Femme: Gender vs. Sexuality


modified Lisa Frank to look like me

At times I struggle with being everything, with the integration of all of who I am, and all the ways I exist in the world: leather boy (in some ways first and foremost), author, dog person (been doing a lot of growth, healing, thinking about that and hope to write more about it really soon), transgender/genderqueer, femme. FEMME.

I’m feeling really amazed at everything so much of my life right now, how I feel as though I’ve fallen into place and make sense in the world. In the past few years there were significant chunks of time where I’ve struggled with connecting to “femme” as being part of my identity. I had started to see femme as something I did – a gender presentation that worked for me, but allowed myself to skirt (ha!) around how I’d consciously chosen femme as a gender, and how that made it part of how I see myself in the world.

Yesterday I was home being sick and slug like on the couch I began putting into words for myself the importance of practicing what I’ve preached for over a decade around gender and sexuality existing on different axis points. For me a big part of continuing to claim and feel hailed by femme has been experiencing it as a gender, as my gender, without it having to be about sex, sexuality or anything on that spectrum. Ultimately at this point in my life I’m pretty uninterested in sex and that’s made femme a bit of a struggle for me because I’d come to see femme as being a lot about attraction both the object of, and being focused on the seduction of others. Those are both themes that I’m pretty intentionally divorced from in my life, and as such there were points where I questioned my claim to owning femme a gender.

In the last two years, but especially in the last year I’ve really come into myself. I no longer carry hear the constant voice of  “I wish I was XYZ kind of a fancy/pinup/grownup femme,” even the gender dysphoria that always left me questioning the decisions I’d made around going off T the last time (over 5 years ago now) has been silent in ways I never anticipated. Once I’d pretty substantially made my way through those self judgments and embraced the ways I actually exist in the world I was left feeling more comfortable in my life, and in my body than I ever have been in my entire life. I’d never go so far as to say that I’m embodied, but I do feel like I’m…. I was going to say at peace, but I think truce is a more accurate word, but it’s a solid truce with treaties signed and where soldiers have dropped their weapons in order to build. While all of this has gone on, I’ve in some ways let the gender stories get quiet and just kept doing gender in this way that leaves me feeling as close to embodied as I think I can get – rocking my strange little leather boy, crusty femme aesthetic that I chose, claimed, transitioned into when I left FTM/transfag/etc.

There is a way in which for me femme (right or wrong) at points has become conflated with attraction, sex appeal, seduction etc which is where a rub has felt particularly tricky for me because those are all things that beyond not being important to me, are actually something I’m entirely uninterested in. When I came out as femme eight years ago, when I began growing my hair, wearing dresses and stockings and lipstick it had nothing to do with being seen as attractive – quite the contrary it was about feeling as close to right as possible in my body, which quite frankly has rarely been about sex!  When I was butch/boi/visibly gedernonconforming, I knew how to work seduction- how to get someone to fuck me. I knew I was hot, or rather even if I didn’t believe it I knew other people thought I was hot – and really that was the most important thing to me at the time sex was a bit of a stopgap. I didn’t have to be in my body (and usually wasn’t) and yet it was a way of getting as close to surrender as I could, a way of getting close to someone else, when really what I was craving more than anything was D/s, as pack, was leather focused family.

I’ve done a fair amount of writing about coming to terms with being leather focused vs. sex focused – some here on the blog but also fictional pieces where characters are grappling with some of these themes – one of which will appear in Laura Antinious’s upcoming fanfiction Marketplace anthology titled No Safewords. I think the newer challenge for me has been to find ways that feel authentic, that feel right to start talking about gender, and specifically my gender again, and to do so in a way that puts femme back in conversation with my life. I’m excited to begin again talking about the way femme actually works for me and the way I’ve always expressed it- big stompy boots, weird children’s t-shirts and a playfulness that is far deeper than aesthetic wrappings and exists outside the sex-centric pressures both on a broader societal level, but also within our queer communities. I’m looking forward to writing more about the way femme works for me, but also about bringing these conversations into my creative writing. In January I begin seriously working on writing my new novel Lost Boi which I already know will be grappling with themes of queer femininity!