Femme FATale

these are not playthings.
September 10, 2008, 1:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

i’ve been doing some heavy thinking lately about these pieces of me i hold so personally dear in the depths of my heart. my identities: my assertion of “femme”, my claiming of “bottom,” particularly. with the exception of the last two or three years, these have never been easy words or titles under which i’ve stood. i did not learn these pieces of myself from others. i did not do only as i saw them do and come to these places. they are both identities that, for me, are wrapped in complicated personal histories of a host of things: love, inadequacy, pleasure, guilt, passion, unhappiness, and two hundred other emotions. these identities are not ones i take lightly or for granted.

in short: these are not playthings.

my journey to femme was a hard one ripe with insecurity and an absence of community or language to define who i was and what i was feeling. where i came out as queer was certainly a positive space to do so, but only in particular ways, ways that embraced an androgynous aesthetic that was doubly inaccessible and undesirable for myself.

growing up femme there was heartbreaking.

my queerness was questioned daily by my lovers, friends, my community, the definition of myself by others as nothing more than a “lesbian until graduation”. and i tried, and i tried, and i tried to fit in there, to be that non-femme thing they wanted me to be and even donning sports bras and cargo shorts, i failed. miserably. i didn’t pass as anything non-femme.

i remember, there was this time, friends of mine were throwing a “frat row” party, and all these dykes just slightly amped up their already masculine clothing to get closer to that douchey, frat boy image. i was supposed to do the same. i was able to hold it together long enough to put on those cargo shorts, t-shirt and borrowed a visor from my next door neighbor. but it was actual fucking tears i cried when my best friend told me i couldn’t possibly go if i was going to keep on my make-up. there was no place for that. no mascara allowed. no place even for “sorority girls” at this party either. no femininity. period. i left two hours in, cried my way home, and wrote heart-wrenchingingly in my journal that i wondered if i’d ever find space where i fit. “will i ever be able to make this queerness work?”

that was a breaking point for me. a moment when i realized it was hurting too much to be queer in this way. and i slowly started to let it go and started to embrace my femme. and as i shed that sorry excuse at androgyny i was trying to pull and stepped up to the plate femmed out the way i’d always wanted to be, i met her. this big, ol’ rugby playing butch. this rough, tough femme-lovin’ butch. and i was home. i flourished. things fell into place. and i was accepted, my queerness was embraced in this community suddenly. but then, just as quickly as it was handed to me, it was stripped away in my realization that it was just because of her. because i was counterpart to her uber masculinity that was so revered in that space. i was femme, but not my own.

and this went on long after college. still, i held strong to my femme in the midst of queers completely ignoring and straight up disavowing my sexuality and gender. read me, called me, named me “ally” to my face because i was all girled out at dyke night at the bar. how could i be anything other than straight looking like that, they asked my friends. i cried my way home again.

i am home now though in my skin, in my femme, but it wasn’t ever easy. it’s still hard sometimes, but it’s improved. this things is volatile though and i hold it close to my chest because of everything it means to me; that road was rough, but i don’t regret the conversations with myself it forced me to have, the questioning of my communities it made me do, the loneliness it caused and the absolute joy and love it has become.

my femme thing is not a plaything.

nor is this thing i claim as bottoming. they are not the same, they are not inextricably linked, but they are related in the depths of me. this identity is newer to me than femme in that i have only in the past few years named it for myself, but hardly a new need or want. this part of me that weaves itself between memories and history of myself alone and myself with her and constantly has me digging for evidence of it that proceeded and followed her. proof that this has been me all along. i find it everywhere.

bottoming is not new to me, not new like her and that love whirlwind we had. it is not trendy to me. i do not will it to be radical so that i might have my points raised as some kinky, subversive queer type. i claim this space because of desire foremost and an investment in all that desire contains – respect, dynamic, communication, need. a big part of this is because of having experienced those desires, knowing what it’s like to have them and knowing what it’s like to feel their absence. and this is not to say that if you have not done x, you cannot claim y. more so, it’s a feeling inside me that is very tied to the act of doing and having done, both being undoings and redoings of me.

i come to bottoming first from a place of love – because that’s where it was first really named for me. of giving, of expecting to be valued and respected for this generosity of giving myself, of allowing you to take and experience me. this is not about who gets fucked and who does the fucking, it’s about yielding and holding, ebbing and flowing.

i do not claim this identity as a mere desire to occasionally have a little control taken from me. i do not claim it as something i think i want, but have never done nor thought about beyond actual physical results. i do not call myself a bottom to satisfy an equation of “femme is…” or use it as a way to critique someone else’s needs or desires…

and i wish you wouldn’t.

because this femme thing, this bottom thing, they are not playthings.

these are heart things, soul things, me things and my chest is heavy when they are cheapened by your carelessness with them.


12 Comments so far
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i cannot fully express how beautifully written this post is. we do not bring ourselves through our lives, bring us to where we are now, work with what we’ve got and then finally learn that what we’ve got is what we need, what sustains us, what is beautiful and what is a force to be reckoned with, only to have someone make light of that as if it was just some role play. Someone who can’t hold that part of you in reverence, as they would (and should) hold that own part of themselves, doesn’t really deserve the time of day from you. xoxox.

