The problem is, there is no one “us.” Identities like Femme are deeply personal and there’s no one way to be Femme. There are certainly overlapping characteristics and generalizations that exist--which is how we find each other and create community. Tenderly paw in paw we find ourselves a niche (or several) in queerdom. But it is essentialist to say “This is a trait common amongst Femmes,” because as soon as you think you’ve isolated one commonality about Femmes you’ll find a whole pile of Femmes who belie that trait. This is simultaneously awesome and complicated when you’re trying to spot a Femme in the wild.
In May 2008 I discovered the queer hipster party circuit in Brooklyn and it revolutionized my New York nightlife experience.
I came of age shaking my ass at gay boy bars with my fag friends, one of the only dyke fag hags in the joint. Let’s face it, a Femme loves a Fag.* And once I stopped trying to fit in at lesbian bars, because it never worked, I was generally annoyed at the bad music or lack of people dancing.
During its four year stint, Panty Ho’s was an institution in queer nightlife. Located in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, a hive for hipsters, it definitely had the crowd of big plastic 80s eye glasses and ironic/unironic neon fashion. I walked in and was so excited to see a bunch of hot queers I didn’t know, hear incredible dance music, and drink cheap booze. And while I felt excited about the social possibilities, I was also a little freaked out at the lack of body size diversity. It was clear to me that I was the fattest girl there by a long shot and one of only a smattering of Femmes.**
Once I found out about Panty Ho’s I learned about all of the other parties going on and I was determined to get into a regular dancing rotation. Fresh from a break-up I was ready for something new. I loved the energy buzz of going out until 4 AM and meeting new people.
So I did what I do when I feel excluded—I try to include myself. I would send an email to all of my fatty and fatty ally friends before the weekend and tell them what parties and events I was going to go to in order to rally support. Even having one person on my arm was enough to get me confident enough to be out on the dance floor, making an appearance, and being part of the change I wanted to see in the scene. Sometimes I was lucky enough to roll up to 10 deep.
Over the past two years I’ve gotten very entrenched in Brooklyn queer nightlife. I love this scene because it is super gender diverse—queer and gay cis and trans boys join andro queers, hipsters and Femmes of all stripes. I have learned the DJs who play music I like*** and I feel pretty confident that I can walk into one or all of the parties dressed as wild as I want to–whether or not I “fit in” I will be accepted. I’m in a great feedback loop of flamboyance.
I also rarely drink much out in Brooklyn as it is expensive and I am broke, but I have so much fun dancing and socializing I don’t really care. New York is fortunate enough to have Right Rides for those that need a safe ride home.
Photo by Maro.
In a turn of total magic and gratitude, I am the Queen of Honor at this month’s Hey Queen party. The theme of the party is Size Queen—in celebration of body diversity and all of the ways in which you can be a size queen. A big shift from going into the queer nightlife feeling like one of the only fatties!! Size Queen is on Friday night and I am planning hourly outfit changes as I have the benefit of a backstage.
The one thing that always bothered me about the fact that it is more of a party “circuit” than just one club, is that it is hard to know what is going on unless you get on everyone’s email list/facebook group. I have found the trick is to check TheQueerist.com (if you are an event promoter anywhere in North America PLEASE put your events on that listing service—it is fabulous and free and Lissa the webmaster is a treasure) and also the “friends events” tab on FaceBook.
Panty Ho’s is over, but there are a lot of other monthly or occasional parties that pop up.
*Sweat!, run by Khane Kutzwell, is an all queer, all gender expressions, all dance, all night sort of gig. Held at a lot of different venues, the crowd really gets rolling by midnight and is very diverse.
*Hey Queen! as previously mentioned, is on the third Friday of the month at Sugarland in Williamsburg. The promoters, Amy Agony, Scout, Kitty La Kitty & Sarah Jenny are very diligent about the inclusion of a lot of different parts of the queer community.
*That’s My Jam is the biggest queer dance party in town. Run by DJ Tikka Masala and Bad Boy Trent (both really amazing folks), it’s a really fabulous place to just go and dance. The performances, when they happen, are always top notch–they had MEN in February and introduced me to SheDick. It’s generally on a Saturday night.
*DJ Tikka also throws a few other nights around town so it is worth getting on her email list.
*He’s a Rebel is a queer soul night at Nowhere Bar. Not in Brooklyn (the East Village) but still fun to get dressed up in vintage duds and dance. Zan is an incredible DJ.
*Original Plumbing Release Parties! Both have been absolutely amazing and packed in NYC. They have them in other cities as well! (Related–Murray Hill’s Mr. Transman 2010 Pageant is on April 25th!)
*GayFace mysteriously pops up now and then with dance parties.
*Banned! was going on regularly last summer and hopefully will return again this year. Always a lot of fun.
*Muff Muff Give. I don’t know if it is actually on the third Friday, but people can always party hop to Hey Queen.
*Rumours. In a little room above Public Assembly. It has the air of a speakeasy.
*Rebel Cupcake. Me, living the dream, with a flamboyance & body positive queer dance party for folks of all shapes & flavors. It’s going to be Thursdays, monthly. The first one is May 6, International No Diet Day!
There are a few others, you should pop over to OutAboutBrooklyn blog for more regular listings.
What I love about this roll of parties and events is that they are events BY queers FOR queers. Each party promoter saw a need and decided to do the work to fulfill it. As a producer of shows and events for over 10 years, I know finding a good, consistent venue, booking it and promoting is no small feat. It truly comes out of a love for community and making a safe space for good times. Exquisite camaraderie.
In sum, I want to say that it is super worth it to create a niche in a scene if you feel like it needs body and gender diversity. Oftentimes when I was coming out as fat and femme, I felt really ostracized in nightlife because I just didn’t fit in. But rallying my friends and doing what I needed to feel comfortable really helped me create what is now a really amazing nightlife for myself. Also, my fashion motto for going out in Brooklyn is to wear whatever I will feel most fabulous in, and not worry about whether or not people are going to get dressed up. I’ve gotten opportunities simply because someone knew me as the “fat femme in the french maid’s outfit”. Imagine if I’d let my insecurities keep it at home?
Check out this video in honor of the last Panty Ho’s made by the gorgeous Sarah Jenny (above with Ice Queen hair bling). It shows the magic of the queer nightlife. I’m in it wearing an outfit inspired by Heather #1 from Heathers.
Ally moved away and broke our hearts—I sang Acapella versions of “End of the Road” to her for an entire week
*Tip of the tiara to Damien Luxe for “A Femme Loves a Fag / A Fag Loves a Femme.” I’ve used this turn of phrase constantly and even applied it to specific sex acts.
**Though, ironically, the promoter of the party would end up being Ally, who has the best manicures ever.
***My top local DJs, in no particular order, are DJ Shomi Noise, DJ Sirlinda, DJ Tikka Masala, DJ Amber Valentine, DJ Designer Imposter, DJ Lil’ Rae, DJ As If. Almost all of these DJs have played Pointer Sisters at my request.