advice, essays, identity politics

Femme Invisibility & Beyond

I’m still receiving questions in the Ask Me Anything form; most of the time I am turning them into pieces for my advice column over on SexIs Magazine, but sometimes they are things I’d rather tackle here at Sugarbutch. So here’s one of those.

As a very feminine femme, I pass for straight more often than not, and I’d like to know your thoughts on femme invisibility, and why every time I smile/greet/nod at butches I am largely ignored. Even when I am out with my (butch) lover, a polite nod of recognition, or “Nice tie …” coming from me is not acknowledged. What gives?


Oh, femme invisibility. This is a big, constant topic, and I have lots of thoughts about it. Probably mostly I’ll say the same things that I said in 2009 when I wrote this piece, “On Femme Invisibility,”, but I have a few new things to say, too.

Femme Invisibility Is Real

Femme invisibility is a real thing. It happens all the time. Queer women who are feminine get seen as straight—by straight folks, other queer folks, and sometimes even queer femmes themselves—because this culture expects dykes to reject gender roles automatically when rejecting a heterosexual orientation. As if those two things go together inseparably.

For many people, they do go together. But for other folks, they do not.

Assuming that they do go together—that a rejection of heterosexuality also includes a rejection of masculine/feminine culturally-defined gender roles—assumes that the only purpose of those gender roles is for heterosexual gain (attraction, stimulation, and reinforcing patriarchal dominance). One of the things I particularly love about the butch/femme dynamic is that it disproves this. It fractures the concepts of “gender roles” into multiple things, including archetypes and perhaps some sort of “inner gender” (a concept trans theories have been flirting with, but I haven’t seen articulated perfectly, yet). Meaning: yes, these gender roles are societally dictated, but they are also more than that, bigger than that, and if we can strip down the societal restrictions that keep us oppressed and marginalized and compartmentalized (for example, break our identity alignment assumptions and separate gender roles from our hobbies, interests, and personality traits), we can come to some understanding that gender is fun and more than just a way to keep wives subordinate to husbands or to keep men in power (over, among other things, the awe-inspiring phenomenon that is women’s ability to bear children).

Masculinity, femininity, genderqueerness, or any sort of gender presentation is not inherent to a sexual identity. Femininity is not just for straight women. We’ve accepted that masculinity is for dykes and femininity is for fags because, well, this culture is homophobic and sexist, and we assume that a rejection of heterosexuality is also a rejection of gender roles. But many combinations of gender and sexuality exist—probably more than I could even name, probably more than I comprehend. (This is one of the reasons why, when people look at a guy who is even slightly feminine and declare him a closet fag, I think: that’s sexist. He certainly might be a closet fag, but there are also many straight men who have feminine gender performances, and that does not mean he’s gay. Ditto for slightly masculine women—I mean, how many of us have said, how many dozens of times, that Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica must be gay? But why is that? Well, it’s because she has some swagger, never because she has displayed any sexual or romantic interest toward other women.)

Stop Arguing With Reality & Find Some Radical Acceptance

This culture tells us all these things, and this culture is wrong. It is not correct that feminine dykes are really straight girls. It just isn’t. In fact, it’s rooted in sexism and homophobia, and a little bit ignorant.

But also? It’s just real. It’s not right, and I channel all sorts of righteous indignation when I come across something that is just wrong and nobody seems to get, so I’m not trying to discount that it sucks. But if you expect it to be another way, you are simply arguing with reality, and you can (and, dare I say, should!) do some radical acceptance around this issue. That doesn’t mean you just passively accept that this is how things are and move on, it can certainly mean that you do your own work to make this issue less painful for the many people involved.

But it’s just true. In this culture, physical markers of queerness are accepted as certain things (like short hair, baggy androgynous or slightly masculine clothes, comfortable shoes—i.e., not femininity). Your struggle to be accepted as a queer person by visual sight alone is probably going to continue, as long as the culture continues to have those same queer markers.

