To The FemmeMobile! Away!

{October 12, 2009}   Realizations 1!

So, DK posted link salad (and pictures! Check out her badass leather jacket. I might be SLIGHTLY nosebleeding.), and I’ve been going through the links and reading as fast as my little defunct brain possibly can.

So once upon a time, there were these stereotypes called femme and butch. (I am apparently in a storytelling mood tonight. Go with it and be glad I’m not fueled by wine.) Femme and butch got kind of a bad rap, and entered into pop culture with this tarnished image. Enough so that a young!JB knew what they were, though she could never say how she knew.

One day, not!as!young!JB went to college in Canada, where she saw a movie in a feminist class where the protagonists were Butch and Femme. The femme was referred to as a lipstick lesbian and, iirc, went straight in the end. The butch was kind of an asshole. Not!as!young!JB went, “Ah! I got it. The femme is catty and bitchy and goes back to her man, the butch is an asshole who hasn’t realized she’s trans yet.” Now, not!as!young!JB knew this was not REALLY the case, but let’s just say she didn’t walk away all that impressed with the roles and leave it at that, shall we? But to make it better, she didn’t realize she wasn’t all that impressed with the roles. It just sort of lurked in her subconscious there.

And then she saw a true-story movie about a stone butch who, uh, was extremely unhealthy, abused, and got beaten to death at the end. Not the most positive role model. >.< (Actually, it was about a trans FTM, but as I only saw part of it I claim ignorance!)

Fastforward! adult!JB has realized she’s bi. She is having some trouble fitting into queer roles, though! It’s like the Dr. Suess dog.

“Do you like this lesbian-role?”
“I do not!”
“Goodbye, then!”

“Do you like this pomosexuality?”
“Goodbye again!”

“Do you like this lipstick lesbian?”
“I do not!”
“Goodbye, then!”

And so on. JB had finally decided that she was just an oddity, that she’d just have to make up her own role (but it was a little frustrating, especially when people treated her as if she weren’t bi at all, even though they knew. And I mean when they were surprised every time I expressed interest in a woman.).

Time marched on! And then JB met DK. And JB had always looked at women and said, “Hey, she’s pretty!” to women that looked a bit like JB herself, but was a little confused because if she imagined making out with those women, it just wasn’t hot. It was like, “AGH, girlybits! I already have those! >.<” And, on a level she didn’t even want to admit to herself, it was also like, “AGH! Girlymind! I already have THAT, too, and I don’t want to spend half the time being the guy in the relationship, which seems only fair!” So when she met DK, she thought, “that is not the kind of woman I am normally attracted to!” because DK was somewhat butch. Or a stud. More masculine than JB, anyway.

And then two days passed, and JB fell head over heels. Damn.

Fastforward again! JB is highly aware that with her in her pretty dress and DK in her suit, they are a stereotype. This amuses her to no end. She’s also aware that DK opens doors for her and she holds DK’s elbow like she would a guy and that DK appreciates JB’s dresses, though JB can’t quite puzzle out why, and she likes DK as DK is; kind of masculine.

And then one day (which might have been today — SHUT UP, I AM SLOW SOMETIMES) DK posted a whole bunch of linksalad about butch, and also some stuff on femmes. And JB read the link salad. And JB went, “…Ohhhhhhhh.” And everything clicked. It was like this:

“Do you like this femme?”
“I DO! What a hat! I like that party hat!” (Because there was totally a party. SHUT UP, IT IS THE LINE FROM THE BOOK, OKAY?)

So, yeah, anyway. I keep stumbling around going, “none of these sexualities feel right,” and then I started reading this and I was like, “…yeah… yeah! …yeah!” and it feels nice to know that there are other people out there like me, and I’m not a cop-out lesbian because I’m dating a woman who’s fairly masculine, and I’m not a cop-out lesbian because I don’t look like a lesbian, and I’m not a cop-out lesbian because I wear dresses and enjoy being purty. I mean, I knew that before, but now to see it with other people and have them say, “Oh, yeah, and this is normal and also this and this and this” and I sit there going, “…YES EXACTLY” is kind of a relief. Also, to see butch women going, “and it’s so hot!” is a relief, because even though DK has said so and Nezu has said so about her girlfriend Messypeaches, it’s… uh, still different to see that YES, this is like, A THING. I don’t know. It’s that whole social thing, where you look at other people to see what’s acceptable? I forget the real name (it’s late! ish!), but it’s like that, and now I can look around and go, “ohthankgoodness, they’re not just saying it because it’s a faze or because they want me to feel good about myself.” Because, really, I can’t even imagine being butch/masculine, with all the knightly behaviors and caring-for and chivalry and liking pretty girly girls (just thinking about it exhausts me!) so it’s hard to see how that would feel good for someone. But look! There’s a whole world of people out there who feel that way! Both femme and butch!

So, anyway, I was reading this blog — Sugarbutch — and there were totally bits that made me tear up and stuff. >.< And one of the things that made me tear up was this:

One of the major themes I’ve come across in running Sugarbutch is femmes who feel invisible – that they are not read as queer because lesbians are not feminine, femininity is a constructed gender role within the heteronormative paradigm, and the perceived notion that a femme is really either bi or straight.

