We've all read the essays, heard the complaints, listened to the stories and nodded knowingly at the lamentations of the "invisible lesbian". The invisible lesbian is a femme. She is called "Ma'am", and "Mrs." by strangers. She is ignored, or even distained by "real dykes". She is hit on by straight men. She looks like a straight girl and longs to be seen for who she is... not just a feminine woman, as many are, but a Femme.
I am such a Femme, but I will not complain of being invisible. I will offer another perspective entirely. I am, you see, a spy.
On most days, I move among you unnoticed. I am, predominantly, unremarkable. I am a 30 something overweight woman with fading blonde hair and much on my mind. On a daily basis, I can be found in jeans and a t-shirt, perhaps a sweatshirt. If I'm going somewhere other than the grocery store or therapy, I might wear a bit of makeup, but not so much that you'd notice me. The only thing remarkable about me is my hands, with long dark red fingernails and rings on nearly every finger. And yet, you probably wouldn't notice.
Sometimes you might see me in a pair of slacks and heels, wearing makeup and with my hair pulled back. I look like someone's secretary, headed to a meeting, or someone's mother, headed to the PTA.
You assume I am a mother, and you are right. You assume I am married, and you are right. You assume I will go home this evening and make dinner for my husband, and I do not contradict you.
Because you think you know me, you tell me things. You feel comfortable with me. You trust me, because I do not challenge your thinking; your stereotypes.
But, as I said, I am a spy.
I am a dyke, not so unlike the one you accused of being a man in the ladies' room last Wednesday morning. Certainly, I don't look like her. That's the rub now, isn't it? You can't pick me out of a crowd when I'm all by myself, or with only my children. You wouldn't bother.
But one day you will see me in another context. Perhaps I'll be at the grocery with my partner, a butch dyke you couldn't mistake. Or perhaps you'll see me on my way out for the evening, in full femme drag, or leather, hair and makeup done just so, with a certain kick to my step.
And suddenly you will know, I am not like you. I am an infiltrator, a terrorist - targetting your stereotypes and your assumptions without ever having to say a word. I am a sneaky bitch who will let you believe what you want to believe right up until I decide to change your mind. You see, I have all the control here. I hold all the cards. By the time you realize what has happened, you are so flummoxed, so utterly confused and dismayed, you don't dare challenge me. In fact, as I step through the door of Starbucks, with two coffees in my hand, wearing my four inch heels and my leather drag, I will look you straight in the eye and smile, as you hold the door for me.
And as I walk away, the high heels accentuating the sway of my hips and the shape of my beautifully rounded ass that you've never noticed before, you'll berate yourself inside. Maybe you'll recall some thing you said, insensitive and reckless, and you'll cringe at having been so stupid. Maybe you'll be angry at me for not having made myself known, or angry at yourself for not having noticed the "signs". Maybe you won't recognize me at all, but will notice something oddly familiar about that beautiful woman walking away. Maybe you'll recognize me right away, and kick yourself, for not having gotten my number.
At any rate, whether your one of those straight guys convinced that I'm nothing special, or one of them who thought I'd be easy prey, or a dyke who figured I was just a straight girl, a bit wide in the beam and not worth the time, or the little old lady who kicked my girlfriend out of the ladies room, or one of the mothers from my daughters class who assumed I was just like you, at any rate, you've been had.