How I Get Femme Visibility on the Streets

feature image via the brilliant amos mac

After the success of FAT SEX WEEK and GAY SEX WEEK it only made sense to round out the trifecta with FEMME SEX WEEK. Check out the tag to see all of the entries in this topic and check back soon for more amazing Femme sex talk!

This weekend I was in front of the camera for a lifestyle shoot for the New York Toy Collective (more on their products and a behind the scenes video from the shoot later on in FEMME SEX WEEK). One of my favorite parts of a photo shoot is the chance to hang out with folks I don’t see much and meet new people with an immediate ice breaker–working together on a photo shoot.

While I was getting my make-up done somehow the topic turned to people getting picked up on the street, namely how one of the other models had been picked up on the street and on the train, in the same day, by two different femmes. One of which they ended up sleeping with. I was so impressed! It feels like an urban legend, a hot Femme just rolling up on a cute queer and making their desire known in an intentional way–AND WINNING. (Where winning, here, is both of them getting laid.)

Erica, pictured here, is singing a song about sex toys on that ukelele.

Erica, pictured here, is singing a song about sex toys on that ukelele.

I’ve noticed over the last year or so that I have had an increase in my own queer visibility on the street. I tend to tweet about it whenever it happens because I’m usually alone and it’s so remarkable to be a Femme presenting person getting a dyke head nod or a wink on the street from a queer presenting person. It rules! It’s like that inner 20 year old in me who wore nothing but baggy Old Navy men’s clothing to appear more “andro” because I thought that’s what would get me attention from other queers is finally getting what she always wanted. To be seen.

I’m also an intrepid queer explorer so as soon as this visibility started happening to me I went into self-examination mode to determine what I was doing differently.

My dyke head nods, winks and smiles happen usually when I’m alone and lots of places I don’t expect. Especially at the intersection of Brooklyn Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, when I’m wearing no make-up and some kind of “running around”outfit, I feel like I see all kinds of masculine of center queers who give me the nod.

I delight in the queer acknowledgement and then sit back and examine what I was wearing, doing, or “coding”to be queer. I’m feeling my most authentically queer when I’m really performing my gender, and that is in a huge, over the top kind of way that I mostly only do at certain parties. (See: every Rebel Cupcake, Swoon and Hey Queen.)

Me and Tuck during the photo shoot.

Me and Tuck during the photo shoot.

Then I think about my hair. Is it because I have weird, loud hair (that’s about as loud and weird as I can get away with and still be a practicing attorney)? And I see other hot Femme presenting people out in the world with loud hair but it doesn’t necessarily code them as queer.

But what I have figured out is that it’s not so much how I present it’s what I do. And it’s that I finally learned how to casually flirt with people with an eyebrow raise or a smile or a wink, which is what is eliciting this response of “I see you and I wink back.”

I spent a decade trying to figure out how to flirt and express desire. Being called “too much”or “coming on too strong” many times, I kind of put the kibash on it. And before I was “too much” I would let my fear of rejection stop me from asking people out, flirting or being at all forward with people. Up until a couple of years ago, I had no idea how to be in the middle ground. And, as in all things, expressions of desire are a balancing act.

What I’ve done is finally, finally absorbed my own advice of “Nobody ever died of awkward,” and what Rachael was always trying to teach me about flirting. “It’s never a bad time to make someone feel good.”

Backstage at new york toy collective @NYToyCollective photo shoot.


Flirting with someone on the street is not a big deal. And I’m not talking about catcalling, harassing or yelling at someone. I’m talking about a little eye contact and a smile to say, “I see you queer and I think you’re hot.” This often goes unnoticed by the person, but sometimes it doesn’t. And I get that head nod or acknowledgement. It’s kind of like that awesome Butch/Femme “dance” dynamic that people talk about, only here it’s queer on queer and it’s just about really seeing and appreciating each other.

So as I relaxed into the understanding that expressing desire didn’t mean I was proposing marriage, that I’ve done the work on my self-esteem to know that my self-esteem doesn’t rely on other people, I have nothing to lose in thst circumstance. It’s now become a kind of reflex, I see a hot queer on the street and I do the head nod or the smile that let’s them know that I see them. And sometimes they see me seeing them!