Since Your Queer Identity Isn’t Portrayed Visually, You Have To Portray It In Other Ways

Since many femmes don’t have those same visual queer markers, since your identity isn’t constructed in a way that portrays your sexuality (according to the culture) visually, you will have to find other ways to construct and communicate your queer identity.

I don’t know how, exactly. Seems like many femmes do this in different ways. After the 2008 Femme Conference, which was called The Architecture of Identity, I compiled my notes and identified a few different ways of constructing identity, such as in contrast to butch, in community, through language, through fashion and style, and through theory, and I think those still hold true.

Language is a big one for me. I would much prefer to befriend and sleep with someone who doesn’t “look gay” but who can talk about queer history, culture, or theory to someone who you would visually peg as a dyke immediately but doesn’t have any context for her identity any day.

There’s constant talk about making some sort of universal femme marker—a tattoo, or a hanky flower, or some way that the pin-up look is queered so that everybody knows it’s not heterosexual, but as far as I can tell, there’s almost no way to universalize one singular symbol. At least, not yet.

And I’m not sure we really need one (though I’m not the one going through the struggles of this, I recognize). Because, let’s be honest: I see femmes everywhere. Whatever you’re doing with your visual markers, it’s working, when you know how to look.

Lots of People See You!

At the Femme Conference in 2008, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha said in her keynote address, “Femme invisibility is bullshit. You just don’t know how to look.”

Don’t forget: Lots of people see you. I feel like I can spot a femme on a crowded subway car even when there are three dozen people between us. It’s not just that she gives me an extra-long stare and big smile (though that happens, sometimes), but it’s also something energetically, something I can’t quite even put my finger on, that says to me, “Whoa, there is something special about her.”

There are lots of femmes out there. There are lots of butches and genderqueer folks and trans folks and other masculine of center identified people and femmes who love to date femmes, and who see the one femme in the dyke bar not as a straight impostor, but as our crush for the evening, our next girlfriend, our fantasy.

It is a real problem. And I know it causes mass frustration. But there are many people who get it, and who don’t question a femme’s identity as queer. And there are big movements adding on to the many, many conversations about femme invisibility that are already out there.

Know Your Femme History

Read up. Read blogs, read books. I suggest, to start: Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, A Persistent Desire, Brazen Femmes, Femmes of Power, Visible: A Femmethology Volumes I & II, The Femme’s Guide to the Universe, The Femme’s Mystique … and oh probably two dozen others. Take strength and pleasure from knowing others have come before you, and have struggled too: that you are not the only one who has had difficulties with this.

Find some femme friends. Seek out femme community. There is tons of this happening online these days, for example, so even if you live somewhere kinda small or in a city that doesn’t particularly value the butch/femme dynamic, you can still talk to people about this.

If you don’t have a big community in your city, travel. No seriously, I mean that. Come to New York City. And for fuck’s sake, attend the Femme Conference in Baltimore this August. This is exactly what a femme conference is for: to make friends, to come together, to give voice to the common struggles and to start seeing our own experiences as valid and real.

This Is Your Struggle, But Remember: It’s Not Your Problem. It’s Theirs

Just as the main conflict in a butch’s identity—in my opinion—is sexism, misogyny, and masculine privilege (yes, I just said that), this is one of the main conflicts in a femme identity (others big things, from my perspective, being the mean girls thing, and escaping the beauty myth).

But if you really know and understand why other queers don’t see you, and why you pass as straight, and how to start constructing your identity in ways that aren’t reliant upon physical markers, you may just start to realize that it isn’t your problem. It isn’t something you are or aren’t doing right or wrong. It isn’t that if you just tried a little harder, smiled a little bigger, wore a different dress, that you would be recognize and validated as queer. It’s a cultural problem, a problem in our queer communities that is replicating gender norms and assumptions from the larger culture. It isn’t your fault, and it isn’t your problem. It’s theirs.

