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Many femmes have spoken out in the forums about
butches accusing them of looking straight solely on the
basis of appearance. Yet the femmes I have encountered
give credence to an inner core of feminine energy.
It is in comparison to others that femmes stand out. Fill
a room with dykes wearing dresses. The femmes will still
In the mainstream a lesbian with a feminine energy blends
into the crowd, but is still not at the extreme end of that
feminine energy. As a result, other lesbians accuse femmes
of hiding their sexuality when it is convenient to them.
Femmes in the forums find it insulting to be accused of
not being real lesbians simply because they do not behave
butch. They assert their right to express their innate selves
instead of trying to conform to a stereotype.
The butch dyke stereotype seems so ingrained that most
of the femmes LOTL interviewed went through a phase of
trying to look butch when they first came out. Once they
felt comfortable with their sexuality, they were able to allow
their personality to shine through.
Each woman’s story revealed generational differences:
femmes in their teens and early twenties seem to find more
acceptance among other lesbians than femmes in their late
twenties and thirties.
Lupe, an intense, forthright woman in her thirties, doesn’t
see herself as particularly femme. When she first came out
Lupe cut her hair off, wore boyish clothes and revelled in
the amount of lesbian attention she received. Once she felt
at ease with her own sexuality and her femaleness, she
allowed that female energy to come forward.
Lupe enjoys the camouflage her womanly appearance
affords her. She is not out to her family or her workplace
and lives deep in suburbia, away from the lesbian mecca.
However, considering that she prefers being approached
in GLBTQI venues rather than taking the first step, her
invisibility becomes a hindrance.
On the other hand, Florence is out to her siblings, her
cousins, most of her friends and her classmates at
university. She is a nineteen year old whose long hair and
soft mannerisms give the illusion of being heterosexual.
Florence accepted her femininity after spending her
adolescence thinking a dyke had to look butch. She soon
realised she could dress in feminine clothes and still like
women. The only problem was being easily identifiable
to other lesbians. Dykes all assume that she’s straight.
Yet she’s not ready to approach other women for fear of
Kiki is a twenty-one year old Thai girl who looks femme
even in a singlet and a cardigan. She feels that her
femininity is just as much a part of her as her sexuality.
However, everyone thinks she’s heterosexual, including her
parents. She’s only out to friends and doesn’t believe she
has to prove her sexuality to anyone.
Kiki meets potential partners through friends. Her friends
and sexual partners tend to have the same cultural
background as herself, as she has more values in common
Sheridan is a twenty six year old woman whose tendency
to wear long skirts, long hair, and to indulge in camp
humour tip her off as a faghag. Sheridan was a complete
tomboy in her teens, but found her feminine core in her
twenties. She’s out to everyone if they ask, but finds she
has to actively proclaim her gay identity because everyone
assumes she’s straight.
In a recent foray to Girlfest, Sheridan often heard the
disbelief in other women’s voices when they asked whether
she knew it was a lesbian festival. She was incredulous that
anyone would ask that question knowing the stiff entrance
Maria is a sleek, perfectly groomed twenty eight year old
uber-femme with Latin roots. Her perfectly made-up face
and slim body attract more men than women, rendering her
almost invisible to other lesbians. Although she indulged
in tomboyish behaviour through her teens, Maria never
stopped wearing her hair long or donning halter tops and
Maria is out to her family, friends and her previous
workplaces. She usually tells men directly that she’s
gay if asked or if approached for sex, despite their
lewd responses. Her invisibility is not a problem
to her, as she prefers to take the initiative
when she is attracted to another woman.
Only one of these women revels in her
invisibility, which belies the myth that
femmes use their appearance to blend into
society. Rather than avoiding ostracism from
straight people, femmes are actually facing it
among their peers. To whose standards are
they conforming when they cop so much flak
from other lesbians?
The reason for their invisibility is the fact that
they blend into the mainstream, rather than
challenge it by a more masculine appearance
and demeanour. Yet they challenge the
stereotype by dressing and behaving in
a feminine manner. In truth, they are
showing more courage than their
Feel like mouthing off?
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Photos: Fetish Fatales
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