Cute unicorn with long eyelashes and flowers

Femme invisibility: too cute to be gay?

Getting a date as a queer woman in Africa is hard enough – and it gets even harder when you have to come out at every possible corner.

Femme invisibility is the problem of being invisible as a woman who sleeps with women because you look like a straight woman. You wear makeup, you wear dresses, you may even have a weave. The problem is you don’t fit the ‘gay aesthetic’. So people, queer and straight, presume you are heterosexual.

Not gay enough

This is all because of femme invisibility.

As a feminine presenting woman, you are not really considered a queer/lesbian woman unless you have your face buried between another woman’s thighs.

You constantly feel like you have to ‘prove it’.
The notion stems from the idea that you must ‘look a certain way’. Meaning: one must constantly prove their ‘homosexuality’ (a notion which gets even worse for bisexual feminine-presenting women) and look the part.
And what does it even mean to look ‘gay enough’? You need to have the funky (short!) hair, the hat, the skinny jeans, or the ability to do the Instagram selfie ‘come hither’ eyebrow.

‘It’s just a phase’

Various things tend to happen when you are feminine-presenting and into other women. Outside the queer community, people tend to think you’re either:

  1. Going through a phase.
  2. Faking it to trap the studs (masculine-presenting queer women).
  3. So confused you got lost and ended up in the wrong sexuality and are actually straight.

Being a femme-presenting woman means having to ‘come out’ all the time. When you are around straight people, you often find yourself being told ‘but you do not look gay’. And if you are dressed too slay ‘you are too beautiful to be gay’. As if only men can enjoy pretty things. 

Missing characteristics

There is the need to ‘prove that you are gay’ because you do not have all the ‘characteristics’. The problem with this stream of thinking is that it presumes that all queer people are given a uniform once they come out.

This is not the case – there are so many ways to be queer. It has nothing to do with how you look.

Sadly, this is not just the thinking of those who are outside the LGBTIQ community. Having women never approach you because they presume you are straight or simply curious, is a very real thing and happens all the time to femme women.

Expanding your (queer) social circle is hard enough without it being compounded by the fact that those you are trying to see can’t see you and everyone else thinks you are playing games. Furthermore, in a context where identifying as queer could have you losing jobs, getting kicked out of homes, and even physically harmed, these signals and forms of connecting are potentially very powerful. 

Don’t ever make assumptions

To assume that women who are queer will automatically present a certain way erases the existence of a whole host of people who love dresses, pink drinks, AND seeing another woman naked. It erases the existence of the woman who wears converse trainers and lipstick. It entrenches heteronormative ideas of presentation and women, that only those who don the mantle of masculinity are entitled to access to the sex and sexuality of another woman.

This idea of ‘prove it’ and one of the major problems with this that it leads to the othering and the ostracizing of queer femme presenting women. It also makes it very hard to find someone’s face to sit on on a Saturday night.

Do you have questions about sexuality or gender? Please head to our discussion board, our moderators are ready to help.


did you find this useful?

Tell us what you think

LoveMatters Africa

Blush-free facts and stories about love, sex, and relationships