Exploring the Lesbian Tech Subculture

| Dec 4, 2017

I have studied the behavior of combat pilots, BDSM players, intelligence analysts, image interpreters and now. . . I am studying lesbians. It started when I asked Zuit Suit, a local tech startup company, to design a skirt suit for me to wear at my presentations at conventions and scientific meetings. Their specialty is producing unique suits for women who normally only have a choice of downsized designs for men that are boring and plain. I was particularly interested because they were looking at state-of-the-technologies for the process. The process started with laser metrology to measure the client, computer-aided design, and computer-aided fabric layout for cutting the fabric.

As usual, I asked first whether the company would make a suit for a trans woman. One never knows here in the South whether transgender money is any good in commerce. Not just the anti-trans “religious liberty” laws but also the culture has a way of rejecting in more subtle ways. I have already written about the MS and AL laws and been affected by them. I have been rejected for mammograms and breast implant consultations. So, it was with some trepidation that I emailed the company.

Dana. Photo Credit: Credit Leah and Mark, Zuit Suit.

Their reply was “absolutely, we are interested in serving both trans women and all LGBT people.” She invited me to their workshop where I got measured and she asked me about colors and finishes. I brought a suit that I like from the now defunct Jones New York line and tried it on with a made-to-measure pussy blouse that I like. The woman, their CEO, asked if I had time to go shopping with her so I could tell her why I did not like the plus suits offered at the department stores. So off we went to the local malls, where I proceeded to give her a guided tour of the plus sections (I do a lot of mall walking and always go through these sections.) We spent most of the day in the malls and had lunch where we discussed her business. An NYC firm had already opened the market for GLBT suits and in particular, trans men, suits as described in the film documentary Suited. Mostly trans men from outside NYC who need a custom suit for a wedding or family celebration.

A few days later, she called me unexpected and invited me to “Lesbians Who Tech,” a support group for lesbians in technology. Again, I was hesitant and asked whether they welcomed trans women. She asked “You are a lesbian, aren’t you?” I said “Well . . . Yeah, I guess so.” “Then you’re coming to the meeting Tuesday” she replied. That was probably the first time since I completed transition that I realized that I still loved women and therefore was a lesbian. I had spent over 50 years worrying about my gender, only to realize my sexual orientation in an instant. So, I went to several meetings and got to observe mostly millennial lesbians but some older ones, like me now, as well.

My other window into the lesbian subculture also came through technology interests. The head of the local university incubator for startups introduced me via email to a woman who need some statistical help with her business. I had done some work on incubator-related projects with the incubator head which required knowledge of gender in order to tailor software to the interests of women. They had no idea that I was trans, but they were about to find out. In accepting the invitation to meet with this local entrepreneur, I put them both on notice that my name and sex might be changing. The local entrepreneur said she did not mind a bit — she was a lesbian. So, I started talking to her about business and at one point confessed that I did not know much about being a lesbian or lesbian culture. She said that she would help me learn and has invited me to social occasions. She took me to the one remaining lesbian bar in Atlanta, My Sister’s Room.

Both overtures came as somewhat as surprises to me. While in the closet, I had heard stories about lesbian rejection of trans women but also some heroic stories about lesbians protecting trans people from harassment in gay bars. But things have been smooth sailing.

So, what have I learned so far about the lesbian subcultures I have sampled?

First, they all seem to be understanding and helped me understand things, knowing I was a rookie. They even laughed at the one lesbian joke I know about U-Haul lesbians. Guess they were all in my position once.

Second, having gone overdressed to several lesbian social gatherings, I learned that young lesbians do not seem to care at all about gender presentation. (The older ones were overdressed like me.) They all dress the same way as men their age, with obligatory jeans and open-color oxford or golf shirts. Many do have short hair, even buzz cuts but not the majority. This used to be a definite lesbian indicator. I did see one modified-fauxhawk (pseudo Mohawk) but I could see that it was easily convertible to a regular style.

