Monthly Archives: February 2009

Butch, Not Gay

When I was a kid, the apartment two floors above us was occupied by two ladies. They were both teachers. One of them was tall and stern-looking. The other one was short, roly-poly and generally jovial as you would expect someone of such a build to be. Both of them had short, cropped hair and they were always seen together.

I’d usually see them returning in the evening, with handbags and ubiquitous black bags, synonymous with Goan Catholics, presumably loaded either with students’ papers or with vegetables and meat for that night’s meal. I was a little scared of them, as I was of all teachers, even those who didn’t teach me or even at my school.

Many years later an older neighbor-friend whispered to me in wise big-sister hushed tones,

They’re lesbians.

I haven’t seen them in years but I thought of them recently, when I started writing for Gaysi. I was about to say that I’d never known any lesbians closely but it occurred to me that perhaps I had. Or had I?

They didn’t look like lesbians, which leads me to question,

What do lesbians look like?

A friend opined that they’re generally tomboyish-looking and don’t care too much about dressing in a ladylike manner. I retorted,

That described me in my teens too and I’ve never been a lesbian!

You know what I mean, she said and rolled her eyes.

Not really, I wanted to say. Did she mean they were all butch?

I ended up having a long debate with a lesbian friend over the meaning of the word BUTCH – an argument that unfortunately was never resolved.

The dictionary tells me that




a. (of a girl or woman) having traits of personality, dress, behavior, or appearance usually associated with males.
b. (of a male) decidedly or exaggeratedly masculine in manner or appearance.  
c. A haircut in which the hair is cropped close to the head.                                

The teacher couple did have short hair but they dressed in uniformly bland, printed blouses and skirts in sombre hues. Very teacher-like. I don’t know about butch, much less lesbian.

Of the two other bonafide lesbians I know, one certainly fits the description, being completely characterised by her ‘Don’t take panga with me’ style of dressing. Not even on the same planet at girly. The other one is…well, tricky. She’s one of those ‘smart-dressing’ types. Which is to say that she never looks like she spends too much time on her appearance but looks good and tastefullly dressed anyway. I’m not sure that’s any more butch than my teacher-neighbors.

I’ve heard a few ridiculous things like ‘if you wear a single anklet on your left ankle, you’re lesbian’ which sounds suspiciously like someone tried to think up a female alternative to the ‘earring in one ear – surefire gay’ which is even more ridiculous.

Incidently I’ve worn a single anklet on whichever ankle I’ve felt like, for years. And sported every possible length of hair, with my current style alternating between casual mop and cropped chic. My wardrobe contains oversized sweaters, men’s  dungarees and superbig shirts. Also skirts, leggings, frilly blouses, tank tops and other female paraphrenalia. And as an icing to the butch-cake, remember those ads for Ray-Bans years ago? 

They said only men could be pilots. They said Aviators were for men.

Hah! I love the big, circle-turned-triangular dark shades and who cares if anyone thinks they’re masculine or not?

Hence I conclude that being butch has nothing to do with sexual preferences. A short haircut is just that – a statement of style, a yen for convenience perhaps but not necessarily an indication of homosexuality.

And I come back to the fundamental question of whether it is possible to figure out a woman’s sexual orientation just by looking at her. I’ve written about Gaydar but I find that only applicable to men. What do you think?

Why Committment Starts To Look Attractive

Ever since I’ve put up this slightly controversial (and I’ll admit biased and brash) post…actually even before that, I’ve been hit with the question of why I do want committment at all then if it’s such a terrible thing. My reasons may not be all deeply soulful or romantic or even honorable. As I see it, committment (read marriage) is a solution to a number of niggling, nuisance-ey problems.

Sure I enjoy the liberatedness of being liberated, the freedom to decide my own social life, the no-responsibilities carefree lifestyle that my committed friends seem to envy me for. I have written about the virtues of being single.

But there are plenty of things that I don’t like about being single. Being single means a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people (many of whom in my esteemed two-bit opinion shouldn’t poke their nose into my life at all). Here are some reasons I would like to be in a committed relationship.

  • Wives of guy friends do not view you with immediate suspicion assuming that you’re just scheming to steal their man away, never mind that fact that you’ve probably had a chance to do that if you wished much before they even set foot in the man’s life.
  • You are not required to be a last-minute escort (if you’re female) or chauffeur (if you’re male) for out-of-town single friends of friends/family.
  • You don’t get mysteriously dropped out of movie/dinner plans with friends who are all now part of twosomes each.
  • Other women (even your friends) don’t make direct or indirect references to your supposedly exciting, fast-moving sex/dating life.
  • Eyebrows don’t shoot up when you pick up a baby or coo to a child. Who says single women can’t be maternal?
  • You are not automatically put into one of two buckets – repulsive/sick/defective or flightly/fast/sluttish .
  • You aren’t the target of unwanted and embarassing attention from married men of the neighbors/schoolmates/husbands of colleagues/ex-boyfriends variety.
  • You are allowed to have problems too and no one shuts you up with “What do you know? You don’t have to run a household/adjust to a man/kids to look after.”
  • You don’t have to leave parties and social engagements early so as to avoid imposing on friends to drop you home.
  • Your family is willing to let you live your own life.
  • Your personal life and social calendar doesn’t become everyone’s personal property for value judgement – relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbors, co-passangers.

Obviously these are not ALL the reasons to get into a relationship. If anything these are the ‘fringe benefits’ of a relationship that have started to become so important that I’m inclined to think a good number of women would want to commit just so they can enjoy all of these. I’m really tired of having to fight a battle each time I want to do something, simply because I’m single. The same thing seems to move so much faster for women who have an ‘attached’ tag on. Granted social engagements and lifestyle options aren’t the most important things in the world. But that’s precisely why it seems like such a waste to have to go to so much effort for something so minor – or go without.

A relationship has its uses and I’m unabashed in saying that I intend to enjoy all of them fully when I get into one.

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