If someone doesn’t accept that you’re queer when you are a) in a queer space, b) with a visibly queer partner, or c) telling them that you are queer, well, then, fuck them, or rather don’t, because they don’t deserve to keep talking to you. Find somebody who does accept your combination of femininity and queerness. And keep working, yourself, on the reconciliation and supposed cultural conflict between the two.

Because that is your struggle.

How are you going to deal with it? How are you going to own your history, understand the sexist, misogynistic ways that this culture sees femininity, and overcome? How are you going to reconcile that not every visible queer you see will see you? How are you going to learn to communicate with a look and a smile, which, six times out of ten, might work? How are you going to articulate your own identity to others when they question it? What are the words you are going to say? How are you going to build a group of people around you that you know you can turn to when all you want to do is go, “ARGHHHHH!” and be angry that the world doesn’t see you as queer enough? How are you going to help build your femme friends up when they go through this? What can butches do (aside from learn how to recognize you, I know that’s a big one) to support you? How will we all reassure each other? What can we learn, here? What alliances can we make?

And perhaps most importantly, how can we move beyond this?

Strive to Move Us Beyond Visibility

There is more to femme identity than being visible. There is nurturance and caretaking, there is internalized homophobia, there is the mean girls complex that pits femmes against each other, there is the pervasive understanding that femme is nothing more than lipstick and heels (um, wrong!), there is some sort of hierarchy in the femme world as indicated simply by the still widespread use of the phrase “high femme,” there is the identity alignment assumption that all femmes are submissive bottoms and whoa is that incorrect, there is transmisogyny and the still troubled dialogue between cis and trans queer women, there is racism, there is a classist element that says that femmes have to or should buy their gender, there are dozens of other gender stereotypes that still pressure femmes to drink girly drinks and be homemakers and bear the children and stay at home and bake cookies, and oh there are probably two dozen other things I could list if I kept going.

There is more to femme identity than visibility. In fact, today in New York City there is a big day-long event going on right now called Beyond Visibility: Illuminating and Aligning Femmes in NYC, featuring a skillshare, roundtable discussion, and caucuses, all of which are femme-only, and then later an ally-invited reading and dance party (and you bet your beatle boots I will be attending that).

Being and becoming visible as a queer femme is a real thing that, it seems to me, almost all femmes struggle with. But as I’ve known more and more femmes for more and more years, I’m also starting to see that many femmes don’t struggle with it after years of working on it. Many have some radical acceptance and some understandings of how the queer world works, and are working on fighting other things.

Tara Hardy, one of my major mentors and a queer femme poet, has this line in one of her pieces: “I no longer get sad if they ask me at the door if I know it’s dyke night: I get mad. I mean, how much pussy do I have to eat before you let me in the club?” It’s a subtle shift, perhaps, from sad to mad, but it matters. It is the shift from internalizing the culture’s sexist bullshit to fighting back against it.

How do we overcome this issue and begin to elevate the discussion? I don’t know, but I’m curious to do that. And it seems that we, as a community, are beginning to, if only by the title of today’s event. I’m really excited for the Femme Conference in Baltimore this year, I think and hope that will continue to elevate the discussion.

Last, But Not Least

Also, let me say: I’m sorry. I’m sorry you are not acknowledged by the butches you are reaching out to, making bids that go unseen or unacknowledged. I don’t know why you are largely ignored. Could be many things: many butches are kind of used to straight girls hitting on us and using us for attention, and if you are being misread as straight, these butches could be resisting that. Perhaps when you’re out with your butch girlfriend and attempting to be acknowledged, they see you with your partner and don’t want to step on any toes or get into some sort of “hey man, you looking at my girl?” confrontation. It seems unlikely, but it’s possible. Maybe they fear that acknowledgment of your “nice tie” or big smile would be seen as flirting (I don’t think that would be a bad thing, but other people seem to).

