I am a New Yorker. I am a proud graduate of a top all-women’s liberal arts college. I am a caregiver and advocate for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. I am an entrepreneur. I am a woman. I am gay. And like you, I am so much more…

Crystal Prospect

But often times, I am relegated to just the gay part because many can’t see past that single piece of my identity. There are countless stereotypes, false perceptions and myths about LGBTQ folks in general, and plenty about women who identify as gay and/or lesbian specifically. I hope that by sharing some of my truths here, I’ll be able to debunk a few of those myths.

1. My gender expression transcends the binary.
I prefer the look, style, fashion and fit of men’s clothes and enjoy a good mani/pedi as much as the next person. I haven’t worn a skirt, dress or heels in over fifteen years, but I still appreciate the hard work that goes into a thoroughly buffed nail! Masculinity and femininity can be expressed beyond the binary expectations that are usually thrust upon us, and it is important for us to keep that in mind when we encounter folks who may not fit within our own expectations of what they should look like or how they should dress. Both gender identity (our innermost concept of self as male, female, both or neither) and gender expression (external appearance of one’s gender identity) operate on a spectrum, and can be fluid.

2. On the topic of gender expression: my wardrobe contains more than just flannel shirts.
Let me be clear: I do wear flannel shirts. I actually quite like a good, sturdy flannel shirt (particularly this time of year, as it starts to cool down). But I also wear custom suits and fabulous shoes that often earn me compliments from the type of dudes that might harass other women with their latest pick-up lines. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a fashionista, but I certainly appreciate style. I sometimes shop for my partner (who is femme-of-center), and often collect fashion tips and hints from other women like her, as well as men. In keeping with the theme of breaking stereotypes, I’ll close this point with stating that gay men aren’t the only ones – along the LGBTQ spectrum – with style and flair!

3. I am attracted to women, yes…but not all women.
Just like most folks have a particular type (whether they like to admit it or not is an entirely separate issue), so do I. The same way not every man may turn a straight woman’s head, not every woman will turn mine. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; so the woman I find to be incredibly attractive may not do it for the next person. And that’s really the true beauty of it all – that we can each revel in whomever we deem lovely, and not have to explain or justify it to anyone else.

4. I identify as gay (or lesbian), but not all same-gender loving women/female-identified folks identify as such.
I am a cisgender woman who is attracted to women, which makes me a lesbian by the strictest definition and associated terminology. However, when asked how I identify, I usually say “gay” because it seems more appropriate, is a bit broader and is only one syllable. But I am just one person on this wide spectrum we call sexual orientation and sexuality (which are not actually the same thing, but I won’t cover that here). Other same-gender loving women may identify as Queer or Trans, which actually leads me to my next point. But before we get there, it’s important to note that LGBTQ-identified folks aren’t the only ones who are frustrated by the labels that are thrown on us and the boxes we are often pushed into. Think about multi-racial or multi-national folks, and the lines they are forced to tread just to feel “at home” with one piece of their identity. Now imagine a world where everyone was just who they were, loved who they loved, looked however they looked and weren’t forced to pick one label, one box, one look or one identity. Because, after all, most of us are intersectional. I am black, I am a woman, I am gay; but what if I was just me?

5. Pivoting to gender identity, my experience as a cisgender woman is not the same as that of a transgender woman.
For as long as I’ve known, the L, G, B, T (and sometimes Q) have always lived together as one acronym that is meant to be all-inclusive and all-encompassing for those of us living outside the big, straight H. But in actuality, transgender folks are inaccurately lumped into a discussion that is centered around sexual orientation while the very essence of being transgender has not to do with one’s sexuality, but rather their gender identity or expression, as compared to their assigned sex at birth. Lumping the T together with the L, G & B – in my opinion – undermines, and even dismisses, the very significant (not to mention, daunting) reality of what it must feel like to be assigned the wrong sex at birth.

6. I don’t play a particular “role” in my relationship, other than myself.
So we already know that I wear men’s clothing and have a partner who does not (wear men’s clothing, that is). But that doesn’t mean that she expects me to be a man or that I’m trying to be one. I’m simply living as the most authentic version of myself – and doing so unapologetically. We are two women who are attracted to women, regardless of what our gender expression may be. And not all lesbian couples fall at opposite ends of the gender expression spectrum – and gender expression is certainly not binary. Whether two masculine women, two feminine women or any variation thereof, the “roles” we may take on are specific to each unique relationship and not based on stereotypical, hetero-normative ones.

7. I believe in God.
While I may not be a bible-toting member of any particular church or denomination (I was raised Episcopalian), I do believe in God…and I’m here to tell you she’s a woman! (Seriously.) My spiritual journey is my own, just as yours is your own. We all walk different paths; some might walk towards enlightenment or faith, others seek oneness with a higher being, and some might be guided by a purpose to serve others. Whatever the journey, the bottom line is that being gay does not preclude me or anyone else from believing in a higher power (despite whatever the bible may or may not actually say about the life I lead).

While I certainly do not represent all, or even most, women who identify as gay and/or lesbian, I hope that these 7 truths – my truths – have provided a new perspective and perhaps changed just one person’s mind about any preconceived notions they may have had.

Crystal Hudson is the founder of @gaygreetings. Gay Greetings is a socially responsible and eco friendly company spreading love and acceptance, one beautiful card at a time. Learn more at getaygreetings.com

Photos courtesy of Gay Greetings.