To The FemmeMobile! Away!











With apologies to my friends who don’t like long things, and the friends who have been assaulted and can’t read things even remotely about it. I’m not putting this behind a cut. It’s too easy to bypass; at the very least, the number of episodes should be noted.

I have never been badly assaulted. I’ve never been hurt. That said, if you can’t read anything remotely alarming, I suggest you scroll past. Thank you.

**

I read this essay and as I read it, I thought, “The sad thing is, this isn’t uncommon. But I bet most people reading it will think it is.” The first comment I saw confirmed that.

I also thought, “If a lot of people started making lists like this, I bet we could raise social awareness. I bet more people would report it. I bet more guys would step in.” (I feel sad that I believe that’s what we need to happen.)

So. These are my stories.

When I was fifteen, I was taking the trash out behind the pet store I worked at. As I walked back to the store, a small man got out of his white, window-less van and started walking toward me. He was, stereotypically, offering me candy. He had some in his hand. Would I like some? I said no. He had other flavors in the van. No. They were free. No. I’d be doing him a favor; he had too much. No. By the time I reached the pet store door, he was ten feet away. I got inside and told my supervisor. She laughed: how stereotypical. I asked if we should report it. She said it was probably nothing.

I didn’t report it.

When I was seventeen, a group of college friends and I swapped addresses to stay in touch. This included a 40-year-old man. He started sending me letters detailing what he wanted to do with me, sexually. The letters made me feel like a piece of meat, worthless, horrible, disgusting, at fault, a tease, ashamed. They were vulgar. At best, he talked about “watching your tail swish when you walk away.” When they kept coming I showed them to my parents, in tears. My father talked to a police officer, who told him there was no point in reporting it: by the time anything happened I’d be legal, and fighting it would be almost impossible. It was only words. My dad helped me draft a letter to the man harassing me, and we sent it. My dad intercepted any following letters and kept them, in case we ever needed evidence. (I found several more in a drawer years later that I never knew had come.)

I didn’t report it.

When I was nineteen a supervisor walked around alternately yelling at or telling his underlings they were dressed like/looked like sluts. Several times a week a girl would be found crying because of his actions. I was never accosted, but every time he came near I’d verge on tears and bristle all at the same time. When he walked around behind my station, I would hold my breath hoping he didn’t call me a slut or say I was wearing inappropriate clothing or yell at me. I started having panic attacks about going to work. I quit that job.

I didn’t report it.

I went to Thanksgiving dinner with a family not my own, and was seated catty-corner to an uncle. He spent the meal looking at my breasts and leaning into my personal space. By the time we left I was on edge and felt dirty. When I hesitantly said something, knowing I’d see him again, I was told not to worry: he was a good guy. I was probably imagining things.

I didn’t report it.

When I was in my early twenties word came down from my bosses: one of the business’s members had been caught making unwanted sexual advances toward one of the employees. We should, at all times, send him to one of the (two) male staffers, and not be alone with him. Though the employee who’d been harassed reported it to our bosses, no one reported it further. The member continued to come, and continued to try and get girls alone.

I didn’t report it.

I once received an email from someone who’d seen my photo on a dating site. The email detailed explicit sexual things he wanted to do with me — and my long hair. It was hilarious, because if it wasn’t hilarious then it was creepy and made me feel sick, used, and disgusting.

I didn’t report it.

In my mid-twenties a client hit on me, and when I rebuffed his advances as gently as possible, he fired me.

I didn’t report it.

When I had just moved to my first apartment, a friend came to visit and help me move. He told me we should have sex “just because.” I said no. He argued with me. I argued back. I didn’t want to have sex with him: I shouldn’t have had to argue with him about it. When the argument started I stopped drinking beer. I locked my pit bull in my room that night, and hoped that if he came in she’d help protect me. When he returned to his home (several states away), he started texting me, calling me, saying horrible, abusive things. When I told him if he said abusive things again I was going to hang up, he said them again. I hung up. He accused me of being abusive and controlling the conversation. I continued to try and be polite. I continued to try and tell him carefully, gently, politely that I wasn’t interested in dating or having sex with him. He yelled at me for not being attracted to him. He called me names. He harassed me with phone calls, emails, and text messages multiple times a day. He lived in another state, and I was still afraid for my safety. I finally told him to have a good life, I hoped things went better for him, and not to contact me again. I deleted everything he sent thereafter, ignored his calls, and eventually he stopped trying. I lost a friend of 13 years when he became verbally and emotionally abusive because I wouldn’t have sex with him.

