So here is Part 2, or the conclusion of my recent pondering on femininity versus femme-ininity. In case you missed part 1, I posted it yesterday so it should not be hard to find, but here’s the link. At the end I was explaining how I came to love the word QUEER….and why.
…Merriam-Webster includes this meaning (2a) of the word queer: “differing in some odd way from what is usual or normal. “ Praise be to the Goddess!! I don’t want to be usual or normal! Odd is OK. Queer is me. I am Queer. Here’s my personal logic: every group or letter within the rainbow–lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual– has unique issues and needs. Looking for commonalities in issues and wants makes us sometimes seem more unalike than alike. We don’t all have sex with same-sex people and contrary to the hetero-majority assumptions we are not interchangeable. Each letter does not have that much in common with the other letters except for the fact that we are each different from the heterosexual norm. I have seen this alphabet with even more letters; an extra Q for questioning, an extra A for allies. I would love to see everyone unite behind Queer. It seems like a better platform to say “we are different than you, we are human beings, and we deserve the same rights as all human beings” than to continue to add letters to an ever-growing continuum of people who are different that serves to divide us by our differences. And then try to explain all those differences to the rest of the world. I’m not suggesting the labels, needs and issues of each group go away or should, just that as a rallying force and a way to unite for equality, queer is simple and inclusive.
In the meantime, until I can convince everybody to use the word “queer”, I decided I would go with it for myself! Yes I am lesbian. Yes I am a femme lesbian, but ultimately I am proudly different and proudly queer and I purposefully, intentionally go out into the world each day as a Queer Femme now. See how I circled us around back to intention? LOL
To intentionally be queer in my femme-ininity I take it to a different place than I used to with femininity before I came out. Queer Femme is to mix up my very girly side with that inner butch twist . I started off by wearing dresses with Doc Marten’s; then femmy skirts with men’s jackets. I moved past that years ago, but you get the drift. Feminine clothes but with a masculine edge where I can, whether it’s chunkier more edgy jewelry, harder-edged makeup, a sassier lip color. Clothing that hugs and flatter curves (even bulges) that women-loving-women love instead of wearing clothes that hide curves. I’ve joked many times about having to tattoo an “L” on my forehead so people would know that I’m gay. I am so gay. I can’t help it that I don’t look what people think gay looks like.
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In reading blogs on this topic, I was reminded of other things femmes have to do to be seen as lesbian: drop hints about certain clubs or websites to see if women they are talking to recognize them, walk with a bit of a swagger (even in heels), wear “man-pants” instead of feminine trousers, wear rainbow jewelry or tattoos with a clue (the word “femme” is a giveaway. Maybe I should try that?), a bling-y “booby shirt” (as my wife lovingly calls those that show off my cleavage) and jewelry, plenty of sexy make-up but with heavy work boots instead of kitten heels. There are many ways each femme uses to intentionally place her femme-ininity out there so those with gaydars will hear the ping-ping of her throbbing desire to be seen as queer. This is by no means definitive, just an example for those who may not have any idea what I am talking about…being invisible and all.
I have been recently reminded of my femme invisibility as I strive to find a job so Angela and I can start building roots and a home here in Los Angeles. I am fortunate that my brother is gay and we are best friends. Staying with him right now makes for a very gay household. I forget that when I go out not everyone sees me as the raging queer that I am. Job interviews tend to end with a little small talk as the interviewer walks you out, and the last two took me by surprise when they asked, “So has your husband found a job yet?” Husband? WTF? Do I look like a straight woman to you? Oh yeah. I guess I do. Damn it. I said that actually I had a wife and that yes she has found a job. They were both very cool about it, but that’s not the point. The point is that they thought I was straight. At a job interview I was not “sexing” up my presentation so it’s a little harder to intentionally look queer in interview clothes when you are a femme. I don’t get mad that they assumed that; it’s a reasonable assumption in our culture. But it doesn’t mean it should be.
I’ve been mulling over these thoughts about being femme and femme-ininity for several months. In December, when I was still in Chowchilla and this blog was called Queer Femme in the Country, Angela and I sent out some holiday cards with a photo on the front of Angela, her mom, and I that was taken at Wanda’s 75th birthday party. Angela and I had noted that the photo reflected the lesbian “twin” phenomenon where we ended up wearing similar outfits that day. Two friends, upon receiving the cards, emailed me and said “I think you should change the name of your blog to Butch in the Country.” Whuuuuut? Me butch? I love butch girls. Sometimes I think I wish I could be one, but I am not. I have “tried it on” and numerous butch friends kidded me that regardless of how much plaid I wear, or how many work boots or tattoos or chains I might wear, I am not and will never be a butch. They are right. In the same way that my clothing alone does not make me a femme, wearing butch-style clothing does not make me butch. Butch and femme are something within us that makes us who we are. It’s our personal swagger or sway, our sexual energy, how our motor revs; it is some essence of our soul perhaps. Many books are out there to explain it; I would not even presume to try it here.
Hearing those remarks from my friends did get me mulling over what it is to be femme though. During the 9 months I lived in the country taking care of my mother-in-law it was impractical to dress up all femme-y every day and put on my most perfect doll face. Hefting a disabled woman in and out of a wheelchair is tough to do in heels. Washing dishes and cleaning up after 3 meals a day destroyed my gel manicures. I had to abandon them and go back to natural (!!) nails. Being a queer femme in Chowchilla, I almost became invisible to myself. Comfy t-shirts and pullovers, jeans, capri pants (hey butches don’t wear those do they?), sneakers or flip flops, hoodies and chanclas were my go-to items. Makeup pared down to occasional mascara and liner and perhaps lipstick instead of lip balm from time to time. Jewelry? Who had time for keeping track of it? Easier not to wear it there.
So now here I am in Los Angeles. My “stuff”, including 98% of my wardrobe, is in storage waiting for us to have our own place again. Comfy clothes and interview clothes are what I have room for and none are high on the sexiness scale. Am I still femme? I look at the photos of the femmes in my online groups and no longer see my reflection there. Have 9 months in the country made me into something else? No they haven’t. Right now I may only be able to see my inner femme in the mirror as the outside queer femme takes care of business and does what is necessary. Inner queer femme has always been there and always will be. The problem of invisibility remains whether I’m wearing t-shirt and flip flops, business suit and heels, or femme fatale skirt and stilettos. We all have these darker, harder times to bear and it’s okay if I’m not in the mood to wear an evening gown when I need to walk the dog, wash the dishes and apply for 11 more jobs online. I’m still that “You Can Do It” femme with my hair tied up and my fist in the air.
Loving women makes me queer. What makes me femme is not the beauty products or the clothes I wear. I can put my wife in a dress and she is still a butch through and through (but I won’t.). What makes me femme is the strength of the women of the ages I carry inside me, the ability to go through life with feminine flair and humor, using the tools at hand whether that is a high heel or a hammer, and loving my queer self and queer body even on the bad days. The makeup and clothes are the costume I wear to show you what I’m made of, not to hide my queerness. They are a ritual that puts me in touch with the strength, gentleness, compassion, integrity, will, and nurturing nature I have inside and that transforms the inner queer femme into outer one. With or without it, I may still be invisible at times, but not to everyone.
That said, all I need is a job and an apartment, 3 coats of mascara, some eyeliner, red lipstick, earrings and some slingbacks and that outer queer femme is back in action. I’m not invisible, are you? (wink, wink)
Read Pamela’s blog here… http://queerfemmeonthemove.blogspot.com/