Masculinity and Femininity: when pink panties don’t match your tuxedo

By Thamsanqa Scaps Zulu

People who don’t understand the word ‘Lesbian’ will assume I’m a man trapped in a woman’s body, which is not true. A lesbian is a woman who is emotionally, physically and sexually attracted to other women, it’s all about feelings and it can be a choice. Well I say it doesn’t matter whether you choose to be a lesbian or you were born gay because if we keep on saying you don’t choose to be a lesbian but you were born this way, what are we trying to say?

Are we saying if you have children and you’re lesbian, does that mean you not lesbian enough?

Does it mean you don’t qualify, that you forcing your way to fit in a category that doesn’t suit you at all? Who said being lesbian means you can’t have children and why are we excluding lesbians who have them? And if I am classified as being “butch”, seen as dressing in men’s clothing with a hard-core walk and speaking kasi taal, does that mean I’m trying to be a man?

The truth is I dress in this way for political reasons  in order to break that male/female binary in which you are forced to pick a side or one shall be picked for you. Those of us who fail to comply, we are seen as deviants.

I wear men’s clothing because I am comfortable in these clothes. This does have to do with gender construction and how society has groomed us. From when we are told that the boy child should wear dark colours such as navy, brown and black and the girl child should wear bright colours such as pink, green and yellow. A boy child should be bald and a girl child should braid her hair. If a girl child dresses like a boy or a boy child dresses like a girl, society will automatically assume they are homosexual.

She starts to push back or question me or herself, or worse gossip about this to her friends telling them how ‘I’m a man outside yet wearing women’s undies’.

The boxing of people is not only outside the community but within as well.

Picture this, I attend a gala dinner dressed in a tuxedo, looking good and charming and I happen to meet a gorgeous woman. What then transpires is that we spend the night together at a hotel in a room, kissing, undressing, about to make love when she suddenly stops because she sees me wearing a pink bra and pink G-string. Her first impression was seeing me in a Tuxedo at the event looking all masculine, only to find out that my undies are pink and girly, the opposite of the previous ‘manly’ shell. She starts to push back or question me or herself, or even gossip about this to her friends telling them how ‘I’m a man outside yet wearing women’s undies’. This labelling within the LGBTI community has caused factions and fractions as we witnessed a host of labels and groups including: butch/masculine, lipstick/feminine, dykes, stems etc. You name them there is a subgroup for them.

One needs to take a look at gender construction and subsequently how society has groomed us to see the male and female form and link this to the LGBTI community and their thoughts on how a butch lesbian should behave because she’s the masculine one and should thus have ‘male tendencies’. This becomes a problem for masculine presenting lesbians who do not conform to societal standards of masculinity. It becomes uncomfortable for us to go to shops to buy sanitary pads and tampons. We are unable to go to the shops to buy a bra because we receive comments such as “why are you wearing a bra, it shows your cleavage”. Comments such as allow us to police each other and we end up boxed in our own bodies, prisoners to these ideas.

Society believes if you’re a lesbian you must be ‘butch/masculine’ because ‘indoda yakhona/man in that relationship’ failing to understand the term  lesbian and if you’re a feminine lesbian, you’re not a lesbian because ‘uyicherry[1] and are supposed to be dating men but you busy chasing Izitabane[2]. It creates ‘societal chaos’ as if labelling did not exist and there were no expectations on how a butch lesbian or a feminine lesbian should dress and behave this tension would not exist. This would mean we would not have to explain our sexuality and the subsequent labels every day of our lives. Being lesbian is not about underwear or clothing, being butch/masculine or lipstick/feminine, it’s about a woman who is emotionally, physically and sexually attracted to other women. That’s all matters, not who’s the man in this relationship. Unfortunately labelling will always be there but we must not lose sight of the fact that we are women with choices.

Who said when you’re a woman you should go to the women’s department and when you’re a man you should enter men’s department? Women should be the agents of their own bodies regardless of their sexuality and we should not oppress each other. All we need is revolutionary change and that change should start within ourselves by accepting who we are.

[1] You’re a chick

[2] Homosexual (sometimes used as a derogatory term)

For more stories on identity read this post about studs for studs and femmes for femmes, this one about being stem and this one about labels. There is also this one about being a gold star lesbian and biphobia

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