I didn’t report it.

When I was twenty-seven I got a flat. I pulled over into the parking lot of a corner market I frequented and began changing it. A man in a white “Christian-something” van with no windows pulled up and asked if I needed help. I said I didn’t. He stopped his car, blocking mine, and got out. He insisted. I insisted no. He stood and hovered over me, leaning against my car, petting my dogs. He asked if they could get out through the windows. He asked if I lived nearby. He asked if I had a boyfriend, a husband, a roommate. When he finally left, the grocer — who spoke very little English — came out and asked if I was okay. I said I was. Maybe the guy really was a Christian trying to help. Maybe he was using the name to make people comfortable, and help wasn’t on his mind.

I didn’t report it.

When I was twenty-eight a man asked for my number so we could “hang out.” I gave it to him. When he got pushy about going on a date, I tried to explain that I wasn’t interested in anything more than being friends. He said he thought I wasn’t like those “other bitchy sluts.” He thought I was different than “other women.” He told me that he had to be pushy and force women into dating him because otherwise no one would ever go out with him. I avoided the place where I’d met him, afraid he’d use the force he’d spoken of.

I didn’t report it.

I was walking down the street one night when a group of young men started to approach. They said, “Hey, baby,” and “Want to have some fun?” They cat-called and made lip-smacking noises when I walked past. I felt safe because I had a dog on either side; 175 pounds of muscle and teeth, and both dogs were on high alert.

I didn’t report it.

In point of fact, this happens at least once a month; usually during the day, in public, where I at least feel safe. I never report it. I just keep walking.

When I was twenty-nine I met a neighbor I wasn’t attracted to. We hung out as friends when we were both around. He told me late one night that I was falling for him. I told him I wasn’t. He argued with me about it. I said I knew my own mind, and I wasn’t interested in him. He said I was, I just hadn’t realized it yet. We argued for ten minutes, maybe more. After that he started accusing me of avoiding him (I wasn’t, yet) — he would come by my house and when I wasn’t home, he’d accuse me later of hiding from him. He got into my personal space. I stopped hanging out with him.

I didn’t report it.

When my client became a widower, he started hitting on me. Maybe. Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn’t. I disconnected ties, because after all of the above I couldn’t be sure. I would rather be safe.

It’s a scary thing that “being safe” means I can’t even talk to someone who might just need a helping hand, and has no other interest in me at all.

It’s a scary thought that in most of the cases I’ve listed above, even if I’d reported them, nothing could have (or would have) been done.

It’s a scary thought that of all the people I know, I feel I get harassed very little. I feel, overall, safer than most of my female friends.

We need to start teaching, “Don’t rape. Don’t be a creeper,” rather than, “don’t be a victim.” If you see someone in these straits, help them. If your friend is creeping, whether or not they mean to, tell them. Use peer pressure. Report things. I don’t want to assume all men are rapists. Men, I assume you don’t want to be seen as a possible rapist. Let’s fix it.

J

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{September 10, 2011}   I kissed a girl, too!

You know that song by Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It”? Well, I remember when it came out — hadn’t quite come out more than to kinda sorta mentioned I might maybe be bi — and seriously, I was so terrified of the ridicule it received.

First off, I really liked the song. I still do! But second off, there was this idea (among lesbians, I should clarify, or at least the lesbians I knew) that to experiment like that was Wrong. That it was Terrible and Offensive to kiss a girl and like it. That the character in the song was just Faking It and making light of lesbianism.

I was terrified of being that girl. That was one of the biggest reasons it took me SO LONG to come out, because without experimenting I couldn’t be sure, but I didn’t want to be the girl who said she was bi and experimented and realized it wasn’t for her. I was scared shitless of being a poser! (The other reason it took me so long to come out was a lack of butch people around. I think I’d have figured it out earlier if I’d seen some hot butches earlier!)

I love that song now more than ever. Maybe the character in the song was just doing it for attention. (Though I’d have to argue that her boyfriend doesn’t seem to be present… so it’s not his attention she’s trying to get, and presumably if she has a boyfriend she’s not looking for another.) Maybe the character in the song kisses that one girl, likes it, goes back to her boyfriend and never crosses that line again. Maybe that girl kisses a girl, likes it, goes home and dumps her boyfriend and realizes she’s lesbian. It’s all good! What’s actually happening in the song, after all?

Experimentation.

