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Monday, May 21, 2012

Lesbian chic

Two days ago it was announced that NY City Council speaker Christine Quinn married her longtime partner, Kim Catullo.

As I've stated elsewhere in the blog, I'm for gay marriage. And I certainly don't impute morality to anyone's sexuality.

But legal equality does not imply identical genetics, and human biodiversity is always fascinating -- particularly because it is such a taboo subject.

The picture above, which ran in the NY Post, sparked the thought: what is it exactly that makes it so obvious that these women are lesbians? Ignore for the moment the things they chose: their embrace, the mannish jackets, those Prince Valiant haircuts favored by the lesbian community, and the lack of makeup. They still have physical characteristics which would set my gaydar clanging at full volume.

I've seen this look among lesbians plenty of times before, and there are certain common elements. (I think of it as the Janet Napolitano - Donna Shalala - Billie Jean King -  Rosie O'Donnell look.)

(Janet Napolitano)

(Donna Shalala)

(Billie Jean King)

(Rosie O'Donnell)

There's a certain chubby tomboyishness they all seem to share. They tend to have squat, powerful-looking bodies (by female standards). You rarely see a thin lesbian.

Most have full cheeks, not in a soft way, but partly because they tend to have stronger-looking jaws. A fair number of them have relatively thin lips, and larger chins. It all adds up to a generally more aggressive cast to their features.

Many lesbians speak in a hollow-sounding, low alto.

These things aren't true of all lesbians, of course: the phrase "lipstick lesbian" exists for a reason. But there is a certain look typified by the women pictured above which is unmistakable. And these somewhat masculine physical manifestations seem to be true for at least half of them, proving that hormones are destiny.

I emphasize that I am drawing absolutely no moral conclusions from these observations, nor am I being disapproving in any way. (I'll admit it's not a look which attracts me; but I would certainly not attract them either, a fact I do not begrudge them.) I'm merely trying to analyze exactly what it is that sets off my gaydar.


Brian Fradet said...


I'm sure you're predominately correct about the general appearance of the average lesbian. That said, I have seen many, many exceptions to this generalization, Lucy Liu for one (the TV actress--what a disappointment), Jody Foster, etc. Very good observation! Brian

John Craig said...

Brian --
Thanks, yes, there are definitely lipstick lesbians. Jody Foster is good-looking, but she definitely has that lesbian voice thing going. And Lucy Liu isn't all that much of a surprise. But I was surprised by that girl who was in Terminator !!!. And it took me a while to figure out that Katharine Hepburn was too, though in retrospect that should have been obvious. Greta Garbo was supposedly bisexual. And that woman in Top Gun and Witness, Kelly McGillis, turned out to be too. Oh well. But I'd still say that the lipstick lesbians are the minority, and that the majority are more like the ladies I mentioned in the post.

Brian said...

Reading list for human biodiversity:

John Craig said...

Brian --
That's a great list.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a woman, I can always tell the masculine partner with my gaydar, but not the female one.
I bet it's the same for you. Besides, the former never like me for some reason. I think they see me as a threat, even though I have no interest in their partners.

As for gay men, I'll be so unPC as to say in general my belief is they don't like women: they're competitive with and jealous of them. As for bisexuals: forget it! Ask a supposed bisexual, as I have, how he feels the female genitilia, oral sex, and if he's honest, as my friend was, he ll say

Anonymous said...

The women that you mentioned do set off my gaydar, having a "look" and a "feel" about them. Once I was having a conversation with a woman, her gay sister, and the gay sister's "male" partner (although she wasn't saying much). At some point in the conversation, the partner seemed to become uncomfortable and went and sat next to her girlfriend. It was my impression that this woman felt threatened by me although I couldn't figure out
why because I literally was never a threat. I was just conversing with the three women - her reaction surprised me.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
It's almost as if they all aspire to the same look….YOu should be flattered by that reaction, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

The woman and her gay sister were attractive, friendly women. I wouldn't have known the sister was gay except for seeing her with her partner at various events. The gay sister was a Special Ed. teacher and her "male" partner was a P.E. teacher. Anyway. I found the experience a surprising one.