This comes from Miss Avarice, and is an excerpt from The Gender Paper, a.k.a. “Bitch, I’m as queer as you, end of story!” Thank you for the guest post, Miss A!
Femme, A Matter of Intent
Is gender innate?
They say gender is a set of learned behaviors that make “man” and “woman” out of “male” and “female.” They make it out to be such a victory because “finally” we are not born with masculine and feminine personalities already in place. I find it difficult to agree because I have always been femme in the way that my butch friends have always been butch, regardless of any gendered upbringing. They were still butches in their Easter dresses. I was still femme with the grass stains on my jeans. When some of these butch friends were little girls, they squeezed and contorted their boyishness into a feminine mask because they were punished for it. In that very same way I tried to compress and disfigure my girlness because I was punished for it too – although not by my parents, but by boys. Later on I learned to de-emphasize my womanly shape when I grew it, and I tried to play tough. Finally, somewhere in our teens or twenties, we realized our true genders and have discovered the bravery to act them out publicly. I cannot deny that some part of gender is (or at least feels) innate, but must not mistakenly think that any one gender is meant for any particular sex. Femme, my femininity never felt comfortable until it was queer.
What it feels like for the girls.
But femmes are the epitome of what you see is (not) what you get – they are the very definition of “too good to be true” for heterosexual males because femme is sexy, womanly, and kisses other girls – what more could he want? But it’s a dirty trick he plays on himself. The fact that a femme kisses other girls means that she is not sexually available to him. To him, this is a cruel sabotage.
I almost wish I could actually have that proverbial “dyke card” which I could flash if I ever need to become visible at a moment’s notice. Do they let you into the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival without your membership card? And if I am ever alone at a bar again, trying to swat away that polite but determined gentleman, hellbent on winning my affections, then I will be able to put a stop to his insistent, “But why? What does she have that I don’t have?” [ hullo: a vagina! go figure!] simply by showing my smiling face on a shiny laminate card labeled “Dyke // Class: Femme // Name: None of Your Business.” But it is not that simple. I think maybe the only way femme queers can become visible is to redefine femininity, otherwise it is not possible.
The gentleman I met at the bar last month had to ask me how long I have been a lesbian and why I decided to “change” before he could be convinced that I truly was not interested in him! I guess he thought I was lying? Imagine if I had not had such an effective alibi – imagine if I had been a straight woman. What would I have said? I want to live in a world where femmes and other feminine people can say “no” and not have to repeat or explain themselves to heterosexual men, regardless of their own sexual orientation. I want to be taken at my word; no means no, not yes. We must have an effective way to ward off unwanted sexual comments and advances from people we are not interested in. Females must be allowed to choose their gender and present it accordingly without facing discrimination or erasure of their significance as part of queer society.
I want to encourage the people who revel in contradictions to continue to do this revolutionary work, and not to limit themselves to like-minded communities – go out and become a missionary to the masses and show them that some dykes are girly, and many gay men are masculine, and that transgender and genderqueer people exist! That is an extravagant dream, and I wonder how many brave souls there are who will actually pursue it despite the prejudice and discrimination that persists. Femmes themselves will be the most important catalysts in changing the “female = feminine = straight” thought process by putting on their big girl panties and going out, loud and proud, into the world. Femme must start speaking up for herself and writing herself back into the history of women’s movement and into lesbian history, where whoever’s in charge has made her existence insignificant.