Except for a lucky, and precious, few we all have to experiment to figure out what we like and don’t like. We all have to try things on before we know what fits. That song told me it was okay to try things on, and I love it. It makes me sad when I hear people bash it as a girl getting attention — which is what I hear most of the time. I don’t think she is. I think she’s learning about herself!

Thinking about it a little more, I also wonder about the homophobic reactions to the song. I mean, if people are angry at hearing the song because she kissed a girl and liked it, how much of that is just being disturbed at the gayness of it? Hmmm.

I remember there being massive feminist reactions, too, that she was only kissing girls to get the boys attention. While I do know girls who do that, the fact that the feminist section of my friends assumed only that was kind of hurtful. What, she couldn’t be experimenting? Apparently not. She could only be doing it for men. Yeesh, what a thing to say.

Hmm, now I’m not sure how to wrap this up. Look! Ponies!

JB



{April 19, 2011}   Protected: Moving Forward

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{January 7, 2011}   Femme study

Okay, here we go!

I’m not even sure how to start with this one. This is me, folks, not talking about sex and still unsure how to begin. Scary! 😉

A while back, while DK was studying gender and femme and butch and all that for her degree, she sent me this study. IT WAS AWESOME. As awesome as my chocolate graham goldfish, which are pretty damn awesome.  It’s 15 pages, and I’m not going to post it because someone worked really hard and that seems rude. But if you give me your email address, I’ll send it. 🙂 (Shuddup, there’s totally a difference.)

I think what I’ll do is just start reading, and tell you all my reactions. ;-D It’s been so long that I’ve forgotten most of it, to be honest… Except, well, it was just like me.

It is “The Misunderstood Gender: A Model of Modern Femme Identity” by Heidi M. Levitt, Elisabeth A. Gerrish, and Katherine R. Hiestand.

Here’s a snip of the abstract (what it’s about):

Femme identity remains a highly controversial topic. It has been maligned in both heterosexual and queer contexts, and is rarely represented in empirical literature. In this study we examined how femme women experience their own gender identity. Interviews were conducted with femme-identified lesbians. […] The core category in this model “Maintaining integrity: Upholding beliefs about sexual desire and gender representation” reflects the need [for femmes] to uphold their sense of integrity across a variety of contexts by confronting stereotypes about both women and lesbians.

I found that last bit interesting to start with — the idea that upholding the sense of femme identity is done, in part, by confronting stereotypes. Hmm.

It starts out with a brief history of butch-femme, where it came from (within the US), what it meant, why it took those forms. One of the near things in the study is that it gives femmes power even from the start: it acknowledges that butch women changed what it meant to be a woman and publicised lesbianism, but that femme women did the same. That by being hyper-feminine they were just as much to credit for stretching the roles of ‘women’ in culture at that time. Hee!

By orienting their sexuality toward a butch woman
instead of a man, the femme women made lesbian
desire public and challenged notions of female
sexuality.

😀 I love seeing credit for my femme ancestors. 😉

Some intersting history tidbits that I hadn’t heard, but make sense, say that the reason the femme-butch dynamic was so more equal right off the bat (than the hetrosexual relationships they were supposedly emulating, according to the outside world) is because femme women were seen as brave and courageous, putting themselves in view with butch partners, being caught in bar raids and all the rest. In addition, femme women often ended up supporting their butch partners financially, because butch women had a harder time getting or keeping work. This put them on a far more equal footing than if they’d been in relationships with men.

It’s really the courageous thing that I latch onto, though. Today, I often feel like I’m seen as the less impressive because the whole world can’t see my sexuality. I’m not obvious; I can hide. It really grates. So to hear that at some point, femme women were seen as courageous for sexualizing femininity and standing with their partners, makes me happy.

The central focus of sexual relations was the femme partner’s pleasure, as often a butch partner would not expect nor wish reciprocity and would receive satisfaction from the act of pleasuring.

Actually, I find this is still the case. It’s pretty wild, having come from hetro relationships. I’m still not quite used to it, I have to admit, but I do find myself strutting a lot more. *laughs* (I should note that everything to this point has been referring to the 40’s and 50’s.)

There’s also this repetitive use of the word ‘rebellious.’ Femme women were rebellious. Hee hee hee.

In the 80’s, butch-femme came back after their near-abolishment during the feminist movement, and for the first time became something people claimed not because they had to be one or the other like was in the case in the 40’s and 50’s, but because it was an identity.

