize you’re gay in your twenties (if that’s what happened), and if such a late realization is more likely to lead to sudden changes in style and interests.
No, not just the hair, exactly. But it seems to have coincided with a lot of posts on gay and feminist issues. In fact almost exclusively. I don’t feel I know her well enough to pry and get more details, but I’m still quite curious, so even if I’m reading too much into it, the general questions are still interesting.
I think a more basic question is why do we identify “makes an effort to look good” with femininity and “jumps into whichever clothing’s clean” with masculinity. I kept being asked whether I was a lesbian way before chopping my hair off due to a taste for black T-shirts and jeans; I’ve had people see me in a skirt for the first time and exclaim “oh, I though you were a lesbian!” (uhhh… you’ve met my boyfriend! He’s 6’ tall and built like a brick cupboard!).
So long as that identification exists, people who are trying to convince themselves they are not who they are, and who are trying to fit a gender stereotype will include how they look into the “fitting” - because the look is a part of the stereotype.
I had a friend that this happened to. It was kind of amazing the transformation she went through - suddenly her ENTIRE identity revolved around her being a lesbian. She gave up buddhism overnight, she started drinking, she chopped off her hair, she bought a bunch of leather jackets, and the only events she would go to were gay pride events. She would not pick up her instrument if it wasn’t for a gay pride concert. She couldn’t make a cake without it being rainbow with sprinkles. Her entire room became one giant pride flag.
Frankly I couldn’t figure it out. She did have an overbearing mother and she did have a codependency thing going on, but I can’t believe that her entire life and belief systems up until then were a lie.
She came out when she started her relationship, so it’s not like she was advertising to find others who would be mutually attracted to her.
We rather stopped being friends at that point as she no longer seemed to be the same person at all and our interests were not the same. All I can think of is that her self-identity was so nebulous up until that point that she latched on the one “true” thing she felt about herself 110% and became the strongest butch stereotype you could imagine.
Two reasons: dressing gay means it’s more likely people you are sexually receptive to will hit on you and once you’ve broken a societal norm like heteronormativity, much more plebeian norms like dress or hair are no big deal. I’m not gonna say that gays can see that there is no spoon, but gays can see that there is no spoon.
We are? I don’t think I’m “programmed” to want to be more like a woman, whatever that means. I dress like a man, and so does my partner, and the vast majority of gay guys I know.
I think what you’re referring to may be the case with young people who come out, and who are dealing with peer pressure. It’s like they’re announcing to the world that they are now identified with different peers. Very few adults do that.
Coming out is a huge deal for most people, and it often takes years of stress and worry to get to that point of accepting it and declaring it to the world.
The relief and joy many people feel sometimes means being, temporarily, totally obsessed by their sexuality. For a short time it’s all that matters to them. So all their friends are gay, all the events they attend are gay and how they behave and dress confirms to their own stereotypical ideas about what it means to be gay.
In Lesbian World, these newly outters are called Baby Dykes. They mostly grow out of it.
It’s also tribal - we, all of us, conform in dress to some extent with the tribe we inhabit.
Now, there is a separate debate to be had about lesbian and gay stereotypes and dress, which is more about not having to confirm to society’s expectations of what it means to be a ‘man’ or ‘woman’, and people frequently, and mistakenly IMHO, conflating ‘Lesbian with short hair’ with ‘wanting to look like a man’ but maybe that’s a well worn topic we can all do a search on.
Oh and I’m sure I don’t have to point out that for every flaming queen and butch duke you see walking down the street, there’s a gang of gays and lesbians behind them that you don’t even notice because they conform to your own ideas of ‘straight’.
I’ve actually only seen this with lesbians. I always thought it was just part of them coming out, to let everyone know at a glance. (With metrosexuality, that doesn’t work for gay men.) They’re out, they’re proud, and they want you to know about it.
And it’s not about “not giving a crap about your appearance.” It’s primarily the hairstyle, possibly combined with flannel-like patterns. Somehow, this is enough to make them almost look like a guy–even though the hairstyle and clothing is not something I ever see on guys.
But why would they think that dressing like a guy validates them coming out and their sense of being a lesbian? Why do they think that being gay means they have to challenge what society thinks a man and a woman are? For transgenders I can see that as valid, not for gays and lesbians where it makes no sense.
I often figure that it’s reasons like this that we are often judged so harshly by society. We make ourselves at times more intentionally ‘fringe’ than we should.
Hmm…I guess it depends on the person and the fashion of the day.
In my youth, every dude had to have a moustache and tight jeans and some kind of work boots…sort of Village People chic.
My guess is that after one comes out, you dress like the people you find most attractive - or at least the people you want to associated with.
If you are a guy and are hot for the hipsters - well, no shocker that you are going to dress like they do, hoping to meet someone like-minded.
Plus - now that you are “out” - you don’t give a shit what your straight friends think of your attire and are now aiming for that niche market that will find you hot and attractive.
If you live in West Hollywood - where the competition is fierce - you might also be suddenly going to the gym twice a day, in addition to planning outfits to fit into the nighttime lifestyle group you are attracted to.
I think you’re reading it the other way 'round, that there’s a mixture of “ok, after years of trying to fit into what society thinks a [wo]man has to look like, I can finally wear whatever the fuck I want,” and “I have spent all my life fitting into the stereotype I identified with. I have now changed my stereotype of identification, therefore I must behave in the way expected for the new stereotype”.
They’re not trying to challenge anybody - they’re either Not Giving A Fuck What Anybody Thinks Anymore, or Trying To Fit In(to a different group than before coming out).