Fat-Booty Butch Wears Leggings — Confuses World, Confronts Self

Yo, I wore leggings out in the world today for the first time in years. Like literally years, like from before I had my first orgasm is probs the last time I wore leggings in the street. Most days when I step out of my house I make sure that the contours of my silhouette are grid-like, smooth, confined to lines like the streets of my city. Straight-leg men’s cut black jeans, button-down shirts, fitted caps and kicks all equal my bouncy butch armor. Nothing about these singular items of clothing are connected to any one gender presentation. For me and only me, they signify protection and deflection. In these clothes, I’m able to control who sees what of me and when. I don’t want anyone to see parts of my exposed flesh just because I’m walking down the street. That makes me uncomfortable, makes my skin itch like whoa, and I’m stressed to the ends wondering who’s seeing what and wishing I was in control. Form-fitting feels different than tailored and my form is something I’m super protective of — so why the fuck did I decide to wear leggings today?

The proportions of my body seem so out of sync with the measurements of the clothes-buying world. I’ve got stubby chunky legs, thick thighs, small hips, a beer belly, DD breasts that deflate and inflate with the seasons and a soft back that curves like my grandmother’s did. None of this is bad. Matter of fact, alone in my room, I do the body-worship dance. But motherfuckers don’t make clothes for my round body-worshipping ass. Ok, fine, talk to me about tailoring, talk to me about this one website that has 30% off on all their button downs and I’ll still show you a person (ME) that can’t get all that together and still function in my daily life. I’ve only got so much time, jeezus christ, can some of these deals come with an assistant? Also, I’m picky and don’t want to look like a boxy stud in a tuxedo. Men’s clothing rocks. I love it all but but but what about my soft everything? Shopping for clothes gives me anxiety for eight million reasons and then I found this pair of black leggings with badass gold zippers and all that shit in my brain got quiet for a minute and then I paid for them and here we are.

I wore the leggings with a black “Girl in a Coma” t-shirt, an unbuttoned black and grey button down, and silver and black kicks. Looking myself over in the mirror, I remember thinking, “Damn, I got a fat booty.” Mostly I just notice my gut, especially when I’m resting beers on it but this morning it was all about the butt. And then I was all, “Haha, I’m a fat-booty butch in leggings.” This is my life. This is my early-morning I-haven’t-thought-about-the-patriarchy-or-white-privilege-yet, getting-ready-for-work thought process. But shit was weird the second I hit the block.

Real quick: I feel like I’m constantly navigating multiple worlds. There’s the straight, mad-aggro hyper-hetero man world, a.k.a. the patriarchy, and then there’s the world with all my queermos and then there’s mad other worlds probably that I don’t fuck with cuz I’ve only got so much time and so many heartbeats. On a regular day, a day where I’ve got my “brown butch thing” down, I’m a fly ghost in the world of men. They don’t comment on me or the shape of my body nor do they hold open doors or even pretend I exist. I am 100% okay with that all of the time. If anything, I catch two things. I get the, “Oh why are you a man-dyke?” bullshit or the, “Holy shit, you’re a dyke?! That means I can objectify EVERY WOMAN EVERYWHERE with you, right?!”. I normally dodge all of that bullshit like a pro. Thank you iPhone earbuds, thank you real books made out of paper, and thank you side-eye I’ve perfected since birth.

Leggings apparently set off the switches for men that have nothing better to do than ogle bitches on the corner. I live and work in the hood and there are beautiful thick-bottomed women everywhere. EVERYWHERE. They’re as common and as celebrated as Coco Helado carts.

gracias a Dios

Gracias a Dios

So I don’t know why my B-rate, wide flat butt caught any dude’s attention but the eyes of men were upon me. Gag. Like fucking gag. I knew I’d made a wardrobe error of sorts when the first dude I passed on the train platform was like, “Nice booty, girl.” I wanted to unzip my skin and wear something else. Just the fact that my thighs and behind were on semi-display seemed to make it okay for men to comment on them. I caught my homeboy, a dude that’s called me his “little brother,” gazing at my body when I picked up the keys I’d accidentally dropped on the floor. Yo, what? Also, cis-brown-bro-dudes opened doors for me like all of a sudden I was a person to them. It felt so weird — like a gift that was two shades away from being something I wanted. It felt good but weird and insincere and totally dependent on the amount of ass they were allowed to see via me. Where does one return a gift like that?

But none of this is new. Women-identified folks, trans identified folks, and queermos of all types write about this shit all the time. But me, I’m just used to being Queermo the Friendly Ghost, floating unobserved in the world of cis-men.

The flip-side of this non-feminist cis-dude bullshit is that all of a sudden I felt cut off from the soft and beautiful underworld inhabited by everyone else — decent, open, non-aggressive people, often queer, often femme-identified, at least in my experience.  I feel like my butch/hood-esque presentation provides an almost all access pass. Instead of checking that privilege, I’ve just been 100% down for it and expectant of it. It’s like those are sometimes the only moments I get in real life where I’m not a ghost, where I’m included in real life and my opinion, my smile, my self is worth something to others. All of a sudden the presentation that makes my mother so nervous, that makes people wonder why I’m at a baby shower or what bathroom I’m gonna use is giving me a moment of shine. It’s an actual existence.  Queers and weirdos can spot me a mile away and for some I’m a safe space to gush about a secret girlfriend or the good old “I see you, you see me” homo head nod.  The speakeasy undertones of my queer existence are so badass, I love the code-switching and the acknowledgment of my existence from others like me.

But in leggings, HOLY SHIT, the difference was/is huge, ginormous. I felt as awkward and out of place as I did when I was a lonely ugly queer in high school. Not one person from any of my worlds reached out to claim me. Where did everyone go? Why did leggings make me this other invisible thing? Now granted, I didn’t feel like my usual confident self but something else was off.

How do leggings negate butch? How did they negate me? Obvs what makes me who I am lies past fitted caps and side shaves, and runs deep between hair follicles and skin cells but…but? I forgot how connected my identity is to everyone else. I know there’s this idea of the shmoozy butch: the one chick in men’s clothing that acts like they’re Don Draper, Lesbian Jesus’s gift to queerkind, and the orgasm-giver during the holidays. I’m not that person. Even if you think I am, I’m not. I just wanna make good and radical people smile, feel loved, feel present. I know what I look like. I’m a fucking welcome sign for all queers within a 20-mile radius of me and I like it. I’m proud of it. I just wanna say “hey girl” to you and to your people and also say “hey human” to all those who don’t go by ‘girl’ cuz I’m down for you and I mean it. I’m that person and holy shit how come it wasn’t as easy to be that person in leggings?

What is it about femininity that makes people hate on a queer? On a person? Confession: I’ve kinda dismissed femme-invisibility. I always kinda thought “femme invisibility” was some bullshit, like bullshit enough to use quotation marks whenever I mentioned it. Sometimes, I’m a fucked up humanoid  living in my own world and totally checked out to things that aren’t my life. Me acknowledging something doesn’t make it all of a sudden valid, it makes me all the more ready to stand up and feel frayed by humanity, by my own oblivion, by a shred of privilege I try to ignore cuz everything else is so much bigger. I always unfortunately translated femme-invisibility as a holler thang aka something that has to do with your ability to get hollered at, to get flirted with, to get your shine on. I didn’t equate FI with fucking community. COMMUNITY. Community is the thing we all need to survive.

