For the record: there is no foolproof way to know if a girl is a lesbian.
Sure, there may be hints, and some people are pretty convinced that they have finely tuned gaydar, but there are no clear signs that apply to everyone all the time. Really.
- Appropriate footwear: Birkenstocks, Airwalks, chucks, Doc Martens or sports sandals. Socks are never optional.
- Make-up: not allowed. Appropriate tops: flannel, more flannel, folksy prints and Polar fleece.
- Appropriate bottoms: jeans, cords, jean shorts or walking shorts.
- "Hygiene": Shaving of armpits or legs is frowned upon.
- Pop cultural influences: Melissa Etheridge; Ani DiFranco; Indigo Girls; and The L Word. No exceptions.
- Pets: At least one cat, and preferably more.
- Food: Vegetarians preferred
- Colleges/alma maters: Smith; Bryn Mawr; Mount Holyoke; and Wellesley.
- Partner choices: Recruiting straight women preferred.
- Career choices: P.E. teacher; basketball player; softball player; and professional golfer.
- Roles: Every lesbian relationship has a butch and a femme.
- Timing: Lesbians move in together on the second date.
- Sex: Once two lesbians move in together, they will never have sex again.
Now those might seem like obvious stereotypes to you, and you probably are well aware that they sure don't apply to all lesbians. But a lot of people still look at these attributes as signs that a girl is gay.
Though straight people often try to figure this out, lesbians or bisexual girls have a lot of good reasons to try to determine if a girl is a lesbian. This might happen if a teen is trying to figure out if she can come out safely to a peer, if she is looking for a friend with similar interests and also if she is interested in another girl and is trying to figure out whether or not she has a shot. As one teen lesbian writes:
"I'm a 15 year old girl and I have a crush on my close friend. I'm confused by the way she acts when she's with me. She touches me and flirts with me when she isn't around her friends. She invites me over to her place when her parents aren't home. I confused and don't know if she's really a lesbian."
Unfortunately, the "signs" described here aren't clear cut. They could be an indication of this girl's sexual orientation, or they just could be a personality trait of an affectionate straight girl. You could spend all day looking for signs, or you could just come right out and ask! Really, that is the only way to know someone's sexual orientation. But of course, many people aren't comfortable doing that.
Another idea is to ask some leading questions, like: "So, what do you think of gay marriage?" Or, "Think you might join the GSA?" Keep in mind, the answers might not prove anything conclusive, but they might be a good way to start a conversation about lesbian issues.
While a lot of the signs you might be looking for (an interest in certain music, fashion, or political causes, for example) may be stereotypically associated with being a lesbian, and some lesbians might embrace them, others simply won't. Lesbians, like straight women, have a huge range of interests and mannerisms, sometimes these are related to their sexual orientation. But a whole lot of times, they just aren't.