Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2011-03-16

Ways to Tell a Queer Femme is Queer

There’s been a lot of buzz around the internets lately about Femme identity. I am unsure where the controversy began but I think it had something to do with this post on how to spot a queer Femme by Fuck Yeah Femmes. The curator of that Tumblr sent me a message asking me the following question:

Hi Bevin! I’m glad you liked my list of femme traits and tell-tale signs, I am interested to hear what you think could be appended to the list! Some people commented that the list was not “inclusive” enough and I definitely didn’t intend it to be definitive. Those are only my ideas, certainly a broader picture will emerge if many different femmes give their perspective as well. So here goes: “Ways to Tell a Queer Femme is Queer?” “Ways to Get a Femme Girlfriend?”

FYF certainly didn’t write a definitive list. I mean, it’s totally subjective and I read it as a playful narrative, almost a fantasy sequence. I love it because I see so much of my unbounded Femme sisters in it. I also understand the question about determining whether a queer femme is queer. It can be so frustrating to feel that we are “hiding in plain sight” and the chance to teach someone how to see us is really exciting. (As a side note, I plan to answer “Ways to Get a Femme Girlfriend” in a later post.)

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Spot a Femme in the Wild. The Femme author in her natural habitat, on stage. At my birthday party doing 9 to 5 at Rock N Twang Karaoke at my second favorite BBQ restaurant in NYC, Hill Country BBQ. It was so fun. I’m wearing a lei made of cookies and sex toys, a gift from Kit Yan.

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.

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Spot a Femme in the Wild. The Femme author in her secondmost natural habitat, the dance floor. Photo by the ever so talented Amos Mac at Stay Gold in San Francisco.

Personal identities are fluid.
I’m 32 and while I settled into Queer Fat Femme about a decade ago, there are a few permutations I enjoyed for awhile but have since moved away from. I don’t feel comfortable with the term “High Femme” anymore. I think some people use it to mean ever so very Femme or indicate some extreme extent of feminine expression. I’m totally a girl who will wear bright make-up at all times of day or night and I feel completely comfortable over-dressing for any occasion because my self-expression matters more to me than fitting in. However, using the term “High Femme” just sounds like hierarchy to me.

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Fancy Femme? Flamboyant Femme? Giant Eyelashes Femme? How Many Blingies Can I Fit in My Hair Femme? I Do the Opposite of Coco Chanel and Add One Accessory Before I Leave the House Femme? Photo by Dee Dean Leitner from the Hard French Winter Ball.

I totally understand that it is a term steeped in history and tradition, and anyone who self-identifies as High Femme is fine by me. But in terms of my Femme expression and identity, I prefer to think of us as living in this gorgeous glittery rainbow venn diagram of overlapping adjectives, none “higher” or “lower” than another semantically or otherwise.

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Is this splitting hairs? Likely. Do I care? No. My personal identity is exactly that, personal and individually tailored to who I am. It gets to be as nuanced as I care for it to be.

Also, let’s keep in mind the heart and loins are complicated entities, their relationships with the individuals they’re attached to change often. We’re all going to be queer for a long time* and probably do queer really different twenty years from now.

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Jessie Dress tagged herself as a Glitter Femme.

Discussion of fluidity aside, let’s get down to brass tacks. How do you spot a Femme in the wild? I’m going to approach it from a different angle, which is share with you how I determine if someone is queer in the wild (leaving Femme out of it momentarily).

One thing I do is assume everyone is queer until they out themselves as straight. Straight people don’t have to worry about the pronoun game, and generally not particularly strategic about telling you genders of the folks they do it with. This game works for me a lot, especially because I typically out myself right away. Usually when you do that your fellow queers will find some way to out themselves and you’re basking in mutual rainbows of recognition.

When this doesn’t work and I spot no visible gay signifiers (Ani DiFranco tattoos, gay lady jewelry), I either ask them directly or ask their friends.

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Source.

