To The FemmeMobile! Away!











{April 1, 2011}   It’s all about the smile

Something really cool has happened over the last few weeks, maybe even months. It happened really slowly, so I didn’t notice it at first. And initially, it only happened in safe spaces. Then toward stereotypes. But the other day it happened while I was walking a Great Dane (is there anything more femme than a blue Dane with a bright pink

This is not Bentley, but it sure looks like her!

collar complete with fancy ribbon and crystal-studded ID? I THINK NOT. She’s owned by a very straight woman, but damn I feel femme when I take her out.)

Anyway, the very awesome thing is this: I’m flirting! Like I did to boys before I came out (to myself), which is to say that it comes as naturally as breathing.

At first, it was to women I knew were lesbian, at gay bars and gay two-stepping and so on. Then it was to the people in my (very gay) town, the ones I could identify as masculine-ID’d. Then to the stereotypical dykes. But the other day I was walking down the street with Bentley and her bling collar, when I saw a cute woman sitting on a bench, reading. Before I knew quite what I was about, I’d pulled myself up and given her that knee-jerk saucy grin I use whenever I’m flirting without necessarily meaning to.

She didn’t look up. But that’s not the point! The point is that a few months ago I would have been worried about flirting with strange women, because god forbid I offend or give the wrong signals, even if that’s just another sign of cultural homophobia. But now, I’m flirting without thinking twice about it, grinning at women just to see if they’ll grin back! I’m totally interested in Q, and the flirting wouldn’t go anywhere, but… well, it really is as natural as breathing, and it makes everyone feel good.

I can’t help it. I’m a flirt. *laughs* It’s coded right into my DNA, I tell you! And now I’m no longer worried or anxious or anything about flirting with random women, which makes me feel fabulous! Plus, how could I not flirt when I have Bentley? She’s like, femme personified. 😉

J



{March 17, 2011}   Gender and Sexual Orientation

In my various wanderings across the web and through various gender books, one of the things I continuously run across is the argument that your biological sex should not define your gender. I think pretty much everyone reading this blog is going to agree with this.

What I think is interesting is the other argument that I hear on a frequent basis, though: that your sexual orientation DOES define which genders you’re allowed to be.

The argument here is that, for instance, only lesbians can be butch or femme. (For the sake of brevity, and because it seems more hotly contested, I’m going to shorten this to just femme. The arguments for butch actually change slightly, anyway.) Of course, this is a very black and white argument: it doesn’t take into account bi women, or only takes them into account when they’re dating other women. If it does take them into account, it then identifies them as ‘queer,’ so only queer women can be femme, but even then queer in this use seems to silently mean ‘attracted to other women,’ even among the people who would argue in other circumstances that queer can mean almost anything.

While I understand the desire to say, “Hey! I’m femme, and I’m already a minority, damn it, you hetro people get your hands off my gender!”, I still don’t think it’s actually right. I don’t see the difference between using biological sex to constrain gender or using sexual attraction to constrain gender. Either way, we’re saying certain genders can only be used by certain people. Wasn’t the whole point of breaking out of gender boxes so that genders were no long constrained by biology? Which, according to most, is what drives sexual orientation.

If I’m going to say that my biology does not dictate my gender, then I must accept that there are fabulous gay men out there who are also femme, and in fact that there are even hetero cis women who are also femme — whether or not I like it.

Am I wrong? Is my logic flawed somewhere?

J



{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



One of the things Kate said in her book, Gender Outlaw, was that one of the gender constructs for femmes was that they look (typically a butch) in the eye, look away, and then look back and hold the gaze.

I almost fell out of my bed, folks, because I do that all the time. (And actually, another reason I think sometimes the social construct theory is wrong; because until I decided femme fit, I didn’t know any other femmes. How could I have learned this pattern if there was no one to teach me? Suggests it’s inborn, rather than created.) Of course, some part of me goes, “Do you really do it all the time? Or are you just remembering the times you’ve done it and forgetting the majority when you haven’t?” But the more I think about it, the more I think I’m right.

Interestingly, I only do it to people I’m personally interested in, whether it’s interest in how they look, in friendship, or in something else. If it’s a business transaction? I’m far more likely just to look and hold the gaze, no looking away needed.

