There’s something I call “North Face lesbian”. Or, more accurately, “North Face lesbians (plural)”, as I’ve only ever seen it manifest in couples.
Often, when two women have been together for about three years, something unsettling happens. They stop going to bars almost entirely. They can’t come to your birthday drinks “because we’re driving up to the Lake District at seven tomorrow morning and we need to have an early one, sorry! xxx”. They trade in their DMs and vintage denim jackets for hiking boots and, shudder, cagoules. North Face ones in particular. It’s the world’s dullest rite of passage: the transition of a lesbian couple from outgoing (as in, they go out) to outdoorsy.
Unfortunately, and I’m loath to admit this, it’s also something to which I… aspire. I’ve announced my retirement from the lesbian club scene several times. And, every one of those times, it’s drawn me back into its gaping vagina dentata maw, like a monster from one of the many horror films made by men who are terrified of women.
Because the sad truth is, I can’t retire until I find someone to retire with. I want the whole package. Walking up hills. Walking down hills. Getting slightly muddy. Negotiating confusing gates in fields. Generally being in places that smell like dung. Passive aggressive coughing while quietly reading the Sunday papers over bowls of muesli. A wedding. OK, probably not a wedding, because I’m not into that. But maybe I can be swayed.
The point is, there’s this boring person inside of me who wants to settle down. And, for lesbians, settling down means outdoor pursuits. I’d even get on a bike if I had to, and I hate bikes. The only conclusion I can draw from this is an uncomfortable one: I’m old fashioned. In more ways than one. Wanting to go on nature walks aside, I identify as a lesbian. And that, nowadays, makes me a kind of relic.
Recently, Her, a dating app for lesbians and non-hetero women in general, analysed 85,000 of their profiles. They found that, since they launched two years ago, the number of women who identify as lesbian has decreased by almost 20 per cent – falling from 64 per cent to 45 per cent.
Meanwhile, the number of women choosing “no label” when disclosing their sexuality has risen from 1 per cent to 9 per cent. Bisexuals are on the up too, rising from 16 per cent to 27 per cent. Are straight-up lesbians like me disappearing into the intricate nooks and crannies of the Kinsey Scale? Maybe.
In one of my favourite episodes of the brilliant “homoneurotic” web series F to 7th, protagonist Ingrid – a thirtysomething Brooklyn lesbian – takes a friend (another lesbian) to a party exclusively for trans and gender-queer people. “Since when were you so open-minded?” asks her friend, who’s deeply sceptical of the whole thing. As if an innocent gathering of people is something you can be sceptical about in the first place.
Soon after arriving at a warehouse in Gowanus (a particularly industrial Brooklyn neighbourhood) they’re discovered to be “infiltrators”. They just aren’t cool or, as it turns out, open-minded enough to be there. And it shows. They’re awkward, visibly uncomfortable and they ask other guests insulting questions. Guest star Casey Legler, the first ever woman to be signed as a male model, politely tells them they’re both a bit “homonormative”.
This was the first time, two years ago now, I’d heard that word. You may know of the word “heteronormative” – as in, adhering to things like gender roles and straightness being the “norm”. But “homonormative”? Wow. Gay people can be boring too. And I’m one of them. I’m way more Scrabble and monogamy than ketamine and gender-blind orgies. And that’s something quite difficult for me to come to terms with.
Well before Cara Delevingne and Miley Cyrus started openly dating women, the female sexual fluidity “trend” was apparent. But sure, the likes of Delevingne and Cyrus have probably provided some pretty decent PR for the movement. And, more and more, I, a lesbian, am feeling like I belong in a museum.
While other women are exploring the entire queer spectrum, I’m not trying to make a political statement by sticking the label “lesbian” on my dating profiles. I just am one. I’ve known I was since before I knew what sex was. I have brown hair, I hate liquorice and I like women. Just women.
I don’t resent women who are questioning their own sexuality, but I do feel let down by those who are questioning mine. Just let me be boring, OK? And, for the millionth time, I’d rather eat a liquorice and pube sandwich than have a threesome with you and your boyfriend.