Comment by charlotte

I really empathize with your statement that these are “identities that…are wrapped in complicated personal histories of a host of things”. I too did not come to femme deliberately, but in this way of being unable to be something else, though in my case it was an inability to be straight. It shocks me how unacceptable femmes can be to both straight and queer communities sometimes. As in, if you’re going to look like that then you are automatically there for the pleasure of men, and therefore not queer enough, and not to be protected from predators (the old ‘she asked for it’ situation).

There is something alienating for me when people start talking about ‘choosing’ identities, as if what I am is a pair of sunglasses I can casually put on and take off. I know I am not the only one who has tried and tried to fit in in a whole range of circumstances, and found that there is only one that works.

Thank you for writing this.

i think you raise a really important point here that i didn’t get to in this post about how femmes, as much as any other part of the queer community, can also be gatekeepers to the identities of “femme” and “queer.” jealousy, competition, insecurity, and many of us having these hard histories of coming to femme all seem to find us working against each other far too often.

thanks for your thoughts. xo-hussy red

Comment by freedomgirl

Femmes are born in flames.

I want to have a meal together at nolose. Can we make a plan? Talk about our eventual world domination and fat femme antics? xoxoxoxo

i can’t even begin to tell you how much i would *love* that. one of my biggest femme conference regrets was not getting more of a chance to chat with you and, of course, plot a takeover. i don’t think i know many people who will be at nolose, so i’m guessing my schedule will be pretty open! let’s definitely make a date of it. see you oh-so-soon! xoxo.

Comment by Bevin

I love this post! While I was reading I was thinking about that old pulp fiction paperback, Plaything of Passion. (The image on the cover is pretty easy to find, if you want to google it) The idea that “real” bottoms or femmes or supergirly women are themselves playthings is interesting to think about.

Does “my femme thing is not a plaything” mean that femme is not a form of play or performance for you? How do you feel about the vocabulary of gender performance? I’m not asking to be challenging; I just want to understand your feelings/experience.

Thx for this heartfelt post.

i absolutely think that femme can be play and performative. for me, it’s always those things paired up with an investment in a particular queer politic. using the word “plaything” here is entirely about my frustrations when terms like these, identities, get thrown around loosely. like, the way a queer who is outwardly feminine gets tagged a “femme” before the person doing the naming even knows how that person identifies. i feel like a lot of us have taken a long time to get where we are and have suffered a lot of heart ache in the process, so carelessly pinning identities to people, for example, in a way demeans our experiences and our histories that got us to claiming these words.

also, i love how we have this little community going amongst bloggers, readers, commenters. it feels homey. i want to invite all of you over for tea so that we can talk gender and dish dirt! xoxo – hussy red.

Comment by sublimefemme

ooh, I’d love to have tea! I’ll bring the scones!

Comment by freedomgirl

I’ll be right over! Seriously, I love this community too.

Thanks for your comment at my blog BTW. I wasn’t sure how people would react to the skinny talk in “Me, Plotting World Domination,” so I was especially happy to get your response. xo SF

Comment by sublimefemme

I find this very interesting. I am struggling in my own gender journey right now. I’m more femme than anything on the inside, but I hate dressing in a feminine way. Not that it’s bad, I just feel more comfortable looking androgynous. But the more butch-as-adjective I’ve become, the more nervous I get that people will expect me to be a top, the alpha person, the one to dominate. I’m very uncomfortable in that role.

Sorry for the book I just wrote. Visit the blog if you want.

Again, wonderful post. So honest.

Comment by Emily

Really interesting work. To be frank, reading it really expanded my understanding. I might write a “funny” website, but this was really ripping. beautiful descriptions, and honest, tough writing.

Nicely done.

Comment by Jul

I can’t tell you how much reading this meant to me. What I experienced when I came out as queer and femme wasn’t as horrible as what you describe, but 10 years later I’m stunned that I’m still expected to defend myself. My butch partner, who I’ve been with for almost 8 years, was continually pulled aside and asked if I was bisexual, or “just visiting”. I won’t catalog here. Not my blog!

Thank you, thank you, for being so honest and uncompromising. And for expressing yourself with wisdom and passion. We need more of this. I’m showing this post to everyone I know.

Comment by Gina

[…] i mentioned in my post a week or so ago, i’ve been having a lot of heaviness on my mind in regards to identity issues, not so much […]

Pingback by taking space, taking time. « Femme FATale

Only just stumbled across this but I found the perspective very interesting. It frustrates me that people would reject a person’s sexuality because of the way they dress and act, because it doesn’t fit the stereotype. I’d consider myself pretty butch (or whatever the hell people label it) and it can be quite frightening sometimes when abuse and rejection are encountered based on my appearance. I can deal with that. However I don’t know if I could handle people dismissing my lesbianism because I was too feminine. What the hell does anyone else know about it? Nothing, except what you tell them! And that should be enough.

In the end, sexuality is one facet of who we are, and the way we choose to dress and act are another. They don’t have to be directly connected to please others. I really enjoyed this post.

Comment by itsonlymagic

I’m very impressed by both your willingness and ability to express you’re identities so well. You are an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing.

Comment by Kyle

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