Being a Gay Woman – Labels and Stereotyping

In the video above – a recent episode of Reclaim the Agenda, Kellie O’Dowd discusses this year’s Pride celebrations and issues facing LGBT women, with Nuala Devenny, Gráinne Gibson and Martina Marks. Below is a recent blog post from Nuala Devenny.

Striving for equality in a progressive world, Reclaim the Agenda is a collective of women sector representatives, grassroots feminist activists, trade union activists and interested individuals who campaign on 6 key themes;

1. To live free from poverty
2. To live free from discrimination
3. To have healthcare services that meet our particular needs
4. To live our lives free from domestic and sexual violence and abuse
5. To live in a society where women are equally represented as decision maker
6. To have access to good, affordable and flexible childcare provision

Being a Gay Woman – Labels and Stereotyping
Nuala Devenny

People like to define others; label them and fit them into boxes. Some people might like how they are labelled and embrace it while a label may offend others We, as humans, are social animals and like to feel a sense of belonging and community. This can come from families, the community we grew up in, our social circles etc. Labelling yourself and self-defining who you are can help you find groups/communities where you can find a sense of belonging and to be around other people with the same interests and goals etc. as yourself; this, for me, is a positive way to use labels but there are also too many negative labels put onto people.

Being a woman in a patriarchal society is challenging enough. All women are still being treated as though they are inferior to men and are discriminated against because of their gender. Only recently it was highlighted women are being paid less than their male counterparts by the BBC. In sports, women are paid embarrassingly less than their males counterparts for winning many major sporting tournaments and female TV presenters are less likely to be presenting over the age of 50 while men will be presenting well into their 70’ and 80’s.  To add being gay to being a woman means being doubly discriminated against.

Being a gay woman, I have many labels put on me by other people in society by the way I look and the clothes I wear.  If I were a straight woman I wouldn’t have these labels. If I were a straight woman and went out wearing jeans and a t-shirt I would still be me (Nuala the straight woman)and if I went out wearing a dress and make-up I would still be me (Nuala the straight woman); but as a gay woman going out wearing jeans and t-shirt I am labelled ‘butch’. The definition of the word butch in dictionaries are: ‘having an appearance or other qualities of a type traditionally seen as masculine’ and ‘(of a woman) looking or behaving like a man, or (of a man) being very strong with big muscles, and behaving in a traditionally male way’. So because I am a gay woman, wearing jeans and a t-shirt I am less like a woman and more like a man; but a straight woman wearing her jeans and a t-shirt is still very much a woman and won’t have the same label put on her.

How dare people try and make me feel less like a woman because I am a gay. I am a woman. I am proud to me a woman. I love that I am a woman and I love other women. This does not make me less of a woman than women who are attracted to men. Why should people feel the need to judge me and think they have the right to judge me that it is ok to call me butch just because of my chosen hair style or the clothes I prefer to wear? You don’t, so think about it the next time you think you have the right to judge gay women by their appearance and the clothes they are wearing.They are still very much women in every way and shouldn’t be defined or labelled because of the gender of the person they love.

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