HuffPost Live Talked To Some of Your Favorite Butches and Femmes About Identity and More

HuffPost Live hosted a talk with some of my favorite people, y’all. There’s my bias. I’m putting it right there in the front row. Transparency forever, right? But seriously, HuffPost invited Aja Aguirre (FitForAFemme), Anita Dolce Vita (DapperQ), Morgan Willis (Bklyn Boihood), and Mary Going (St. Harridan) to talk about the ways in which femmes and butches experience different forms of oppression for their presentations and how those experiences determine the ways we discuss privilege in our community.

I appreciated how respectful and honest everyone was in this discussion. That was the reason I watched it like four times just nodding my head and screaming “yes” at my computer screen. At one point the interviewer asks Anita Dolce Vita, a self-proclaimed femme, to define masculine of center and explain what centers it. Without hesitation, Anita lets the interviewer know that she doesn’t feel comfortable defining a term that she doesn’t claim as part of her identity, especially when there are two individuals on the panel that do. Morgan from Bklyn Boihood picked it up and provided a brilliant response. Teamwork. Yo, yes, that’s how we should be having conversations. Like Laverne Cox on her Katie Couric shit, you know?

What points or opinions caught your attention? Is it cool the semi-mainstream news is trying to catch up to debates we’ve been having for years? Are you sick of the whole Butch v Femme thing forever? Also, can I just say how insanely gorgeous everyone on the panel is? And Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani’s accent is dreamy and perfect. Now, tell me serious thoughts.

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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 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. Well,….., I think butch is all about attitude…toward the world and all the people in it. I think women with gorgeous faces and bodies can be sweet and lovey……and still be totally butch.

    As for femme, they seem to buy into the attitude of hetero girls except they only find emotional connection with women. I mean they wear makeup, try to present “girly”…..but to feel attractive to other women.

    Now before everyone jumps on me…..I think we are all both. I am ugly….opinionated….playful……Virgo, and you know how WE are….so…..I tend to be attracted to the tomboy lesbian next door woman, who is not shy… smart and confident…..and can look past my ugliness and see the silly femme woman inside,who wants to be her gf with all the honesty and female love that anyone could ever have for her.

    I wonder if being a lesbian, and being sexually attracted to women, comes from that emotional bonding that we only feel with other women.

    • hi, my phone isn’t loading the video so i haven’t watched it yet, but i just wanted to respond to the part of your comment about femmes. as a non-binary femme, my identity is vastly different from hetero girls even though we may present in a similar fashion. i am also bisexual and am not solely interested in emotional connection with people who identify as women. it feels very limiting to have the assumption constantly placed on femmes that they are “buying into” the exact same things that straight, cis women are thinking and feeling… and this assumption comes from straight and queer communities alike. i apologize if this was already mentioned in the video, though.

      • Do chime in after you’ve had the chance to watch it – I definitely mentioned that femmes do A LOT of work around reclaiming and redefining femininity much in the same way that butches and MOCs do around reclaiming and redefining masculinity, and I’m including our trans friends here as well.

        Assuming we don’t do that work, or worse, asserting the baffling premise that straight, hetero-normative culture should satisfy femmes only contributes to the way society dismisses and disregards femininity.

    • Where do I buy this hetero attitude? Is it sold the same place as skirts? I didn’t know I was supposed to buy both.

      • Sarah, sorry I’m a smart ass. I just think one thing the thing that we should bring from conversations like this is that we can’t speak for each other and should listen to one another more. As a femme, calling myself that felt like reclaiming a sense of femininity that I felt had been taken from me by the larger world who wanted to decide for me what being a lesbian meant. Being gay doesn’t make me any less “feminine” and I have a right to define what feminine means to me. It doesn’t mean that I need to buy into a submissive stereotype of being feminine either (just as straight women don’t need to buy into this). I loved that issues around femme invisibility, intersectionality, and street harassment (as a lived experience for both masculine of center and feminine presenting women) were brought up and discussed with respect. Hopefully we can continue this respectful conversation as we turn it internally :). I think that’s really the only way that we can continue to grow as a community and fight larger issues like sexism and homophobia together.

