I know that many people take the “I’m just me” approach and reject labels. But like a true Virgo, I enjoy organizing, compartmentalizing, and otherwise categorizing; I believe that if you approach categories as tools rather than absolutes, they can prove both instructive and illustrative. And for myself, I find that categories/labels afford me a clearer perspective on an item/issue.
Given this predilection of mine, when I started coming out I tried to pinpoint my lesbian comfort zone. Specifically, I was curious which category of lesbian best aligned with my personality and style. I already knew that I had always preferred all things traditionally masculine. But in recent years, having convinced myself that I wanted to get married as per Orthodox Jewish expectations, I became attuned to my "feminine" side. So what am I, I wondered...
That first week after my "I'm a lesbian" epiphany, I set about learning the various types of lesbian with a vengeance. I must have spent the equivalent of 2 full days googling pertinent keywords, perusing fashion blogs, and taking quizzes both scholarly and humorous. Interestingly, time and again my responses returned the same result: I’m *androgynous*. Now isn’t that ironic, I thought — I defy gender categories! Getting that validation and finding my vector across the (very expansive) lesbian spectrum was a grounding, cathartic experience.
I suppose that under “normal” circumstances, I would have applied my new-found label by playing up my masculine side. In Jewish Brooklyn, after all, a women's wardrobe consists of skirts, not pants, not to mention classic yet feminine tops and other accouterments. I consequently faced a new hurdle — how do I balance my emotional, mental and physical androgyny with the prohibition against wearing men’s clothing?
I am very blessed that there is a group for Orthodox Jewish lesbians located in the Greater New York area. The group operates as a much-needed forum for discussing the issues that each member faces while attempting to balance our observance/faith with our lesbianism. I consequently asked the women their understanding of the issue, and was most grateful to learn that in Modern Orthodoxy (my sect!), pants are less problematic than amongst more stringent sects.
I promptly found myself quite by accident in the jean section of The Gap. And thus, for the first time in 10 years, I bought myself a pair. After that, the floodgates opened. First I bought myself two more pairs of jeans online. Next I did some chinos shopping in Midtown. And finally, I rid my closet and shoe rack of any ultra-girlie items I had been given (by well-meaning friends) over the years.
This is not to say that my wardrobe has been completely de-femme-ified. Simply put, sometimes a girl just wants to be a girl. For my everyday wear though, I have pretty much returned to my pre-Yeshivish style: sporty, cotton, simple. With sneakers as my go-to footwear. Natch. So you can take the "I'm just me" approach. Perhaps over time, as I settle into my lesbian identity more, I will reach that point. But for now, knowing that I belong to the androgyny category has been a liberating, exhilarating touch point. And that is how life should (hopefully) be.