How To Be Gay: Femme Flagging 101

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Scenario: You’re out with a few friends at a bar and you randomly start hitting it off with a really cute girl. You, being gay, are also a girl. She’s seems to be into you. She started the conversation, she keeps leaning in close and touching you lightly at different points of the conversation. But before you ask her if she wants to come over to your place, you have to do what is sometimes impossible – determine if she is gay or queer, or bi. The point is: You need to figure out if she is down to sleep with you.

Straight people might not understand this struggle, but for queer women it is a constant negotiation when we are in environments that aren’t explicitly “queer”. Even if we ARE in environments that are supposed to be “queer,” like Hot Rabbit’s weekly lesbian dance party, straight people are likely to be there. Hell, even during Pride of all places, I once had to resort to shouting loudly through the streets that I was gay in order to fend off creepy straight men who feel the need to invade queer women’s spaces in order to participate in a spectating session. I guess fake “lesbian” porn isn’t enough for some dudes. They need to watch the “real” thing, or better yet, turn a gay girl out (if you’re reading this and you are a straight dude who does this, seriously, stop this behavior immediately).

Notions of what a “lesbian” or queer girl looks like are often really reductive, if not just plain wrong. No, not all gay girls are into masculine presenting women. Not all gay girls have short hair. So, yes, many times it can be difficult, if you don’t know someone very well, to figure out if they are gay. As gay, queer, and bi girls, we are wary of people thinking that we are “predatory” with regards to straight women. We don’t usually approach figuring out if someone is gay by crudely asking them, “so, are you gay?” That’s really just unacceptable.

So… how do we do this? Welcome to the wonderful world of femme flagging. For queer girls who identify as femme, that is feminine presenting, there are subtle ways we attempt to communicate our gayness to the queer community.  What are these signs?

Short nails. 

This is less of a femme flag and more of a general indicator that the person you are talking to could be gay. Not all girls with short nails are queer, but ALL queer girls who are actively hooking up with or trying to hook up with women do have short nails. The reason being? Contrary to whatever inaccurate lesbian porn you have been watching, long nails aren’t exactly a pleasant experience when you’re putting them into delicate areas. Queer girls are trying to give each other orgasms, NOT slice each other to pieces. For this reason, our nails will likely be cut short.

Finger Flag Manicure

This is a cute way of letting the world know you’re gay as f*ck. It can be as subtle as painting your ring finger nail a different color from all the rest, or as heavy handed as painting rainbows on every nail. Either way, finger femme flagging has helped out countless women. And maybe ensnared some straight women who unknowingly hopped on board with this trend in the process (oops…).

Colored bandanas or scarves.

I don’t really see this much anymore, and to be frank, I didn’t even know about this until today, but it’s where the terminology femme flagging comes from. Basically the way this works is that you would stick a different color bandana in your pocket, allowing it to visibly pop out, to indicate that you are gay, or into a certain type of kink. You can even indicate whether you’re a top or bottom through this bandana language. If you don’t want to stick them in your pocket which is honestly a little weird, you can accessorize by tying the bandanas around your head. Tying the knot of the bandana on the right will tell people you’re a bottom. The left signals you’re a top. Tying a knot at the bottom of your head means you are a switch. For the full low down on the code, you can check it out here.

Nipple Piercings

In the lesbian community having one nipple pierced is known as a femme flag. Naturally, when Rihanna began sporting her pierced nipple a lot of us went crazy. Is Rihanna trying to tell us she is gay? That she is down for the p (as in pussy not penis). Is she saying she is on the down low? Heteroflexible? Or is she just another straight woman caught in the fray of jumping onto a trend that was started by gay people trying to tell each other that we are gay? I have to say, with Rihanna, I have my suspicions. And by that I mostly mean my hopes and dreams…

So if you’re a femme and you’re constantly feeling the pain of #femmeinvisibility, you can now implement one, or all of these ways to indicate that you are, in fact, queer. Of course you could always go the route I took during Pride and just shout it loudly whenever it becomes necessary. That’s a femme flag that’s guaranteed to work, albeit it might get you some weird stares.

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