There’s a bit on femme literature, and basically the lack thereof. It’s kind of painful to read, including bits about the fight to have femme seen as equal to any other gender presentation, and it makes me wince more when I know that at the same time, butch was getting attention in gender studies and becoming more and more an ‘acceptable’ gender. I can tell things are changing now, but I definitely still feel this leaning. (Not you guys. You guys are awesome. ;-D)

But! Interesting and good things: femme women realized their sexual orientation at a much later date than butch women (22 to the butch 15), and most lesbians now say that femme and butch are good for lesbian culture as a whole. Woot! Less discrimination. 🙂 And it’s SO NICE to see that I’m normal, at least for a femme, not having figured out my own sexual orientation until later! I realized I was bi around 20, and the jury’s still out on whether I’m bi or lesbian. (It will probably forever be out, because I do think I’m mostly lesbian with a bi leaning. ;-D)

Next was a bunch of technical stuff about how they did the study. To sum: Yup, looks official. Yup, looks good.

Um. And now I’m tuckered out. I’ll have to pick this up another day, again.

But it’s so nice to see, even in the beginning, that there are other people like me! And I know they get into defining femmes (by interviewing TONS of them and pulling out the similarities), and I remember being wowed at how continuously I fit the gender — down to realizing my sexual orientation later. 😉

Ohhh, it makes me happy. 😀

J



{October 15, 2009}   Realizations 4!

Over the last few days I’ve been inhaling things on femme and butch and the femme/butch dynamic. I’ve been looking for an answer.

This feels like me! I’d thought, three days ago when DK first posted her links. And then I started annihilating everything I could find, looking for a definition of what it was so that I could say, “Yes! I identify!” Or, “Well, sort of, but…” Part of me thinks I should be able to declare myself femme without needing this extra assurance, but I can’t and not just because of me. How awkward to walk into somewhere and say I’m femme, only to find out something that the other lesbians know: I’m not.

Yesterday I had very nearly given up. The most anyone could identify as femme was that a femme wasn’t about clothes and style, really! Oh, and look at this article on how to put an outfit together… I could spot a femme, and often folks commented on the butch/femme dynamic. How you can spot a femme if she’s with a butch, but how they also go femme/femme. Straight? Gay? Bi? Kinky? Single? Monogamous? Poly? Attracted to butches? Attracted to other femmes? No one could say for sure, and the things I was reading were things that didn’t apply to me.

Yes, I pay attention to my clothing, but not that much attention. Yes, I feel invisible. Yes, I’m attracted to butch women, but I’m attracted to butch men, too. (Can a man be butch? Ahhh, another thing for everyone to disagree on.) Yes, I like the feeling of being cared for and protected, but I wasn’t seeing that very much. There was no, “In Praise of Butches” as there was “In Praise of Femmes.” (Perhaps I will remedy that.) Sometimes I’m a tomboy, and some days I dress more boy than girl. I don’t craft my appearance and performance in an irony of what is female.

What is femme?

DK sent me more links this morning, and I followed those. In some ways they were good: here were positive femme rolemodels. In some ways they didn’t help me with what I really wanted to know: What was femme? Here were more women who loved to dress, who loved fashion, who used their appearance and performance in an ironic way.

I went in search. I was looking for two books: Femmetheology or Femmes of Power. I went to the two-story Borders in Santana Row, where they had no homosexuality section, and nothing on homosexuality AT ALL in any of their sections.

I drove to Barnes and Noble on the corner near my house, and there — ah ha! — was a gay and lesbian section. Two shelves of non-fiction (half of which was fiction), a shelf of fiction, and then on to women’s studies. I pulled five likely books off the shelves and sat down, determined to plow my way through them.

Four of them weren’t at all what I was looking for (though one was very interesting). One was Butch/Femme by god only knows, for $50. I didn’t buy it, but I did sit and do a lot of reading. Finally, finally, here was an answer. A tentative answer. An answer saying, “this is only partial. This doesn’t cover everyone. This will change over time. But here is part of what being femme might be for some people, according to the things we’ve read and the femme groups we’ve interviewed and our own experiences.”

So. My current working definition of femme. (Which will change over time — I have no doubt.)

A woman who very likely enjoys the feminine role. She likes to be cared for. She is unapologetically female, even when the people around her say that it is not right.