Glad I keep my asshole thoughts to myself and unpack them there first because people would literally be slapping me all the time. I’m stunned by the intensity of ingrained misogyny and it’s mine, it’s all my shit. Inwardly dismissing other people’s experience as not that serious because it didn’t pertain to my immediate life was some lazy, sexist, bullshit non-radical thinking. I’m not about that. The fight to always exist in equity with others, to be an ally through actions and not lip-service, create solid communities, live a life filled with genuine acts of social justice, starts with me checking myself. All the time, every day, every time something fucked up or too new flows through my skin, it’s my job to figure out who I’m really serving by holding on to said beliefs/words/emotions. Why do I use the word “queer”? Why do I call myself a “woman/person of color” when my grandma called us Puerto Ricans and Spanish? Why do I think femmes have it easy? Why do I want more spaces to be QPOC only? Shit is real.

One day of wearing some damn badass black leggings gave me an ice bath of hyper-visibility to straight men and immediate exclusion from the comfort of the worlds I inhabit: queer, female, butch. In leggings, all of a sudden, I had no access to la famiglia. I can’t imagine social interactions/life always being that way. How are my people surviving out there? So many of us don’t have any community where we live, no matter how we present or identify.

Leggings may be the fun, wildcard, attention-grabbing aspect of this piece but like shit, I’ve gotten all the way to the end and I’m like “damn it’s not even about the leggings”. Leggings played a part in affecting my gender presentation but what I’ve learned is that my connection to and understanding of the queer community must be continuously updated. Public speakeasy-like code switching acknowledgment is one very important aspect of feeling connected to community. I’m lucky enough to live in a city where that happens frequently and now I’ve got to consistently step my game up. When there’s something I don’t understand or a group of people that I consider to be part of my community but I don’t know anything about their needs or wants or the foundation of their social justice struggle, I need to step back. Step back and reevaluate, find a discussion or a forum that’s open and go and keep my mouth shut and just listen. listen, respect, and then listen some more. I need to read words from the mouths of activists, write down the things that will make me a better human, and with great humility talk to people, not probe them or humor them, but stand there and give every ounce of compassion, empathy and humanity that I have.

Will I ever wear leggings again? Yo, thank La Virgen, that I bought two pairs because yes, leggings.

Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” column exists for individual queer ladies to tell their own personal stories and share compelling experiences. These personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.

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Gabrielle Rivera is an awesomely queer Bronx bred, writer, spoken word artist and director. Her short stories and poems have been published in various anthologies such as the Lambda Award winning Portland Queer: Tales from the Rose City and The Best of Panic! En Vivo from the East Village. Her short film "Spanish Girls are Beautiful" follows a group of young Latina and Caucasian girls who like girls as they hook up, smoke up and try to figure sh*t out. She also freelances for Autostraddle.com while working in the film and television industry. Gabrielle is currently working on her first novel while bouncing around NYC performing spoken word and trying to stick it to the man.

gabby has written 102 articles for us.


  1. I love this article. As a trans* masculine person I get similar tight clothing feelings. The jeans that fit me the best happen to be my most form fitting ones. I still wear them all the time, but it does make me feel vulnerable.

  2. I love this more than words can express. I miss my Foxfire queers so much, especially on this particularly rough day, but this article made me feel like my community is right here, with me always. Miss you, counselor, power to ya. Also, I don’t have the ovaries to wear leggings, I’m jealous that you rocked them!

  3. I have so many feelings about this piece because that leggings and almost butch but not enough to be readily recognized as such is where I live. And your discussion of community and the reaction to realizing you’ve been do blatantly unaware of things for so long were like you were inside my mind!

    Ahhh, I’m probably gonna have to retread this again later cus I loved it. So, ya know, thanks for writing it, at the very least, and then choosing to share it with us.

    • being inside the minds of queers is like the super power i wish i had, so thank you for making dreams come true.

      also, almost butch is totally a badass thing. xoxox

      • So you must actually really have that mind reading super power in order to understand what I was trying to say in my first comment given the crazy number of typos I had lol. But yes, please continue to use your power for good.

        And also please excuse me while I pass out because you replied to my comment at all.

        When I wake, I’ll try to continue to make almost butchness a badass thing and go on to read the rest of the awesome comments on this article.

  4. Am I the only one who doesn’t see the feature image? I see the credit, but no correlating picture. New layout bug?

  5. that feeling you described – the one about wanting to unzip your skin and wear something else – is exactly what it’s like. thanks for sharing.

  6. I can’t even articulate how beautiful this article is. A simple fashion choice turned into a stream-of-conciousness piece turned into a social justice statement. I just love all of it. Definitely my favorite thing that I’ve read today.

  7. Gabby, you are fucking incredible. This article is brilliant, and really touched on a lot of how I feel navigating public spaces as a cis white queer woman.

    In my head, I’ve often used the term “ghosting” to describe how I navigate these spaces. I like to slip by unnoticed, blend into the background. My body language is closed off. It tells men “I’m here to FedEx this package and nothing else, so don’t fucking talk to me”. I always have a book in my bag as a shield. And you know what? I hate that. Because I fucking love people and I love interacting with them and creating three minute friendships with people in the service industry and generally trying to make everybody have a wonderful time, but I have to be selectively open in public.

    Why? Because I’m “pretty”, which is an immediate invitation for attention. I have to purposely negate this invitation, actively, in every moment, because my appearance sets the standard for me.

    I’ve never received attention from a queer stranger in public. Ever. Even when I play the “boldly stare down this queer girl in public and do everything in my power to get her to notice me”. I swear, I can radiate out a fierce energy from every fibre of my being and I still go unnoticed. Here, being “pretty” gets me absolutely nowhere. It makes me feel, ironically, unwanted and ugly.

    I’m so sick of it. My appearance isn’t mine. Not when I’m out in public. It’s exhausting. But I keep going out there. I keep making eyes at queer girls from across the juice bar. Because I have no fucking idea what else to do, honestly.

    • This comment has me crying and wanting to jump with joy all at the same time. Thank you so much for this. I constantly struggle with what it means for me to have to nonchalantly slip pronouns into conversation to come out and feel community with others who are more easily read as gay vs wanting to slip into the walls from all the unwanted attention I receive.

    • i wrote the geekiest and longest love-filled reply to your comment and then the internet ate it.

      thank you for everything you wrote. thank you for sharing yourself with us in this public space. this part of your piece jumped out at me the hardest:

      I’m so sick of it. My appearance isn’t mine. Not when I’m out in public. It’s exhausting. But I keep going out there. I keep making eyes at queer girls from across the juice bar. Because I have no fucking idea what else to do, honestly.

      goddamn that is so so real and raw. also, powerful and shows how bold and determined we need to be just to make it through. it so thoughtfully expresses the keep on keepin’ on mentality of queer people, othered people etc.

      please keep making eyes at the queer girls in the juice bar, please keep hustling. we’re all out here together. xoxox

      • can’t stop won’t stop

        I love you. Seriously, thank you for this article. I know I will return to it often. <3

    • This is exactly how I feel. You aren’t alone!! I also am always trying to negate that attention and I recently realized what a closed-off person I have turned into. I feel invisible and I just want to be able to connect with queer people. But we can’t give up! We have to just keep trying. I wish I could give you a gigantic queer hug of encouragement.

      • Your comment just resonated with me hardcore. Damn. I’ve been feeling like an incredibly closed-off person, and I’ve been struggling with how much of it has to do with protecting my queer self from both others and myself.

        navigating that attention is so difficult for femmes, andro, and masculine a like. I hate it.

