How To Survive ‘Toxic Masculinity’ Aimed At Our Community
Many of us who identify as lesbians have been through it, you are out minding your business, shopping, hanging out with a significant other, on your way to work, and then it happens. A nasty look from the person sitting next to you, a side eye or head shake from a store clerk. These are the dealings we have with cis gender, and heterosexual people as we go about our daily lives. It is something that is so commonplace that we are able to block it out most times, not that we become unaware of the stares, eye rolling, and mumbles, but over time we grow a thicker layer of skin. One that repels negativity and keeps us from completely snapping because let’s face it, if we responded to every last person who imposed upon us their biases and opinions about the LGBTQ community, we would be in an endless state of anger or in handcuffs.
Although it is a part of our daily lives to navigate through the world with hater blockers on, there are certain instances when the hatred is just too much. When it is unsafe and interrupts our spiritual balance. For many lesbians and others within the LGBTQ community, these intensely hateful and harmful exchanges most commonly occur with cisgender, heterosexual males. Folks I know and have spoken to who are masculine presenting lesbians, transgender, and bigender, who speak of some of the worse encounters they have had; and a vast majority involve cisgender and/or heterosexual males. Men who follow us down the street when we are with our partners saying things like, “All these dykes out here stealing our women.” Or “All you need is some good d**ck,” as if our decision to live in our truth is somehow hinged on their existence. Who gave them the belief that they are the rule and we are just merely the exception?
It is this toxic masculinity that forces many within the community to always be on guard. For a couple of masculine presenting women that I have dated, this toxic masculinity is what makes them believe that they must present themselves as hard or tough “butch” lesbians just to avoid negative encounters with cisgender, heterosexual men. Presenting themselves in this way, in their mind, will deter a man from approaching them disrespectfully. This of course, is not always the case, but it is something that has the potential to leave the feminine presenting partners of these masculine presenting women vulnerable. Vulnerable to men who reach out and grab them in clubs when their partner steps away to the bar or restroom. Vulnerable to men who tell us, “You just with her because you can’t take real d**ck.” It is almost as if the more masculine presenting a lesbian is, the more likely the negative treatment is turned toward the partner. A cowardly move from hyper-masculine men who turn their own insecurities into violence and hate. Of my most notable negative experiences with cisgender, heterosexual men, was an encounter I had almost seven years ago with a city bus driver.
I was with my ex-girlfriend Lauren at the time, a very masculine presenting woman. Trying to catch a bus in Queens Village, we took off running down the street which was hard for me in my sundress and flip flops. As the bus approached the stop, I got within feet of the bus and turned my run into a fast walk as I realized we would be able to catch it. Lauren, who was wearing heavy boots at the time, and was a few steps behind me, started to walk as well. I had already caught the bus so we were good right? Wrong. The doors to the bus swing open, I step inside and pay my fare. Lauren, who again is no more than three steps away, approaches the bus and tries to board but the bus driver closes the doors almost hitting her, Lauren bangs on the door as the driver speeds off. I look at the driver in amazement as I ask him why he did that and he says nothing. Becoming enraged, I stay on the bus cursing at the bus driver as my frustrations boil over. After a couple of blocks, and about five long minutes of curse words, I get off the bus and the driver shouts, “Stop being a lesbian!” I had never been so angry in my life.
It is exchanges like these that lesbians go through, the overflow of toxic masculinity and a man’s feeling of necessity to impose his insecurities on someone else. It is this toxicity that changes the way we move through the world when all we want to do is live in our truth.