Fascinating. 😀

It also tells me that somewhere out there someone has studied the social construct of femme, and oh my god I want to read that. We have social constructs? I had no idea!

One of the other interesting things she said was that butch tended to be stepping outside the male gaze. Wait, I’m not sure I’m saying this well. So, in our patriarchal society the male gaze is the one that gets to be active and assertive by looking, and women are to be passive and submissive/vulnerable by being looked at. So butch is stepping outside that; females who are essentially taking that gaze back, taking that power of the male gaze for themselves and refusing to be the looked-at ones. They tend not to expose skin or sexualized themselves in every day life (at least, not in a culturally common way, but let me just tell you how hot Q was when I saw her in scrubs one day, omg. …I’m really looking forward to her coming home tomorrow.), and tend not to attracted sexual male attention. Femme, on the other hand, is typically purposefully stepping into a more vulnerable space, attracting the male gaze and attracting attention, more likely than not showing skin. I don’t mean dressing slutty; if I get dressed up, I will likely wear a dress that bares my shoulders, or a shirt that has a V-neck, or a skirt that bares my legs. Q, on the other hand, is going to wear a suit — that covers a hell of a lot more skin!

This wasn’t interesting because it was a novel concept, though I hadn’t consciously thought of it before, but rather because of the way Q and I interact. Q is a pacifist, despite dressing in a way that tells people she is not to be trifled with. Q has had… well, I think she’s had some major betrayals in her life, but she doesn’t seem to count them the way I do. ;-D (She would agree that she’s had a few, whereas I’m like, “Just let me at almost everyone in your history, I’ll tear them to bits…”) Q’s dated mostly other butches, with the occasional femme thrown in — though lately, as butch/butch has become more acceptable, she’s dated predominantly other masculine-centered andros or butches. I’m far more femmey than any of her recent flirtations. Now, I’ve talked before (at least, I thought I had, but I can’t find that post anywhere. Possibly it was on my personal blog. This is the problem with multiple blogs.) about the clothing deal: I like clothes that put me in that vulnerable space, though I never feel vulnerable. Q prefers other clothes, in large part because when I look vulnerable she feels like it is then her job to watch out for me (though she knows I can take care of myself; it’s still what society says, right? Masculine watches out for vulnerable feminine.). Plus, she’s far more aware of possible harm because she’s experienced it; her trend is to see where things can go wrong. I haven’t experienced that level of harm, and in fact have experienced the opposite; that if I treat people like I expect them to treat me nicely, and even place some slight trust in figures seen as untrustworthy, they are pleased at being treated decently and so they return it. Therefore, I expect things to go well.

(I also have a ruthless streak. I read end-of-the-world books and go, “…I’d survive that.” In general I curb that tendency, due to a violent episode I had when I was younger. But this also means that if I were attacked, while I don’t know if I’d escape, I’d sure as hell do some damage before I was taken down. Most attackers back off when they realize you’ll do damage.)

Now, here is where things started to link together in my mind. Q is pacifistic, feels like she needs to protect me when I put myself in a vulnerable, looked-at position, but her hands are tied; she can’t really protect me if things go wrong because she’s a pacifist. She hasn’t been dating femme women, and I do wonder if this might be a large part of why not; other butches aren’t putting themselves in that vulnerable position, and therefore putting her in a cognitively dissonant position. Which in turn makes me wonder if she was able to take up dating me, despite my perceived vulnerability, because of my underlying warrior. I don’t act like I expect her to protect me, like I can’t take care of myself, like I’m vulnerable or weak, or like I need protecting. Maybe it makes it easier to deal with my small clothes when I break them out, then? I know men treat me differently than other women who wear the same thing; I always assume they’re picking up on my inner warrior (or inner steel, if you prefer). Maybe that’s also what makes it a bit easier for Q to date someone in a more vulnerable state? (Or maybe I’m totally off the mark here.)

Hmm. Hey! Q! Does this sound like a plausible subconscious motivation? I mean, I know you really date me for my hot body, but… ;-D

(It’s much more fun when I can apply things I read to myself and dynamics between me and the people I’m around. :D)

J



{November 6, 2010}   Re-thinking Gender

There’s two parts to this post, so bear with me.