    • Thank you, Monique. I know this, and I hear you, and I wish you all the best because it’s a really horrible place to be in, inside your own head and navigating the world.

    • This is my actual life. So many demands on our bodies, energies, and time; it’s infuriating. I’m broke as fuck, but I don’t even WANT know what I would pay to have a day not to feel like someone I don’t know, who I don’t want to fuck, wants a piece of me.

      • I feel this so much. On rare occasions, I’ll daydream about what type of environment I would create if I could magically combat/get rid of all this shit. What would a world in which everyone actually feels safe moving around look like? What if our society as a whole–or even just a neighborhood–truly prioritized the wellbeing of its residents? Sometimes I’ll come up with incredibly creative solutions, but most of the time, I just get exhausted because imagining solutions requires thinking through and fully experiencing the huge toll that constantly being perceived as on display/accessible takes.

        • I want to live in said society/neighborhood. Please do me a favor and make your dreams a reality? I’d mad appreciate it.

    • Yes, yes, yes, exactly! Thanks for saying it better than I could have!

      I’ll add this, too: for a few years, I mistook wanting to feel a stronger sense of community for needing to change my image. So I cut my long hair in a short, asymmetrical “queer” edgy cut, started gradually to wear less feminine clothing, and even unconsciously began to change my mannerisms. I’ve always loved to play with mixing butch and femme fashion, so I could delude myself about what I was doing. But my artwork – which is my life’s work – stayed as stubbornly and beautifully femme as I felt inside.

      I finally woke up to the contradiction there, and realized I had been hiding. Worse, I’d been conforming to the way the queer community (and the art world, sometimes) rewards and respects butch identity, instead of standing up for myself. So I’ve begun to consciously reclaim my femininity, and I’m growing my hair out… and for the first time I’m *conscious* of all the attention that made me unconsciously want to hide in the first place. I’m very conflicted about my invisibility because I know it is a choice to “look like myself” – I know from experience that if I “perform” queerness differently, I’ll be “seen.” But I wouldn’t be seen as my own, queer femme, self.

      Oddly enough, part of what has helped me feel more a part of the community, lately, is hanging out with Radical Faeries. That’s a community that really values its femininity, and won’t objectify me so much. I’m not likely to find a date there, though. Sigh.

    • I feel this way all the time, and my googly eyes aren’t working either! I guess we just have to keep trying.

    • “I always have a book in my bag as a shield. And you know what? I hate that. Because I fucking love people and I love interacting with them and creating three minute friendships with people in the service industry and generally trying to make everybody have a wonderful time, but I have to be selectively open in public.”

      This just broke me. You articulated all of the feelings I haven’t been able to.

    • So many feels. “It makes me feel, ironically, unwanted and ugly.”

      The first time I was recognized as queer and was flirted with, I felt overwhelming beautiful. It was a defining point since until then I had struggled with my sexuality. Since most of my days are spent in straight spaces, I too move through them feeling unwanted and ugly despite attention. And I keep trying to catch the eyes of queer girls, but feel completely invisible. One look of queer recognition and attention and I’m seeing rainbows and sparkles for weeks.

    • I love this article and this comment. It leads me to my own inelegant thoughts. From the photos that go with the posts, you all appear to have something in common which is your age group. I have 20 or 30 years on most of you. I could be your big sister or your mama. As a conventionally femme Black woman, none of you see me. I am a mother and married 24 years, you won’t see me in the club, it’s not my thing. But I’m in the coffee shop, the grocery store, the hardware store and I can’t get the queer nod from anybody. If I give the long look or the head nod, you look right through me or worse give me the stink eye. Do you think I’m a judgmental suburban mommy or a pathetic closet case? Do you understand that my gender presentation is the way I want it to be and that I resolved my questions about whether I can be a good queer feminist in heels years go? If I’m looking at you and your babe or you, your babe and your baby, I’m just saying hey, you’re awesome and I’m one of you.

  8. “I just wanna make good and radical people smile, feel loved, feel present.”

    So lovely! Thank you :)

  9. Breathing that sigh of relief when you finally feel understood. THANK YOU! Fantastic writing too!

  10. This is really really perfect and thank you for sharing it.

    I have a lot of feelings but I don’t really know how to write them right now.

  11. I never thought an article about leggings could make me feel so many things. This is beautiful, amazing, important. Thank you, Gabby.

  12. But also this article is wonderful. So many things that are so important for everyone to realize. I find myself discovering new privileges everyday. For some reason I feel like as a queer person I don’t have to worry about privilege because I’m at the bottom of the totem pole almost all the time but then I step back and think, ‘wtf no one is exempt from privilege’. Which isn’t a bad thing! It’s allows us to feel more connected to one another and hopefully build empathy between each other.
    Anywho, beautifully written article! Love it!

  13. My heart is so full of feelings, and my head is full of thoughts. This is something to ruminate on tonight.

  14. gabby this is, like everything you write, so honest and true and real and i just want to say thank you for sharing pieces of yourself with us. you are a person who makes me feel safe in the queer community and essays like this remind me exactly why that is. seriously, just thank you.

  15. GABBY. This made me feel all the feels. I want to see you in person and actually talk to you instead of being shy like I was at camp and basking in your light from afar. This sounds super flowery and I know we’ve never officially met, but I love everything you write and I think you’re a fucking rad human.

  16. Gabby,
    I love everything of yours that I have read. I hear your voice as I read it and as always, there is a vulnerability that you write with that allows everyone to connect with.

    I appreciate the head nod to Femme Invisibility. I know that in previous discussions with people in the queer community, I have been told that FI is bullshit and that we get the acknowledgment of the straight world, with all that privelidge associated with it but I don’t care about that (which I know is easy to say since I have it), but seriously, that FI shit is for real. So thank you for taking down the quotation marks and acknowledging it.

    Unfortunately, I get a lot of the same reactions that Monique gets (damn, I feel ya, girl). I always feel like I am on the cusp of being recognized, like perhaps my fashion is just slightly not queer enough, or my haircut a little to heteronormative and that perhaps there is something I havent thought of that could flag my existence, but in the end, I am just me. So far there is nothing I can do that opens the door to a community that I feel locked out of. The only time I get allowed entrance is when I have a butch escort me there (problematic when said butch is just a friend and everyone assumes you are together). For that moment, though, I get the hey girl nod, that says “I see you” and it is blissful. Weird, that as an adult, I still seek this acceptance from others.

    Thank you for this article and your wonderful take on the experience. It doesn’t sound like it was the most pleasant experience but in all honesty, I would have stared at your booty too, because thats all this femme can do.

    • I’m right there with you on the aspect of somehow always seemingly not queer enough in my fashion choices or hair etc.

      The only way I get the head nod is by association. If I’m within a group of other queers then it is assumed I must be queer, but myself? nothing. I don’t have an urge to sew rainbow flags on all my clothing, I am myself with or without a queer identifying symbol… but it would be SPECTACULAR if others could see that too.

      The best scenario is that some day we will just have to stop assuming who people are, and do the “hey, you” nod to everyone.

    • yes, I’ve never understood the “privilege” of getting attention you don’t want, which you could never use to an advantage, not even if the (DISHONEST) temptation came to you, because that isn’t how male-female interactions work within humanity, ever. They’re hierarchical, first and last. And never in women’s favor.

      What struck me was Gabby’s call to understand others. It’s good to talk about our own anxieties and hurts, but there’s a step after that. Growth doesn’t stop at some kind of Pyrrhic victory where you are the least understood and therefore have no obligation to understand. Where you are immune to a human being, breathing, in front of you. That’s my target goal right now, but even then, it isn’t perfect. I want people to be comfortable expressing themselves to me, and I want to be available for them, but I don’t want to be insincere or made to feel empty.

