Safety in Femininity

In one of the many discussions I had with my parents before leaving for college, my mom voiced her concerns about people being hateful towards me due to my sexuality. Without even thinking I responded back, “well when you look like I do, people assume you’re straight.”

I found myself contemplating the dynamics of being a queer woman and femme presenting versus being a queer woman and masculine presenting, as well as why I personally choose to present femininely. The immediate thought that came to mind was presenting femininely is safer. I live in this weird dichotomy of desperately wanting to be seen as queer in order to meet more queer people, but also presenting femininely in a way that is most often read as straight because it’s safer. Of course the aspect of personal preference comes into play, but I also find myself wondering exactly how I would present if there wasn’t all of this societal bullshit tied to dressing a specific way. That is a question I personally still do not know the answer to.

I don’t feel uncomfortable in feminine clothing. In situations where I am even more femme than normal it can feel like I’m playing a character, but that’s not always a negative feeling, and usually that has more to do with the situations I’m in, than the actual clothes themselves. I do feel more powerful on the days I dress a little more masculine or androgynous, and I like the way I look in those clothes. In the past year or so I’ve started to dress in a way that’s more visibly queer, every once in a while. While I like the possibility of being read as gay when I dress like this, (although let’s be honest most people still think I’m straight) I find myself wondering if and when, it’s “too much.”

Internalized homophobia is a bitch. There’s no such thing as dressing “too gay” or being “too much” because of it. Also, my personal version of dressing more androgynously is still pretty femme and often continues to be read as straight. I would say internalized homophobia is the main influence that keeps me from dressing  more androgynous-leaning regularly. On the other hand, I do like feminine clothes, I enjoy wearing makeup and having longer hair. I think overall I just wish on the days I want to switch things up and dress more androgynously that I would feel comfortable to, without thinking “is this going too far?” or “is this too much?” I don’t think I have all the answers to these questions or this situation myself yet, but the process of figuring it out has been quite interesting. I’d love to hear anyone else’s story of how they came to find the way they like to present, and how that relates to their queer identity!

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Femme Struggles

Being a femme lesbian has it’s perks… and it’s down falls.

  1. People often tell you that you “don’t look gay”
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Me when people say “but you don’t look gay”

AKA people don’t realize you’re gay, bi, pan, queer, etc! This makes it especially hard when you’re trying to connect with other LGBTQIA+ people. When you are femme, most people will assume you’re straight, and sometimes try to invalidate your identity because of the way you look. Plus, what does “looking gay” even mean?

2. Other queer women don’t realize you’re queer too

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If you’re more introverted like me then this is a problem. I’m probably not going to make the first move, but if the other girl doesn’t realize I’m gay then she won’t either. Since society generally accepts straight women being super friendly to one another, and sees things like frequent compliments as normal (as oppose to friendships between two men), it can be hard for queer women to realize when another girl is flirting with them versus just being nice.

3. Every time you “come out” people are shocked

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This may not be the case for every femme lesbian, but it certainly is for me. I always get the, “No way! Reeeaally???” response from everyone I tell. When you don’t fit the stereotype, it doesn’t even cross peoples minds that you would be anything other than straight.

4. You have to come out all the time

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Because people never assume you’re queer, you have to tell them for them to know. Yes, generally assuming other peoples sexualities isn’t good, but it would be nice if just one time someone actually figured out I was gay without me having to explicitly say the words “I’m Gay.”

 

These are all things I’ve noticed from my experience, but other queer women may have different experiences.  If you are a femme LGBTQIA+ woman, do any of these things happen to you? What’s the most annoying thing you deal with because you’re femme?

Femme isn’t Feminist?

I’ve seen some wacky ideas on the internet that people try to label as feminism.

One of them is that women “conforming” to wearing feminine clothing is anti-feminist. This is almost comical to me, because feminism is about supporting all genders in any way they want/feel the need to express themselves. Yes, feminism has made it more socially acceptable for women to dress in a more androgynous or masculine manner, but it isn’t a requirement to claim the title.

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I usually dress pretty femininely. I wear makeup when I go out most of the time, and in the past I’ve had long hair. I shave my legs, and get my eye brows waxed.  None of this discredits me practicing intersectional feminism. It’s quite silly to think that clothing would determine your morals and values. On the days I dress more androgynously I’m not any more/less of a feminist than the days I wear a dress.

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When I think of people believing that women must only wear dresses and skirts, I think of the 1950-1960’s. In my Grandparents church they had problems just this month with the choir director not letting people join if they wore pants. She claimed the Bible says it’s evil for women “to wear men’s clothes,” FYI that’s not in the Bible. How crazy right? Luckily even though the other members are also super conservative, they let her go of that position because they all agreed that kind of attitude wasn’t okay.

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Wear whatever you want, and whatever makes you most comfortable. It doesn’t matter your gender, sexuality, weight, height, ethnicity, etc. you can wear anything you want. There are no rules when it comes to clothing, it’s just another form of self-expression. If you want to wear short-shorts and low cut tops, do it! If you want to cover up, and dress conservatively, do that! Other people shouldn’t be dictating what you can and cannot wear.

Be authentically you and don’t apologize,

Alyssa