Maybe I’ll work up to the kind of impressive work that the Femme used to pick up that hot model on the train (they are really hot, by the way). But in the meantime I’m appreciating the ways in which I’ve eroded my own feelings of Femme invisibility in this tiny way and I’m maybe brightening the day of some anonymous hot queer on the street by non-verbally acknowledging their hotness.

FEMME SEX WEEK continues through next week with some exciting interviews, toy reviews and porn!

If my site has ever helped you get a date, learn how to love yourself more or feel at home in your body, would you consider donating? My fund drive has some really amazing prizes and I’m working to fund my art so that I can finish my memoir and keep putting the kind of energy into this blog that I love to do. For $100 you can get a laptop dance from Drae Campbell. (This prize is too hot for Go Fund Me, so donate the $100 through paypal to queerfatfemme at gmail).

Originally published on Republished WITH PERMISSION MOTHERF*CKERS.

Bevin Branlandingham is living the life she’s always dreamed of as a queer artist, lawyer, body liberation activist and plus size party girl in Brooklyn, NY. She blogs about the relentless pursuit of her joy at

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Bevin blogs about the relentless pursuit of her joy at

Bevin has written 7 articles for us.


  1. Femme (in)visibility! Yes! This is a topic I like discussing!

    Ever since I started dyeing my hair outlandish colors (right now it’s blue and purple), I’ve found it a whole lot easier to get read or accepted as queer by other queers. Even so, if I have a vested interest in being read as queer in a given environment or by a given individual, I generally make a point of asserting my queerness or my interest. I feel like I have to be more forward/outspoken as a queer person with a predilection for makeup and frilly things.

    • i accidentally dyed my whole hair purple and yeah suddenly people were not confused about my sexuality. weird how it works.

    • This so much! I do find that dressing in an alternative manner can help, especially rockabilly/ psychobilly, but Istill pretty much have to continually out myself. (The boyfriend is NOT helping, admittedly)

  2. People seem to have a hard time with me. From the neck up I’m a total femme(with minimal makeup) but from the neck down I’m pretty dapper. I wear everything pretty formfitting and I will wear the occasional heel but I rebuke skirts/dresses in the name of black Jesus. I usually find suitors through referral because people seem to think that im a tomboy straight girl. it’s a bit frustrating. I’ve had people tell me to pick a style instead of confusing people. I couldn’t care less if I tried but I would like some lady to approach me without having to have my lesbian friends around to be a buffer. I’m cute. love me.

  3. Oh man, getting “that look” on the street from another queer is one of the most exhilarating feelings ever for me, it makes my heart skip a beat and my brain temporarily go to total mush. Please keep doing it forever, even if I get so nervous that I look away blushing (which almost always happens) I still love it so much!

    • This. So much. I have so many feelings about that look. It completely blew my mind when I first discovered it while coming out. Does it ever get less magical, I wondered? So far, nope. Not even a little.
      Basically what I’m saying is we should all keep looking for each other everywhere we go, because it makes life awesome when we see each other. *nods at everyone here*

      • it’s totally the best
        also i have learned there is also a gay couple eye contact that happens between gay couples passing like ships in the night as well, which is also magical

  4. Bevin may just be my dream woman. Femmes always catch my eye. I love their nail polish, makeup, hair, dresses, skirts, heels, flats, I love the rockabilly girls, the girly girls, and the girls who are all inbetween. Femmes are some of my favorites.

  5. On man this – femme visibility/invisibility – has been on my mind for me as a femme presenting queer woman in a conservative city and how this not-gay-enough feeling might actually be a thing that other people deal with (obvious I know, but I was slow to this realization) anyways what I am trying to say is I am glad I read this.

  6. You what’s not attractive… when someone claims they’re against transmisogyny and womyn born womyn policies yet continues to attend and encourages others to attend a festival which promotes both. Hypocrisy is really unattractive Bevin. :(

    • Step 1: Look at another (preferably attractive) human’s eyeballs until they look back at you.

