Month 1: Femme Visibility
You move through predominantly straight spaces and straight people treat you like you’re one of them. Damn it.
You’ve spent a lot of your baby queer years feeling confused and isolated. You’ve considered changes to your aesthetic based on how people treat you (and maybe made a few, like that hair style in 2010). You’ve spent a lot of time not feeling queer enough. Did your queer card get lost in the mail amongst all those moves to find affordable housing? And just when you’ve had enough of not getting approached at the queer bar/monthly party/event, you come into your femme identity. Ah ha! Yes! There are others like you! Others can relate to your experience! You’ve been femme all along!
You engage more and more with femme community. You become more politicized in your femme identity. You know femmes date femmes (maybe you do yourself), femmes present differently and identify outside of femme differently from each other. You’re celebrating your queerness as a femme. You feel a part of queer community!
You move through predominantly queer spaces and other queer people still treat you like you’re straight, too. Fuck.
I want to clarify that referring to being treated “like you’re straight” is not meant to reflect what the femme experience is but rather to emphasize the heteronormativity and misogyny that are real and pervasive even within queer community. Heteronormativity and misogyny reinforce standards of what it means (and looks like) to be queer, who gets to exist and in what spaces. Femininity is positioned as existing in relation to masculinity. Femmes are considered in service of and for the consumption of others. Femmes carry the brunt of emotional and other labor for our communities. All the while we are ignored, trivialized, objectified, and erased.
There is no one femme experience of invisibility. Invisibility shifts depending on our gender identity, gender expression, “passing” privilege, size, disabilities, age, culture, race, religion, and location among other factors. Hyper-visiblity, including for some trans and nonbinary femmes, creates its own safety risks. While many femmes face invisibility within and beyond queer community based on people assuming they’re straight, to reduce femmes into queer women who “look” straight creates further invisibility around the complex, expansive identity which is femme.
Our narratives need not be reductive or defined by others. They are curving, swirling, doubling back and evolving femme stories that shed light on each person’s unique life and context. Therefore this month, as the kickoff of The MF Therapy Blog, I’m celebrating queer femininity with the theme Femme Visibility and going to be sharing my thoughts and the art and work of femmes who are claiming their own.