Early morning Easter Monday and the supermarket is very quiet. I had the coffee bar to myself this morning. Mfundo is East London’s best barista by far. I spend 10 minutes with him several times a week, but never before completely alone. He asked after Thabisa. I said that I had just dropped her off at work. “Do you guys stay together?” he asked. Practically. We are together almost every night, either at her place or at mine, but technically, we do not live together. I started to explain about the children, the settlement agreement concomitant to my divorce, but he was anxious to ask the next thing. “Can I ask you some things, because I have always wanted to know?” Sure, ask anything you like.
“How do you know if someone is a lesbian? You don’t look like one. If you hadn’t told me that Thabisa is your girlfriend, I would never have known that you are a lesbian. She looks like a tomboy, so I would guess with her, but not with you. So… how does someone know that you are, and how do they approach you or make a move?”
Hmmm… how, indeed? I think I am quite dykey-looking in some ways, and I stomp like a lesbian, but I am femme, I know, and my dykeness is very often missed. And it is a bother sometimes. When I see a butch-looking woman somewhere – at the airport, at the post office – I always regret that she probably doesn’t recognise me in the same way.
So, to answer Mfundo’s question… with a lot of femme women I can tell, but it isn’t about how they dress, or do their hair. There is something in the attitude of a lesbian woman. Often, it relates to who she is with and how she interacts with those people. Lesbians are openly appreciative of other women… you can see the way she looks at women, or just one woman!
And how do women know they can approach me? Well, Mfundo… thing is… it is a very small community in this town. Everyone knows everyone. And everyone knows when you have broken up with your girlfriend and are available, or even, apparently (I haven’t personally experienced this one), when you and your girlfriend are going through a rough patch and you are potentially poachable. And how am I approached? As with any sexual orientation – messaged, paid some attention, asked if I would like to meet up <– these are the usual ways. The more creative way is to look directly at me when I am skinny dipping and say “I’ll get in for you, Gail”, then to strip naked, dive into the swimming pool and swim right up to me and kiss me. It worked very well once.