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26 Dec

Lez nails: Is the ‘queer woman with short nails’

Short nails are a deep-rooted lesbian trope, but these queer femmes are finding joy and gender validation of their long manicures

Whether happily lapping up quasi-serious jokes about u-hauling on sapphic meme pages, or making jokes in your Hinge bio about being ready to your next long-distance relationship, lesbians love turning stereotypes into in-jokes. While that is admittedly quite cringe, what’s worse is that sometimes these stereotypes are true. Personally, I’m no exception: I once boarded a plane to travel to a second date (they paid, because femme privilege) and, drum roll, have also found my nails to play an oddly outstanding role in my dating life. 

Should you’re not au fait with lesbian manicure norms then here’s your crash course. Within the lesbian and queer communities, nails are a little bit of a contentious subject. Some queer women think they’ll judge someone’s sexual preference based on their nails and can often assume that long, manicured nails routinely equal straight, while short nails are a queer signifier. It could possibly often be the case; a 2019 survey by queer platform Autostraddle found that 95 per cent of lesbians keep their nails short. But it surely signifies that those queer femmes who don’t are sometimes bombarded with invasive, generally sexual questions on what can and might’t be done with their talons. 

My twisting nail journey has been even longer than the commute to see my aforementioned ex. While I don’t strictly discover with the concept of being a “woman”, I do undergo periods of identifying strongly with femininity – and that features “feminine” long, painted nails. There’s been a press-on nail era which culminated in me ripping a set off, one after the other, on a hookup’s bed. There was even the time I got a pair of long nails as an indication of commitment to my ex during one other long-distance relationship. Now, I’m freshly single and contemplating essentially the most wicked-looking, decorative nail art you’ll be able to imagine. Naturally, I’m concerned concerning the stigma but now that I’m not in a relationship, I feel less like my sexuality and the cultural codes that include it define me.

“Nails are a extremely big a part of identifying [lesbians and queer women]. There’s that thing of taking a look at someone’s nails and being like, ‘are they a top or bottom?’ depending on the length,” says genderqueer, pansexual artist Sammaneh Pourshafighi who has began experimenting with press-ons and going to nail salons as a approach to explore her femininity. “Sometimes people give a lesbian vibe because they’ve short nails, it’s sometimes a surface-level indicator of some sorts of sexuality.”

Queer people love their codes. In relation to nails, there’s the idea that should you’ve got villainous talons it means you’re either solely into cishet men or a pillow princess. It’s a stereotype which ultimately boils all the way down to: if you might have long nails, fingering someone may be a struggle. “There is unquestionably a negotiation by way of find out how to have sex with longer or ‘done’ nails,” Pourshafighi says. “Even by way of clitoral stimulation, nails is usually a hindrance in the event that they’re too long.”

It’s value noting that not all lesbians have vulvas and, equally, not all lesbians enjoy manual penetration and will as an alternative prefer strap-ons and oral sex – each activities that you just don’t need to make use of your hands for. There are also loads of things that individuals with longer nails can do to finger safely, equivalent to wearing latex gloves to limit snags and applying lube. 

Despite the stereotype, long nails is usually a major turn-on. Scratching is a reasonably common activity within the bedroom but for some it may possibly take the shape of a fetish or kink. In these instances, long nails may be a crucial aesthetic and sensory aid. “I got a set done before a hookup specifically because I knew they were into being scratched,” lesbian and non-binary femme Izzy MacC says, adding “I haven’t had any drama from the lesbian community about my nails.”

MacC first began getting their nails done for a wholly unrelated, non-sexual reason, nonetheless, after they’d seen friends within the queer community posting fresh sets by the nail artist Zahara Hussein. For a very long time, MacC had contemplated a “femme-icure” – long nails with the pointer and middle finger kept short – but didn’t see it as an option until seeing Hussein’s work. “I had been wanting a ‘femme-icure’ but I used to be a bit embarrassed about asking for one in most nail salons,” they are saying. “I didn’t want the nail artist to be like, ‘Why are you getting two nails short and the remainder of them long…?’”

Hussein is understood for making a protected space for her LGBTQ+ clients and has turn out to be MacC’s go-to for the sharp, gem-embellished nails of their dreams. Now, having hyper-femme, camp nails are a joyful expression of their multifaceted identity. “My nails say ‘gay’ for a start because I are inclined to get a femme-icure. In addition they say ‘gay’ because they’re so OTT and camp. Then the undeniable fact that they’re so glam also hints at my occupation as a stripper.” These nails are so emblematic of who they’re that they’ve integrated them into their artistic practice, prominently featuring a set of jewelled, femme-icure nails right into a set of painted self-portraits

Nails have been a serious a part of queer, demisexual music journalist and photographer Kyann-Sian Williams’ self-expression, as well. For Williams, nails are intimately linked to memories of growing up. “I’ve all the time loved nails. Being Black, you might have at the least one auntie and a bunch of cousins that love getting a fresh coat of lacquer every month like clockwork,” she explains. “Very often I remember sitting there for hours watching all the ladies around me getting their nails done within the salon and loving the smell.” 

Throughout William’s queer journey, they experienced an ongoing negotiation with gender – particularly as a youngster. “With body dysmorphia and European beauty standards, I’ve all the time struggled with feeling like a girl,” she says. Wanting to reconnect with and redefine their very own femininity, nails became a serious tool. “Thinking back to the matriarchs of my family, it was that one significant tradition that took me back to pure femininity. Nails definitely helped me understand my very own identity in a weird way.”

Coming into maturity, nails have remained a crucial a part of their identity. “With my first paycheck, I got myself essentially the most basic nail shape: stiletto. Fast forward to today and I’m all the time trying an intricate design or brightly colored set.” And this has never been at odds with William’s queer identity, when it involves dating and relationships, she hasn’t noticed any negativity towards her nails, partly attributable to being demisexual. “I’m not essentially the most forward sexually so I’ve never had a messy hookup due to my nails. To be honest, I’m demisexual so it hasn’t truly affected any of the relationships I’ve had,” they explain. “With the time it takes for us to do anything [sexual], you’ve already learnt so rather more about me than the actual fact I like long nails.”

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