In Dell Richards excellent Lesbian Lists (1990), he trawled through old medical journals for ways to spot a lesbian. This was the advice given by the doctors of the day.
1800s. In the “Gay 90s”, that is, the 1890s, a sure sign of a lesbian was a woman who smoked in public. Earlier that century, a woman who wore bloomers to go cycling was also a lesbian.
1900. At the turn of the century, women who threw away their whalebone corsets for the freedom to breathe easily were labeled by men as lesbians. They had foresworn the fashionable tiny waist and hourglass figure, all unnaturally achieved, for a “manly” look.
1920s. In the early 1920s, when many women had stopped wearing old fashioned corsets, the new sign of lesbianism was close-cropped or bobbed hair. The boyish looking, care free flapper was assumed by many to be bisexual.
1930s and 1940s. When some women dared to wear trousers, they were called lesbians. Women who entered the workforce were suspected of homosexual tendencies as they had abandoned home and hearth.
1950s and 1960s. As more women started to work outside the home, charges of lesbianism were leveled at women who didn’t marry and want children. In the tumultuous late 1960s, women who burned their bras at demonstrations were called lesbians. Deviation from accepted behaviour was synonymous with being a sexual deviant.
1970s. When the women’s movement emerged in the 1970s, all feminists were suspected of harbouring lesbian tendencies. They wanted independence and equality, what men had, which translated into the suspicion that they wanted to be men.
2018. A friend of mine is convinced that all women are lesbians because none of them wish to sleep with him.