Lost In Translation: Masculine Lesbians Of Color In Society

"We are tired of only seeing each other thrive at Black lesbian clubs or while shopping in the men’s department at H&M."
08/21/2017 04:10 pm ET Updated Aug 30, 2017
Photographer: Cairo Peele (@likecairoegypt) / Model: Amináh Roberts (@9ne_)

As time passes, members of the LGBTQ community continue to gain support and allies across various spectrums, and Lesbians have benefited greatly from that support. We’ve witnessed the fight to overturn bathroom bills so that we feel comfortable to use our stall or urinal of choice. We see restaurants and bars display signs of equality in their windows, so that we feel safe to grab a beer and our girlfriend’s ass at the same time. We see casting agents and producers exhaust efforts to book the sexiest lesbians (i.e. straight women who look sexy as lesbians) in their commercials, shows, and movies so that the rainbow shines brightly throughout media. However, there is a focal point that is noticeably missing from these images of progression: Masculine Lesbians of Color (MLOC).

I am simply a voice for myself but I know I can proudly speak for other MLOC when I say, we are tired of only seeing each other thrive at Black lesbian clubs or while shopping in the men’s department at H&M. We want the same exposure, reception, and treatment that our white lesbian counterparts receive in public and in the media. It may be shocking to you that we do not, but here is some insight that you may not have considered: when a white masculine lesbian goes into the women’s restroom or is out in public; she may receive stares, but her womanhood is seldom questioned or compromised. However, when I go into the women’s restroom or step out in public, I do not simply receive stares ― I receive “what the fuck?” facial expressions that transform me into someone I am not: a young Black man. It may sound far-fetched to you but this is my reality. If I had to count on my fingers how often I am mistaken for a man or referred to as “sir,” I would need at least a hundred more sets of hands. In essence, MLOC automatically bear the same burden that men of color carry in American society, which means we are never given the chance to be viewed as women.

When I worked in corporate America, the phrase “perception is reality” was used constantly and while I despise it, people do choose to form their opinions from what they see instead of what they know. If people in public perceive me to be a Black man due to my aesthetic, then I am a Black man in their eyes until they are shown differently. When I walk into a retailer to shop, I am followed and watched a little longer. When I walk down the street wearing a hoodie, elderly white couples are quicker to move across the street. I am threatened with the same apprehension, the same hostility, and the same brutality that men of color experience every day. MLOC are left out of the conversations about these issues, despite experiencing them first hand.

Extra measures should be taken by activists, society, and the media to introduce MLOC who celebrate their womanhood in the limelight. Just as there were shows and movies centered around African-Americans and Latinos to show our diverse lifestyles, political views, and cultural experiences, the same should be done for MLOC. Some of you may throw actor and writer, Lena Waithe (Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series, ‘Master of None’) into the mix and while she is phenomenal, she is only one example.

Literally, one.

We need more examples of MLOC in every element of media and society in order uplift lesbians and the LGBTQ community. Our masculine appearance is all too often mistaken for a desire to swap genitalia with men. We need society to value the femininity in our masculinity. Yes, we buy menswear but that does not make us men. We endure the same struggles as any other woman walking the streets of America, and that is independent of the clothing on our backs.

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