How Do You Show You’re Gay When You’re Really Girly?

The other night, my girlfriend and I were chatting about how we let people know we’re queer. Our tactics? We insert “my girlfriend” into conversations and make it clear we don’t just mean our “girl-space-friend.” We say “this girl I dated” instead of “someone I once dated.” We basically drop clues like bread crumbs that lead to our queer identity. Because sometimes you just want to be known.

See, we are both pretty darn femme. Our collective closet consists of dresses and florals and heels and lots o’ girly-coded stuff. Due to our femmeness, we pass as straight, which is a double-edge sword. Living in a homophobic world, we often don’t receive the brunt of random acts of hate. And, yes, that is a twisted positive because the same can’t be said for our butch sisters who we both love dearly. But being femme also means we fly under the gaydar, which means we are often not recognized as a member of the queer community. And belonging to that community is very, very important to both of us.


Our femme identities mask our queerness to the outside world. And that’s not really fun. Especially when it comes to queer lady dating. Here’s the problem, as one Gurl reader spells out perfectly:

“I know I’m a lesbian, but I’m not what people expect a lesbian to look like. When I meet other LGB girls, they always assume I’m straight. I feel like I’ll never find a girlfriend because of my girly ways. Do I have to dress more butch to let people know I’m gay? Is there a code I can use? Anything?! Please help!”

I totally get you. Femme invisibility is really real and it really sucks! When you don’t conform to people’s ideas of what “queer” looks like, you get put in the straight box. Girls don’t hit on you. You have to insert awkward queer clues into conversation to be known. You strap a rainbow pin on your backpack hoping the cute girl from 4th period will actually notice. Don’t think you’re alone! We all do it!

Sadly, there’s no fool-proof way of letting everyone know you are queer. Except if you walk around with a big sign all the time or something….


But some straight boy will probably still claim he can “change” you or whatever. Ew.

Sure, you can drop some clues like bread crumbs. I think every queer person does it occasionally. Trust me, it will make you feel better to get your queer identity out there, even if you insert it into conversation yourself.

But, as far as the dating world, the best thing to do it to just say you’re gay! Are you feeling that butch cutie (or another femme girl who you can’t quite figure out)? Tell them you like them! Sure, this goes against everything girls are supposed to do in the dating game. We are supposed to be coy and passive and blah, blah, blah. But being an assertive femme is sexy! And it guarantees you a shot at the cutie you are after.


My last tip is important, so listen up. Never change your presentation for anyone other than yourself! Sure, some days I rock a fitted and butch it up for fun. But it’s because I want to. Most days, I’m the femmest of the femme. I spend 30-minutes on my makeup daily. I am obsessed with feminine clothes. I would rock heels and wedges daily if I wasn’t walking around a concrete metropolis 24/7 (HAAYYY, NYC).

Point is, I’m femme because being femme makes me happy. And that’s the reason all femme people should be femme, in spite of the whole invisibility problem.

And on days I’m feelin’ down about being femme and relatively invisible, I listen to this beautiful poem by Ivan Coyote. And then I laugh. And cry. And smile. And then I feel better. I hope you will, too!

Good Luck!

Got an LGBTQ question you want Katie to answer? Email her at with your queer conundrums so she can work her advice-giving magic!


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