TV Tropes Monday: Lipstick Lesbian


Tweet of the Day: Revealing Writer


A lipstick lesbian is a lesbian who dresses and acts in a manner that is considered conventionally feminine (for instance, wearing lipstick). Main-character lesbians on TV tend to fall into this category more often, as it’s often seen as “safer”, unless the show is going for “edgy”. They also often have things like long fingernails, unlike their more masculine counterpart.

The term is self explanatory, but the reason why I chose this trope is because of how modern media tackles the complex issue of gender identity. And it is a very complex issue because:

  1. We don’t wear our sexuality in our skin (more on that on Friday’s Space for Rent)
  2. Behavior is not indicative of such things as attraction, romantic feelings or any other would be gender metrics.

In this particular case point #2 is played to the hilt. By all appearances, the character in question acts in a feminine manner (dress, speech pattern, etc,) but at some point in the story is revealed (either casually or  as part of the character’s development) that she is a lesbian.  Usually nothing much is made of it if the story is set in the present day or the future. In fact, the character’s sexuality is treated as nothing more than a character “quirk”.  More to the point, it is used to put a another character in its place with the phrase, “You’re not my type.”

It boils down to saying, “We know that Gays/Lesbians exist and we acknowledge the fact through this token character that happens to be a lesbian.”

For this reason alone, writers should avoid this trope. Unless you are willing to explore the character in full, don’t bother with it.


9 comments on “TV Tropes Monday: Lipstick Lesbian

  1. I think this character type works better on television than it does in a book. It wouldn’t be impossible to do though.


  2. I started out a character driven story and the main character was a young lesbian. It was to be a story about two childhood friends who meet back up for the straight friend’s wedding. The true story was to be about the reconciliation of mother and lesbian daughter after several years tension.

    I got to chapter 4 and completely froze, so that story is on the back burner for now.


  3. The same care should be given to a gay character as to a straight one. Namely, that they come across as a three-dimensional person who just happens to be gay. It’s bad writing to limit someone to whatever their sexual preference might be.


    • True, but in this case is more of adding a wrinkle to the character and ignoring the ramifications (and story opportunities) of the character’s sexual identity mainly because the writers are to scare to tackle them properly.


  4. Hmm. I understand what you mean, but have to slightly disagree. There’s a difference, to me, in stories that deal with a character coming to terms with their sexuality, coming out, family and friends reactions, ect. And stories where a character has been out for awhile. Mainly what I mean, is not all stories featuring a gay person should have to be about the fact that they are gay.


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