Gentle Reader, I am distraught.
I mean, no particular event sparked this – it’s more a sort of general ongoing malaise.
Femme Men get no love, and as a part-time femme, I’m sore distressed. When seen at all, we’re either a straight-up joke, a punchline –
– or we’re cast as the villain, suave and sinister and not quite right.
This doesn’t just take place in literature, tv, film – it happens in real life. Not just in safely heteronormative spaces, either – queer men are heavily anti-femme, and have been for years.
That photo is from the Stonewall Inn, a few days after the famous riots – which I’ll talk about in a moment. The Mattachine Society, one of the earliest pro-gay organizations in America, put it there. Mattachine, like the modern Marriage Equality movement, was very pro-assimilation – their male members were to wear suits and ties at all public events, and the women were to dress demurely. Like this:
Femme men, Butch lesbians, drag queens, transgender folk* (when they were acknowledged at all, which was rare) – were bad for the image. Again, much like the modern marriage-equality movement.
At the Stonewall Inn, in 1969, the police were performing a routine raid, and some drunken drag queens were tired of it, and staged a riot. They were non-conforming, and they’re the reason that QUILTBAG rights exist at all.
The Mattachine Society, which advocated quietly melting into society and demonstrating that Queers were worthy by being otherwise model citizens, has quietly faded away.
For a long time thereafter, the femme was celebrated, made welcome. Being queer meant that you didn’t have to fit into any of society’s little boxes if you didn’t want to.
These days, “No Femmes” is a mantra constantly chanted by every baseball-cap wearing twink, each gym-toned otter, each dominant bear.
Most gay men are flattered to be called straight-acting, value their ability to pass, and often say that they’re not one of those gay guys. Being femme is seen as something shameful.
Femmes are seen as perpetuating harmful stereotypes, rather than human beings who are living as they wish to, expressing themselves authentically.
Femmes, when seen positively, are fetishized, and prized for their value as a straight girl’s fashion accessory.
Personally? I think the world can use every last scrap of beauty, of glamour, of elegance that it can lay its hands on, and femmes provide that in spades. They live outside the rigidly-policed gender lines prevalent everywhere.
Do you know how much courage it takes to be publicly femme? A hell of a lot.
To my mind, being femme is an act of rebellion, a blurring of lines, an announcement that I don’t have to enact any roles that I don’t want to, that were decided by society as a whole long before my birth. My life is my own, and I’ll live it as I see fit. No one – not the straight world, which is appalled by my disregard for the rules, and not the QUILTBAG world, which finds that kind of thing harmful to the cause as well as deeply unsexy – no one can stop me. No one should stop me.
Keep fucking shit up, you delicious, delightful, deviant femmes. Keep changing the world.
*Butch Lesbians, Genderqueers, Trans* folk, the rest of the QUILTBAG community – I beg your pardon. You do all the same things I praise the femme men for, and I’m equally grateful. I merely lack personal experience living your lives. Your struggles and victories are your own, and worthy of respect, and they deserve to be told in your own voices†.
†The cisgender white gay man graciously allowing people to tell their own stories in their own voices? Oh, dear – the F.A.G. will yank my license.