        • Maddy, I meant no disrespect to femmes, truly. No matter the responses. I only wanted to state that being a lesbian and being femme should always be about how you feel inside, and the choices of how you present yourself, physically and emotionally to the world, rather than the stereotype formed by the male centered concept of being feminine which is typically based on heterosexual females. I did not make my thoughts clear, and that is my fault .
          I believe all of us are victims of the stereotypes that society wishes to force us into…… not for our benefit, but the “stability” of the society rather than our individual self realization.
          In short and with good feelings to all who have replied, I respect your criticism of my words, and accept your right to disagree with my words. And happiness to all of you!

    • Nooooope. Please stop and take a seat on the whole “femme girls buy into the hetero mentality” thing. I am here to disabuse you of this notion RIGHT NOW. In fact, a lot of femmes contribute to queer politics, philosophy, and activism. Basically the entire existence of queer folks no matter their gender presentation sort of fucks the whole hetero mentality. That’s kind of how not being hetero works. Also, femmes confront and defy heteronormative and cisnormative expectations of gender all the time.

      Also, many femme women I know would argue that the “Femme” identity is not the same as a “feminine” identity and I think that there is an important distinction there in realizing how people interaact with their gender identities.

      Please don’t try to trivialize anyone’s queerness. It’s a little dismissive, and this should be maintained as a safe and inclusive space, even in the discussion of identity politics etc.

  2. tbh, i don’t know anyone who identifies as femme that “buys into the attitudes of hetero girls” like not one single femme.

    maybe they buy skirts but not heteronormative attitudes.

    • Heck, there a lots of straight women out there who don’t buy into heteronormative attitudes. Obviously, some people do, but it’s hard to talk about the ‘attitudes of hetero women’ when they are not one big collective who all think the same way.

      It’s a pretty essentialist view of heterosexual femininity, and it is worth taking a second look at. I’m personally a femme-presenting queer, and I am secure and happy and fulfilled with my presentation, and I don’t see a world of difference between my gender expression and the ways that some of my straight female friends think about their relationship to their gender.

    • You don’t know anyone who puts on makeup?
      So where do you think females need to put on makeup came from? Duh! Hetero girls needing to compete for a male to survive in the patriarchy. Do you love washing your “mask” off at night… because you were “programmed” to do it so that society would allow you to be “pretty or desirable”?
      But “you do you”….. even in the dream world! Just saying!

      • So masculinity is the natural state and femininity is intrinsically artificial?

        Femmephobia shares an awful lot of its roots with misogyny. It is incredibly patronising to suggest that women are unable to choose to present in a way that best fits them, to suggest that they are deluded and tricked and have no autonomy.

      • i know you’re not trying to say that femmes wear makeup cuz theyre being brainwashed by the patriarchy like that cant be whats happening right now, right?

      • sarah…


        i hate the patriarchy
        but i love makeup!
        makeup is fun!
        makeup has existed for centuries for all kinds of reasons!

        stop raining on our parade.
        it’s messing up my makeup.

      • And where do you think your attitudes towards femininity come from? Guess what, patriarchy ALSO programs us to see femininity as vapid, shallow, devoid of agency, and entirely for men’s benefit.

        It’s almost like the term ‘internalized misogyny’ was literally coined to describe that lifelong struggle that we all deal with. It’s almost like we can discuss how presentation is affected by social pressures and coercion WITHOUT being incredibly demeaning. And no, saying it applied to yourself as well (despite also acting as though you’re the only one who ~truly understands~ and as if your own outlook somehow IS pure and unsullied by the misogynistic culture we live in – BUT I DIGRESS) does not make it okay.

      • The idea that traditional femininity is unnatural/bad while traditional masculinity is natural/good is misogynist and itself contributes to the oppression of women and feminine-of-center people of all genders. People wear makeup for all kinds of reasons, ranging from insecurity to a desire to engage in self-expression. You cannot look at someone and know why they presents the way they do, how they feel about themselves, or what their makeup and clothing choices mean to them.

        I’d also like to point out that being feminine is not taking the easy way out – it comes with a lot of unwanted male (and sometimes female) attention, the assumption that you are sexually availabe to men, and the assumption that you are less competent (especially for those working in a male dominated field). In addition, it can make you practically invisible within the queer commuunity. I’m in no way suggesting that femmes have it worse than MOC women, simply that we each have our own struggles. Dismissing femmes as insecure, unwitting, victims of the patriarchy is really ignorant and disrespectful.

