Why 2018 Is The Year To Be Unapologetically Femme

I am giving power to my own femme-ness.

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This year, I’m committing myself to living more authentically, fiercely, and fearlessly. I am a queer femme and to me, owning that identity is a political act.

Femme is blurry by definition because it is an identity which embraces ambiguity and cannot be pinned down. And within that — I commit myself to being more unapologetically queer and more unapologetically femme.

There are no boundaries or limits to how femme is expressed or experienced in the queer community. In 2018, I want to see more love given to genderqueer femmes, femmeboi’s, high femmes, femmes of color, lesbian femmes, masculine-of-center femmes, femmes taking care of femmes, femme as a gender identity, and femme-on-femme relationships. Queer femmes have so long been the backbone of our community and it’s high time that we demand the respect and acknowledgement in our history and in our future of queer resistance.

Embracing my queerness and femme-ness as more integral aspect of my everyday life — and not just within the realm of dating or community — is an act of resistance. We live in the times of a fascist government engulfing our daily lives with every action they take. While 2017 had moments of strong resistance with the #MeToo movement and more trans, queer and womxn leaders being elected into positions of public office— the white supremacist patriarchy is still in power.

One of the most dangerous threats to the patriarchy is people like us — the misfits, the outcasts, the marginalized, the “othered” — owning our power and truly embracing everything that makes us who we are. And for me, that’s my queer femme-ness.

Under the Trump administration, there have been a multitude of homophobic and transphobic attacks on our community. There has also been a strong focus on what femininity is when defined by straight, cisgender men — who are primarily white. Queer femmes deal with the brunt of these aggressions in our everyday lives as we defy the very thing that Trump wants femininity to be through our queerness and our femme-ness. The ways in which homophobia, transphobia, and the male gaze intersect in our lives weighs heavily.

We are a visceral threat to hyper-masculinity with our very existence — they see our queer femme power and they hate us for it. And the epitome of straight masculinity has never been more glorified than under the rule of a man who believes he can “grab pussy” because of the role he holds in society.

Now isn’t a time to shy away from what is authentic about who we are, that’s exactly what “they” (aka the patriarchy) want. For us to subdue ourselves and become complacent in the face of their intimidation tactics.

And that’s why being unapologetically femme in 2018 is an act of resistance. 

And in loving my queer femme-ness in the most unabashed way this year, I promise to show the world (ahem — the state) just how defiant and gender-bending femme can truly be.

If you aren’t sure what exactly femme means, know that it is a deeply political identity with a multitude of layers, experiences, interpretations, and manifestations. There is a history in our queer and lesbian community of who claims femme and who mocks or even belittles femme. When I first came out, I was told that I needed to “butch up my look” so that I could get hit on more often.

To me, the femme experience is undervalued in both straight and queer circles. Often viewed as having straight passing privilege within the queer community — which may or may not be true depending on the particular person, the point being that femme isn’t about that. And in straight circles; cisgender, straight women seem to think it’s OK to co-opt our identity without any recognition of the fierce queer femmes who paved a nuanced and empowering history that (no offense) has nothing to do with them.

Deemed as “conforming” or “natural” or “compliant” often because of the ways in which femme energy is consumed and objectified as purely presentational — yet femme is none of those things. My queerness and femme identity expand far past the boundaries of how I present myself to the world through clothes or make-up (though that is an aspect of my identity). Being a queer femme touches every aspect of my life; my politics, my activism, my romantic relationships, my sex life, my community work, my creativity.

The patriarchy sets such rigid boundaries on what the “feminine” experience can and should be: Pink, frilly, soft, quiet, emotional, providing, loving, forgiving. Femme can look and feel however you want it to look and feel! And taking storm to the revolution with our femme-ness brazenly on the front lines of our activism is fighting the daily oppressive structures that are set against queer, lesbian, bisexual, and trans femmes. Reclaiming femme is a giant f*ck you to the powers that be.

Femme is inherently queer because it does not simply mean feminine. It means undoing femininity and subverting it from the purposes of the straight male gaze. Femme is naturally unapologetic in its expression — though the lived experience may vary for so many of us. While femme-ness for a cisgender queer or lesbian woman may mean feeling invisible in many spaces, it may mean feeling hyper-visible and vulnerable for many trans femmes. My embracing my queer femme identity with boldness also means finding ways in which I can better support my trans and non-binary femme community members.

In “Gender Trouble,” Judith Butler touches on how the naming of a thing, an identity, is a radical act of empowering the self. But it can also lead to said identity being targeted for violence and further oppression. While femmes face a different set of issues than masculine presenting queers in the heteronormative patriarchy — we also deal with a unique set of struggles within our own community. The LGBTQ community is no stranger to misogyny and femmephobia ourselves.

And I am tired dealing with femmephobia within the queer community. It manifests in so many ways that vary for every queer femme — and I recognize that my femme experience is not the epitome of what it means to be femme. I have had far too many dates assume that I’m a bottom simply because I’m femme. I have entered plenty of gay bars that have told me I’m “in the wrong place” because of my femme appearance. I have witnessed my femme friends take on the brunt of emotional labor and processing in our relationships. I have experienced drag shows where femininity became the brunt of a joke.

This year, my commitment to being unapologetically femme also means working to rid these habits of our community. But we need non-femme identified folks to join us in that.

Let 2018 be the year when femmes no longer have to face any forms of violence or oppression from within our own LGBTQ community. Let all “no fats, no femmes” Tinder profiles fade away. Let all masculine-presenting queers who tell femmes they’re surprised at how smart we are because we wear lipstick to please go away. Let more masculine-of-center folks embrace their own aspects of femme and femininity. Let the entire community embrace all femmes.

For decades femmes have been there to help bail their butches out of jail and sustain them after pre-Stonewall raids; femmes have nursed sick gay men dying of HIV/AIDS when non-lesbian nurses were too afraid to touch them; femmes have stood on the picket lines for the right to vote, have access to abortion, for civil rights, the right to marry; femmes have been victims and survivors of sexual, domestic, and state violence of all kinds; femmes have created safer spaces for all of us; femmes have hosted community members who were homeless or jobless; femmes have tackled tough community in-fighting; femmes have worked to build the foundations of which our LGBTQ community now stands upon; femmes who have emotionally and physically been there for friends and lovers alike in moments of need.

The historical legacy of femmes in our community is one that makes you tired just looking at the long list of actions taken. All while facing a bevvy of hurdles and obstacles such as racism, sexism, misogyny, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and femmephobia.

This is not an offensive against anyone who is not a queer femme — this is simply a call to action to create more space for femmes, as we are constantly creating and cultivating spaces for everyone else. This means not assuming all femmes are cisgender, or not telling femmes they don’t “look gay enough,” or not mocking or undermining someone’s femme-ness. If we don’t talk about and name toxic behaviors like femmephobia, then we cannot change them. As eloquently put in the Femme Shark Manifesto written by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, “Believe in communities that heal hurt, apologize, listen to each other, and make things right.”

Our current administration is giving us far too much to tackle within our circles of resistance and activism, now is a time that we need to rely on one another. Allowing femmes to exist without judgment or put-downs is vital to our survival as a whole community.

That’s why in 2018 I am giving power to my own femme-ness but I am also going to work to uplift fellow femmes and the fearless work they are paving for our collective liberation and future. I am dedicating my year to queer femmes without guilt or shame. It’s time for queer femmes to reclaim the space in the queer community and larger world that we have long deserved.

Corinne Kai is the Managing Editor and resident sex educator at GO Magazine. You can listen to her podcast Femme, Collectively or just stalk her on Instagram

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