How to spot a lesbian...or not!

By Amelia Connor 

In years gone by, the classic short back and sides was the ultimate way to identify a lesbian - because it was a way of expressing the individual which wasn’t conforming to feminine cultural norms. 

But over several decades we’ve seen more diversity with regards to hair length on women, regardless of sexuality. Think of the 80s when Annie Lennox (or just Annie Lennox in general), Grace Jones and Alison Moyet all sported beautiful ‘butch’ haircuts. Or how about Sinead O’Connor’s iconic shaved head style?

Annie Lennox short hair

Annie Lennox. Source: RCA Records

The point is, ever since the 80s hair length is slowly being eradicated as an indicator whether someone or not is a lesbian.

Hair is not how we identify other lesbians any more in this ever-increasing egalitarian world.

For the past few years one of the most popular fashionable hairstyle for women of all sexualities is to have long hair with shaved sides. It’s a progressive hairstyle and is usually coloured with vivid hair dyes.

As for lesbians, it’s pretty much a free-for-all when it comes to hairstyles. Short hairstyles such as quiffs, crew cuts and shaved heads are still prevalent, but longer hairstyles are just as common now. This is fantastic in terms of the fact we feel more comfortable in expressing ourselves whether we’re femme or butch...and everything in between! do we recognise another lesbian now that the short hair and masculine clothing, considered by some as the bedrock of 'lesbian fashion,' are more widespread among all women’s sexualities?

We could start off with the famous HBO series The L Word. I’m talking in particular about episode 2 where the other characters are trying to find out whether Dana’s love interest, a chef called Lara, is a lesbian or not.

The women are making a list of ‘for’ and ‘against’ Lara potentially being a lesbian. In fact, it plays out like this:

Alice: Alright, so far it’s neck and neck

Bette: Yeah but she got some good lezzy points for the walk...and the way she wields that chopping knife.

Shane: Yeah but she’s way femmy on the coiffure tip.

Alice: Her reaction to the two of you kissing was split because she didn’t freak out which was a good sign but she hardly paid any attention.

Tina: But you guys! She’s got nine in the lez column and she only has seven in the straight.

If you want to indulge in some lesbian nostalgia then you can watch the whole scene on youtube - including the part where Shane attempts to flirt with her as a test, but doesn’t succeed. 

The entire scene was intended as a comedic light-hearted look at how lesbians identify other lesbians in the wild. For the time, it was very relatable and accurate!

However, this episode was originally aired in 2004...fourteen whole years ago. My question it dated? Do we still use these indicators now?

I tried to come up with a few ways lesbians might identify each other - but it was difficult without involving stereotypes. So I decided to bust several myths about stamping ‘lesbian confirmed’ onto a woman....

Short nails

This one is derived from the whole “super-practical for intimate reasons” theory.

Myth busted: Nail-biting is still very much a big habit among all sexualities.


Masculine clothing

You can spot a lesbian a mile off if she’s into ‘tomboy’ fashion.

Myth busted: Ever heard of femmes? And tomboy is kind of redundant now...

Lesbian clothing style is a spectrum. Some of us love to wear dresses and heels, some of us like to wear masculine suits and ties. And that’s not counting the infinite mixtures of self-expression in between.

lesbian femme

Body language

A woman is definitely a lesbian if she sits with her legs apart on public transport or if she slouches a lot, puts her elbows on the tables or if she doesn’t walk in a ladylike manner.

Myth busted: Not every woman attends Ms Cuthbert-Bellingham’s Finishing School for Ladylike Ladies. Some women like to adopt a more relaxed stance...for no reason other than they prefer it.


Hiking boots and fleeces

Lesbians like hiking. They wear hiking boots and they can go hiking a lot.

Myth busted: Straight women go hiking too.


Cool factor

Lesbians are really cool.

Myth busted: I’m tempted to agree with this one but we are available in a range of temperatures. 

The conclusion? There is no surefire way of identifying a lesbian unless she tells you herself! We’re all amazingly unique and that is something to be celebrated!

For great clothes for every body - regardless of sexuality or gender, check out GFW Clothing.

gfw clothing for humans



Photographer @lori_sapio_photographer. Model @un_diverso_tipo_di_produzione


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  • I just left a comment and i overlooked the significance of the word lifestyle. I didn’t mean it’s a lifestyle kind of lifestyle! I just meant huge difference between fashion and identity in a benign way!

    Maris L on
  • Thank you Valerie E! I am so tired of people freaking out on my short hair! I never even knew being mistaken for a lesbia was an issue! I could dress however i wanted as long as my hair was long. How any woman dresses is potentially way over analyzed by everyone it seems. Is this just an American thing?

    Maris L on
  • Get this straight folks…….Lesbianism and homosexuality is a lifestyle not a fashion look. I wear a butch haircut and I am not lesbian……..

    Valerie E on

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