        Personally, I enjoy trying out different make up looks just for myself. I often experiment with really bright colors and dramatic looks at home that I’d be nervous to wear out of the house – it’s a fun way to explore different personas and has shit to do with pleasing men.

        • “The idea that traditional femininity is unnatural/bad while traditional masculinity is natural/good is misogynist and itself contributes to the oppression of women and feminine-of-center people of all genders.”


      • Excuse me? Then married woman don’t wear makeup because they don’t need to attract a mate? Makeup was more heavily wore by men (just like high heels but i disgress) when it frist became popular and it was used as a status symbol and to attract favour from gods and as protection from the sun and demons.

    • I didn’t mean to criticize femmes…. really….. just that they feel like they have to present like a straight girl… visually….makeup shit….you know! Which comes from our “programming” in the straight world about being a “pretty” woman……. where else could it come from????
      But when I look at you….. it is who you ARE inside that I love or not…… not the image of being sweet and loving …. dreamed up by a boob-ass centric jerky male who sees females as a sex toy and maid!

      • I am a tacky assed femme who does not in any way present like a ‘pretty’ straight girl. I think you need to check your not-so-internalised misogyny if you think that’s what femmes are, or if you think being feminine presenting in general is automatically a negative thing.
        Femmes have agency. They control every aspect of their gender presentation and expression, they present the way they do because they are subversive badasses who chew up and spit out heteronormative ideals and serve it to the patriarchy on a plate. Makeup is a form of self expression, it is an art form. We can experiment with colours and textures to reveal different aspects of ourselves. We can use makeup to show a different side of ourselves every single day. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it can be ugly or fierce or subtle or whatever the fuck we want it to be because it is our bodies and by having this control, this agency and this freedom to express who we are we are subverting the patriarchal definitions of beauty that have been shoved down our throats all our lives.
        Also it’s who we are inside that you love? Well listen here darlin, femmes are fully rounded people, our presentation is an expression of who we are at our core, dismissing it and saying you know and love who we really are(and implying that we don’t have control over our own appearance)is bloody condescending as fuck, so you may want to rethink that whole concept, k?

        • No thanks. It is the nature of programming that you believe you are making a willful choice. But … if you are happy, then…. you are happy, right?
          I stand by my statement that all of us… you… me… are programmed to be what society wants us to be… based on the social construct of being female and male in our society!

        • sarah, do you realize how fucked up it is to say “It is the nature of programming that you believe you are making a willful choice”?

          you’re denying “women who wear makeup” agency… in an effort to make a point about how you think society has denied “women who wear makeup” agency.

          i don’t know if that’s meta, hypocritical, “epically fucked up,” or all three?

        • I was going to add to this but all I really have to say is:


      • excuse me, I do not at all feel the need to present as a straight girl. (which supposedly means dress up to please the male gaze – I also highly doubt that the majority of feminine straight women do) I dress the way I do, because I love a certain aesthetic, because it feels right. I’m telling you, if it weren’t for this world, that constantly sanctions femininity, I’d walk around in lace dresses or corsages or high heels much more often. And when I present as femme (which I mostly do, because it’s what I mostly feel like), I do it despite the male gaze and sure as hell not because of it. And maybe we can replace male with masculine.
        Your comment also feels to me like there’s no possibility for femmes to (want to) be attracted to other femmes – which I find very problematic. And incorrect.

      • You are missing the point.

        “Queer femmes” do not feel we have to “present like a straight girl.”

        None of these groups are homogenous. Femininity does not belong exclusively to heterosexual women of a certain kind. There is nothing inherently wrong with such femininity, either. (See: other comments related to misogyny.)

        Femininity does not exclusively exist for the enjoyment of an audience. I am dressed in plum lipstick and high-heeled boots and I haven’t left the apartment where I live alone once today and I’m not going to. I just like them.

        Also femininity does not equal “being sweet and loving.” I am femme and a huge bitch, you’re welcome.

        • “Femininity does not exclusively exist for the enjoyment of an audience.”

          that is something everyone needs to soak in on their hands and feet for a minute, real talk.

        • “Also femininity does not equal “being sweet and loving.” I am femme and a huge bitch, you’re welcome.”

          brb getting this tattooed on my face

      • Hi Sarah,

        You are correct that clothing and makeup are social constructs.

        However, I disagree with you on a number of points.

