January 16, 2014
Of Cats and Women: Resisting the Lesbian Clichés

No, she was not molested as a child, nor does she hate men. Those are just wrong perception about lesbians. But when it comes to cats, shoes and hair, this proudly out woman has to admit perhaps she does fit the lesbian stereotypes.

by Paramita Mohamad
Issues
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If you are still hiding in the closet, you continuously have to second-guess what others know about you, and what will happen if they do. This sucks a lot of contentment and mental energy out of you.
I have been out of the closet for half of my life. And ever since, I’ve been healthier and happier, and had the mental capacity to mull over questions of various levels of gravity, from the very mundane (Shall I watch Law & Order Criminal Intent in this channel or Law & Order in the other?) to the very serious (Do my cats care about me the way I care about them?), or the purely existential (Am I a lesbian cliché?)
 
For the uninitiated, one becomes a lesbian cliché if she exhibits behaviors commonly associated with stereotypes about lesbians. It is as if all lesbians conform to a specific set of rules and regulations from how to dress to how to do things while undressed (I mean, sex). This article from Jezebel lists all the clichés, with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
 
Is "am I a lesbian cliché?" a question that should be dignified with thoughtful answers? Yes, and not only because I am a self-centered and vain over-thinker with enough free time in hand, but more importantly (or at least less egocentrically) because the whole point of LGBT equality movement is about celebrating diversity.
 
We in the LGBT community refuse to be pigeonholed (no pun intended. Please!). I believe it’s good if people can see that LGBT is a pretty diverse community too, and that we are much more than the stereotypes of us and the prejudices against us. And since I'm already out and quite visible (I told you I was vain, didn't I?), I take it upon me that I should embark on the Herculean task of not being a cliché.
 
So how do I fare? Firstly, without any effort I'm already defying certain stereotypes simply because they are wrong. For example:

  • Lesbians were sexually molested as children by men



    No, I wasn't. Many lesbians weren't, either. And there are many women who were molested as children and didn’t become attracted to women. You don't need a tragic incident or a cause to be lesbian. You need simply to be born with that tendency.
  • Lesbians hate men
    Firstly, I don't hate men. Well, I admit I hate some of them – Hitler, for example – just as I do some women (Michele Bachmann comes to mind). You see, hate is infinite and nobody can monopolize it. Secondly, there are so many men lesbians adore, because they are kind or awesome human beings. So it’s not about their penises, really. Thirdly and finally, loving women doesn’t require hating men. My love to cats doesn’t require me to hate dogs.
  • Lesbians just haven't been with the right guy yet
    Ah, the wishful thinking that the right guy and his penis will lead us into the loving embrace of a dude (and his penis). By this logic, can I say that straight men just haven’t been with the right guy yet? 

But on other criteria mentioned in the Jezebel article, I haven’t fared really well:

  • Short hair – because I really don't want to get into a catfight with those fierce ladies in my gym for the only working hair dryer available in the changing room
  • Comfortable shoes or sneakers and socks – well, unless when I'm wearing docksiders
  • Loosely fitted pants, shirts and polo shirts – yes, yes, and yes
  • No make-up – although I plan to reinvent myself as a makeup artist. This is a relatively risk-free way to make women feel like a million bucks
  • Birkenstock sandals – though, in my defense, I only started using them when Heidi Klum was still its titular creative director (but, then I have to admit that celebrity endorsement really works. Damn!).
  • Three cats – no excuse. I'm obsessively devoted to them.
  • SUV car ­– because it floods in Jakarta, no?
  • And for your Freudian entertainment: I smoke cigars, write with fountain pens, and collect cufflinks. 

Well, I can see that most of the time, I am a cliché for prioritizing comfort and practicality over social norms. Being rational can’t be that bad.
 
But I need to have an ambition, however misplaced it is. So I keep trying to resist cliché, although mostly in futility. But there are moments, like those months when I vehemently refused to buy a tool box for my house, until my girlfriend put her ballet slipper-clad foot down on the floor of Ace Hardware (she is the one using it; I’m very inept with tools. Ah, bingo!). Or maybe it’s the time when I tried to buy a pair of women’s running shoes (only to learn that they don’t import women size 41 to Indonesia). Or perhaps it’s my dislike of Harley-Davidson bikes, and my secret fantasy of riding a vintage scooter… but, hey, that’s an advertising people cliché!
 
So many clichés to resist, so little time.

Paramita is the human of three gorgeous cats who are collectively known as Trias Politicats. Currently she endures working as a communication strategist, trying to save up enough money for her next venture called "The Bikini WaXXXing".