Part one!

I’m reading Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein, on DK‘s suggestion, and I really like it. It’s making me think again in twisty ways that I find, without some influx of twisty thinking, I tend to stop doing. (Which is a shame, as I really enjoy doing it!) It does remind me, though, to be careful with my words.

One of the premises of the book is that gender is a societal construct, but then in the next breath Kate talks about never “feeling like a man.” If gender is a societal construct, then we would ‘feel’ like whatever society told us to feel like, and there would be no transgenders of any sort. Maybe the way we perform gender, the earmarks we look for, are agreed upon and enforced by society, but I don’t think it’s entirely a societal construct; not if we’re “feeling” that one is right and another is wrong.

It reminds me very much of something I still struggle with, and struggled badly with for a long time. I was raised with the idea that women should not be barefoot and pregnant; that this is the ideal of the conservative patriarchy, and something they try to enforce (which I do agree with). I’ve met many feminists, and at one point held the belief myself, that women only wanted to be “just” wives and mothers (Christ! Hardest job in the world, and it’s a “just.” There’s something really fucked up there.) if they’d been told so and brainwashed into it; that no woman would “naturally” be inclined toward wife and motherhood. Then I realized that if we’re going to give women a choice in what they want, part of that choice has to be being a wife and mother. I’ve met a few women who get great joy in doing so, who feel complete and happy. (Heck, AlphaFemme seems to be an example of this; she talks about the great joy she gets in being a domestic wife — AF, I know you’re not married, but work with me here. ;-D — and I don’t think she’s been brainwashed into believing that’s what she wants.)

As my cousins (all conservative catholic, very much raised with the idea that the only proper job for a woman was to be married with kids) started to get married, I really struggled with it. I wanted to shake them all and say, “You don’t have to do this! Stop it!” But if we’re going to give women a choice… I’m better, now, at believing they’re doing what’s right for them. To make myself okay with that, I also believe that if this isn’t right for them, then it’s part of their greater growth, and it’s right for them right now to attain higher healing or something like that. It’s definitely not perfect nonjudgement, but it’s the best I can do for the moment. Now that I’ve seen several of them married, there are actually two who take great joy in their current state, who are radiant and happy (if sometimes tired!) when I see them. It’s a good reminder that some women really do want that.

It’s something I need to remember as I read gender bending books, because it’s easy to start saying, “People only portray women and men genders because we’re told to!” Maybe many people only portray them for that reason, but there are some people for whom they’re actually correct, for whom they fit nicely. Definitely something to remember; to an extent, gender is a social construct, but some part of it is inborn, too, and I shouldn’t discount someone’s gender just because it’s the majority. So, really, this is a note to self. 😉

It does make me laugh, though, that the argument often used for why there aren’t natural genders is that they don’t feel right. In arguing such, the person is almost disproving their own point! (Maybe this isn’t Kate’s argument: I haven’t read enough to know. But man, it’s an argument I hear a lot.)

Part 2!

Anyway, there was something else that occurred to me that I wanted to mull out (and get other opinions and discussion on, if possible!).

There was something in Gender Outlaw where she was making lists of what possible genders there were, and she added boy/girl
lady/gentleman
femme/butch
faggot/dyke
man/woman,
and kept going. But really, it was that ‘boy/girl’ that struck me.

I once had a friend say to me, “whatever else you identify with, you can always identify as a woman.” I was appalled. I don’t feel like a woman. I have never felt like a woman. I feel more like a girl, but that’s not right, either. I feel femme. (In his defense, I hadn’t yet even discovered femme.)

More recently, someone on an author list I was on was asking if there’s a difference between boi and butch. Now, those of you who identify as such are welcome to correct me, but in the limited time I’ve been in the community I’ve thought of them as two different things. Both masculine, yes, but I think of butch as presenting adult-masculine, and boi as presenting teenage/young twenties-masculine. They’re two very different presentations, and I’m not remotely interested in bois. What’s really interesting to me is that I think of ‘baby butch’ and ‘boi’ as two different things: A baby butch, to me, is either a butch who’s just coming into the identity, or a young (emotionally, mentally, or physically) butch. A boi is someone presenting as young-masculine. (On a slight tangent, Q and her buddies have “Boi’s night” — which makes perfect sense to me. They’re getting together to play, whether it’s at a bar, on a video game, or just hanging out. Just like I have “girl’s night,” when my whole attitude is one of play. Slightly different than living that, though.)