        First, makeup (as well has heels and wigs and skirts) on men has been seen throughout history. Male Egyptian pharaohs, for one example, wore thick black eyeliner. Quoting from another article, “The history of makeup has been quite varied and colorful, and makeup today continues to be incredibly culturally diverse.” There’s also Louis XIII (who went bald at 23 and pushed wigs as all the rage), harlequins, dandies, macaronis, 80s hair bands, punk rockers…an entire dissertation can written on this subject matter. But, to say that makeup originated in Western culture for the sole purpose of heterosexual women to attract men is truly inaccurate.

        Second, I think you are conflating sexual orientation with gender expression and identity. A common misconception is that queer women are masculine and straight women are feminine and that’s how you can differentiate between the two. This follows your line of thinking that queer women do not have to wear makeup because they do not want to attract men. However, there are masculine presenting straight women and feminine presenting queer women. And, the latter are not feminine simply because we are robots and just have some psychological block from breaking free of the patriarchy. I dress the way I dress and wear makeup because I actually DO love being feminine. I love the way that a brick red lipstick makes my full, black lips even more prominent. It’s empowering and it’s political. They are fantastic with just Chapstick too. But, I’m definitely not using my luscious lips as a lipstick canvas for the pleasure of hetero cis-males. Sometimes, I put on a great gloss and just stare at how incredible my black lips are in the mirror. All on my own. And, to hell with the white patriarchy who tries to tell me my thick black lips are an aberration. Sometimes, not all the time, I do use my lipstick to seduce…my woman. I like the way it looks all smudged on her body, and so does she. Bottom line: I’m not dressing for men. And, once you acknowledge that femmes present the way they present for a variety of reasons that are none of your business, the quicker we can expand what it means to be queer and stop perpetuating such narrow definitions of queerness.

        Which brings me to my third point. People dress the way they dress for a variety of reasons. Yes, one reason may be to emulate the dominant culture in an effort to gain acceptance or fit normative expectations. But that may not always be one of MANY reasons that an individual chooses a particular style of dress/clothing. Other reasons may include using style as a form of protest; claiming or reclaiming a specific style of dress; adopting a style of dress to express individual personality; choosing clothing that fits well or is functional; using clothing to expand the definitions of race, class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality; etc. Even within masculine attire, there are a variety of styles. Punk. Street goth. Preppy. Dandy. Why does one choose one particular style over another? It’s not my place tell someone else why it is they are dressing the way they are dressing.

        • ^what Anita said. My femininity is for an audience of ONE. MYSELF. my badass, sassy, makeup wearing self. suck on that ayayayaya

      • Now you’re just being hateful. Plain old awful hateful. I don’t owe civil discourse to someone who refuses to speak respectfully, especially when that disrespect comes in the form of classic derailment techniques.

    • I know a few. They’ll say things like ‘I don’t want to be one of those angry lesbians’ and nonsense like that..

  3. It’s pretty hard to have serious thoughts about this when I’m distracted by how cute everyone is. However, I can say that I thought that everyone did an awesome job of reframing this discussion around the real issues, as opposed to the more sensational aspects of the butchvsfemme narrative. Mostly this discussion reminded me of how exhausting it can be to try to explain the very complicated dynamics of the queer community to outside parties who often seem (though not necessarily are) more interested in focusing on in-fighting or the categorization of identities.
    So basically, high fives all around.

  4. I’m pretty bothered by the way HuffPo seems to be trying to sensationalize this discussion by calling this a “butch-femme face off.” It sounds so petty and competitive.

    But on a more positive note, I thought all the women on the panel were brilliant and did a great job of trying to focus on the issues and have a productive conversation, and I’m so proud that these are the people representing our community.

    • Agreeing here. I don’t think that it should be framed as a competition or battle of sorts, but I see that they might have just had trouble expressing that the issue is not how we gender our experiences/relate to our genders, but a debate over privilege (Oppression Olympics). I see the “versus” aspect there.

    • calling it ‘butch-femme face off’ is a clickbait tactic, right?

      how many non-queers would watch it if it was called ‘calm and respectful non-heterosexual women discuss gender presentation and varying levels of privilege and oppression within the queer community’?

      as a tactic, it totally works. but also, it shows us how far back mainstream-ish media is when it comes to discussions about us. like have you ever tried to talk to straight people irl about butch/femme stuff? it’s almost impossible to get past those archetypes. even femme is something new to them. when i say femme most str8 ppl are like ‘oh the lipstick lesbian?’ and i’m like….uhhm yes? but nope.

      and yes, to everything you said at the end of your comment. i am also very proud that these individuals are the ones who were asked to engage in this dialogue. made me so proud.

