First the stereotype. People often think of lesbians as having short-hair, their upper lips unwaxed, their clothes manly, their behaviour closely resembling a man. While this is true of some lesbians, it is not true for others. Think Portia De Rossi. Think Cynthia Nixon. Sorry I don’t have any Indian examples for you. If you’ll take my word for it, I can tell you that I know desi lesbians that are feminine and girly and I know desi lesbians that are boyish and I know some that are in between.
So if your daughter does not wear saris and salwar kameezes or wears baggy jeans with flannel shirts, don’t assume that she’s a lesbian. On the other hand, if your daughter does dress in a very feminine manner and has a beauty parlour appointment every 2 weeks, that doesn’t mean she is straight.
Not very helpful, I know. What can I say – there is nothing really that makes someone a lesbian other than their attraction to women. The culture in India makes it even harder to guess one’s sexuality, because there is so much affection between people of the same gender.
In my case, I had tons of crushes on girls right from the ripe age of 12. I had crushes on my friends, my teachers, tennis players (I had a HUGE poster of Jennifer Capriati on my bedroom wall), actresses (Madhuri Dixit, Dimple Kapadia mmmm). The thing is I didn’t realise it, but it should have been obvious to anyone paying attention – I liked girls.
So pay attention to your child. This does not mean that you should rifle through her stuff or try to hack into her email account or pick up the extension phone and eavesdrop on her phone calls.
At the end of the day, if you’ve asked this question – “How do I know?” – it hopefully means that you suspect something but haven’t been a drama queen about it. It means that you want to understand this and so whether your child is a lesbian or not – she has a good parent in you.