When I first moved back to the city over two years ago, I knew that I was searching for something beyond wanting a change of pace.
I wanted to build my community; connect with other queer folks in ways that I hadn’t had the chance to before. But the more I thought about community, the more questions I had in how it related to my identity as a femme, a Black woman, and someone invested in becoming more active in the community that is so deeply important to me.
When I first began to embrace my queerness, I became fascinated by the idea of community.
When we speak about femme or butch identities, much of what we tie to those labels are aesthetics. We focus on what we look like and how we dress as part of these identities, but there is so much more than that which comes to create a fully-faceted image of what these identities actually mean. Our ideas of what community is can be just as important to consider when it comes to femme or butch identities.
I want to be clear: femme for femme relationships are not putting down or diminishing the importance of femme relationships with anyone else. However, femmes face a particular kind of erasure and struggle within the queer community that deserves to be given its own space.
As a femme myself, I see this part of my identity as important because it shows how I connect with others, as well as how I present out to the world. Relationships with others play a major role in how we connect with each other and ourselves; the ways that femmes are able to build connections with other femmes is more important than we give it credit for.
For me, the label of femme is as much a political statement as it is a personal announcement of what fits my spirit best. There’s so much power in our identities, and it’s important that we make space to celebrate them.
To grow into myself, it was important to me to understand that femme for femme relationships were the most important and radical relationships that I could have.
When we think of femme for femme relationships in the community now, they tend to focus on romantic relationships. And this is important, too. Femmes share a unique experience in navigating erasure, hypersexualization and redistributing ideas or assumption of feminity.
For many femmes, one of the struggles that are maintained in our lives is how we are expected to hold and provide emotional labor. There’s labor involved in all relationships, but because so many femmes have been socially conditioned in ways that make emotional labor seem like mandatory service for us to provide for others—it can be difficult to have the space to draw boundaries and navigate when it’s okay to walk away or disengage from labor demands.
Moving back to the city, I struggled with the feeling of connecting with others and building a community. It was other femmes that were the first ones to open their arms and accept me as I am. As my friendships and relationships expanded, my connection with other femmes continued to teach me so much about myself and how to be a better friend, lover, and member of the community. I held space for others and myself; I learned to advocate for my own needs and set boundaries as an act of self-love and not one of negativity. I learned the ways that I was capable of holding space and sharing love with others by modeling what I wanted to see myself.
My relationships with femmes continue to inform the ways that I date and share space with my romantic partners. In deepening my relationships with femmes, I learned what relationship models worked best for me—and how to balance the romantic and platonic relationships I have with others, even in seeing platonic relationships evolve to become intimate friendships.
The emotional connection that I share with other femmes can’t be fully explained, but it does speak to what it means to be seen by others. But I do know that they have built the foundation as to how I see the queer community, as a whole. I’m excited to see the ways that these relationships continue to expand and grow with me, but the significance of femme for femme relationships is something that I want to see get the recognition and support that they deserve.
Without femme for femme relationships, the queer community wouldn’t be what it is today. The power of these relationships can’t be denied.