Yesterday I drove a dear friend to a medical procedure that required them to be put under general anesthesia. My friend usually gets read as a butch lesbian. I have shoulder-length curly hair that gets styled and colored regularly, I wear makeup and earrings, and yesterday I wore a skirt and feminine top with Mary Jane flats.
I tend to look, as a friend observed, like a retired lady high school English teacher.
This is the sort of outfit I have come to favor on days when I won’t be doing anything that might get my nice clothes dirty. Since I stopped policing my body language and speech, my behavior is pretty darn femme.
We were read, from the moment we walked through the door, as a cisgender lesbian couple. After the procedure, I got called back into the recovery area to talk to my friend’s doctor. They treated me as a wife.
Me getting read as a femme lesbian happens every time the two of us go somewhere together. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’m being seen as who I am, a woman, so it’s all good! Besides, I wouldn’t mind really being a cisgender lesbian.
While these days I almost always get perceived as a cisgender woman, there are situations, such as medical encounters or professional situations like tax preparation or getting a will drawn up where there is often no way to avoid outing myself.
When I have done that, it is always awkward.
Even when the professional doesn’t get seriously nasty (been there, mainly with people who were religious) there is usually a noticeable drop in the warmth of the social interaction. Casual and joking and relaxed turns into formal and serious and stiff. I feel as if formal politeness is being used to keep me at a distance. And any friendly banter about our lives or the weather or traffic or whatever simply dies.
However, when I am read as one of the partners or spouses in a lesbian relationship, I am almost always treated as well as when I am read as a cisgender straight woman.
Granted that the sample size of these encounters is relatively small–and I am certainly aware of the dreadful experiences of cisgender lesbian friends who have been treated shabbily by bigots, something that happens far too often–I suspect that at this point in our society’s evolution, it is somewhat less difficult to live as a femme cisgender lesbian than as a femme trans woman.