In Slate's latest installment of "Ask a Homo," where readers submit questions about all things queer for a chance to have them answered by Slate's LGBTQ section, editor and culture critic June Thomas answered the age-old question straight people seem to have about why we lesbians sometimes dress and cut our hair in styles traditionally adopted by men. In her response, Thomas mostly explains that the reason that lesbians dress and cut their hair in a style that appears to be more conventionally masculine is simply because of the fact that they can, and because our lesbian foremothers set a bad-ass precedent of dressing however the hell they wanted. It's also important to remember, though, that there are lesbians out there who don't cut their hair short or "dress like men" and who don't wear their hair long and dress in a conventionally feminine way because newsflash, there exist other ways of being that are outside of feminine and masculine presentation.
While dressing and cutting your hair however you want is about freedom of expression, I want to offer some other suggestions to the curious minds out there who can't seem to grapple with the fact that sometimes lesbians present in more traditionally masculine ways. Depending on who you speak to, some of these reasons can include:
A big "screw you" to the patriarchy and male gaze
Whether you like it or not, a lot of societal beauty standards for women can stem from male desires imposed on female bodies, and by adopting an aesthetic that challenges those beauty standards, lesbians can subvert that problematic system and assert the fact that they are not there to appease the straight male gaze.
As Thomas mentions, not all women who cut their hair short or dress in a masculine way are lesbians. However, many women use these things to identify themselves as a part of a subgroup that otherwise has no physical identifier because, unfortunately, we can't all just walk around with a genetic marker that alerts everyone of our sexual and cultural inclinations to better help us build communities.
Clothes and Haircuts Aren't Inherently Gendered
There is no inherent reason for men to wear their hair short and women to wear dresses, so even the question "why do lesbians dress and cut their hair like men" should be be taken with the grain of salt because there is no real way of "dressing like men."
It's really sexy
Lesbian or not, short hair or a suit on a woman is just really sexy.
Check out Slate's take and remember: there isn't just one way to look like a lesbian.