Can Femme Invisibility Be a Superpower?
It’s the middle of the day. The air is crisp, the sun is shining and casting long shadows, the birds are chirping and there’s the bustle of people moving about their routines. Femmes are in the mix, too, riding transit, working, attending school. Femmes, though, can’t be seen. We navigate secretly, below the radar, making shit happen.
After all, invisibility is a superpower, is it not?
Admittedly, I am not a comic reader, so for any femmes who are, I apologize for the absence of comic references. However when reflecting on Femme Visibility this month, I couldn’t help but think about invisibility as a superpower and wonder if there’s a way to reframe our experience of it by focusing on the potential strengths.
Invisibility is commonly thought of as advantageous because you’re able to do things and go places that others cannot. By being low profile you can make strides. When undetected, others expectations are absent. Without eyes on you what you do is in your control. You have choice. You have freedom to experiment, play, create, and go about things your own way.
Invisibility also allows you to see what others cannot. You are able to observe, pay attention, and focus on things in different ways. It gives you insight that you might not have otherwise. You get to explore your curiousities. When you do have visibility, you have a unique perspective. Femmes are acutely aware of the cisheteronormativity and misogyny that harms us all and the skills involved in dismantling them.
Sometimes it serves you to be invisible because it allows you to be selective about who you reveal yourself to. You can show yourself to those who can truly see you, love you, and support you. No longer hidden, your femme power can be shared with others who want what’s best for you. Taking your time while using your invisible superpower to determine if others share the vision of more expansive queer community helps keep you safe.
Of course, in comics there is also the concept of the villain. In this case, the villain is anyone (or group or institution) that imposes invisibility on you without your consent. It is anyone who neglects to see your sexuality, gender, and personhood because of misogyny and disrespects, disregards, or treats you as less than. When you use your superpower should be your choice according to when it serves you and the greater good (the greater good is a superpower thing, right?).
With invisibility you are able to outmaneuver the villain. Just when you feel your superpowers are at their lowest, you dig deep within yourself to carry on. Driven by your insight, you build up your team of fellow invisible femmes and together you overcome.
Alas, others do not get to define your existence.
What if as femmes we can see each other? What if we’ve confronted the villain in ourselves from years of roaming a patriarchal society and shed any internalized femme invisibility. What if to each other, we are glowing energy on the landscape. We send out beams of light that other femmes can see. For us, it’s a radiant view.
Sometimes, we bypass fighting the villain altogether. We’re above exerting any energy that isn’t spent fostering each other’s femme glory. We’re not even invisible on the bus, at school, or at the bar; we’re off having our own party, eating delicious food, dancing, singing, and praising each other’s highly developed femme aesthetics where they can’t touch us. We use our heightened superpower to build our collective strength.
This month, this superpower was realized by sharing #MFTherapyFemmespiration posts weekly on Instagram. Femmes are creating art to be seen and celebrated; from the photographs and interviews of The FEMME Project; to the event Treat Your Femme in Oakland, California; to the article “The Invisible Femme” by Mariah Barber on Lesbionyx; to the book Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir by Chinese-Canadian transfemme poet and author Kai Cheng Thom (metonymy press); to the Femme in Public tour of Alok Vaid-Menon.
Can femme invisibility be a superpower? It’s up to you to decide if it serves you. That decision can depend on the day, even the moment. In the meantime, there are so many ways that femmes aren’t waiting for others to see us and are boldly, proudly the femmes that we are. We are seen through the art that we leave in our wake. We are seen through the aesthetics we adorn as our shields. We are unapologetically making femme magic and leaving it to others to catch up.