One of my problems with today’s society is that it is too easy to be yourself and then be scorned or hated for doing so. Being openly gay feels to be a present oxymoron and, in some ways, it feels that way to be a woman as well. What I have personally observed from my own experiences is that some of the world is ready for the true you; you are encouraged to stand bravely and walk out the door with pride every day. However, when you reach the outside world the real battle begins and your true self is now challenged. My experiences so far as a gay woman have lead me to believe that for the rest of my life, I will be challenged by some heterosexual male. In my own neighborhood, should I walk alone, it will be assumed by every heterosexual male that I am available. Now, I will not use the term “single”; “available” here would imply that at any given moment, I am ready for communication and possible sexual contact. Thus, I cannot walk alone without being called out of my name, hearing degrading cat-calls, or being subjected to a very short and meaningless conversation. The kicker is if I am walking with a male friend, then I am now protected and no longer available. In fact, I have noticed that the chances of being subjected to another male’s blatant disrespect and distaste are significantly lower when I am accompanied by a male friend. I suppose this would mean that males still have more respect for a male they do not know than a female that they also do not know. Am I wrong for expecting the same level of respect? One thing that I wish to point out is that when I walk down the street alone, I am still a lesbian. So many times have my male friends told me, “You have to remember you are still a girl,” when I complain about guys constantly hitting on me. My only defense to that can only ever be, “But I am not interested.” Honestly, if I was not a lesbian, then I would still not be interested in any male who uses a cat-call to initiate a conversation. But I guess that is my own personal problem. Standing up for myself, I wonder why it is that males assume that I am available. Do I live in a world surrounded by available women who enable and encourage the male’s image of the available woman? Do all available women walk alone, without a male companion to keep her safe? Why is it that my body is a reason for me to be subjected to annoying and hurtful comments? Maybe it is the media I should blame. Men – some, not all – have this twisted view of women and what they should be. Through their eyes women are bitches and hoes, internet porn stars who sleep with the pizza delivery guy, or toys meant for humping purposes. Women equal video hoes and video hoes equal not real people. So thanks, media! This idea that women function as the ‘other’ in a man’s world seems to be the driving force behind the male’s distastefully arrogant behavior. Women do not have feelings, they do not feel fear, and they do not fight back because they are supposed to answer. lesbiansThe most difficult thing I have had to do as a feminine lesbian is walk down the street holding my feminine partner’s hand. Why? Well, as liberating as it feels to show affection for a woman I adore in public, the act seems just as binding. What I am getting at is that holding her hand comes with more negative societal consequences than holding his hand. Two feminine lesbians holding hands while walking down a street will generate a plethora of inappropriate comments from men. These men will either hit on one or both of us, they will be upset to see us together and uninterested in them, they will call us names or say very vulgar, inappropriate comments. Some men will be very angry because our ‘no’ destroys their fantasy. While walking with a “butch” lesbian, it feels as though I am still walking down the street with a male for the most part. Even with the social struggles a butch lesbian must face, it would seem that males are hesitant to challenge a butch lesbian, who in some form of dress code, fits the idea of the male role. The butch lesbian has broken through to the societal title of ‘other’ and crossed over to the side of the margin that has a level of acceptance and dominance, not granted to her feminine lesbian partner. What is also a big letdown for a feminine woman is the idea of the socially undermined ‘no.’ Let’s consider a generalized scenario. If a woman is sitting alone in a bar, then she is subjected to the idea of being available. A man approaches and offers to buy her a drink in hopes of initiating conversation – a very common gesture. Now, should the woman refuse with a simple ‘no’ or a comment about being uninterested, then she must deal with the dominant male idea of ‘your no is not good enough.’ I am sure that many women can report an incident where a simple no is undermined by a man who is under the impression that she is merely being difficult and playing hard to get. However, if a woman was to tell the approaching man that she is awaiting the arrival of a boyfriend, then her answer is now more respectful and acceptable. Why? The thought process of a man may be to respect what belongs to another man, even a theoretical one who is not present, in hopes of avoiding conflict. It all boils down to the idea that a woman’s ‘no’ is available to the subconscious idea of having a lack of authority. Now I will expose the previous situation to a new light; the woman sitting at the bar is a lesbian. If she says no to the man, then her ‘no’ is undermined. If she says she is awaiting her girlfriend, then she may also be undermined and a rude comment about ‘joining in’ could be added. So what does she consciously deduce is the best copout? She will find it easier to deny the man by telling him that she is awaiting her boyfriend because it is less likely that this man will dispute her claim. Could you imagine how it feels to constantly lie to society just to feel at ease about not being challenged? I know that it feels horrible to lie because I have been the woman in the latter situation, lying to a man that I have a boyfriend to make him stop hitting on me when I really just want to tell him that I am gay without him accusing, ‘There is no way that you’re gay.’ In daily, situational life, inequalities for women still exist. I’m hopeful for the day when men can all not expect a woman to be available without a man, a day when holding her hand is as respectable as holding his hand, a day when no really means no. As women (gay, straight, bisexual, transsexual, or transgender), we can no longer accept being the marginalized “other” in society because it is disrespectful to the progress already made. Women coexist with men and thus our equality should never be challenged. (This article was originally seen in The Women’s Issue – a digital magazine we create in celebration of Women’s History Month.) Our guest author Jocelyn WattsJocelyn Watts is an aspiring artist with strong opinions. She graduated from Temple University with a BA in Psychology and is currently a drug and alcohol counselor for a nonprofit organization. Jocelyn also spends much of her time writing – a passion of hers since childhood. You can check out her work on her blog The Purkinje Project.