Given my responses to girl/woman as applied to me, where one almost fit (despite my age) and the other DID NOT (despite my age), I’m thinking that I subconsciously see these all as different genders. (Realizing that also helped me finally come to terms with femme as a transgender. It’s so close to feminine that I was still having issues coming to grips with the idea that it’s its own gender, rather than an offshoot. But girl/woman and lady/woman are all close, too, and I’d call those separate genders. This made me realize that though femme is close to feminine, it doesn’t make it an offshoot; it just shares some attributes, and that’s okay. :))

I also wonder how much I’m conflating ‘archetype’ with ‘gender,’ and if the two actually should be conflated, anyway.

(In a total aside, I’m sitting at my little glass table outside, and there’s a hawk crying somewhere nearby. What a beautiful, haunting sound!) (And now Bobby da Bird is imitating or responding to it. Very cute.)

If I define both archetype and gender, I find they’re awfully close; it’s just that one is more all-encompassing than the other (gender being more all-encompassing and less rigid than archetype). Let’s see… off the top of my head, full of mistakes:

Archetype: the life-long patterns and paths, ways of behaving and thinking.

Ex: The hero archetype has a life pattern of a difficult journey, coming to grips with something at the end (either mental or physical). The warrior archetype goes to battle, and must learn eventually when NOT to go to battle. (Ha ha, this is totally my archetype. >.>) The bard archetype is a wanderer who brings news, information, and new ways of thinking by entertaining and telling stories. The damsel archetype is someone who wants to be rescued, then protected. (This, in seemingly direct opposition to the warrior, is also me. Luckily Q has a knight archetype. :D) And so on among many more archetypes.

Gender: Clothes, behaviors, ways of acting that declare of us one gender or another. Sort of. Maybe an aspect of personality? Damn, I can define what makes a gender presentation, but not what a gender is. I’m going to go with an aspect of personality and tastes.

Okay, so the stress on archetypes is a life-long arc or behavioral pattern, whereas the stress on gender is the current way one behaves and expresses. Two different things, and yes, I think my tendency toward thinking of girl/boy/boi/butch/femme/woman/man/etc is a gender, not an archetype. (Of course, girl/boy have the same problem that man/woman do: whereas man/woman are also conflated with biological sex, boy/girl is conflated with age, and as a gender will likely mature into woman/man. So maybe it’s only a gender on someone old enough to have chosen it? Hmm.)

Anyway, I started this to get your ideas. Do other people think of boi/butch/girl/woman/femme/man/etc as genders? Or is it more like boy/boi grows into man/butch, and it’s all one gender? And what about gender only being a gender on someone old enough to have chosen it (whether or not they’ve done so consciously)? I’ve met teens I’d refer to as a ‘young man’ or ‘young lady,’ and adults I’d refer to as a ‘girl/boy,’ so…

Geez! So complex! 😀

J



{July 24, 2010}   Women: Gender and Sex

I was responding to G‘s comment, talking about how I felt that who I’m attracted to isn’t the same as who I am, and I was thinking (again, ad naseum) about being uncomfortable saying I was attracted to women, when something hit me.

I think my struggle isn’t with the sex. Someone asks about my sexual orientation, and I assume that they want to know what biological sex I’m attracted to. So I say “women,” because technically that’s correct. I think the problem lies in the fact that I’m not attracted to sex, so much as gender, transgender, and masculinity. But “woman” is also a gender orientation. I’m not attracted to women as a gender; I’m attracted to butch. But if someone asks what sex I’m attracted to, and the name for the correct sex is the same as the name for a gender I’m not attracted to… you see my dilemma? (I spelled that word so poorly the first few times that spellcheck couldn’t figure out what I was trying to say. *laughs*)

If someone asks me who I’m interested in, I say “Women” and I am both telling the truth (it is the biological sex), and lying (it is the wrong gender). I therefore really don’t feel like I can say I like women, because it’s a lie; I don’t like woman-as-gender particularly. (As a friend, sure, but — you know what I mean.)