Good news, the days of the flannel-shirt lesbians appear to be over, at least from the ones I saw. This means I do not have to go out and buy a new flannel wardrobe. Casual, non-stereotyped dressing may also be a way of concealing being lesbian. Although ATL is an island of acceptance, it is uneven in places and things fall off rapidly outside our beltway called “The Perimeter.”

Third, lesbians do not seem to enforce “personal space” with other lesbians, whether coupled or not. I was somewhat surprised and amazed by the amount of soft touching that goes on. I know that women, in general, have the reputation for more frequent touching than men but this seemed far more frequent. Men may chest-bump, hug and dap a little, but they do not caress (I confess that have limited experience with gay men). I found the touching to be comforting but not sexually arousing. Guess I have extinguished on being aroused by feminine sexual stimuli, considering that I present as a woman.

Fourth, there was hard drinking. Since college days, I usually drink a little Chardonnay but these women are into shots and boilermakers. They encouraged me to have shots and so I asked the bartender (also a lesbian) for a brand of bourbon that was popular in my time but it turns out is now passé. So, I tried the current one in favor and it was pretty good. Maybe a few shots a month for me but no more.

Fifth, the lesbians that I saw had generally short fingernails and they were generally unpolished. Some say that lesbians keep them short for making love, but the lesbians I met so far all have tech careers. They all pound the computer keyboards. Mine are short because I spend a lot of time writing on my computer for your entertainment. Of the lesbians I have been with, I was the only one with non-clear lacquer and it was flesh colored. Next time I go out with them, it will be with clear polish or none at all.

Sixth, after cruising the web for myths about lesbians and comparing them to my experience, here is my take on the status of some of these myths. A common myth is that lesbian couples are said to consist of a dominant partner (ala masculine) and submissive (ala feminine) partner in each couple. To me, it just seemed that the partners were not dominant-submissive but rather wild and wilder! They like to rip and tear and have fun. Seriously, there are plenty of lesbians who are not partiers. The next myth says that lesbians wear a lot of apparel or buttons in rainbow colors. I never saw such among lesbians but the colors seem to be pretty common among trans people (I have a hand-knit rainbow scarf) that I see in support groups and school. Sure, lesbians do the rainbow thing at Pride but they are not into “show the flag” missions at work and in most social situations. One myth that I did confirm was the ubiquitous presence of hummus at parties. But that is probably common at parties these days. It is usually accompanied by veggies to keep the increasing vegan and dieting populations happy. I did confirm the myth that lesbians tend to complement one another on dress or hair and other presentation aspects. They actually complemented this old lady (me), which I did not expect nor know how to deal with. Next time, I will say thank you. I did dish one complement to a woman on her hair and won some big points. I did not know it but she had had a rough day at the hair salon. She had broken out in hives from a new hair product.

My general impression was that lesbians are fun to be with but I am a long way from wanting to date or couple with one. I am happily married to a beautiful woman who, unfortunately, is in an Alzheimer unit across the street. I see her every day. In 19 years of marriage, I have never been unfaithful to her and I do not intend to start now.

But as long as I am having fun, and my scientific curiosity is strong, I think I will continue to party and go to lesbian events, just as I do to trans events. I realize my experience so far is limited to local tech lesbians. But as I go, I will continue to post updates about what I find about the nature of the lesbian subculture.

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Category: Body & Soul

About the Author ()

Dana Jennett Bevan holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and a Bachelors degree from Dartmouth College both in experimental psychology. She is the author of The Transsexual Scientist which combines biology with autobiography as she came to learn about transgenderism throughout her life. Her second book The Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism is a comprehensive analysis of TSTG research and was published in 2014 by Praeger under the pen name Thomas E. Bevan. Her third book Being Transgender was released by Praeger in November 2016. She can be reached at [email protected]

Comments (2)

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  1. danabevan says:

    I am sure on occasion all of the lesbians I have met are femme and nicely dressed sometimes, I just saw work and lesbian bar social occasions where it was not required.

  2. j2emily says:

    similar experience–lesbian gals are accepting and fun to be with although a number I have met are also really femme and nicely dressed