Hidden Agenda

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2015-5-31 20:08:02

Lesbians fighting against stereotypes

Increasing the visibility of lesbians is a good way to remove prejudice. Photo: Li Hao/GT

 "I want to know how to identify a lesbian. " Shine said in a post in the popular online community douban.com in August 2014.

Shine's post immediately caught people's attention and generated dozens of answers from other Net users.

If you see a woman dressing like a tomboy, it is 90 percent sure that she is a lesbian, one Net user replied.

Another reply post gave an example that the other day she saw a woman wearing a pink T shirt, straight trousers and skate shoes, which made her feel this woman may be a lesbian based on her masculine clothing and when the woman sat, she said that she can definitely tell that the woman must be a lesbian from her posture.

"Many people tend to view women who dress and behave like men as lesbian. These are stereotypes, which are absolutely not true," said Vanessa (pseudonym), who identifies as a lesbian and is a 36-year-old interior designer.

"People holding these stereotypes are mainly influenced by their heterosexual thinking pattern. They think in a relationship, there must be a man who plays the masculine role, so in their view, in a lesbian relationship there must be a woman who dresses and behaves like a man. But actually every lesbian has her own dress and behavior preferences," said Vanessa .

Like Shine, there is a great interest in how to identify a lesbian among Net users in China. A search on China's largest search engine baidu.com pops up hundreds of results that purport to provide answers to help identify lesbians. Websites like China's version of Quora, zhihu.com, as well as douban.com, all have articles and discussions regarding this topic. Highly circulated criteria for identifying lesbians include having short hair, dressing like a man and stealing glances at attractive women on the street. 

According to Vanessa, these criteria are not trustworthy.

"I like to look at both beautiful women and handsome men on the street. The appreciation of beauty is from people's instinct. Besides, some people said that lesbians are having a bad relationship with men, which is against the truth," Vanessa said.

"I am unhappy with these stereotypes that people have about lesbians," she added.

Gougou (pseudonym), a lesbian and gay rights activist, told that the so-called "gaydar," an ability to detect gay people from their behavior and clothing, is not that accurate because nowadays, dressing gender neutral has become a trend and many women who are not lesbians like to have short hair and loose clothing.

"So it's hard to say that she must be a T (tomboy) even if she wears masculine clothing. And there are more women behaving like nühanzi [manly woman], which makes it harder to tell from behavior," said Gougou.

Tata (pseudonym), a bisexual working in PFLAG China, a Guangzhou-based LGBT organization, told Metropolitan that although she can understand that some people like to create certain criteria to identify a lesbian out of curiosity, their deeds are offensive.

"We don't want to be seen as outcasts. And every individual is different. Lesbians should not be judged by a set of criteria," she said.

According to Tata, compared with gay men in China, lesbians in China are more invisible and their voices are comparatively less heard.

"In the past, when we organized activities, there are more gay men getting involved than lesbians. Now we are planning to organize some events targeted at lesbians to help them cope with their issues and also we would like to come up with some methods to increase lesbians' social visibility," said Tata.

 "I think the best way to remove the prejudice is to increase the visibility. If people know more about lesbians, there will be less misunderstanding," Tata added.

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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