It’s a linguistics problem, and it’s reinforced every time I try short cuts. I mean, if I’m talking to someone and I reference anyone I’m dating, it’s usually as, “The woman I’m dating…” which reinforces my own dysphoria. I don’t like the gender ‘woman.’ I am telling people I’m dating a woman. They assume I mean the gender as well as the sex, and while I can’t control their assumptions, knowing that I am feeding into those assumptions creates a discomfort within me that exacerbates the whole problem.

I don’t see easy solutions. When I can, I say, “The butch I’m dating…” but if I’m not talking to someone in the gay culture, especially if it’s not an appropriate time or place to get into a gender discussion, ‘woman’ is easier. I could say, “The butch woman I’m dating,” which would at least give people some clue as to what I mean when I say ‘butch,’ but it’s unwieldy. I could just not talk about it, but… A) ick, and B) I use anecdotes from my daily life ALL THE TIME to make a point or tell a story, usually with my clients, so that’s not going to happen.

Which leaves me… at least understanding why I don’t feel like ‘lesbian’ is the right term to describe my sexual orientation, even if it’s technically correct. Interestingly, if I think of the definition of lesbian as “women (the sex) who are interested in same-sex partners,” I’m more okay with it. If I think of the definition as, “Women who love other women,” I have that instant dysphoria again.  I think it really is the same-word-for-gender-and-sex conundrum.  Hmmm. I’ll keep you posted on my search for a solution. ;-D

J

*Edit: I just read Jolie‘s response to a comment G made here — G’s just gettin’ all around this week! *grins* — and I think it’s also accurate, and further adds to my discomfort. She mentioned that saying she likes women (or is lesbian) feminizes the partners she’s with. THAT IS TOTALLY TRUE. And, again, it makes me uncomfortable, both for misrepresenting myself and my likes, and for misrepresenting the person I’m with. Oh, language. It’s time for you to grow.



{July 19, 2010}   Lesbian and femme

I’m hoping this is going to be a short post, because god knows I need some downtime that doesn’t include writing.

I figure that hope pretty much guarantees this post will be five thousand words long. Ha ha ha. (As an aside, I’m writing a column now on, uh, writing, and it’s supposed to be 1000 words. Who knew 1000 words was SO SHORT? *shakes head*)

I made the comment in my last post that I am butchsexual, and I think it’s true. I’m really only attracted to butch women, and though I haven’t yet taken the step of saying I’m really not attracted to men, that’s probably true, too. (At least right now. *laughs*) Then Jolie took my term and expanded upon her own experience with it, and in writing that she said something I found very interesting. Actually, she said several somethings, but for now let’s start with this one. ;-D

I’m not a lesbian. I don’t embrace feminine beauty in all its forms, and all of that happy horseshit. I can appreciate a pretty girl, but it’s usually in more of the “I recognize something in her that reflects me” aspect. I’m more than happy to point out a hot little thing to my guy, but I’m not going to drool over her.

I read this, and I was like, “Yes! Oh, that’s it, exactly!” I have as much trouble identifying as lesbian as I do/did identifying as bi. It’s the same problem: it just doesn’t fit right. In a conversation with Nezu at one point, she suggested it was because being bi in our culture is really assumed as pansexual; you like everyone. Of course, that isn’t the case; it just means you like men and women in the same way others like one or the other. You don’t like ALL of them, you just like some of them from each category. And yet, it still didn’t fit right.

Lesbian is just like that for me. I really don’t feel like I can say I’m lesbian. Lesbian indicates I like women — but actually, I don’t. I like the gender butch, which appears on women, but it’s the gender, not the body, I’m really interested in. I think Megan Fox is the hottest thing on two legs (OH MY GOD, SHE IS SO HOT), but if I stop to think about kissing her or doing anything sexual and I’m like, “….ehhhh. Ew.” On the other hand, I can Google her all day.

…Megan Fox is totally like catnip for me. Excuse me. I’m having a really hard time regaining my train of thought, here. I need to go roll on her or something.

