A few months ago, a man wrote a letter to his "curvy" wife that essentially put himself on a pedestal for daring to love her larger-than-average body. It sparked a heated conversation between me and my coworkers (all of us were on the side that this man and his letter were pretty clueless, btw). But in talking about how awful heterosexual gender dynamics can be, the conversation took a tired turn I've heard too many times.
I hear it from straight women at work, in my family, in my friend groups, and on TV. "God, I hate men," they joke. "I wish I could be a lesbian."
Usually I just chuckle and nod a little in moments like these because, yeah, sometimes men are downright terrible. But inside my head, my chuckle is more like a sarcastic "Ha!"
Let me, your friendly neighbourhood lesbian, tell you a secret: Dating women isn't exactly a walk in the park, either (I mean, except for those dates when I was literally walking in a park).
Just like men, women have their downfalls. Some women ghost other women. Some are pushy about sex. Some are manipulative. Some are misogynistic. Whatever terrible behaviour you're ready to write off men for exhibiting, it's almost a guarantee that there's a woman out there who's done it, too.
I know because I've dated a few of them. There was Chloe*, who I thought I'd really connected with over Tinder and text messages — until we were supposed to meet for our first date and she never showed up. There was Ana*, who strung me along for three months and disappeared as soon as I admitted I had feelings for her. And then there was Beth*, an ex-friend-with-benefits who was sneakily fat-shaming me throughout the five months we were together. Plus plenty of terrible first dates with women who stared at their phones instead of, you know, actually talking to me.
Queer dating isn't like going to a buffet — you can't just pick any random woman, and then living happily ever after.
It's not just that I have terrible luck (though it definitely felt that way for a while). My queer friends have also had bad experiences dating other women. As we were sitting in a gay bar we frequent one night, my friend Zoe* got a text from a woman who'd been pursuing her for months, even though Zoe repeatedly told this woman that she wasn't interested. "Why don't you come over to my place tonight? I'll show you a good time," it read. Her phone held dozens of similar messages, and the woman only stopped harassing Zoe when she was no longer single.
So, no, dating women isn't as easy-peasy as straight women seem to think. But I get why they sometimes wish they could give up on men. They're tired of men being confusing, misogynistic, emotionally uninvested, and sometimes just plain gross — and that's totally understandable. There's no question that misogyny is more rampant among straight, cisgender (meaning: not-transgender) men than it is among queer women; men have literally been conditioned to think women are objects.
Still, I wish straight women wouldn't say things like, "I wish I could just date women." I realise that, to straight women, dreamily wishing to be gay is a lighthearted way to gripe about their (completely valid) dating woes. They don't really mean it. But, at best, thinking that it must be so much easier to be a lesbian is just factually wrong. At worst, it's offensive.
In saying that they wish they could be lesbians simply to avoid dating men, straight women are ignoring all of the terrible shit real queer women have to go through. Like worrying that their friends and family will no longer love them once they come out, feeling as if they can't hold their partners' hands in public (or weathering dirty stares when they do), and dealing with homophobia from strangers, coworkers, law enforcement, and even family (let me tell ya, my grandfather wasn't exactly happy when I told him I was dating a woman) — all of which can lead to some serious consequences.
LGBTQ+ people are three times more likely than straight, cisgender people to experience major depression or generalized anxiety disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The Williams Institute reports that about 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+, and most of these kids are on the streets because they came out and their families told them to leave. We're at a greater risk for violence from partners, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 44% of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by a partner, compared to 35% of straight women.
All of that aside, it's also just not true that being a lesbian magically takes away the stress, drama, and insecurity involved in dating. Queer dating isn't like going to a buffet — you can't just pick any random woman, and then living happily ever after. Believe it or not, even lesbians have to go on awkward first dates and deal with people who disappear out of the blue.
So, please stop telling me that being a lesbian is so much easier than being a straight woman. It's not.
*Names have been changed to protect their identities.