      • “calm and respectful non-heterosexual women discuss gender presentation and varying levels of privilege and oppression within the queer community”

        PLEASE let this be the new trend in online headlines, I cannot hear about how AMAZING! MINDBLOWING! things are anymore.

  5. I think that there is community and self exploration, and acceptance to be found in having these labels, and an important history of our community to remember by the continued use of these terms. I don’t believe that we should allow the discussion to be framed in such a way that “butch” and “femme” are the only options, or even the only basis for options. I know many queer women and people who do not identify as butch or femme. I think that we should always remind people that this discussion can be had while also including a variety of other identities as well.
    I also understand where the idea that butch and femme identities could create/maintain heteronormativity or homonormativity within the community or reinforce those ideas to the cisgender/heterosexual folks, but I don’t think that is a fair reason to completely dismiss words in which people have found their homes.
    Language is extremely important, and having words to find yourself in is integral to the process of seeking our identities. Humans are creatures with an insatiable name to need things. Names are important because they allow us a starting point for definition and exploration. Until there is no longer a gender binary system, taking away or refusing people these avenues of self expression would be irresponsible and contrary to our very natures, encouraging further repression of an already oppressed marginalized population.
    Similar to the argument that “colorblindness” is also racism, because pretending that there is not categorization but continuing to function from the generalizations and internalized ideas without acknowledging their existence is problematic at best and dangerous at worst, ignoring that gender is an integral aspect of human existence would be similarly problematic and dangerous. We get enough policing outside our community, that my choice to identify with a long line of strong and wonderful queer femmes shouldn’t take away from your choice not to.
    I just advocate that we continue to confront biases outside our community and inside, always striving to move towards a safer and more gratifying, validating environment for all queer folks, recognizing the ways our identities interact with privilege and keeping conversations focused on building a positive future. Equity for all.

  6. Also, thinking about other ways to frame discussion on femininity and femme-ness in the community: Please don’t assume that all people share your ideas of “traditional” gender roles/expectations, because I think that intersects with ethnicity and culture and the way that people within other cultural groups view their interactions with gender. For instance, different ethnic backgrounds and family structures may seem to have certain gender roles from an outside perspective and actually have a very different interaction within members of the in-group. The intersection of WOC femininity and gendered expecations is really an interesting topic, because there are so many varied experiences across different cultures. Just, don’t forget that gender is cultural, I guess. Cause growing up, my Latina side of the family definitely had a different affect on my femme identity than the other side of my family, which was socialized into a very white femininity, half through birthright and half through cultural colonialism.

  7. To all, let me just say first that my initial comment was just my thoughts about butch and femme and visual presentation of each. It was poorly thought out, in that I did not realize the many issues the members have brought up. I apologize for being short sighted in awareness of the implication of my comment.
    I absolutely do not want to take away any agency of expression or identity from any lesbian, or straight woman either, for that matter.
    I will defend your right/privilege to be sweet and lovey and/or badass and bitchy or all at the same time!
    As for my reference about all of us being “programmed” by society and its constructs, I think that begins the instant we are born! It’s a girl….pink blanket!
    Societies thrive on “all the ducks being in a row”. So the ducks are taught the Rules of Being A Duck……by their parents, their friends, TV, religion, etc….until later the teachings are so ingrained, the duck forgets where those thoughts about how her life should be were not HER own, but were lessons taught to her. But she does not want to walk in a row!! It doesn’t feel right! I imagine we all know that feeling……and have gone through the angst of breaking out of our “programming” closet. So what I meant about “willful” decisions, simply was intended as a “heads up” , asking…”are you sure, that it is YOU? making that decision?
    I am a translesbian. When I was overwhelmed by the emotional attraction to a femme lesbian at my store, who no doubt is a badass female, it led me wandering out of the row of ducks to discover being transgender. I looked back on all my “programming” as a male….and realized with sadness, the happiness I had missed….but with joy that I had discovered the truth, finally.
    I identify as femme. I would love to have a pretty face and wear cute female clothes and know that when you thought of me, you would always know my feelings for you are always female, sweet and lovey or badass and bitchy. So when you look at my profile photo as the potter I used to be, please know I am a female.