She is sexual. She knows her sexual power, and she uses it. She knows the gazes that are on her, and she dresses for it — not necessarily as irony or for a performance, but because she is aware of how to manipulate the gaze, because drawing attention brings her power. Because she knows how her lover, how strangers, how other lesbians, how straight men, look at her when she does. Because when they look like that, it is because she consciously attracted them to do it.

In a culture where many lesbians are feminists, she is likely also a feminist. She may also feel that it is her choice to act, dress, and so on in a highly feminine manner, regardless of whether or not it is giving into the patriarchal gaze. (She may likely argue that it is not).

She is strong. She does what she feels is right for her, in a culture that says being feminine is giving into the patriarchy. In a lesbian culture that says lesbians are not feminine. In a world that likely doesn’t recognize her as lesbian at all, but sees her as straight. In a culture where she is outside the straight norm because she is so feminine, where she is outside the gay culture because she is so feminine, where she is outside the norm because she is lesbian. She is still who she is, because it is right for her: feminine, whether in clothes, attitude, desire, or just that she is female and therefore feels feminine.

She is often without a culture. Gay culture doesn’t accept her because she “will probably switch back to straight,” and because she can “pass.” Straight culture doesn’t accept her because she is gay. Femmes will accept her, but they are invisible, often even to each other.

The big thing here? In some way, she is a girly-girl. But she is not a damsel. She does not need a knight to rescue her. She rescues herself, and is strong and proud of who she is, even when she is told she’s wrong for being such a girl. She is aware of how she looks, and uses it to her advantage. She probably dresses to get a reaction. She is feminine, but not necessarily motherly, nurturing, innocent, or sweet. She is sexual and powerful and female.

This is important for me. I am a girly girl in inward ways. I want someone to take care of me. In my secret heart, when I was a teenager, I knew that if someone rode up one day and said, “Hey, I’ll put you up in a house, pay the bills, wrap you in gauze and keep you safe.” I would have said, “Yes.” I would have given up an education and a career for that feeling of love and safety. And I hated myself for it.

My mother raised us, her three girls, to know there are other options than getting married and letting a man provide. In some ways, I internalized this WAY too well. I thought that needing to be cared for was weakness (disgusting), that marrying someone was “settling” (a happy marriage was a myth), that if you ever needed to be rescued by a man you had failed (a strong person would never need rescuing). You can imagine how this played havoc with my wanting to be cared for, which in my mind was one and the same as needing to be rescued. I could tell you story after story about how I interpreted events to support these beliefs, believing my family supported these beliefs. But I’ll spare you. 😉

I was always the boy of the family. In pictures of me as a teen with my best friend Danny, only my long hair is a signal that I am a girl. I was the daredevil, the hellion, my father’s only son. My older sister still threatens to revoke my girl-card. *grins* So when I started dreaming about someone who would take care of me, I didn’t dare tell anyone. I sneered even more at women who got married and settled down (the key word there being “settled”). At 17-18, I was blessed with a women’s studies professor who pointed out that if we are to give women choice, we must also give them the choice to be mothers, wives, traditional. Thank God for her.

I learned to accept it in other people. To stifle my “!!!” response. I couldn’t accept it in myself. I hated myself. Hated is not too strong a word, here. I saw this need as weakness, as a sure sign that I would fail in everything, but most importantly in being an adult who could stand on their own. I would fail in my own spiritual and personal development, which is far more important than anything physical.

I met my boyfriend, and not only did he not despise me for needing that extra support, he seemed to enjoy giving it. That was a blessing. By the time we parted ways, I knew that there were people in the world who could support me that way, who didn’t think I’d failed because of it, who could help make me stronger instead of breaking me down.

I still couldn’t admit it out loud.

My mom, on her own spiritual journey, started reading about archetypes, the patterns and energies in our lives that we carry from birth to death. Two of them had this need to be rescued: princess and damsel. She said my older sister had a damsel: I had to agree that it seemed familiar. I realized that I likely did, too. Along with damsel comes not only the desire to be cared for, but the need to be rescued.

Failure.

Over the next five years, I slowly resigned myself to the idea that I had this desire in me. I certainly had the desire to be cared for. More, I got a thrill when I dated people larger than me. People who could pick me up and carry me around. I liked being literally swept off my feet. I liked being bundled into a couch and told in words and deeds that they would take care of things, they wanted to take care of things not because I couldn’t, but because it was a way to show love.

This was all proof of a damsel archetype. The need to be cared for was obviously one and the same as the need to be rescued: I’d internalized that. Failure, failure, failure. It never felt right, but even if I threw the damsel out the window, I had proof I needed to be rescued in the fact that I wanted to be cared for. In the fact that I resonated with people who acted like heroes or knights. And of course, cared for meant only one thing: failure.

