It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lesbian couple is invisible to 90 per cent of heterosexuals. People will see a sapphic couple and, instead of assuming they are together, will assume they are A) gal pals/good friends/bestie vibes or B) related.
Dear reader, I know this to be true because it keeps happening to me.
In my many years of life I have learned sapphic couples don’t have to look alike to get the dreaded “are you sisters” question.
One example is me and my girlfriend. Now, me and my girlfriend are both white with blue eyes. I can accept a mild level of resemblance in the sense that from a distance, many white people with blue eyes kind of look the same.
But my girlfriend and I are different heights and different body types. We both have curly hair, but mine is long and ginger and theirs is short and dark brown. Our facial features are, in my opinion, not similar at all.
So why do we keep getting asked if we’re siblings? And once, most egregiously, asked if we were twins? TWINS!
I have a couple of theories about this. People see two people, who they perceive as women, and simply cannot comprehend they are together. Despite our leaps and bounds in LGBTQIA+ representation in media, in real life I think people are still uncomfortable with the idea of sapphic relationships. Or perhaps they’re less uncomfortable and instead blind to them.
It contrasts deeply with the compulsory heterosexuality we are raised in. In fact, the pervasive mythos of heterosexuality is so powerful that most media cannot conceive of men and women being friends without there being some level of sexual tension. The proof? Any sitcom ever written.
But for women, non-binary and gender diverse people it’s the opposite. Rather than a relationship being read as a relationship, it’s firmly read as a friendship even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
Another thing I’ve noticed is the highly gendered way we’re spoken to. My girlfriend is gender diverse and uses she/they pronouns. Since being with her, I’ve become more aware of the way we’re friendzoned by other people — in the most gendered way possible.
When we’re out in public, whether it’s clubs or pubs or dinner or even LGBTQIA+ events (yes! This happened!) there’s a constant: “Hi girls! Welcome ladies!”
Let me paint you a more vivid word picture: my girlfriend and I are at a winery. It’s just the two of us, we’ve been holding hands, we have a clear level of intimacy between us.
The woman who was showing us the wines asked if we were old friends catching up, specifically if we were on a “girls’ trip”. I can’t help but think if we were a heterosexual couple, we never would’ve been asked that question.
In a humour piece for The New Yorker writer Taryn Englehart listed all the things people think she and her girlfriend are before realising they’re lesbians.
“Best friends. Sisters who look nothing alike. A mother who’s miraculously the same age as her daughter,” she wrote.
My favourite? “Female C.E.O.s who leaned in just a little too far.”
So straight people: stop asking if my girlfriend and I are sisters. If we are holding hands, please safely assume we aren’t just really good friends.