Maybe they are just in their own world and just aren’t registering their surroundings. I mean, I’ve had friends of mine show up on a subway platform and try to get my attention while I was commuting, and I just had all my surroundings blocked out until they were literally waving a hand in my face. If you’re doing this in a big city, they could just be in their own world and not very observant.

I don’t know why, exactly. That’s kind of just the way it is, I think. For all those reasons I yammered on about above. That’s not okay and it’s not right, and I’m doing my own part to encourage femme visibility and work on our sexism in queer communities.

Butches, transmasculine folks, genderqueers, and all you other visible queers out there: listen the fuck up: LEARN TO RECOGNIZE FEMMES, even if you don’t date them, because they recognize you.

It’s the least we can do.

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queers" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and they are the current editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert, and they live outside Seattle as an uninvited settler on traditional, ancestral, & unceded Snoqualmie land.

17 thoughts on “Femme Invisibility & Beyond”

  1. riotfemme says:

    I’ve been out as Queer for over 20 years, identifying and presenting as Femme for most of that time, and the frustration and pain of invisibility doesn’t really lessen. I am fucking strong and oh so fucking loud and I claim my Queer space but it’s tiring at times. So, thank you for your words, they’ve topped up my strength at a time when I really needed it.

  2. microwavejenny says:

    thanks- this is welcome. The “and beyond” part is so important, and I wish we spoke about it more. Femme invisibility is kind of a given, but the longer I’m out and comfortable in my femme-ness, the longer I just don’t give a fuck. What I do give a fuck about is the (as you say) sexism, misogyny, and masculine privilege that make my identity invisible or–worse–make is “less than” other ways of presenting femininity/presenting queerness. And those are the conversations I want to be having. So, again, thank you.

  3. Judith says:

    I feel so very fortunate that my High Femme (not meant in any hierarchical sense) self & ways has never been ignored by masculine women, be they butch, boi, or stud.

    Years & years ago I did take some heat from other lesbian feminists of the “dyke” variety who didn’t get it about butch-femme. It was particularly difficult during the late 60s through the mid-80s, really. Even so, those who were butch always got it about me. Other femme lesbians got the femme part, but looked somewhat askance at the “high femme” i.e. the makeup, nail polish high heels. That was hard, sometimes. For a long time, “high femme” just wasn’t P.C. Where I live now, in the land of Portlandia, there is no issue. Our queer community is vibrant & varied:-)

    Regarding the dilemma of invisibility, I’ve always known it existed, I just chose to ignore it, I suppose. I didn’t care. I would just always be my girlie self. What straight folks thought was irrelevant. To me, being a feminist has a lot to do with how I define myself as a woman & as one whose gender is queer femme.

    Thank you, S.B. for the clarity of your vision about us femmes & the very articulate way you have of setting that vision into words.

  4. M says:

    Thank you. I’ve been dating (invariably butch) women for the past 7 years now. And as much as how the women I date are treated by society (kicked out of women’s bathrooms, harrassed etc.) affects me, so does my own invisibility. I was told it was a phase when I first started dating women (long phase), but it never ceases to amaze me how even when I recognise gender queer women because of their markers, they don’t easily recognise me. I’ve had to say the words ‘you know, as a lesbian’ more than once to let queers I am attracted to know that I’m not straight. It’s not the end of the world, and I don’t get kicked out of bathrooms. But somehow my invisibility makes it almost like I don’t exist in this community where I should be accepted, no questions asked. I LIKE being a feminine woman, that’s not going to change. But I also don’t want to constantly have to prove to other genderqueer people that I am actually a lesbian. Thank you for this post, it means a lot to feel seen, if only for a minute.

  5. Lilac says:

    At Pride two years ago, I cheered on the parade in a skirt & heels with my boyfriend’s arms around me. One of the marchers thanked us for being allies, and despite his good intentions, it was frustrating to receive that when I’m -not- only an ally, I’m queer also, and if I was standing with a man that morning I was dancing with a girl that evening.

