How to best include a butch lesbian bridesmaid: A guide for well-meaning straight brides

*AE first featured this story in February 2016. 

Matrimonial bliss must be in the air—two good friends announced engagements in the last week, and I’ve been inundated with emails from heterosexual women agonizing over what the heck to do with their masculine-of-center lesbian bridesmaids. These emails come in two general flavors:

#1: I want my butch friend to wear a dress, and she said no! WTF—it’s MY wedding!

#2: My butch friend would hate wearing a dress, so what should I ask her to wear?

I’ve been on all sides of this: the reluctant dress-wearing bridesmaid, the tie-sporting bridesmaid, and (many years ago) the hetero bride.

The women who ask question #1 tend to write things like, “I get that she’s a lesbian, but it’s MY wedding. Even if she doesn’t like dresses, it’s what my bridesmaids are wearing. It’s MY day, and I want everyone to match.”

Matching, I must say, is highly overrated. 

554999641images via Getty

Matching sides are not chic or modern. Matching sides are not correlated with matrimonial happiness. And I can virtually guarantee that when you and your beloved are thumbing through your photo album on your 25th anniversary, you’re not going to give two craps about sartorial uniformity. You’ll only care who was there and how much fun you had with them.

With sufficient badgering, some butches can be bullied into donning a dress. But most will feel wildly uncomfortable. (Trust me—I’ve been there. A butch in drag feels like a show poodle on steroids.) And don’t you want her to stand up for you as who she is, not as some silly dysphoric cartoonish version of herself? 

I can hear it now: a bride-to-be asking, “But lots of people feel comfortable in other clothes. The groomsmen would prefer to wear sweatpants, and we’re not letting them get away with it.” Listen, sister—this is nothing like that. It’s not just a matter of formality.  Showing up in something more physically comfortable is qualitatively different from showing up in clothes that cut against the core of who you are as a person. Hence my use of the word “dysphoria” above. 

Suppose you were going to a fancy-schmancy event and the host asked you to wear a tuxedo and fake mustache. Not as a joke, mind you, but because this was what they wanted you to wear and be photographed in. If you really wanted to attend the event, maybe you’d do it. But something in you would blanch. Yuck, you might think. This is not really me. I feel like I’m in a costume—I hope no one sees me like this. This is how many butches feel when we put on a dress.