      Step 2: HOLD! Don’t look away, no matter how many flutters they give you! Smiles or nods may also be included in this step, but baby steps.

      Step 3: Tell yourself that they were only staring because you’re hot and enjoy a huge ego boost.

      • *NNB Do not walk into a trashcan. Or maybe do, because then they will come help you up and it’ll be a cute story to tell your grandkids.

    • I basically just look at people mentally thinking “Hi I’m a giant homo are you queer too? Anyone? Anyone?” and most people don’t even make eye contact, but every now and then a girl will match my gaze and we share a moment of “Oh hey girl I see you there” sometimes with a nod or a smile, and then I continue on my way with a giant grin on my face.
      The hard part is to not be intimidated when said human strikes you as particularly fabulous. Sometimes my eyes run away from theirs because I feel so irrelevant next to their awesomeness.

      • I went out on a date with a fabulous femme last weekend. She was so cool, I thought she was so pretty, and I was so shy I couldn’t look at her. I might have a larger crush on her bangs (they’re seriously a work of beauty) than her. A huge part of dating femmes (for me), is getting rid of my insecurities about my looks and whether I’m butch or femme enough and to relax and enjoy her. DAMN YOU FEMMEY GIRLS!

  7. I feel like this doesn’t help femmes find rather as much as I wish it would. It seems like we talk amongst ourselves like crazy on the internet and then miss eachother in the streets

      • Yeah- but you know what happens? Even if people “recognize” no one makes a move. I am femme and have intentionally presented more “gay” and while people “see” me now…its not like you magically get approached or asked out because you’re visible.

  8. This is so relevant to my interests! I would love to read more articles about femme presenting and how to be visible without being someone you are not! On a related note I love Autostraddle! haha

  9. I love the look.
    In the Midwest, most queers I meet are MOC so receiving/reciprocating the look reinforces visibility in that I AM FEMME and I EXIST

  10. this is something i have so many feelings about. i chopped off my hair, buzzed one side and dyed it pink and have a bunch of metal in my ear but i should not need to look “alternative” (which on bad days is just an oh-so-boring-mainstreamed aesthetic) to visible (and we should not need to be visible for people to know we exist, right?). because it’s a bit more unusual to smile at strangers in public in my country, i haven’t really done the smiling thing. i do give them Major Queer Eye Contact though. then i wonder how pansexual people of different genders code to each other.

  11. —I’m talking about a little eye contact and a smile to say, “I see you queer and I think you’re hot.” —

    Yes! Love this!! Ladies just think “Fuck it” to yourselves and let your inner awesome-sauce rip!!! You are beautiful, talented, smart, and gay as the day is long…. Throw away identity politics if you see someone on the train or walking down the street that makes your heart flutter (or think maybe I should change my panties) then FLIRT away! Bite your lip, smile, hair flip, bend and snap (<3elle woods)— okay maybe be careful with the bending and snapping on a crowded subway car—

    Who knows maybe they saw your first, but you missed it checking out another lady? Who knows!

    Thanks so much for this post!

  12. I often wear my little rainbow wristband that you get for free from all sorts of places at Pride. I can totally tell a look of “oh hay you’re queer me too” when someone sees it.

  13. I wish I could figure out how to be a visible femme without sacrificing my personal style aesthetic :(
    And I’m horrible at flirting with strangers, ugh. Grumble grumble.

    • You’ve got to present a few things that *do* fit in with your style aesthetic and do it all at one time. So…its not enough to just have short nails. You must also have a few other clues for us! As a side note, I just said this as a reply in a different comment (but since you have to physically click each comment to see replies Im thinking most people wont see it?). That I am femme. And I have made it a point to present more “gay”. And while I do get noticed and people “see” me now…you still aren’t magically approached and hit on. I used to have this ideal that if *only* gay girls knew I was gay, THEN life would be awesome! Yeah….no. Still the same thing. Now I’m concentrating on being approachable. Its like- okay, ladies can see me! Now…come to me! haha! (and I know I could do more work, too…but I just get so damn nervous!).

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