    I sometimes pick up an energetic femme quality too, like someone has a heightened awareness of their image, having examined and deliberately crafted this femininity. Or maybe it’s an aesthetic assertiveness, like someone has put on femme as armor/warpaint? I don’t know, but it’s nice to hear your & others’ experiences of this. (:

  6. Emi says:

    I appreciate this so much. As a queer femme, I have found that my life is a series of coming outs; at work, with new friends and acquaintances, with the insurance agent, the gym and at the doctor’s office. Your thoughts are inspiring, uplifting, hopeful and, yet, still a painful reminder of the reality we live in. It is easy to minimize the sting of femme invisibility by comparing it to the struggles of MOC friends and partners dealing with open aggression, but it is still important to raise awareness about femme invisibility so that change can become a possibility.

    Also, thanks for the reminder to separate gender performance and sexual preference with regards to straight folks as well. I know I’m guilty of assuming men presenting as feminine and masculine of center women are queer or closeted. I needed that.

  7. Ladyface says:

    Thanks for this post! I pass as straight even in queer spaces and I’m very much an introvert so I’ve become accustomed to being invisible. I’ve made my home on Femme Island for so long I sometimes forget what it’s like to be seen by my community.
    But you know whats worse than not being seen? Not being believed when you out yourself. That’s seriously f-ed up.
    Anyway, thank you Sinclair for your words of support, they are appreciated!

  8. Sweets says:

    Thank you for answering my question.

    I find that my frustration does not stem from (as Emi pointed out) coming out constantly, and I dont have anything I really feel the need to defend or prove. My frustration comes from the fact that I am a butch-loving femme. Yes, I am happily partnered (poly even, but that’s beside the point). Yes, I am a flirt, albeit a cautious, and subtle one. But, part of my own personal definition of femme (for me) is the fact that I admire butches. I find them courageous, gorgeous…the swagger, the attitude, the constant challenge of presenting something so obviously different.

    Irresistable, even. That energy must be acknowledged and applauded. Supported, succored, eaten up and encouraged.

    Part of my own personal, well…calling, is to let the butches that I see in the world know they I appreciate them. I honor that bravado, that vulnerability of their strength, put out there for all to see. And, dammit, it hurts to feel that discounted. Not even discounted. Not seen. Not even existing.

    But yeah, it is reality. No use tilting at windmills, it is what it is…so, what to do? In answer to your questions, Sinclair, I continue. I continue to compliment, smile at and acknowledge the butches in my path, I continue to be vocal to my femme girlfriends about it, and support them when they feel it too. I continue to tell myself that anyone whose eyes are blind to my femme energy is not deserving of it, and I continue to believe what I offer has worth, even if it only that loaded glance as I walk by you in the grocery store.

    As I wield my own considerable femme energy and power, it makes me hurt, sad and then mad, to have it not even rejected…just not….there. Not to put too fine a point on it, it chaps my ass! Dislike me, walk away from me, roll your eyes on me…but the perfect insult is to not even see me. Thats okay, though. My pride is a healthy enough animal that I’ll get over it. It still makes me hurt, sad, and finally, mad.

    What can we learn here? I wish I knew. I know what I hope to learn, how to not let the oblivious-ness of people strike me personally. Sadly, part of my charm is my soft spot for butches, so the capacity for tenderness is both a good thing and a bad thing. Being vulnerable has its pros and cons. Perhaps expanding my circle of butch and femme friends is whats needed.

    The Femme Conference is on my bucket list…finances permit one event a year, and SPLF is already on the docket.

    Thanks again for opening this conversation, your response, and the responses of the commenters is balm enough to soothe me. Im not alone, and that is good to know.

  9. Karrie Jones says:

    I live in a fairly rural area (in Australia) so it might be a bit different, with what I encounter, as I can understand that more butch lesbians have had to deal with so much. As I am very Femme.