And yet, even as I say all this, while I would certainly love to run my hands over her yummy delightful sexy hot muscles, and I’d love to play in her wardrobe and get her make-up artist to make me glisten without working or looking like I’m actually sweating, I don’t really want to do anything sexual. For a long time, I thought maybe that’s just because I didn’t want to do anything sexual with female bodies, but that’s not true. Trust me. I like doing sexual things to Q’s female body, mwahahahahahahahahhahahahaha.

Ha.

Ha ha hee.

Mmmm. Damn, my train of though is just not running well today. Where was I? Butchsexual, not lesbian, right. Sometimes, I’ll be somewhere with Q where it’s a gay/lesbian thing rather than just her butch buddies, and I’m like, “…Wow. I feel like such an outsider here. I really don’t relate to these women at all.” Q and I went two-stepping, and I had a blast. I danced with a woman in a green dress and brown cowboy boots, all short blond hair and very good at dancing. Q pointed out several of her friends, some obviously butch and some not, and I found myself treating them like I would straight women, and being really unable to relate otherwise.

Even Q is more lesbian than I am (though I actually think of her as more gay — which doesn’t really make sense except in my head). She’ll look at a roomful of women and be able to pick out a dozen she finds attractive, and I’m lucky to see one. When we were at the rodeo, she kept pointing out hot women and my internal reaction was, “…Really? Why?” I hit the same thing going out with Nezu, and I find that I usually respond in the way I respond to someone like Megan Fox, in a “Yes, they’re hot!” but really I want to roll in them, not do them.

It’s funny; I almost feel like sexuality is as limited as gender, sometimes, but then I wonder if it’s mostly just me (and Jolie. *grins*). Other people don’t seem as bound to one gender as I am. Folks want to know what my sexuality is, and I’m never quite sure what to tell them. Bi, maybe. Lesbian, technically. Butchsexual, definitely. But I think Jolie hit the nail on the head: I’m not lesbian. I don’t love women in all their forms. I don’t even love women in some of their forms. I really only love them in one of their forms. If that’s the case — well, is that lesbian? Technically, if we’re going by biological sex. But not really.

Interesting.

J

(This, by the way, is only 900 words. It could have been a column. ;-D)



Interesting post over at the Femme’s Guide, a little bit old, on innate femme gender. I really liked this. I keep reading about how gender is created — and sure, okay, to a certain extend society creates gender. But I don’t feel like I could shed my femme clothes, don Q’s guy jeans, a sport’s bra, my black Doc Martins and a man’s tank and call myself butch. Not even if I adopted the mannerisms (some of which I already have — as an aside, I was sprawled on the couch one day, reading over DK’s shoulder. She was tucked in the corner, leaning against the arm, and I had my leg across the rest of the couch, the other foot on the coffee table, one arm over the back of the couch and the other tucked up against her. She read something along the lines of, “Masculine presentation includes claiming space, so sprawling out and taking up room is something men and butches do.” We stopped, looked at her, looked at me, and cracked up.) and attitudes and did my very best to fake it — which I could probably do pretty well. I’m a hell of an actress when I want to be.

But you know? I wouldn’t be butch. It wouldn’t make me butch. It’s that old philosophical argument: If a man thinks evil thoughts but does good deeds, is he good or evil? If the world saw me as butch, would it make me butch? I’d argue no.

So when I’d read about gender being entirely performative and something we create, I’d agree… to an extent. Yes, I perform my gender — but if I didn’t, it would still be my gender. Yes, my gender is created — by a collective unconscious? By society? I’d buy the former easier than the latter, and argue that it’s a chicken-or-the-egg statement, anyway. Did society create it, and then it became? Or was it already in our minds, and we created it to express it?

Anyway. It’s always felt inborn to me. I don’t feel like it’s something I can pick up or leave off or any of the other things that are generally stated or implied. It was nice to read someone else saying the same thing.

I might have to talk more about this, some other time when I have more, uh, time. *laughs*

J



So, Q said two things that I’ve been mulling over. The first was that I’m the girliest type of person she’d date. The other was that once she’d dated a woman who’d never dated a butch before, and she kept thinking, “Why are you dating me? What do you see in me, then, to be attracted to?” and it was a little odd.

