Around the same time, I began doing more community organizing and some of my mentors in that work were cis queer femme identified women who at first were people I looked up to.
All of this is within the context of queer/lesbian communities after the feminist / lesbian sex wars in the 1970’s and 80’s.Often when the sex wars gets discussed, people mostly talk about the debates around porn and sex work, but that was also tied into a broader discussion and debate over BDSM, butch/femme, trans lives and existence, and working to define what a ‘good feminist’ and ‘good lesbian’ was and is.To me, femme is a queer gender with lesbian and trans lineages of femininities that challenge patriarchy, heterosexism, capitalism, cissexism, and white supremacy.It deeply informs my trans womanhood while remaining separate from it, shaping how I can inhabit a binary gender and play with it in a way that stretches past the lines patriarchy and cissexism puts in place.It was butch/femme writing, books like In those books, I was able to find parts of myself inside other’s words and stories, even if they were and weren’t always written for trans girls like me.
They were written for the unabashedly gay and deliciously dykey parts of me and I love the ways I can relate to the stories, even if it’s not fully.
As a femme lesbian woman, butch/femme is a part of my legacy and history and sits at my back, having a hand in the world that I live and love in.
To call myself a femme, a lesbian, or a dyke without having some reverence and gratitude for butch/femme is to act as if my existence isn’t connected to a herstory and generations of women and queers before me. When I first came out as queer and trans, I held the frankly wrong belief that butch and femme were just heteronormative mirrors of the gender binary, but for queers (bless my heart).
We lose the complexity of our own lives, and we lose what for me has been a lifelong lesson: you do not betray your comrades when the scapegoating begins.” It’s this part of our herstory that feels the most maddening and clarifying about why butch/femme matters — as a femme, as a trans woman, as a dyke.
It was within that political moment that those of us who’s womanhood was on the margins were questioned during the struggle for rights, recognition, and inclusion into a system not designed or built for us.
While there were some exceptions, the femininity I saw appreciated most was straight or queer cis men who took on femininity or femmeness, much like the ways in which in queer communities femme feels more celebrated, ’radical’, and gender-fucking when it’s embodied by masc folks rather than from women.