You know how people often ask a lesbian couple or two lesbian friends if they are sisters—meaning blood relatives, biological siblings?
Well, I was on the subway with my gal last night, the L train heading into Brooklyn and we were sitting across from what seemed to be a heterosexual duo. They were a hipster couple, and I use the term “couple” loosely because although they were tonguing each other, the dude was barely north of gay. They eventually got off at the stop before ours, in a much hipper neighborhood.
The woman in the pair caught our eyes and asked if we were sisters. “You have the same nose,” she smiled, “that’s how I came to my conclusion.”
Well, as it turns out my girl and I do have similar size and shaped noses, but we don’t at all look like each other. And, no, we are not siblings, but we are lesbian sisters as well as lesbians lovers.
“No” we said, shook our heads and smiled. We didn’t mind coming out to her; it just seemed totally unnecessary and completely irrelevant.
That young woman on the L train is everyone: All the older Italian men at the butcher, the Polish women at Veselka restaurant, the multicultural mash-up of middle-aged businesspeople smoking outside their office buildings in Midtown Manhattan, the scrubbed-clean young Midwestern tourists…all who so often ask, “Are you two sisters?”
It’s recognition of the ease and familiarity between us, me and my girlfriend, and other lesbian and queer couples. I used to get angry about this question—I considered it ignorance about lesbians and queerness, and erasure of our relationships. Now, I think it is more of an identification.
It is an acknowledgement of the smiles on our faces and the delight in our eyes as we interact with each other in public spaces, discussing the play we have just seen, our plans for this weekend, discussing our upcoming out-of-town trip, etc.
So, to the woman on the train: No we are not sisters, but yes we are sisters. We are another kind of sister whom you may not “see” but whom you surely recognize.