It’s funny, because I’m relating to that last one a bit. Since being told I’m the girliest person Q would date, I sort of went, “…huh,” and toned down the girly. Not in a “I can’t express myself,” way, but in a “I don’t have to try so hard” way. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t really feel like I’m trying hard when I girl it up, but it is certainly a different sort of dress and manner than I grew up expressing. It’s made me very aware of my gender presentation, and what I do for myself vs what I do for other people.

I spent a few days watching my behavior and wondering if my tendency to, to a certain extent, dress for someone else was insecurity and unhealthy. It doesn’t feel like either one, but at the same time I’m obviously seeking approval or I wouldn’t change how I dress.

Now, I’d like to make it very clear here that I’m not dressing in any way except how I want to dress. And I think that’s what I finally boiled it down to: I like how I look, I like what I’m wearing, I like the way I’m presenting myself, I still feel powerful. If all of those are true, then is it still unhealthy to dress for others?

If I felt like wearing a dress, I’d wear the dress. I might give Q a heads’ up: “Hey! I’m girling it up! I think I look adorable, and even if you don’t agree you’d do best to fake it. :D” But most days I can swing several directions in what I wear, and the truth is I do dress, to a certain extent, for other people. That’s half of the subversion in femme, right? Dressing to attract a female, rather than male, gaze. It still means I’m dressing for someone — I’m dressing to attract someone else. Once I’ve found someone I particularly want to attract, I’m more likely to tailor what I wear to their tastes.

When I was dating DK she talked about how hot skirts were. I knew she liked the way I looked no matter what, but I found more of a desire to wear skirts (and heels that made my legs look longer). I did it because I felt good in those things, and the look on her face made me feel even better.

In dating Q, the other day I wore a man’s button down shirt and ripped up jeans because she’d mentioned thinking women in men’s clothes was hot. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to look hot to myself in the mirror (though I did think I looked hot, or I wouldn’t have left the house), it was that I wanted to see, “Wow, you look hot,” reflected in the person I’m attracted to’s eyes. (WOW was that a convoluted sentence. Don’t worry, I’ll wait here while you read it again and figure out what I mean. :D)

At one point DK and I talked about a blog post — possibly by Sugarbutch, but I could be wrong — about a butch choosing her femme’s clothes. I said that while I wouldn’t want someone to pick out an exact outfit for me daily, if someone said, “Man, I’d love to see you in that skirt today,” I’d be highly likely to do so — as long as I felt comfortable in that skirt that day. It’s nice to know that the person you care about is, for sure, going to look at you with lust and appreciation in their eyes. It’s not about being controlled, for me, but about knowing my ego’s going to be fed by looking good to someone else (let’s be honest here, after all. *grins*) and having some control.

I’ve talked before about how being able to draw a gaze is a power trip. If someone tells me what’s going to draw their gaze, it’s like being given the keys and told, “Here, take control and drive me around.” Oh yeah, baby.Which, you might notice, is a far cry from being insecure and changing my look to gain approval. Flip sides of the same coin, maybe? Positive and negative? Or is it not at all bad to change your look to gain approval, as long as you also approve yourself? (Sounds like what I’ve been saying, doesn’t it? It’s not, quite.) Maybe society’s wrong — or at least wrong for some people. Hmmm.

All this has made me think more closely about gender presentation, and whether other people do the same thing. I mean, I think they do to a certain extent, but I feel almost chameleon-like.

…Of course, that could in part be me. I certainly am chameleon-like in other areas of my life, and don’t feel particularly unhealthy about it. But that doesn’t have to do with gender presentation. 😉

I always present a feminine gender, whether I’m in men’s or women’s clothes. It’s not like when I see butches dressing in men’s clothes, and they look masculine. If anything, I’m inclined to think it creates a juxtaposition on me: men’s clothes, by being masculine, make me seem more feminine. I’m also careful to buy and wear the men’s clothes that do just that. 😉 Maybe that’s why it doesn’t bother me at all to alter my clothing for others: either way, I feel pretty, femme, and just like myself. I’m still presenting the gender I’m comfortable in.