This misconception has to do with physical symbols of gender, and required alignment of sexual orientation and gender.

The first keynote speaker at the conference, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, said: femmes are not invisible, you don’t know how to look.

And this is point number one that I want to make. I’ll pause here to let that sink in for you.

Femmes are not invisible, the lesbian community just doesn’t know how to look.

(And it’s funny: being bi is often sort of… thrown out in the gay community, I find. “You’re bi? You had a serious boyfriend? Uh huh. You’ll go straight again.” And femme on top of that — GAH. You can even see it here: “perceived notion that a femme is really either bi or straight” — aka, perceived notion that a femme is not a femme, not a ‘real’ lesbian. Which, okay, I’m not lesbian. I’m bi. But… but there’s an annoyance here that I can’t quite put my finger on or words to. Regardless, femme feels right to me, and it’s nice to find somewhere I fit, since ‘bi’ sort of locks you out of both straight and gay communities, a lot of time. Also, ‘bi’ can pass for straight, which loses you cred, somehow. THERE IS A WHOLE ENTRY HERE ABOUT BEING OUTED OF BOTH COMMUNITIES, BUT IT IS FOR ANOTHER TIME. STOP WRITING, SELF.)

I got all teary, because seriously, this is how I feel. People are surprised — gay and straight alike — when I say I have a girlfriend. I get, “But you don’t look gay,” (which always makes me wonder — how do gay people ‘look’? But of course there IS a look, which is why we have gaydar. And I do not register on it for most people, which gives me a weird, outward-turned search for approval, that is the same question that has bothered me since I FIRST thought maybe I was bi, and was the reason it took me so long to do anything about it: if no one else sees me as gay, am I wrong? Will I wake up one morning and realize I’m straight? As of tonight, this, at least, is a worry I can set aside.) (This particular Sugarbutch post was here.)

Something else, from this same post, that made me laugh was this:

Plus, for some of us our own sense of identity is so greatly magnified when in contrast to our particular desire orientation – I am not just a butch, for example, but I am a butch who loves, desires, and partners with femmes, and that is also a key component to my identity.

Which, though taken out of context doesn’t ping for me as clearly, led me to the realization that I am more femme — and more comfortable — around DK. She is butch. I am femme. No one questions whether we’re together (which I also get a lot — I have to think butch/femme have a bad rap in general, because people, even people who accept me as bi, are always surprised when I say my girlfriend is ‘kinda butch.’), no one assumes I will change my mind, no one points out the cute guy looking at me and encourages me to go flirt (even knowing I have a girlfriend), I do not have to keep telling people I’m bi or have a girlfriend, I feel comfortable in my own skin, accepted for who I am without having to remind anyone.

It should be noted here that these are gentle reminders: rarely do people act out and out surprised. And for the most part I take it in stride. It’s something I don’t really notice, even, until DK is gone, and it’s something I had attributed to having a long distance girlfriend; she wasn’t here, people forgot. But I think it’s more than that. I feel pretty and slinky and desirable and, well, femme and sometimes femme fatale when she’s around. I just feel good. And I like having a butch girlfriend. I liked that about guys, too. I like people who can tug me here and there, and I like the feeling of strength, and the feeling of being protected and cared for. I like the feeling that I am someone who can be cared for. (Note that none of this means I NEED to be cared for. It’s just nice.)

It’s funny, because I liked that with guys, but there was always this guilt to it. “Am I just being codependant? Am I being insecure? Am I am I am I…?” There’s still some of that with DK, but it’s less. Part of that, I think, is just a matter of having grown up a little. 😉 Grown into myself and who I am a little. But part of it is surely that we’re both women: it’s hard to say I’m leaning on a man when, uh, Dark’s not. (There is still SOME of that, but I’ve proven to myself I can do anything by myself, so I’m not as worried as I used to be. Also! Look! There are other people like me, who are living their lives and enjoying their femininity and enjoying that they can let someone be Big And Strong And Protective, and it’s not a bad thing.)

(Also, on a random note, I was reading the butch stuff and kept thinking of Dean Winchester. Yes. From Supernatural. I COULDN’T HELP IT. Now I’m going to imagine Dean with breasts. >.< Or Dark in his flannel… *dies*)

Anyway, all of this is to say LOOK LOOK I THINK I’M FEMME! *celebrates!* I’m not odd and alone! Also, some quickie fun links:

Top Ten Things I Love About Femmes
The Care and Feeding of a Butch

Both made me laugh. 😀


chibinecco says:

To be perfectly honest, I was kind of surprised to find out you WEREN’T gay/bi to begin with. Something about reading your fiction (all those years ago) I just didn’t see “straight!girl.” Maybe it’s just momo radiates gay-waves >.> Sorry, I’m doing that obnoxious kind of babbley again, but reading your self-reflection posts tends to do that to me. It’s why I love your fiction so damn much.

Also, reading other posts on this blog and over at your journal, I thought of a couple links you might be interested in: (Or not, I read a lot of stuff bored at work today XP) LONG webcomic about a boy who, through the mistakes of a lazy angel, is accidentally turned into a girl and he’s the only one who knows it. Still in progress, very well characterized. Trans!Spock. with all the proper emotional cues, none of that popped into one body to try it on for size crap.

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