      I feel sometimes, that like clothes, there’s a limit on what is regarded as emotion or its expression in the community – that the building blocks of what I hoped to be friendships, acquaintanceships, relationships could not be because they didn’t follow invisible procedure. And those rituals may be masks for rage – “how dare x be here/not here? how dare y not take the initiative on z/ or understanding me? when…”

      I don’t pretend many of us have had experiences that have been much harder than others; I’m not making the case for ignoring those differences. But because everyone has had their pains it’s often hard for any one of us to just be around each other, and to let down defenses, ways of coping. Even if they are typecasting and hurting others.

      Anyway, no one deserves to have their humanity questioned, ever. It is way more than leggings.

  17. oh my goodness. i can soooooo relate. and i’ve taken the “cry me a river” take on femme invisibility too. thanks for writing this and thinking out loud. i felt this way when i lost a lot of weight too. suddenly guys at the gym were taking out their phones and being like, where do you work? i was like, SERIOUSLY, i am weightlifting and wearing soccer shorts 2 sizes too big and wearing a wife beater, how much gayer could i be? then i’d leave in my street clothes and they’d look at me like, “Oh. Shit.” it was like being on a hamster wheel of body issues. fuck that noise.

  18. Dear Gabby –

    You know how sometimes we say of people with really excellent voices, “I could listen to them read the phone book?”

    With you, I think you could rewrite the phonebook and when you were done it would be poetry.

    I love you. Thanks for writing. Thanks for existing.

    Love, Ali

  19. “Queers and weirdos can spot me a mile away and for some I’m a safe space to gush about a secret girlfriend or the good old “I see you, you see me” homo head nod. The speakeasy undertones of my queer existence are so badass, I love the code-switching and the acknowledgment of my existence from others like me.”

    YES! Yes. I really love all of this piece, but that particular line accurately described something I’ve been trying to put words to for a while. I’ve also been experimenting with my gender expression, although in a different way – more that I’ve been flagging my subcultural allegiance more than my queer identity lately. It definitely has changed the way patriarchal society sees me, so this article was very interesting to me as a different perspective on a similar experience.

    Coincidentaly, I just finished reading BGD’s piece examining the term POC and there are similar themes in both articles. I am definitely not the right person to analyze it, but “queer” and “POC” seem to be similarly constructed identities, in that both terms simultaneously discourage and enable the maintenance of privilege(s) within each group. I would love to read an article on this by someone with a more sophisticated understanding of intra-racial privilege than I, I am definitely at the “shut up and listen” stage of allyship.

    I hope that made sense? I’m reading a philosophy book about the ontological consequences bisexuality has on Western psychomedical discourse, so my brain is a little screwy. Feel free to call me out on any bullshit.

  20. Bahaha YES to the queer nod.

    Sometimes I feel the queers of Columbus always suddenly spot something really interesting on the sidewalk as I approach. It’s a whole, weird experience… like seeing another ‘mo all wide-eyed in the wild out here would make my day I tell ya. My over-excited nod is me just wanting to say, “HEY, YEAH ME TOO. ISN’T THAT COOL?”

      • haha, EVERYONE gets ignored there… don’t feel bad. Probably every lady in Cbus has a tale of no action at wall.

    • Cbus is my favorite city and I honestly get so excited there just sitting in queer spaces and experiencing a community that doesn’t exist at home. I still feel invisible as a queer person based on my appearance, but just being in these spaces with my partner and giving that nod to those around us is a bright, shiny feeling. I’m never sure how the city feels about me, but I always feel like the most me when I’m there. I mostly assume everyone there is a mo, because it’s more fun that way :)

      • Dang, this makes me feel like a big ol’ baby for complaining! I always need reminding to not take the queer acceptance/visibility here for granted.

        However, there is STILL a lot of room for community amongst queer ladies ’round these parts.

        • No worries. Your feelings are totally valid; there’s plenty of room for expansion in the community. It’s just that a few hours outside of the city and OH is a much different place for queer visibility/acceptance.

          It’s a far cry from perfect, but I’ve always enjoyed a strong queer vibe there.

  21. Damn this has me just all in my head with so many thoughts. How do we protect each other better from that patriarchy bullshit? I mean, I generally get to ghost around straight cis-men too, but how do I do better by my sisters, by the rest of my family that doesn’t get to? And how do I acknowledge all the wonderful femme queer women out there when we’re out in public? How do we give them the homo head nod without it seeming like a come on if it’s just meant to be “I see you”? I feel like we talk about femme invisibility a lot but I don’t know that I can ever remember hearing somebody explain what we can do, as individuals, to help fight it outside of queer spaces. Not assuming femme women are straight in queer spaces is easy enough, but in general public places there’s a risk for us too if we’re wrong, you know? Sorry, I’m just kind of rambling stream of consciousness now. Long day at work and then this got my brain firing on all cylinders.

    If I didn’t make it clear in all that random, I fucking completely loved this. So much love for you and the way you just bridged a gap that I think has been separating us from ourselves and each other for too long. Writing something that touches such a diverse group of folks is no easy feat and I applaud you. And with that, I shall conclude this novel.

    • I feel the same way in regards to giving a suspected queermo a salutatory nod – what if I’m wrong? What if they misinterpret my smile and just think I’m being friendly? HOW CAN I TRANSMIT MY GAYNESS TO YOU THROUGH TELEPATHIC COMMUNICATION?? Is this a thing that can be transmuted across genders as well, or is just for those of us along the woman-spectrum?

      That, or they never give me eye contact so then I just feel weird for staring someone down in public and give up.

    • i’m still trying to figure all of this out. not on my own but like through large-scale and individual conversations, but these thoughts that you shared are so so so important for our various communities to engage in:

      And how do I acknowledge all the wonderful femme queer women out there when we’re out in public? How do we give them the homo head nod without it seeming like a come on if it’s just meant to be “I see you”? I feel like we talk about femme invisibility a lot but I don’t know that I can ever remember hearing somebody explain what we can do, as individuals, to help fight it outside of queer spaces.

      let’s go on a road trip and figure out a thing?

      • Yes please, road trip for sure. Why hasn’t this become a thing yet? Like, autostraddle cross-country road trip to figure out how to get this revolution up and running. Stops in cities all over the country, it would be magical.

      • I think just give the head nod.

        It’s such a nice thing to give and receive.

        I wouldn’t worry too much about how your nod is interpreted. I say just nod with that “I see you” intention that you are feeling, and trust in that.

        I am femme. Sometimes I get the nod and sometimes I don’t. Most of the time when I get it, it’s because I’m out with my butch/masculine/manly-female honey. But then there are times that I get it when I’m walking around by myself, and those times are golden.

        Pro Nod

    • “I feel like we talk about femme invisibility a lot but I don’t know that I can ever remember hearing somebody explain what we can do, as individuals, to help fight it outside of queer spaces.”

      This is such a great question and I wanna try to answer in some concrete ways. Of course, this is totally my perspective, so other femmes may have completely different responses.

      First, let’s back up and talk about what to do about femme invisibility *inside* queer spaces. For me personally, this is a far bigger problem than invisibility outside of queer spaces. Outside, what happens? Men–straight and queer alike–think that I’m there for them. I get harassed for being feminine and in public space. I am presumed straight, mostly by straight people who aren’t paying attention, etc. Aside from the street harassment, these problems–though constant–are just obnoxious. They’re not the things I most need addressed. I’ve been navigating them since forever and I know how to deal with/ignore them.