Something else that came up for me is what I mentioned above — that ‘trying so hard’ feeling. I’ve changed my dress and presentation a lot in the last six months, and shifting back to clothes more like what I used to wear has been strange. Not strange in a bad way, just… like donning an old sweater and going, “Oh, yeah, I liked this, too.” I’d just forgotten for a while. I think it broadens my options. I think I was starting to buy into the societal idea of what female beauty is, and this has reminded me that there are other modes, other ways I like to dress and still feel attractive. It taps back into that tomboy I used to be.

…Which might be why I tackled Q last night and attempted (and failed) to wrestle her to the ground, then spent the drive home fantasizing about joining some kind of sports team. My inner tomboy needs an outlet, and I’ve noticed over the last few years it’s been getting snuffed. Hard to be a tomboy when most of your friends are girls. Which means — yay! Another bit of my identity I’m re-connecting with, while connecting with new parts of myself. Just because I’m tapping into my inner girl doesn’t mean I need to shed my inner boy. 😉 Now I just need to figure out how to get an outlet for my inner boy. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll find a rugby team. ;-D

J



{March 8, 2010}   Joining the femme club

This has been a really long year. And it’s only March. Dear world: Kindly do better.

I’m in Atlanta, GA. A while back I read a book called Femmes of Power, which I actually didn’t relate to particularly, but in which there was mention of a femme mafia based in Atlanta, GA.

I need a femme mafia. Okay, I don’t actually need a femme mafia; I’m practically a mafia all by myself, but it would be nice. Allow me to imagine someone taking a hit out on the world, okay? Hmmm. What a nice thought that is.

The femme mafia was the one really cool thing I got out of that book. I mean, don’t get me wrong: it was a really neat book. It highlighted all sorts of femmes who were doing awesome political things.  It also talked about how femme was trying to be an inclusive term, rather than an exclusive term.  It talked about how no one could really say what it was to be femme, but rather it was something that incorporated all sorts of types of feminity. The book included transwomen and drag queens and femme tomboys and femme lesbians. It was great for that, and if I’d been farther along in my femme journey I might have enjoyed it more.

At the time, I was looking for answers. I was looking for someone to say, “This is femme,” so that I could say, “Yes, that’s me!” or “No, that’s not.” Femmes of Power didn’t have that. In fact, I didn’t identify with more than one person in the whole book.

“One person!” I hear you cry. “That’s something, right?”

Not when you’re neurotic and perfectionist. 😉 Actually, by the end of the book I’d forgotten I identified with even that one person. It was a good book,  but as a guide toward what is femme? It was more political than anything. The femmes they showcased there were all involved in politics of some sort; I am not. They talked about using their feminity to promote awareness of something; I don’t. At a time when I was struggling, it sort of made me struggle more.

I’m tempted to go back and read it, now that I’m sure of myself. Then, I was worried about stepping on toes. I didn’t want to claim a minority only to find out I wasn’t; I didn’t want to hurt people like that. I was always a tomboy growing up, and that didn’t seem to jive with anything I was reading about femmes, so that didn’t help.

Now, I’ve realized that this is something I identify with, that there’s more than one type of femme, and no one’s going to kick me out of the ‘club.’ The fact that I’ve now met a few butches who recognize me help. 😉

I picked up another book at one point, Brazen Femme, which had an essay at the very beginning that I related to. Not the rest of it, but that one. 😉 I’ve picked up things here and there, and slowly they all sort of combined to make me go, “Yeah, this is me.” You know what else helped? Blogs. Mostly butch blogs, ironically. Every time someone posted a, “This is what I like about femmes/this is what I see in the femme identity/let’s talk about femme invisibility/etc” it made me go, “Ah! I do that!” or “Hey! I relate to the flip side of that!” (The invisibility thing was really helpful, actually — half the time I thought I must be wrong about myself, because no one else ever saw it! But then I learned it was a common problem, and didn’t mean I was just wrong.)

I’m still on a hunt for a book, like the Ivan E. Coyote or Bear Bergman books for butches, that make me go, “Yes! I relate to this.” Maybe someday I’ll find it. 😉

J



et cetera