“Are You Sisters?” & Other Obnoxious Things People Say To My Girlfriend & Me

People saying rude things to total strangers isn’t something new, but the comments my girlfriend and I get seem particularly patronizing and obnoxious. It’s nice that we live in a city where we don’t get much abuse or harassment about our sexuality, but it’s still irritating to hear the following things when we’re out together.

  1. “Are you sisters?” Nope, but it’s kind of weird that someone’s first assumption upon seeing two women being affectionate in public is that they must be sisters. I don’t have a sister, but I don’t think they tend to hold hands and occasionally kiss each other. What the hell?
  2. “Like, girlfriend or girlfriend girlfriend?” I guess I can’t really blame people for clarifying. When I introduce my girlfriend as my girlfriend, I guess it’s not clear that we’re in a romantic relationship because the term can also refer to a female friend (though frankly, I think that’s a little old-fashioned).  The girlfriend label is supposed to make things clear, but apparently only for straight people. Can we all just agree that girlfriends should only refer to romantic partners moving forward?
  3. “You look like each other!” Um, thanks? I think we look pretty different, size-and-overall-shape-wise, but I guess we have the same eye and hair color and wear glasses. Oh, and we’re both women. I don’t know why anyone would want to point this out. I sort of wonder if people think we’re unaware that we’re two women in a relationship and we’ll suddenly go, “Oh man, I thought I was dating a man this whole time! Thanks, random stranger!”
  4. “You two are too cute!” I mean, we are the cutest, but we knew that. We don’t need anyone else to tell us. It feels weird, like they’re cooing over puppies. We’re being cute for each other, not anyone else. The worst thing about people saying this is that they have to go on and on about it. I see straight girls coo like this over two guys who are dating too. Gay people are not cute accessories. We’re adult humans in a normal relationship. Please control yourselves.
  5. “Aw, that’s so sweet!” I don’t really even understand this. I think this is something people say when we say we’re dating and they have no other response. A simple “That’s nice!” would suffice, but again, people have to coo over us. Also, is it just me or does this sound kind of condescending? We’re grown women, not sixth graders going to a school dance.
  6. “Which one of you is the man?” This is not something anyone should ask. Neither of us is the man—that’s the whole point. If they’re wondering who wears the strap-on, I have many more problems. Firstly, if someone thinks that sex is entirely contingent on the ability to penetrate and be penetrated, they’re doing it wrong. Secondly, it’s none of their business what we do in private.
  7. “I wish all my girls’ nights were that fun!” This was a strange one my girlfriend heard one when someone she didn’t know very well at work asked about her weekend. She said she did some baking, watched movies, and cuddled with her girlfriend. Due to the constant confusion over the term “girlfriend” usually meaning “my friend who is a girl” rather than “girl I’m dating,” she automatically assumed it must have been a platonic girls’ night. I mean, not that it isn’t important to have close female friends, but I like to save my cuddles for the person I’m in a relationship with.
  8. “It’s really cool that you get to share clothes and stuff!” First of all, straight girls do this all the time—it’s not just a lesbian thing. Oversized t-shirts and hoodies that your boyfriend lent you have always been a thing, right? Anyway, my girlfriend and I can’t share clothes given that I’m 5’9″ and she’s 4’10”. Even if we were the same height, we have drastically different tastes. Also, newsflash: we didn’t start dating each other to expand our wardrobes.
  9. Nothing at all, just perplexed stares. Some strangers are polite enough not to pry, but that doesn’t stop them from looking at us like we’re a puzzle they have to solve. Since both my girlfriend and I have long hair and sometimes wear dresses, we don’t fit the usual “butch and femme” pairing people recognize as “lesbians.” Still, when we hold hands or kiss each other on the cheek, they wonder how we know each other: close friends, sisters, cousins, or a very feminine gay couple? Maybe if they look long enough, they can put things together. However, we’d prefer if people stopped staring and got on with their own lives.
Emma is a twenty-something writer living in North Carolina. She loves cute things, gay things, and being right about things. She's also a bit of a nerd.