    • Sarah thank you for responding, and for reexamining your viewpoint. I apologise for my response being somewhat aggressive. I have heard the argument you made so so many times, from both queer and heterosexual people, and my patience has worn thin.
      Hopefully reading the other comments here will give you a better idea of the variety of experiences that come under the femme identity.

      • Aimee, please tell me. I know what being a translesbian feels like. But I want to know what you femme cis lesbians feel. It would be wonderful to share our feelings. I would be so happy to learn from all of you about your lives… this open femme thread proposal or an open butch thread either. I admit that my femme feelings are probably naive to all of you femmes. But I want to be friends even though I may seem retarded to many of the smart women who comment here. Tell me what femme is……tell me what butch is……so I know how to speak and think when those terms come up.

    • Just wanting to chime in that it takes a lot of courage and self-reflection to admit to mistakes, so kudos for coming back to this conversation with an open mind.

      • I appreciate your reply, POF. I want to have friends of the heart, and accept their own definition of who they are, and what they feel.

  8. Sarah, thanks so much for your willingness to reconsider your words :). I just have to add on here that the term “femme” for me felt like I was reclaiming something that felt taken from me. When I came out, well intentioned straight friends and family seemed to be searching my personal experiences and expression for evidence of my being gay. My mom said “oh, you never liked barbie and always climbed trees” but ignoring the fact that I loved pink and dressing up and other stereotypically female things as a kid. At the same time, I was a bit of a tomboy in high school because I was into sports and got harassed at school by people saying I shouldn’t be allowed into the girls locker room before gym class, writing dyke on my locker, stuff like that. I did learn that I every time I dressed in a hyper-feminine way, I didn’t get called dyke anymore. So in that way, bullying was def used as a way to “put me back in my place” as how I was expected to behave. When I came out I felt that both I had the freedom to dress in a masculine way because it didn’t matter anymore if anyone assumed I was gay. But I also have the freedom to dress in a feminine way because it’s now something I choose to do, not something I feel forced into.. I guess for me, calling myself femme is a way of saying “yeah, I am feminine. But on my own terms.”

    • Maddy, I realized that I don’t know enough cis femmes or cis butches to really have made any comment at all , especially after the various “takedown” replies. I have not suffered the cruel and insensitive comments you , and the other cis women, have suffered on revealing your orientation. My ego was bruised in the replies, and I pouted up and grrrrrrrrd back. But later, I understood that I did not know enough lesbians, and did not have the “creds”…the life experiences you all have, to be making any comment about butches or femmes.
      One of my English professors in college told my class that suffering makes a person noble ( just before final exam :) ). Though a joke at the time, I believe it is true. And so I believe that makes all you cis lesbians noble in your own unique “coming out”.
      Thanks Maddy.

  9. Thank you for posting this video…so much love for all of the gorgeous, intelligent women in the video, and to everyone chiming in. I love what Morgan has to say about this really just being the beginning of the discussion, and would love for society at large to open up to non-binary thinking which could benefit everyone, not just queer identified, while also recognizing and celebrating those who do identify in a binary way. In addition to the wonderful rainbow of queer-identified folks, I also know many wonderful cis-gendered, heterosexual identified people who don’t necessarily fall into the expected masculine-feminine categories either, and I think expanding our ideas about gender identity and gender presentation could benefit everyone. And also recognizing that gender identity and gender presentation are not the same thing, and both can and often are fluid, which is a whole other can of worms…

    So, too, even in the queer community, I run into a lot of narrow-binary ideologies that are troublesome. I don’t really identify as femme or butch, and I know it is human nature to want to categorize and label things to better understand, but neither of those labels feel authentic for me personally (no disrespect meant to those who do identify in either way). Dressing in either an overtly femme or overtly butch way feels like an elaborate form of drag for me and on a daily basis, it’s not really an issue. Standard uniform of skinny jeans and v-necks feels comfortable and doesn’t attract much attention in either direction. Where I’m challenged is finding a way to present for interviews or formal events that feels authentic to me, and doesn’t bring up ill-conceived notions about who I am and how I might identify, in spaces where people are definitely trying to sort out who you are and how you identify…which, I realize, may be a universal problem.