    HOWEVER I will never forget my first encounter with lesbians in my town. I was 14 at the time, and fully knew I was gay at that point already, was actually on my way to the library to pick up a book on mardi gras =P
    but as I was walking, I looked over to 2 girls standing outside a shop, both very butchy looking, so they caught my attention, could i talk to them? should i approach them? is it alright for me to say hi? they ‘look’ gay… are they?
    and then they kissed…
    and saw me looking as i walked passed.
    I must say..
    “obvious lesbians that give the community a bad reputation” pretty much summed it up.

    Standing outside a tattoo parlor, kissing, and swearing at people who looked. especially at a 14yo girl who was curious just to meet people like her. does NOT help.
    I was angry, scared and obviously upset. I wanted to turn around and go back.
    How DARE they! they were giving MY community a bad name. (i hate to say it, but its true, people associate what they see once to a whole community) not only that, i just wanted to say hi! I so wanted to turn around and give them a lesson or 2… however.. me being half there size.. i think they would have killed me, so probably a good idea i just kept walking. =P

    I dont think things have exactly improved much. Iv had similar encounters again, and now that im over 18 and can go clubbing, i get asked.. in a LESBIAN, all girl club,… “are you actually gay?” no, im here because i like the music… duh..

    Sometimes i feel at my wits end, and want to tattoo lesbian on my forehead.

    But its not all bad =) that was just my little rant. I like being femme, and i dont actually mind people asking if im gay, or asking me questions about it, it means i can tell them yes, and answer their questions, not knowing/understanding is generally where homophobia comes from.

    So all i can say to you boi’s/butches out there is, if like Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha said, and a girl looks extra long at you on the subway, or gives a smile that might be a little too big, say hi, because she wants to =)

  10. Molly says:

    The way I’ve been asserting my visibility is by diving head-long into social justice causes that matter to me. Oh, and being a bit of a loud-mouth, pain-in-the-ass about them when someone says something oppressive in any way. I’m outspoken about my involvement in social justice issues (race, gender, sexuality, ability, body size/image, etc.), and somehow that seems to get the point across that I’m not like other girls. Of course, it probably helps that I come out, constantly, on purpose, as often as possible. One of the handiest things I’ve found in conversation is to refer to someone as “my ex-girlfriend.” Straight girls don’t use that word to refer to their friends who have gone by the wayside.

  11. Satu says:

    I’ve been thinking about “femme” a lot recently, partly as a part of my own self-reflection and partly as a result of your numerous posts about it.

    I find the concept to be a rather elusive one, at least for me. This might be a bit odd, considering that I have identified as a femme and I’m – or so I gather – often read as one. But what is it really? For myself, femme or femme-ness is most clearly present in my looks. I like to appear very feminine, and I think my very short hair and very feminine appearance rather clearly mark me as a queer femme, a feminine being with some sort of a twist in her. If the person looking knows such a thing, that is. But this, for me, is perhaps the only thing that I can attribute to femme as such. The rest is just…bits and pieces of me, I’d say. Which is why I’m very curious as to if there are any general adjectives that are attributed to a femme – is there some core that can be found in most femmes along with their own personal variation, or is femme just random, albeit sometimes similar pieces that everyone constructs themselves? And if femme is just that, what does it even mean.

    One adjective often associated with femme comes to mind: fierce. This is a case which I have actually found often to exclude me, as I’m a rather calm and quieter sort of person, who sometimes, only at some moments can be called fierce. Is it implicit that I should emphasize my fierceness more? Are there any particular reasons for that? I know I might be reading exclusions to something where it actually isn’t happening, but these small things do limit the extent to which I can find the concept femme empowering.

    Another thing bothering me a bit with this talk about femme, is the tendency to most often contrast femme with butch. As if that’s the proper way of being a femme, as if everyone cherished that dynamic, as if femmes couldn’t have a mind-blowing dynamic between themselves. And as if an outwardly femme-presenting person couldn’t have something that could be called a masculine energy in them. I’m not saying that this is what I think is actually being said here, but it’s an implicit interpretation that’s not that difficult to make.