I learned how to dress, how to walk, how to regain some power in a area of my life where I felt powerless: my body, my sexuality. I liked that feeling of power. I liked walking into a club, strutting or slinking into a room, and feeling heads turn toward me. I liked giving a flirty smile or being able to dance and draw attention to hips, breasts, waist, arms and legs that as a kid had been gangly and now were graceful. I didn’t feel like I was a victim of being ogled. I didn’t feel like people were taking liberties with my body. I didn’t feel like I was giving into the patriarchy. I felt like I’d claimed space. I’d made them look. I’d drawn gazes even of people who wouldn’t do anything about it: they still had to look. I did that.

I liked knowing I could go home and put on a pair of blue jeans, wear clothes that were comfortable and me — not very girly — but that accentuated things I liked about myself. Pants that made my legs look good, men’s shirts that made my collarbones and neck look even more delicate. And I could still make people look, if I so desired, even in my “regular” clothes. I became very aware of my body, and how to use it when I wanted to. Not in the way that sounds: not in a calculating, manipulative way. But in a way that was unconscious and powerful. I grew into myself.

None of that changed my problems with cared for/failure.

It has taken me years to let what I feel (that I like being cared for, but I still feel strong and don’t need to be rescued), begin to override what I had learned (cared for = rescued = failure). I realized I was bisexual, and started looking at women. Few of them appealed to me in a sexual sense. Talk about confusion.

Enter DK. I am not bisexual: I am knight-sexual. Hero-sexual.

I had made a list a few months before, all the things I wanted in a partner. Three inches or more taller than me (so I can wear my heels; I don’t want to be taller, even then). Someone smart, caring, compatible with my spirituality, likes dogs, likes the outdoors — the list went on. I was thinking male, but I didn’t say male. And there came DK, who fit everything on my list.

She is even the kind of person who likes to sweep me off my feet and carry me to the couch. Wrap me in a blanket and grab some tea, tell me in words and deeds that she loves me and wants to show it by caring for me. It makes me laugh. It makes me feel warm and loved and cared for. I adore it, and her, because she does it so effortlessly, and never makes me feel like a damsel or a victim or a failure.

And I was still struggling. If I needed that care, I was a victim or a princess or a damsel. I was a failure. And yet, I liked it. I didn’t feel like a victim or a princess or a damsel. I just liked being cared for. I could say out loud, “I’m a damsel. I like being pampered,” and not cringe. I could ignore the whispers in my head that I was a failure, even if I couldn’t entirely get rid of the knot in my stomach. I was better, but far from great.

And then along came femme. Some part girly. Strong. Able to stand on their own against all comers, even as they are utterly feminine, sexual, powerful, and might even like to be cared for. And I thought, “Ah.”

So for the last few days, I’ve been on a tear. Trying to find this. Trying to see if it fits. If I could be this creature that feels so right, even though I don’t always wear dresses or walk around like a retro girl and even if I act like a tomboy sometimes. It was important to me to figure this out, and I’m glad I have. Figured it out to my satisfaction, anyway.

Ideally, of course, I wouldn’t need the outside validation to tell me I could be cared for and not be a failure. But a few steps at a time: I was getting there slowly, I like to think. This just made it easier.

So. Femme. I am a girl, in that I liked to be cared for. I like someone who can sweep me off my feet, who can make me feel treasured in all those old chivalrous ways. And I’m strong. I can stand up to all comers, I can do it myself, I am so strong that I can be a girly girl and not break under social pressure to conform. I am bisexual, attracted to other women.

It gives me the things I already felt were right. It tells me there are other people out there, validating my experience. It tells me that I can enjoy being cared for, and not be a failure.

It even goes a step further: the fact that I like masculine men isn’t because I’m a fake bisexual. I just like masculine men. The fact that I am, in some ways, girly doesn’t make me a cop-out. I’m just girly.

And now that I know I’m femme, now that I can finally adopt that as a self-identity, now that my question has been answered and I can say, “YES, I am femme!” …I find it’s not as important. It’s cool, it’s nice, it’s easy, it’s fun to have an identity and community, and if I had not recognized it, that would matter. But now, it’s not something that will make me or break me. Maybe I’m learning. 😉

J



{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!”
“Goodbye!”

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

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

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. 😀

J



et cetera