      Dealing with shit inside queer spaces–especially from masc-of-center folks–is so much worse because y’all should know better! Femme invisibility in queer spaces is about more than simply “not assuming femme women are straight” (which, by the way, seems not to be easy at all for some folks). It’s about whose voices get prioritized, who’s considered cool/knowledgeable/attractive/”queer enough.” It’s about being visible and valued as “legitimately” queer people who can make valuable contributions, not simply eye candy. (As a white, cis woman, I realize I already get more airtime than many other folks, in queer spaces and out.) Sometimes you can help in big ways, e.g. bringing in femme performers/speakers to venues/conferences that mostly feature masc-of-center voices, calling out other masc-of-center folks who are objectifying us in unwanted ways or subtly putting us down by complaining about how long it takes us to get ready blah blah blah. Sometimes it’s all about the little things: casual conversations, reaching out to us if we’re on the outskirts of a queer space. I don’t always wanna yell about “femme/queer issues”; I also wanna chat with you and maybe become friends or at least know that you didn’t walk into this queer gathering un/consciously thinking “cool kids = masculine.”

      Outside of queer spaces? There are some really obvious situations, like witnessing “you’re so pretty, how could you be queer/gay” comments or seeing people get hassled for their presumed sexuality. If you can interrupt those moments in a safe way, great. There are also many ways to gently interrupt the “she looks gay” comments, when people conflate (perceived) gender transgression with sexuality (i.e. masc women = queer).

      How to give a homo head nod without it seeming like a come-on? I have done 0 scientific studies on this, but I think there’s usually a significantly different vibe between “oh hey, I see you there” and “OH HEY come home with me.” When trying to pick people up, stares/nods/whatever are much more aggressive. (I don’t mean aggressive in a bad way here; our calls for attention/connection are simply more intense and pointed.) Just trying to say hey and have that “yeah, we’re both on the same page” moment? If your intent is to say hi, your smile/nod will most likely naturally come across in a gentler, more casual way.

      • Thank you so much for all of this. I’m so glad I got a reply, and this one provided even more than I could have hoped for. I will definitely keep everything you said in mind about keeping queer spaces femme-friendly. I am just getting used to being around a lot of queers again after a couple of years abroad so I don’t really know how I behave but I will make sure that I take notice of the dynamics and work on correcting them if they’re warped.

        And just for the record, the worry about the come on was because I don’t want anybody to think I’m just checking them out or objectifying them, not in some sort of cocky chicks want me to want them or something sort of way. I wasn’t sure if that was clear in my initial post. But I do think you’re right, it’s usually pretty clear based on the nature of the nod and all that.

        Again, thank you for taking the time out to provide such a well thought out response. I want you to know that I hear you and I’m going to take what you said and make sure I’m applying it to how I live and how I create spaces with other people. I value your voice and your opinion and I’m sorry if masculine of center folks such as myself have ever made you feel not queer enough, or less a part of the community, or have in any other way invalidated you or your opinions. And this goes for all of you out there. Keep talking, many of us our listening.

    • Please just nod. Really. Just nod and then continue on about your day.

      We femmes? We know about the ‘mo head nod. We know what it is, we know what it means, and that is such a simple way to let us know you see us. Inside *and* outside of queer spaces, recognition means a lot. If you’re super worried about being taken as objectifying or a come on, just make sure you don’t follow it up with any kind of actually unwelcome come on.

  22. Thank you for this amazing piece that touches upon some realities in our own community. I wasn’t sure how to express how I felt, and through your words I have more of an understanding.

    I feel the invisibility on a daily basis, as if my femininity makes it easier for me to be a part of this world, but somehow I cannot be included in my own community.

    Beautiful piece.

    Keep wearing those bad ass leggings!

    • “my femininity makes it easier for me to be a part of this world, but somehow I cannot be included in my own community.”

      YES YES YES THANK YOU that is the perfect way of putting it. I feel you so hard.

  23. This was amazing! Your language was beautifully poetic at times and at others shockingly blunt and unapologetic. One of the best things I’ve read in a long time.

  24. I grew up in leggings but stopped wearing them in junior high because they weren’t cool and because I was starting to have body image issues. I recently bought a sweet comfy pair of fleece-lined leggings to skate in now that it’s getting cold… but I can’t bring myself to wear them without soccer shorts over them. But even with the shorts on and my gear bag, I feel like everyone is looking at me funny. Over pants. I didn’t even think about it in terms of my identity, but I don’t identify as butch or femme (although I think people assume I self identify as butch because I wear a lot of men’s clothing…)

    • I wore leggings far past when it was “cool” to do so, and it took me a long time to embrace them again. It probably helps that I’m a mini human, but I now embrace the stares andwea

  25. God this article is just so raw and emotional for me and I apologize for this novel. But God Gabby, thank you. Not only for this but for being the only person in my entire life-and I am gay for a living- to stand up (at the Swagger workshop) and call people out to protect their femme friends. To validate us, me, like that is beyond any internalized silly things you thought about my identity. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    I hate that I feel like I have to come out all of the time. It goes against everything we learn as baby gays, how to stay safe and comfortable. But I feel this unquenchable urge to tell my mailman this letter is my boo and shes a girl or the barista at Starbucks that my ex has that watch too. I don’t know why, I know that it can (and has) put my physical and emotional safety at risk but I feel like I am walking around trying to unlock some sort of secret code. Like if I tell the right person, wear the correct color American Apparel hoodie, or cock my head a certain way that will open a door to a community that I really just don’t see. It makes me feel crazy but sometimes I just want to scream at the queer person bumping into me with their head down “I’m not one of THEM!” just because then maybe I wouldn’t feel “invisible”. And then there are my sisters, and brothers, and so many other queer people who live in fear that bump could turn into violence, anger, and a slew of nasty words because they have the right hoodie on that day and their cologne is smelling extra sexy and butchy. My heart breaks for you too. None of us should live in fear like that.

    But whats going to happen to the femmes? In theory (and in my dreams) androgyny and masculine presenting people are becoming more visible and safe. They are able to express themselves freely in more places and that “speakeasy code” is becoming safer and sometimes even celebrated. But femmes are still here getting unwanted attention on the street and getting passed over (even for friendship, not just romantically) in our own community. And we’re not even talking about it, hell a lot of people don’t even think it’s real. How can we make it so that even when I am wearing my sexiest dress and my highest heels I am still a part of this community?

    • I think the secret is continuing to have this conversations. We all have the obligation to deconstruct our own internalized dominance, for the health of our communities, for the sake of the our children and our future.

    • I’ve been loving the comments from femmes in response to this piece. I’m butch, and I’m also bi and partnered with a cishet guy. When y’all who are feminine-of-center talk about femme invisibility and unwanted attention from men, and how you have to come out all the time, and how something that may increase certain kinds of mainstream acceptance also cuts you off from your own community and you feel like there’s a secret code that you can’t find, my reaction is “I am so with you on this.” Because I feel that way too, for different reasons – obviously my experience is not yours, I don’t want to equate it to yours, it just seems like there are some commonalities that I relate to.

      Those of us who are masculine-of-center need to support our people who are feminine-of-center. Nobody should be made to feel unsafe for who they are and nobody should be locked out of their own community.

