(This question was adapted from a recent online chat.)

Q: I am fairly knowledgeable about most LGBT issues and try to treat people as they want to be treated but I have never gotten an answer to this most basic of questions. Why do so many lesbians wear men’s clothes? I am not referring to transgender people here. I’m talking about women that I know are lesbians and identify as female wearing men’s clothes. ~Anonymous

A: First, I’m not sure what you mean by “so many” lesbians wearing men’s clothes but yes there are lesbians who sometimes dress in a more masculine (i.e. ‘butch’) fashion. At the same time, I think a great many straight women also wear “men’s clothes.” Pants, flats, and, blazers – just for starters.

To help answer your question, I’m pasting in a response from an anonymous lesbian who wrote about this topic recently. I think she gives some very good insight into her sartorial choices and identity.

“I always feel a little uncomfortable when being asked to speak for the queer community or in this case for all lesbians. So I won’t. I will speak for myself–someone who does, more often than not, ‘dress like a man.’

First thing is first. I do not want to be a man. I am really quite comfortable being labeled, identifying as, and relating to other people as a woman. Nor am I attempting to fool you or anyone else into thinking I am a “man.”  But I do feel 100 percent comfortable dressing in a masculine fashion.

Because of the following reasons (list not exhaustive) 

  1. I am LOW MAINTENANCE.  Like… low.  It is easier to look stylish when all you are pairing are t-shirts, jeans, sweatshirts, and sneakers. Clothes designed for women, tend to include different fits, cuts, complicated patterns, and frilly bits I don’t know what to do with.
  2. I am unwilling to sacrifice comfort for looks.  Women’s clothing seems to ask this of me.
  3. I feel 10 times more confident when I am wearing more masculine clothes. This I can’t explain, it just is what it is. You know that item of clothing you wore till it fell into many pieces, it’s like that. You just feel good when you’re rocking it.
  4. I enjoy people correctly assuming my sexuality.  And in this society, for people to do that, that means being more masculine-identified.

I like my style right now, it makes me comfortable, makes me feel more me. In high school I wore more feminine clothing–skirts, tight shirts, rocked some long hair.  And at the time, I was comfortable with that too. And I know a lot of other queer women who feel very comfortable wearing masculine clothes one day, and a dress the next. It is about feeling good in my clothes. And I do!”

But let me ask you this: Why does this matter to you?

Agree or disagree with my advice? Let me know in the comment field below.

Every other week, Steven Petrow, the author of “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners,” addresses questions about LGBT and straight etiquette in his new column, Civilities. E-mail questions to Steven at stevenpetrow@earthlink.net (unfortunately not all questions can be answered). You can also reach Steven on Facebook at facebook.com/stevenpetrow and on Twitter @stevenpetrow.