Who’s on top?

TORONTO (CUP) — When Vanessa Runions shaved off her waist-long hair she wasn’t surprised by her mother’s reaction on the other end of the phone line. Now that her gender-identifying hair was down to a close shave her mother timidly asked who was “the boy in the relationship.”

“I think she just really wanted to hear that I was still her little girl,” Runions said.

LGBT couples like Runions and Sarah McCorkindale, students at Ryerson University, are often tagged by society with gender roles in their relationship.

“We’ve been asked which one of us is more masculine. But if they have to ask, I’m assuming our gender roles aren’t visible,” Runions said.

McCorkindale agrees.

“I think it’s an older generation that assumes couples must always work in a masculine-feminine framework,” she said.

Runions believes this mindset has ties in history. Traditionally, society paid attention to visible differences in people. Being lesbian or gay often meant you looked different in the past, she said.

“And sometimes that framework still exists naturally in gay relationships, but it often has less to do with gender and more to do with personality,” Runions said.

Aaron Blasutti has always felt that he’s been judged too quickly for his more feminine qualities not only outside the LGBT community, but inside it as well. Blasutti, now 22, was perpetually a bottom when he first came out, feeling too inexperienced to challenge the “twink,” or submissive, role partners assumed he would play.

“Now that I’m older and just started a new relationship, I don’t feel any specific roles have been relevant for my partner and I. Most queer relationships are actually equal,” Blasutti said.

McCorkindale said people cling to these stereotypes because they make everything about gender.

“You see a pink blanket and you think feminine, you see a couple and you see male and female. When people see a gay couple they want to assign gender roles, because we assign gender roles to absolutely everything else.”

Rosalie Pepin, a 23 year-old producer of feminist queer porn, dons heels, skirts, and has long, gleaming, dark hair. Although Pepin is comfortable with her feminine appearance, she resists the so-called submissive qualities that are often attached with it.

“I direct and film people fucking. As a femme, I don’t know how my dominance could come as more of a surprise to people,” said Pepin.

Another misconception about Pepin is made when she is seen with her long-time partner, who has recently started his transition from female to male.

“In my relationship with a trans guy, his past and present seems to have little effect on our sex lives, except maybe the fact that, as time has gone on and he becomes more masculine, he’s actually more comfortable with being submissive,” Pepin said.

Runions said most relationships are more equal than they appear on the surface.

“Even my heterosexual friends are involved in relationships where the only gender roles are the ones assigned at birth. I think that many of these couples are together regardless of where they fall on the gender scale, choosing to be with the person for who they are.”