      • Us Bi and Pan folks have a lot of issues with invisibility too and have to come out all the damn time, and get ignored for our identity or gas-lighted about the negatives we experience. BIG BIG empathy for femmes and femme invisibility…. /ramble

    • I feel like you just hit the nail on the head re: femmes vs masculine and andro presentation in your last paragraph.

  26. “I just wanna make good and radical people smile, feel loved, feel present. I know what I look like. I’m a fucking welcome sign for all queers within a 20-mile radius of me and I like it. I’m proud of it. I just wanna say “hey girl” to you and to your people and also say “hey human” to all those who don’t go by ‘girl’ cuz I’m down for you and I mean it. I’m that person and holy shit how come it wasn’t as easy to be that person in leggings?”

    Yes. Just, yes. Thank you for writing this. It’s awesome

  27. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience with us, Gabby! I think this article is really important. A lot of what you said here has passed through my mind in one form or another, probably every time I leave my house. I still struggle with wanting to look cute and wear whatever I want, while also wanting to avoid the gaze of men and attract the attention of other queers, while ALSO trying to figure out how I can best display how I feel inside, outside. It’s a tough thing most of the time. I especially appreciated how open you were about your own misconceptions concerning femme invisibility. That was super amazing of you. :)

  28. Thank you for always being so raw, and rad, and YOU! There is so much perspective in this piece it makes my head spin.

  29. Thanks for this! I’m Bi, I’m Christian, I’m female, I’m sometimes femme, sometimes butch, mostly somewhere in between, I have some typically girly interests, some typically male interests…. in other words, I’ve always found myself in between, in the middle and lost in the cracks of pretty much every “label” I wear. And I’ve grown accustomed to not quite fully fitting in with any community totally and always lurking around the edges because I’m just “too” something and “not enough” whatever.

    This resonated with me on so many levels but mostly because my new hope for our world is that we will start taking the time to really get to know people and stop making assumptions about who may or may not be in our community based on looks, or the way one dresses or the labels they adopt. We are all so much more than labels. We are people, we are complex, and that is why we’re all so damn beautiful!

  30. This was gorgeous, thank you so much. That outfit sounded awesome, by the way, so I’m glad you aren’t giving up on leggings entirely!

  31. “Public speakeasy-like code switching acknowledgment is one very important aspect of feeling connected to community”

    gabby i love you and your words

  32. Oh wow. This was so good and amazing and beautiful. Gabby- I’m so happy that I got the chance to read this and so honored that i have the chance to know you.

  33. I loved this article! It’s amazing how simple changes in appearance can affect the way people view us or the way we feel about ourselves. Personally I know I’ve been treated differently pre als haircut vs post als haircut. There is also a very open cleavage shirt that I own which is different than my typical v necks. I’ve only worn it once thus far because of all the shit I got from people who saw me wearing. I thought it was a cute shirt but I haven’t gotten the courage to wear it again. I’m rethinking my stance though after this article. Maybe i’ll wear it for a day at camp before I bust it out in the real world again.

  34. Gabby,
    I hope I say this well. I am a straight woman, and cannot begin to really understand the struggle that those in your community are enduring. Even so, your article gave me a window into that community, and while I don’t understand everything I saw there I would like to thank you for the opportunity to try. Something about your writing pulled me in, and something phenomenal happened while I was there. I don’t really understand it yet, but I created this account just now to tell you thank you. I do not pretend to be a part of this community in the way that others who have posted are, but I hope you’ll accept my thanks anyway. I know that support from the outside may not be as vital as support from the inside, but I just wanted everyone reading to know it is there.

  35. The sentiment of this & then what so many people have said about trying to figure out the “secret code” really hit home with me. I keep feeling like there’s got to be something i’m missing, that when i magically figure it out, people will look at me & be able to know, “Oh, she’s not straight, she’s queer.” But i have no idea what that could even be, & it makes me feel lonely now that i’m wishing for a community for, really, the first time ever. It also makes me feel like i’m not “queer enough,” because of who i am & how i am & how i look & everything about me in general. But i don’t even know what makes me think others are more queer than i am; i can’t articulate what it is that makes me think they’re “enough.”

    I don’t think i’m femme, but it’s like it says in the article, about feeling like you don’t belong anywhere, really. You’re between the streams, & you can’t find a way to feel like you fit comfortably in either, or have access to the one you want. Because some straight cis-male gives you unwanted attention because of how you look or act, & then you’re going around agitated & uncomfortable not just by the sexism, but also the fact that you’re not straight, & how do you communicate this to the outside world & thus Find Your People? And what if those people, even if you find them, even if you find them in an undoubtedly queer context, then look you up & down & dismiss you? (Which is why i always stayed away from “community” to begin with– i didn’t feel like i’d fit in or be welcome, because i wouldn’t be queer enough for them.)

  36. this was the best thing ive read in a while. seriously so so so good. beautiful words and really gave me a lot to think about.

  37. In the last year I grew out my leopard printed side shave into my natural long curly locks and became invisible to gays. At least I think I did. I live in a small town where you can generally spot queer chicks by their ALH and get a nod, but my new found invisibility due to my long luscious locks gave me pause to consider Femme invisibility. Whilst I am by no means Femme, (super tomboy/soft butch), it seems the haircut made a difference. Butches blanked me, ALH’s dint nod, I even got chatted up by a random dude in a bookstore whilst I was holding a copy of Dykes to watch out for. So basically I feel this article so hard. KOKO!

  38. This is a really lovely piece. I think that it goes both ways. I look very “straight” 99% of the time. This means that when my mom makes me go to church, I don’t get ugly looks. This also means that other queer ladies almost never notice me as part of the club, which feels isolating.

  39. “Me acknowledging something doesn’t make it all of a sudden valid, it makes me all the more ready to stand up and feel frayed by humanity, by my own oblivion, by a shred of privilege I try to ignore cuz everything else is so much bigger.” THIS.

  40. Gabby- as soon as I saw the title for this post, I was hoping you were the author. I appreciate you for thinking these thoughts, feeling these feelings, and then taking time to write and share with us. At first I was a little unsure of where you were going with this piece and then right around the point when my throat got tight and my eyes got a little teary, I thought “damn this isn’t even about the leggings” and then you were somehow in my brain? because you said the same thing.

    This is part that resonates – What is it about femininity that makes people hate on a queer?
    That question usually makes me sad or angry or overwhelmed, but today after reading your thing I’m mostly proud to be a queer femme feminist in solidarity with some fat-booty butches.

    Also, brb while I go get myself some leggings. Also also, I know it’s not about the leggings, but I was still hoping to see a picture of you in said leggings.

  41. Thanks Gabrielle; this article really helped me out a lot today.

    I’m a rape survivor, and I feel like one of the things that was stolen from me that horrible day was my feminine identity. After that day I cut my hair short, stopped using nail polish and make-up, and got rid of all of my dresses. I didn’t really even think about it at the time, but I slowly butched it up to protect myself. I’d like to reclaim my feminine wiles, but I am not sure how to do this while feeling safe.

    Anywho, thanks for the article. It helped me unpack some feelings and consider some things that need considering.

    • Hey, solidarity from another survivor who is trying to reclaim my femme self and feeling extremely uncomfortable as I do it. I can’t even express how powerful it feels for me to find others talking about the same thing. Thank you for writing this! I haven’t figured out the balance at all, myself, but I’m convinced that it takes bravery to try.

