On Femme Dates, Femme on Femme Action and Cultivating Both

In reference to my previous post Additions to the Queer Lexicography: Dry Spell Edition, I received a comment that stated they thought calling a date between two Femmes was exclusionary of Femme on Femme Action (FOFA). In fact, Mae says my term Femme Date is heterosexualism and “it seems to imply that anything between two Femmes is platonic and just friends”.

Mae! I have to respectfully and indignantly disagree with you! If you read my definition of Femme Date, I say “In this context I mean it as a platonic event that is ultimately constructed as a romantic date is, but without the bumbling, attraction questions or all of the other baggage of a regular date. It’s specifically designed for Femme bonding time.” Femme Dates are all about not being romantic dates. NOT TO THE EXCLUSION OF FEMMES DATING.

Here’s the thing–if two Femmes go on a romantic date, it’s called a DATE. Just like if a Butch and a Butch go on a romantic date, or a Genderqueer and a Femme or whatever. Two Femmes going on a date is a date that, of course, increases the FOFA (god that’s such a great acronym) in the world, and, according to Cherry Poppins, when two Femmes do it they produce glitter that comes out of nowhere. It happened to her and her ladyfriend and they were very thrilled.

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Cherry Poppins commented on this photo, “Bevin, what I really ♥ about this picture: it’s like Southern high femme realness (fancy frocks + Lone Stars + cute shoes + camp chairs).”

I think titles give something an air of importance. What I mean by giving Femme Date a special term, is because making time where we treat our friends with the same special devotion and attention we lavish on our romantic dates, it honors our commitments to them and honors our common identities (here, Femme, but you could easily do it with fat friends, trans friends, Femme friends over forty, etc…) and how special it is to have a friend who you see across from the table who embodies what makes up you. Who can really SEE you. I want to give at least the same amount of attention to a Femme Date that I do on a date with someone I might want to do it to.

Recently I’ve had my nose buried in Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities*, and I’m being all meta, quoting Ulrika quoting Clover Cuthroat, who is talking about her BFF Vagina Jenkins.

“About [Vagina Jenkins], you in return wrote: ‘Even thought there is an age gap between [Vagina Jenkins] and me, we’ve such similar lived experience, it’s like I’ve known her all my life. Because we both grew up black, poor, fat and awkward, we know what it’s like to be invisible aside from our sexual orientation. She encourages me to take up more space and exaggerate my beauty. We understand each other’s past and present and love each other for it.'”

Vagina says about Clover:

“‘I love her like the sibling I never had and always wanted. My childhood girlfriends understood my socio-economic background, my college girlfriend from the Black Student Union understood my racial politics and my queer girlfriends understood my sexuality stuff. I love those friends for the gifts they’ve given over the years. But Clover is the one person who gets it all without explaining any of it.'”

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Clover to the left and Vagina to the right. You should book Vagina Jenkins at your venue, she’s phenomenal, sexy, sparkly and really down to earth.

I will admit to tearing up a little bit when I read that essay. There’s something so special about creating friendships with people who really see you, understand you and bring out the best in you that just gets me to that spot in my heart where Beaches and other BFF movies from the 80s settled in. Plus, I have that in my life, with quite a few people. And I do sacred rituals like Femme Dates with Zoe, Femme bonding trash tv time with Chris, and long weekends with Rachael in order to make sure that my Femme relationships are cultivated with the same intentionality as my romantic relationships.

I want to also make it clear that just because I make a lot of noise about dating Butches or folks on the transmasculine spectrum, it doesn’t mean I exclusively date them. Quite the contrary, before I dated my ex of 3 years Seth (Genderqueer), I exclusively dated femmes. They weren’t femme identified necessarily, but definitely gendernormative and very feminine presenting. A couple of them would go on to become quite butch** but most of them are still just as girly.

What I struggle with now, as a Femme community leader, is the fact that so often I’ll make a new friend and default to Femme friendship because it’s really complicated. Femme bonding is so special and distinct, and as a leader I don’t want to screw things up for people, you know? Also, I am very wary of power dynamics and the complications of queer ethics. I had a crush on a Femme recently and it really spun out my tires because I was weighing all the measures of whether it would disturb community building or power dynamics too much to try to date her instead of just being friends and working together. Some of the ways in which I’ve figured out how to determine whether to default to Femme friendship is to find out right off the bat if they do date Femmes, have considered it or are open to it. I also try to make sure people know that about me. I’ll tell you my Femme type (which is oddly specific, as are my types of the transmasculine variety) if you ask nicely.