Asking directly works for me because I have the sort of inquisitive personality and ability to put people at ease that nine times out of ten makes people feel okay telling me things. This is why I am a talk show host. However, this doesn’t always work and going to the friends to find out is great. This is also what I do when I want to know if someone is single and I am too shy to ask them.**

Now to deal with the Femme question. I think a casual, “So do you identify as Femme?” directed at the person is okay, but this question needs to be addressed with a lot of sensitivity and care. You may be Femme positive, but the person in question may not. I remember being told, just after coming out, “You’re a LIPSTICK lesbian!” and I felt so shamed about it! I didn’t know there were Femme positive communities out there, I didn’t know being feminine could be empowering and get me laid.

Casually dropping hints about Femme positive websites you visit or events you’ve been to/wish you could go to is a nice way of fleshing out identity and creating a safe space for that kind of stuff. Also a nice way to heavily hint about queer stuff.

And here’s the thing I’ve discovered through my personal relationship history anecdata: I’ve never seriously dated anyone who was Butch identified. I am super Butch postive, lord knows I love me a fat Butch. But, what I find attractive in another human is far more complicated than even personal queer identities. So if you’re out there looking to “spot” a queer Femme, I mean, maybe the Femme part isn’t as important. You do you, go to the kinds of events that have the kinds of people you want at them (or start those events), the right people are going to cozy up to you and you’ll be basking in the magic of the great rainbow queer venn diagram in no time.

*Hat tip to Glenn Marla for that nugget.
**Friends are great for the single question, too, because they’ll give you the real scoop. Relationship status is sometimes even more complicated than identity. “Poly but complicated rules,” “Single and totally off the market dealing with serious life stuff,” “In five long distance relationships and only looking to date locally.”

2009-11-03

Hair Bling!

This year I started getting really into hair bling. It all began when I first got my bouffant, around Halloween 2008. I accidentally let my hair grow out (read: got laid off so I stopped being able to afford regular cuts) and I finally went in to see Carla, my hairdresser at Balance Salon in Jersey City. She convinced me to keep the length, did my cut and then passed me off to a fellow stylist to give me a bouffant. “It’s like an open marriage, I’m just going to watch.”

That bouffant changed my life. Having been traumatized by tangles in my hair at an early age I was afraid of teasing it. Spending 10 minutes working out tangles every now and again is so worth it to have high hair. Sometimes I use a bumpit but never when my hair is truly close to Jesus.

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Big hair means a big place to stick fancy things in. I am really into hair bling of all kinds. I even have a line of hair bling at Re/Dress, priced really low, the proceeds of which help feed my hair bling habits.

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Actual hair bling I made, friend bought at store, and wore out in the wild.

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Actual hair bling part of my habit, modeled by Jessie Dress. It’s a turkey dinner.

I think anyone can use hair bling. If you don’t have a lot of hair, stick a clip on a headband and put it on your head. Poof! It’s like a mini hat, only, you know, a bird.

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Dapper Dandies can use hair bling to add a little flavor to their hats.

Here you’ll see a gorgeous purple leather fascinator clipped to a grey hat modeled by Eddie Adonis, of the Charm City Boys in Baltimore. They’re hosting the International Drag KingCommunity Extravaganza in October 2010.

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I was doing some personal shopping for him to add sparkle to his wardrobe for IDKE in Tuscon.

My friend Sarah Deragon makes some elaborate and extremely fancy hair bling. Her stuff blows my mind. I got this hot pink feathered number and wore it on a night on the town (Sister Spit the Next Generation tour) and then at work the next day. Hair fascinators do not have to be just for going out!

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If you love the stuff in Sarah’s store Looks Good From the Front, leave me a comment here with your dream hair bling (specific flower? specific woodland creature?). The most creative answer gets a coupon to use in the Looks Good from the Front Etsy shop.