      • Yes. This. This thing that adds that extra layer of complication to reclaiming femme / journeying back to femme from that safer-feeling place of butched-up and masculine-of-center. I feel like there are a lot more of us than I thought – those of us who have played with those gender lines because it felt safer to move through the world as a butchier ghost. (Also, lez talk about the ways that this part of our lives shapes our definition of safety, and how being a survivor, for me, means that the threats to my physical safety that I felt as a more-butchy/more-visibly-queer woman felt a lot more tolerable than the threats to my physical safety that I feel as a femme.)

  42. So I’m totally tearing up in my office right now because this piece made me feel all of the feels. This feels like a conversation I have a lot with my girlfriend about what it’s like for her to have easy access to the community because she “looks more queer than me” (I feel like that needs quotes, but I’m not sure why) versus what it’s like for me to easily pass in the hetero world. Any why both are hard and easy in their own ways.

    Anyways, rambling, basically I wanted to say this is awesome. All of the brownie points for you!

  43. This was beautiful, Gabby! Thank you for reminding me of my resolution to always look for all the queermos everywhere no matter what they look like and giving all of them i-see-you-there nods/smiles/looks.

  44. I do appreciate the tone of this piece and where the author seems to be coming from…but I also grow really weary of butches talking about femme experience and being praised while femmes who describe the same things – only more acutely and more accurately because they’re OUR experiences – are seemingly universally ignored in our community. This is not a critique of the author or this piece…but rather a trend I see a lot on autostraddle and everywhere else in the many queer worlds I inhabit. I’d love to publicly invite femmes everywhere to start writing about your own experiences and submitting them everywhere. I’d like to publicly invite the curators of queer content and editors everywhere to start specifically soliciting femme based materia. It’s 2013 and I still can’t get served at the dyke bar or acknowledged in queer on-line culture unless a butch is at my side? Surely we can do better than that for ourselves, Femmes. Surely our community can do better by us. With respect.

  45. cis white hetero man here, came across this article on fb and made a profile (I hardly ever comment!) just to say how much I love this! your style is so witty and insightful, I love the rawness and honesty, and I feel like learned a lot and am even more inspired to figure out how to be a courageous ally. i seriously wish i could hang out with you for a minute :)

  46. Oh I feel this. I feel this so much. I felt this SO MUCH in college when I felt pressure to dress more butch when we went out to the clubs so I didn’t look like the straight friend. I still feel this pressure sometimes. I’m more femme, but sometimes like to “butch it up” like my college friends said. (I. e. if you wanna get laid, you should butch it up.)

    My style has evolved with me, but femme invisibility is a real thing and while some people prefer to be invisible, my loud ass self wants some attention from time to time.

    Side notes: “Thank you iPhone earbuds, thank you real books made out of paper, and thank you side-eye I’ve perfected since birth.” My preferred way of dealing with all BS also. AND AND AND, I miss THE SHIT out of Coco Helado carts. I’ve yet to see anything even resembling them down here in Delaware. Now I’m homesick.

  47. This is brilliant, Gabby. So many complex issues explored with such sensitivity. This invisible femme thanks you. x

  48. I’ve been thanking some of the commenters, but I don’t want to forget to thank you the most, Gabrielle. It stunned and gladdened me that the first person I’ve seen write eloquently and sensitively about what I’ve been experiencing as a femme, was a butch. This is such an amazing conversation that you’ve (re)started. If I copied and pasted all the quotes that hit me powerfully in your article, it would be almost as long. You’re amazing.

    I’m stunned especially because all the contributing factors that I’ve been unpacking since this past summer, when I decided to actively work on reclaiming my femininity, have now been mentioned by others – all in one place. The struggle to be visible and respected by other queers, the unwanted attention, the contributing factors of being a survivor of assault and of wanting to feel tough, the wanting to choose queer belonging over straight privilege but being unable, the failed flirting, the constantly outing myself to compensate, the having to have butch company but having them be mistaken for SO’s, the… everything.

    I had started to feel like I was making it up – the struggle to be femme in public without wanting to hide under a rock, and feeling like I was losing my chance of a queer public self in the process. My butch friends and and my cis straight femme friends and my gay male friends often gave me blank faces when I tried to talk about it. You’ve SEEN me, and all the rest of us who are confronting this, just from paying attention when you wear something new. You rock my world.

  49. After reading all the comments I just want to give some internet love and respectful internet hugs to all of you who are participating in this conversation. It’s so damn important that we not let these things go unsaid, or let the voices trying to talk about these important issues be invalidated. Our community is big enough and beautiful enough for every last queer out there. We can’t let heteronormative bullshit drive a wedge between the butch and the femme or allow the patriarchy and its unfortunately wide-reaching influence to make even us value “masculine” over “feminine”. But femme invisibility isn’t my story, so I’m gonna bow out here, I just wanted to give you all my appreciation for being yourselves and for sharing it with the rest of us. You’re brave and beautiful and wonderful human beings and don’t ever change.

  50. LEGGINGS, seriously though. The scariest times I’ve been hit on the opening line has been, “I like your pants.” No joke, this has happened to me at least three times. Now I’m afraid to wear my awesome sequined leggings because of some creeper at a concert. Rock those leggings on my behalf, girl! You’re great and this article is great!

    • Gosh, I was so busy talking about myself that I forgot to thank you for sharing your experience. Thank you so so much. This is such an amazing, thoughtful piece.

  51. Deep thoughts and real truth on community inspired by leggings. This was so fantastic. Thank you.

    I appreciate you writing this, not so much cuz “ahhh you’re a butch who gets it!,” but because I read you writing about queer COMMUNITY so much, and it’s good to have someone who lives and loves and works to make the community GET how it feels to be excluded from your community on a really micro but pervasive head-nod-on-the-street level.

  52. Yes. It is about community. It is about Shibboleths. It is the ease at which some of us are accepted as one of the group while others doing nearly the exact same things, feeling nearly the same things and thinking nearly the same things, are not. It is having to come out to those who assumed they knew who is and isn’t. It is about people seeing only those that they see and assuming that’s all there is to see. It is about making the same mistakes simply not to be cut off to the only people in your community you can find.

    Thanks for writing this article Gabby, and good luck as you continue to work through your thoughts!

  53. The honesty and openness in this struck me so hard. Thank you so much for sharing – there’s a lot in here that I’m going to be thinking about for a long while.

  54. Echoing everyone else here, Gabby, thank you. Your vulnerability and honesty create openness which allows others to do the same.

    the head nod never ever ever happens to me and I don’t want it just to feel “hit on”. I want the “I see you nod”. I want to feel a part of the community as I walk down the street. I do not know how to make this happen. But I am glad we are all talking about it.

  55. This is beautiful. Gabrielle, you’re beautiful. Everyone who has commented on this and put time into their thoughts is beautiful.
    (Sidenote: Leggings are my favorite pants, but I have never been recognized as queer while wearing them. This was so relatable, and it’s nice to know that people in cities/larger communities have the some of the same struggles as I do as a small-town queer.)

  56. I was all like, why’m’I gonna read an article about leggings blowing the mind? I wear leggings all the time! But I will never wear them the same. I cheered for you, cried for you; it was an epic poem I wish were written to me and entitled “Be My Girlfriend.” But actually, really, thank you.

  57. I’ve been creeping around here for about a year without saying anything, and today I’m saying something. This was a fascinating piece, and I very much enjoyed it. I thought it was a great exploration of what it means to be queer in different clothes, and how that changes the way the world responds. So much goodness.

  58. *slow clap* I heard your voice the entire time I was reading this and it made it that much more powerful for me.