    I know from experience what it feels like to be catcalled on the street when presenting as femme, and experiencing that unique mix of being exposed, noticed, threatened, and maybe even a tiny bit flattered by the attention (which goes against my every feminist fiber and the confusion that ensues). I also know what it feels like to be labeled a dyke in pretty much every room I walk into, and the assumptions and negative attention that go along with that. I’ve felt trivialized by feminine-presenting romantic partners who will tell me how hot I look when I’m wearing my dirty dressed down boy jeans to go to the dog park, but then not offering a compliment when I make an effort to look nice for a date with them in a dress and makeup. I’ve felt trivialized by masculine-presenting romantic partners for not being submissive or girlie enough. It’s one thing when a straight friend will ask out of ignorance, “who’s the boy in the relationship.” It hurts a lot more to experience it from my own community. Gender presentation is still something I’m trying to figure out for myself, even at 37…(and starting to throw aging and ageism into that whole whirlpool!), I don’t need anyone else chiming in about how they think I should look or act. And goddamn if I don’t expect anyone I’m sleeping with to think I look hot whether I’m rocking lacy lingerie or a tie, or more often than not, both at the same time.

  10. Much love to the beautiful humans in the video discussing their experiences and truths to create a respectful and insightful dialogue. I agree the sensationalized butch VERSUS femme like we’re all in a fight is tiresome, but the content in the video sure made up for the clickbait title.

    Also everybody’s looks were on point!

  11. Sarah – I’m also a queer trans woman who, and I feel the only description that remotely does me justice is a femme tomboy. I wear jeans/tops/jackets most of the time, but I also love being femme in my style with dresses and skirts and make up (although my skills with make up are horrible – it’s a work in progress).

    The femme inside me absolutely is a core part of me, it’s something I was actively suppressing before admitting to myself who I was, and I do it largely for myself (with a side helping of wanting to look hot to other women) and absolutely nothing to do with men or appealing to them.

    I find myself with an unhealthy relationship with masculinity that is something I’ll need to work through over a long time before I’m remotely comfortable with it even in others, a result of years telling myself “I need to be masculine” even as I was terrible at it and never achieved it regardless. This is one of the many issues that I’ve internalised and need to deal with, but it isn’t the reason for my being femme – my being femme is the reason it caused me to have these issues as I was suppressing the femme.

    Obviously I can’t explain what being femme means to cis women, I can’t even do a good job of explaining what it means to me. However one of the most important things to me is that it represents the freedom to dress and look how I want to look, and embody all the happiness and joy, silliness and fun when I’m feeling them, and whatever else I’m feeling when I’m not. It’s the freedom to show me in all my newfound openness and feel everything I’m feeling.

    It’s not a remotely helpful definition though, it’s what it means to me inside myself and isn’t something I apply to anyone else.

    • Thanks Talie, for sharing your thoughts on being femme. My feellings are very similar to yours! I think my feelings as “femme” was the very thing that got me into trouble with a lot of the members who replied. Not the actual feelings, but rather my impropriety of thinking my feelings were what other femmes would also think “femme” would mean to them. So I got TOLD about it! And now I am learning that “femme” has many nuances to each femme!
      Thanks so much for your helpful reply. :)

  12. I know I’m hella late, but I love this part: “At one point the interviewer asks Anita Dolce Vita, a self-proclaimed femme, to define masculine of center and explain what centers it. Without hesitation, Anita lets the interviewer know that she doesn’t feel comfortable defining a term that she doesn’t claim as part of her identity, especially when there are two individuals on the panel that do. Morgan from Bklyn Boihood picked it up and provided a brilliant response.” That is EXTREMELY profound. I’m mainly attracted to masculine folks, which is mainly includes butch/stud/boi women [and I have also dated trans men.] I love, appreciate, know a lot about masculine of center women and I probably would used that opportunity to describe who they are and gush about how much I value and respect them for being strong enough to be themselves despite societal pressure from the white AND the black community to conform to – or approximate as best they can – the white middle class femininity. But I can’t truly present the perspectives of masculine of center women, because I’m not masculine of center. It’s just that simple. So from now one when someone asks about masculine of center, I’ll point them in the direction of Brooklyn Boihood or other women who would have more insight and personal experience to speak from. Great article.

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