Masculinity & Attraction


Masculinity & Attraction

by Dannielle Owens-Reid & Kristin Russo, co-founders of My Kid Is Gay

My daughter dates girls, but they are very masculine. I don’t understand this... if she wants to be with women, why would she be with women who look like men?
— Anonymous

Dannielle & Kristin Say:

This is a very, very common question, and it requires us to think about two things: first, the intricacies that attract us to other human beings, and second, the nuances of appearance, gender, and presentation.

On the attraction front, generally speaking, most of us don't zero in on one small part of a person to figure out whether or not we would like to possibly date them. We don't say, 'Well, he has blonde, shoulder-length hair, so I am DEFINITELY interested in him.' If you use your own life-experience to think about what attracts you to others, you will probably have a hard time making a simple, concise list.

Some of our attractions might be based on appearance, sure, but others are likely based on things like confidence, kindness, humor, and shared interests. So, the first part of this is to understand that appearance is one of many factors. When you meet the girls that your daughter is dating, remember that there are probably dozens of reasons why she is interested in this other person, and not only because of their short hair or their button-down shirts!

So, okay -- your daughter is dating people that she is attracted to for a variety of reasons, but that still leaves you wondering about this 'masculine woman' vs 'masculine man' conundrum. Onward to the nuances of appearance, gender, and presentation. One of the best ways to pull this apart is to think about what you are saying in the reverse. Dannielle has a good friend who is mistaken for a lesbian all the time -- she appears very masculine, she has short hair, loves to build things, and dresses in clothes from the boys section. However, Dannielle's friend is not gay - she's been happily married to a man for eight years. Now, if we follow your theory above, you might similarly ask her husband "If you're married to a woman who is masculine, why not just be with a man?" We can guarantee her husband would look at you like you had 56 heads. It has never even occurred to him that, because his wife wears men's shirts, he should consider being gay and just finding someone else.

If you want to take it one step further, you can apply this to your own attractions. If you are a person who is attracted to men, then if "masculine men" and "masculine women" were the exact same... you'd be able to date the same girls your daughter is into!

...That probably makes it very clear that it's impossible to run a parallel between people based on outward appearance alone.

The bottom line here, if there is a bottom line (this is complicated stuff!), is that we all embody characteristics that can be considered "masculine" and "feminine." We all have these to varying degrees and in different combinations, and those combinations are attractive to different people. Your daughter, it seems, isn't attracted to "masculine men." From what you have observed, perhaps she is attracted to "masculine women"... but that, too, might be an over-generalization. It may not be the short hair or the button-downs, but something about the way these women carry themselves, the way they walk through the world, the way the speak to her, that she finds attractive. We can't ever truly know all the pieces that come into play in the relationships of others, but it is important to allow for those relationships to be just as real, just as meaningful, and just as connected as anyone else's.