So, anyway, Mae, I’m interested to know your tips and tricks for a Femme dating Femmes. How do you meet girls and not default to friendship? How do you ask them out and make sure they’re clear it’s a date-date and not a lesbian not-date? Do you date Femmes who perform Femme in the same way you do, or do you go for a different kind of Femme?

*A book by Ulrika Dahl & Del Lagrace Volcano that just came out in the US. We celebrated the East Coast launch in Atlanta last weekend. Holy crap was that fun! I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s so lovely and wonderful to read and see images of all of this Femme lusciousness. If you can’t buy it from your local feminist bookstore, if you click on the link to Amazon right here I will make some pennies towards the costs of producing FemmeCast, which is totally unfunded and a lot more than you’d think.

**Hot damn is my first girlfriend a really good looking genderqueer now, but she was also hot when she had long blonde hair. At the time I was embarassingly clueless.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. The problem I have with all these labels is what about people who don’t fit in the butch or femme box. For that matter (other than the obvious extremes) how do you define butch and femme? The definition can differ widely depending on where you live and who you hang out with. I have no problem with what people want to call themselves, it can just be tough to date when you don’t quite fit any category.

  2. Here’s the thing: mentioning the genders of the people going on a date as being the same and assuming that means that it’s platonic is devaluing the idea that those people actually go on romantic dates. It’s the same as straight folks saying “man date” to mean men hanging out and because they’re both men, it’s obviously platonic. It ignores the fact that men go on romantic dates, y’know? People would never assume that a “boy-girl date” meant a friend date. Or, to queer it up, a “butch-femme date” would also not be read as a friend date.

    I understand that people are attached to the term, but I also think that it’s important that we think critically about ourselves and our words. If the point of “femme dates” is to build community, why devalue part of that community by ignoring their romantic interests?

  3. Being a femme community leader, please write an article on developing friendships in the lesbian/queer scene. It some times seems as though every one is some one’s best friend, girl friend or ex-girlfriend. It can be difficult to experience for people coming from other communities such as poly or leather where new comers are welcomed and even pounced on 🙂

  4. I suppose I am always looking for opportunities to express FOFA as a legitimate experience because of my own experiences with femme invalidation and femme invisibility. My interest in FOFA and discerning between friendship and dating between two femmes was more about me wanting to learn new ways of how that might work. I never meant to offend or to imply that you were personally being heterosexist in any way…

    I understand that romantic dates are “dates” and that “femme dates” are for female bonding and friendship. But I suppose I thought being some ones “friend” involved a special devotion and attention that honors commitments and common identities to begin with. That the bonding and friendship with other femmes was special enough to be called friendship with out additional terms.

    Honestly, I really do appreciate that you are expressing the value that you find in your friendships, femme and otherwise. I see that now more…than I did in your first post. Perhaps it is easier to have “femme dates” and bond with other femmes once you have developed a social circle and found romantic partners in your community..

    I am still developing a social circle and seeking romantic partners, so finding either would be very special for me. It does sound as though you have a deep sense of gratitude and thankfulness for the friends and lovers that you have in your life 🙂

  5. Dear Bevin,

    Per usual, you are speaking right to my heart. As a femme who likes femmes I feel it is ESSENTIAL that I mention that I think femmes are hot in a non-platonic way as often as possible, even if just as a casual aside. Its not so much about getting a hot date for me as it is about making the fact that there are femmes who like other femmes more visible in my community.

    I am wholeheartedly in support of the term Femme Date being used platonically and would agree that FOFA doesn’t mandate a special word for an actual date. “Date” will do just fine, even if both parties are wearing dresses (or lipstick, or glitter, or whatever other femme identifiers either party tends to fancy).

  6. the worst part about being a femme who dates other femmes (in addition to butches) is finding femmes to date! it’s rare to find a femme who wants to date another, especially in our tiny queer world. i struggle with it in this kind of fear-ish way… like when i’m in femme spaces i feel like i’m not supposed to want to fuck these people! like i’m an intruder and i should stick to butches. i just want to smear my lipstick with another femme’s and play with some damn boobies sometimes. the end! xoxoxo

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