    Of course it’s very possible that I’m reading your use of butch and femme too superficially and not seeing the whole extent of them. But I really would like to see them being defined more often, or to know if they even have clear definitions. I don’t know, it’s just that if I were to identify as something, something that I do feel some connection with, I’d like to have a clearer picture of it. Like, is femme just something relational, something that comes from a context? Can femme be called a gender whereas to me its use at least seems to be more tied to one’s sexuality; what gender actually entails and means, etc. I know some of these are pretty big and theoretical questions, but I just felt it fitting to also bring up some of the criticism, mostly because these things are bugging me, too.

    Lastly, I would like to thank you for existing in general. And also for bringing up this subject at this time and making me think about it more coherently than before.

  12. Siouxie says:

    On frustrating days I’ve seriously thought about getting “femme-inist” tattooed at the nape of my neck… I already have a little blue nautical star on my inner right wrist, so if I shake hands with someone who knows their queer history (that’s one in every 100 handshakes)then I am incandescently visible. I have 11 tattoos and counting, which I think/hope queer me, including an arm band from the turn of the century (like lesbian carbon dating, you can tell I’m over 30 and not going through a phase). I only do cleavage out of the workplace… but getting the inky girls out sure makes me feel happy, just a little slutty, and super-freakin-femme – whether you see me or approve of me or not!

  13. Connie says:

    Thank you Sinclair for this extremely respectful and insightful post.

    Femme invisibility is something I have been dealing/coping with since I came out 14 years ago. And, probably before that too! It is a very specific kind of feeling – it is lonely, it is frustrating, it is feeling like shouting “here I am!” and feeling completely at a loss for words.

    But, lately, I don’t feel invisible anymore. Something has changed and I truly do feel like it is not my problem anymore. Somewhere between yearning for femme role models and deciding to become my own, I finally felt like my femme-ininity was hard won. I turned to history and I read about all my femme sisters before me. I looked around and found some blogs and groups online. All of the sudden, femmes were all around me and we all had something to say about our own queerness. And fuck visibility sometimes – it doesn’t have to be the only thing that validates my queer existence. I am so supported by my fellow femmes, and by others like you!

    So thank you and thanks to all femmes in the struggle.

  14. Forth says:

    It’s weird how much of our identity is constructed in the gaze of others. It’s easy enough to say we don’t really care but when you’re trying to live within a community or, worse, make your way into a community, you’re dependent on the recognition and acceptance of others. I’m fairly early on in the process of gender transition so my biggest desire is to be accepted within the wider community as a woman and very specifically NOT a caricature of a woman. At the same time though, my identity as queer is becoming very precious to me. After far too long as ostensibly heterocisboy, embracing a queer identity is so utterly comfortable that it truly feels like coming home. So how to present as a slightly butch but undoubtedly feminine woman who’s also queer but who likes operating on the femme side of the social dynamic? I feel like I should have leaflets printed or something. Gender and sexuality isn’t a simple thing…if only people would stop making so many assumptions about them.

  15. Victoria says:

    Thank you so much for writing so eloquently, and for acknowledging the complexity involved.

    I just did a set of three blog posts about coming out, one of which focused on being dumped by a butch because I was femme, for a butch who disliked femmes. It shattered me for a long time.

    But as you say, I’ve learned how to deal with invisibility over time. I have a little pride pin I keep on my handbag, I occasionally wear a necklace with a woman’s symbol and some little rainbow rings on it, and generally I just accept that I’m a human among humans. Just like I can’t tell if someone else likes peanut butter on toast, I also can’t tell if they like pussy. So be it. It’s only when it crashes into me head first, like when they tell you you’re in the wrong bar, etc, that I get irritated. But a smile and a quick, “Do I need to look like your version of a lesbian to be one?” usually does the trick.

    Always appreciate the depth of your blogs.

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