And for those of you in the New York City area, in my capacity as the reigning Miss Re/Dress NYC, I am hosting a craft fair! My line of hair bling will be there, as well as a trillion other great vendors! Come support your community and arts for the holidays!

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2009-09-03

Correspondence: Online Dating for High Femmes & Lovers of Same

TO: [My profile name on OK Cupid]

FROM: [Name withheld]

RE: [No Subject]

I have seen you around before. I have a question, my ex is high femme, but other than that they are hard to find, where do i look for them? okcupid certainly does not seem to know. 😉

Dear [Name withheld]:

I totally hear you. On my end it’s hard to find dapper butches, genderqueers and FTMs who are even into high femmes on these online personal sites. Like, first and foremost, how hard is it to have a queer gender clickie box? Like, M, F or Fabulous?

My take on OK Cupid is that it is a great way to take fun quizzes and compare your results to your friends. It is also a great place for really hot fat straight or bi girls to meet cute nerdy boys who like really hot fat straight or bi girls. The amount of fat burlesque performers I know who have met boys via OK Cupid is staggering. At my part time job at Re/Dress, one of the Glamazons was lamenting the lack of datable boys in the city. I suggested she go on OK Cupid and then 3 months later she came back into the store and was happily moving along the commitment road with boyfriend she met there!

Also, I know a lot of genderqueer folks who identified as female on the site and found other genderqueer people for some genderqueer on genderqueer switchy pronoun love, which is totally awesome.

To answer your question about “where do you find high femmes” I asked around and found a lot of my friends who found love online found them through the current incarnation of butch-femme.com. Not the old matchmaker, which had its hey day in the early aughts, but the current incarnation. Either through chatrooms, forums or the photo galleries. People nowadays might want to plan to attend their Vegas Bash October 8-11th. It sounds like so much fun–imagine Vegas overrun with hot butches and femmes from all over the world! The best way to see the sin city, I think. I would totally go if I were not broke.

I performed at the Bash last year. I have never been active on the site, though I am good friends with a lot of people who are, and I found the Bash to be so welcoming and sweet. The people involved with the community there seem very invested in taking care of one another and celebrating each other’s awesomeness. This was the sense I’ve gotten in person. As with all online communities there are some trolls full of hateration on there I am sure.

In fact, I did meet someone really hot and fabulous at the Bash and had a great date with them a few months later when I went back to the Bay Area. I lament the distance.

Other than that, there is the old standby of Craig’s List. Which isn’t so bad, considering you can just do a quickie search of “queer” and “femme” and find someone or post something yourself. Since I acknowledge that as a Queer Fat Femme (and flamboyant, a burlesque performer, and confident) I’m a specialty food and not palatable to everyone, I like to post my own ads. It’s like fishing. Plus you feel less rejection when you’re in the driver’s seat. I think it’s also true for FTMs as well.

I’ve found the best Craig’s List ads work when you are more ambiguous about what you’re looking for. For me I need the people I date to be ethical smart confident good communicators who have thought about their gender and are comfortable in their skin. I prefer tattoos, good hair, over 5’5″ and at least a little chubby, but these are things that are not all necessary in one person.

Other than that, the other dating sites I’ve found (nerve.com personals, match.com, that one true love thing advertised on facebook)* have zero results. Most of the people I find to date are through dumb luck or meeting them in real life and having crushes on them for a long time and one of us ends up propositioning or whatever.

As for you, you seem really cool, dapper and hot (and I think I recognize you as well). I’m sure you’ll have no trouble. If you ever find yourself in NYC or I am in [hometown withheld] (I travel to perform a great deal) and you want to ask me on a date, I’ll definitely say yes.

xoxoxo,

Bevin

*A butch identified girl I know told me recently that she signed up for JDate personals even though she is not Jewish. She said it was because they have a section for goyim. They don’t actually, they have a section for “Not affiliated” and I feel a little complicated about infiltrating that. Glenn Marla is very confident it is for Jewish identified folks only. Any high femmes out there have any luck on J Date?

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