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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 26 January 2021
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Lesbian relationships are still not taken seriously by many

There’s nothing wrong with chatting up girls at a bar – undermining them by refusing to accept they’re gay is a different story.

Christine Allen Sports convert and IT engineer

“FAT PENGIUN.”

It’s a Friday night in Maguire’s Bar. I’m on a first date with what some of us within the LGBT community would class as a ‘fem’ lesbian, and a man has just approached our table, introducing himself with nothing more than the opening to a cheesy chat-up line.

Initially, we don’t interrupt, allowing his joke to run its course. After all, it takes bottle to approach a woman (we of all people know this), let alone two, and we don’t want to come across as rude.

However on foot of finishing his joke (the punchline, for those interested, is “I wanted to say something to break the ice…”), our ‘visitor’ takes a seat next to my date, his body language revealing his interest in her specifically.

It is then that I realise that we have made an error in allowing his joke to be aired.

Furthermore, when my date’s polite but apparent disinterest does not result in his disappearance I realise that more direct action needs to be taken.

I’m hesitant to say we’re on a date 

After all, by this point I’m a little pissed off and rightly so. No man or woman, gay or straight, should have to witness their date being chatted up by some randomer. Yet, despite my irritation, I’m a little hesitant to vocalise this. I have also deduced from her ‘help me!’ expression that she too is unsure as to how we should proceed next.

In hindsight, I realise that our hesitancy stemmed from the notion that at some level we knew that any rebuff, followed with its true reason, would serve to only encourage rather than discourage the guy in question. As it turned out, we were right to be wary.

Having cleared my throat and announced that we were on a date, and as such would like to be left alone, he began to smile mischievously, observing that we were both “too pretty to be gay” (he had suddenly noticed my presence – the reasoning for which became apparent when he suggested a threesome, having indicated for his friend at the bar to join us).

Needless to say, we left pretty sharpish.

There’s nothing wrong with chatting up girls – undermining them is a different story

Now, some, both gay and straight alike, might wonder why we didn’t opt to have our date at a gay bar.

My response to them would be this: why should the venue of LGBT peoples dates be limited to three bars, each within touching distance of one other?

While LGBT visbility in this country has certainly increased, step outside of our designated ‘safe spaces’ without an item of clothing or haircut that shouts ‘I’m gay’, and the fact that we like to sleep with the same-sex is not even considered before approach.

In saying this, I’d be able to forgive a man in a bar, who has a few pints on board, for not considering that the two women sat opposite may be more than just friends. After all, I’m aware that most straight males are hardwired to make a beeline towards two women they deem as attractive in a bar – in particular if there are no other men present.

However, what I simply cannot reconcile with is their adamant refusal to take, when told, the fact that two women are on a date seriously, nor their undermining attitude towards gay women in general.

How would lads like it if we chatted up their dates?

“Who’s the guy?” and “Sure isn’t sex between two women just essentially foreplay?” are questions which have all been fired in my direction by straight men (and the odd women on occasion) on a night out, under the influence of alcohol and bad lighting.

This type of undermining attitude is not cool. How would lads like it if the lesbians of Ireland approached their dates and proceeded to chat them up, laughing in derision upon hearing that they were heterosexual before blatantly attempting to pull them anyway?

Or, furthermore, relaying the hundreds of search results on Google which lead to studies confirming that women in lesbian relationships have more orgasms than their straight counterparts? I’d imagine it would engender feelings of anger and disrespect – not to mention powerlessness (at least once the initial fantasising had stopped).

Watching Maia Dunphy’s ‘What Women Want’ on RTE 2 around the time of ‘fat penguin gate’, I felt a mixture of validation and anger as I listened to two ‘fem’ looking gay women describe a similar situation as to the one myself and my date experienced.

Like us, they had also to contend with bemused reactions on several occasions on foot of informing straight men that they were a couple. Due to these negative experiences, one of the girls spoke of her fear at being ‘laughed at’ upon stating that they were a couple to persistent males. This really hit home, reminding me of the initial hesitation I felt at ‘claiming’ my date.

Why aren’t lesbians taken seriously by some people? 

So why do some straight men have such dismissive and bemused attitudes towards lesbian relationships?

One possible reason that comes to mind is porn – in particular, ‘lesbian porn’ (which in itself is a whole other article). It feeds into the ridiculous notion that sex between two women is not ‘real sex’ unless a man is present (usually at the two minute mark, right on cue).

Then again, before porn in its current form was ever available, lesbian relationships were viewed as non-existent – you just have to look to the Bible. For example, Leviticus 20:13, (New International Version) reads:

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

While I don’t wish women who sleep with other women to be condemned in writing by those of the Christian faith, the Bible’s reference to sex solely between two men is telling in regard to the attitude towards lesbian relationships in the eyes of those who constructed it: they simply did not exist.

She’s my girlfriend, not my ‘pal’

Look, too, at society’s overall perception of gay women. Unfortunately, many of us will have had our girlfriends referred to as our “friend” or “pal”, by family or extended family, who are aware that our relationships go well and truly beyond the ‘friend zone.’

In truth, our partnerships are likely framed with such innocent language due to the speakers’ discomfort and or inexperience in dealing with the nature of the relationship being referred to. In most instances, offense is not intended.

However in reality, it serves to once again undermine our relationships which well and truly go beyond the platonic stage.

Despite what I’ve written above, thankfully, there are men who will respectfully walk away when a woman, either gay or straight, makes her disinterest clear.

Society too is also coming round to recognising the validity of lesbian relationships – hopefully this will be enshrined in our constitution come 22 May.

That said, those men who view lesbian couple’s as fair game to be borderline harassed on nights are great in their numbers and don’t show any signs of copping on anytime soon. And so it is to those men, on behalf of all of the gay women of Ireland, that I’d like to politely (but firmly) say, “Just Walk Away”.

Christine Allen is in her third year of Information Technology at DCU – a part-time course funded for those that are unemployed. In between trying to get to grips with JAVA programming and looking for work, she loves nothing better than sitting down at the laptop with a cup of tea, and writing. She has been published in DIVA Magazine, on TheJournal.ie and Gaelick.com. One day she would like to be known as the lesbian version of Carrie Bradshaw. Follow Christine on Twitter @AllenChristine2.

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About the author:

Christine Allen  / Sports convert and IT engineer

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