    I recently have been able to fit into a pair of skinny jeans that I haven’t worn for years and I feel slightly uncomfortable in them. I honestly couldn’t figure out why before reading this. I like my boot cut jeans. I don’t like things too form fitting on my legs. It has been a completely unconscious thing but I’ve done it out of self defense. I get enough unwanted attention from my boobs; I don’t need to add to it. Also it’s not my fault tho. It’s the fault of those who force the attention on me.

    On a lighter note… OMG the helado carts!!! It makes me miss the paletero man outside El Morro in Puerto Rico. (and wow does spell check have a problem with those sentences!!)

  59. I saw this right away when you posted it. I keep coming back and trying to post something coherent. I keep failing. This one hits a nerve. So I’m just gonna throw a few tumbling incoherent mixed up thoughts out, cos it feels like I have to, now that people are finally having a conversation about silencing and invisibility.

    First of all, THANK YOU GABBY, thank you for writing this so truthfully and sharing your own vulnerabilities. I think that it’s only because you started this conversation from such a place of openness and trust that we’ve been able to have a really meaningful conversation started here.

    It means so much to have somebody acknowledge that it isn’t just about getting hit on, getting chatted up, it’s about community. It’s really fucking lonely when you walk down the street invisible. Which is why the queer head nod is the best thing ever. Do it people, if you’re not sure, do it anyway! If she’s straight she wont get it anyway, and if she’s a less obviously presenting gay lady, well you’ve made her day. Because somebody saw.

    As somebody pointed out above, far more eloquently than I’m about to, the thing you can do right now, is to treat people better inside of the queer community. It is bad enough that we’re not always perceived as queer in the mainstream, it is so much more harmful and hurtful that in settings where we are obviously queer, we’re often dismissed by people.

    In my area, there is a womyn’s party thing every year, organised by the older lesbians in the community, it’s pretty cheesy but we go and support it every year, even though it has a bit of a “dancing at your cousin’s wedding” vibe to it. Anyway, certain individuals, that would be quite involved with their community/ activism etc are so fucking incessantly snide or dismissive of us because some of us are in dresses and makeup. I can pretty much be guaranteed I’ll never hook up with someone at this particular event as I’m condescended to because of how I’m dressing. My friends and I still go every year and make a point of going, it’s a small town and we want to support the event, so we go in a big group and have an awesome time on Team Fuck The Haters. Also, we all probably dress the most femme end of the scale for each of us, when we go to this particular event because we’re demanding a spot basically. But how fucked up is it that this is the politics of us navigating a queer female space?

    Somebody else mentioned above the fact that she finds herself coming out over and over as a way of trying to be visible. I just wanted to say that I feel this so much. I constantly do it, in every corner of my life, always wondering if I’m being too much or oversharing and while part of me does it because I feel the responsibility to be out for those that can’t, part of it is definitely to do with the constant allegations of passing privilege and not knowing what it’s like for other people. I don’t ever want to be presumed straight, it’s a lie of omission. I ensure my resume features lots of queer volunteering and work experience, because I don’t want to “get away with it” and get hired by a homophobic company.

    I support queer events in my community. I’m informed and passionate about queer theory and queer history. I’m out and proud in my personal and professional life. I try to be a good trans ally. I’ve given coming out workshops for queer youth. I attend protests. I write to my elected representatives about queer issues. I don’t expect brownie points for any of this, these are the things that matter to me and that make me happy. It does frustrate me sometimes, when I feel devalued and ignored by other queer women, because of my wardrobe choices. And this isn’t an attraction thing, this is a basic value judgement on whether or not I merit being spoken to. It’s like, come on, HOW QUEER DO I HAVE TO BE???

  60. Update: I spoke with my masculine of center roomie the other day about femme invisibility and and she also feels that’s it’s not a thing, etc. I am so thankful for the Autostraddle Femme FB Group and for speaking with other queers about gender representation/fashion/society’s interpretations of us/me. I struggle with femme invisibility every day but I am still going to be myself. I come out several times a day because it’s assumed that I like men. I wish there were some universal signal that everyone had just so they’d know by looking at me, but why would I want to be labeled and why would I need to change myself for others? I wouldn’t. This video always makes those rough days a little better, this poet gives me hope: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Q7IzwUa_kI

  61. wow, thank you for this. This was a validation i didn’t even realize I needed. But FI has been a struggle in my life for so many years and it’s just heart breaking. Your words really struck a chord, and clearly not just for me. Thank you so much for this realness.

  62. As someone who bounds up and down the femme-butch spectrum like the queer fashionista I wish I was, I have strong feelings about this article. I can walk down the same road in my favourite dress and get honked by several passers-by one day, then the next when I choose to wear my favourite pair of jeans be left alone. Yet, this is the opposite effect that occurs when trying to get the attention of people I desire, like my femme clothing has been woven with some sort of queer invisibility fabric. I really wish as human beings we could just wear what we wanted without having to worry about bullshit like this. Some nights it makes me weep. I actually wrote a poem pretty recently about this frustration, I hope you guys like it:

    I’m not bending gender I’m
    Trying to find myself;
    I’d rather make my own way and
    Take clothes from any shelf,
    So I’m not reading labels but
    Shopping for style instead
    Don’t tell me that there’s a gender
    Inside a piece of thread.

  63. As a bi femme whose existence is often questioned by almost everyone, i really appreciate this. Thank you.

  64. The content of the article really resonated with me… but what really made it for me is how beautifully it’s written. As a bi femme who is also a writer and highly values the power of words and the way words are put together, bravo. You did a fantastic job.

  65. Thank you so much for writing this article. Your words have really stuck with me over the past few months as I’ve been working to build a gender-based violence story sharing platform called The Burden of Proof Movement (BOPM).

    Participants from a variety of perspectives all over the globe are recording their experiences with gender-based violence every day for month, and then we are publishing those experiences on the BOPM website. There are many incredible resources around the Internet for people to share their stories about singular incidents of GBV that they have experienced, but BOPM serves to communicate the daily relentlessness of living in an oppressive society.

    In your piece, you so adeptly describe how you’re treated differently when you’re being perceived as more feminine. I thought you might be interested in having a platform for exploring those interactions over the course of a month.

    If this sounds interesting to you, you can learn more by contacting me or by visiting the BOPM website at burdenofproofmovement.com. Also, if anyone else who reads this is interested, please reach out as well!

    P.S. I’m sorry if a comment was an inappropriate way for me to communicate this message, but I wasn’t sure how else to reach out to you, Gabrielle.

  66. thank you for this article. it made me feel appreciated and appreciate you! and good quality writing too. <3

  67. I came back here to comment because I want someone to see I commented on the right side of the screen under “Latest Comments” and click on this article and read it.

    It seriously is one of the articles on Autostraddle that I’ve thought most about over time, and that is saying something, after 4ish years of readership and loving so hard on so many AS pieces. I read it when it was published, and I heard you read it aloud at A-camp, Gabby, and I still reread it because it’s so incredibly important.

    My privileges being a visible-queer / not femme person…. my privileges being a white queer… my privileges being someone who fits the homonormative “attractive” standards… I have to remember and be conscious of these and tons of other privileges, particularly as I’m trying to organize shit for queers. Thank you for this powerful reminder.

    And as someone who also just wants to made other good and radical people smile & feel present, thanks for imbibing this with hopefulness and positive call-outs and call-ins. Since that’s what I’m all about, too, this piece gives me life and a tiny blueprint.

  68. I will never not click on this article when it pops up in From the Archives. I read it when it came out and I continue to think about it this many years later.

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