How Do I Increase My Queer Visibility?

I really want to know how to be perceived as queer in public. I am a femme-presenting queer, and I find myself exhausted lately by the constant coming out that I’ve been doing, even in places where I think I’ve dropped every hint except tattooing a rainbow across my forehead. I spent last Thursday night defining the word queer and defending my identity to a co-worker in a workplace where he should really know better. There has to be a better way than a face tattoo. What should I do?

Lipstick Femme

Dear Lipstick,

This letter is so frustrating to me that I started writing blithe, jocular responses like: ‘instead of applying lipstick to your mouth, apply a hot chick; I volunteer,’ or “hand out little cards that say: ‘Lipstick Femme: Queer as Fuck.’”

And the reason it’s frustrating to me and the reason I wrote these non-answers is that I feel like there just IS no answer. While I can complain plenty about what it’s been like when I’ve looked very dykey (harassment in high school and demands that I look more appropriately feminine from random strangers on the street, for instance), being invisible is much, much worse.

The only answer is: change society so that we do not make assumptions about peoples’ sexuality or gender based on what they are wearing. Change society so that no one feels entitled to explanations of other peoples’ sexual identity (the guy who required a ‘defense’ from you needs a sock in the eye).

But how the hell are we supposed to live in the shadows until all that is done?

I don’t know. All I can do is run your letter to make this issue more visible and suggest that you do what I’ve done in times I’ve been invisible for various reasons: be confident in who you are. Do not feel as if you owe anyone explanations for anything. If someone makes an assumption about your ‘boyfriend’ or something, you can laugh and say: ‘um, I’m queer,’ and refuse to answer any other questions.

You can speak up when people make incorrect assumptions. You can wear a t-shirt (a pretty, feminine one with bell-capped sleeves and a plunging, lace-lined neckline) with big rhinestones on it that spell out “Not her straight friend” when you go out to the gay bar.

But mainly, there is only so much you can do, by yourself. And I’m sorry, and I hate it.

This letter originally appeared at on January 27, 2015.

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