How do you define your femme identity?
As a kid, I was a tree-climbing long-haired faggy femme tomboy who hung around with my gay best friend and did lewd things with Ken dolls. I didn’t like frill and I collected stuffed animals, not dolls, and wore purple polyester pants and a purple vest over a purple turtleneck and eccentric British hats my Dad brought back from his travels for me. I have not changed much. I have long hair and I’m tough and I’m fragile and I love my Antarctic explorer rated-to-minus-30 boots as much as I love my knee-high stretch boots. If I lived a different life, I would probably be a badass country music singer type femme.
Femme is an energetic thing to me, mostly immaterial even though I certainly love dressing up in some sexy material items. Femme itself to me is a kind of exile, but my life of being femme—as my essay explains—has a lot of layers of exile.
How do other identities you have not only intersect with femme but also contradict it?
Being disabled confuses people’s notions of femme, because our culture has very strong ideas about stripping disabled people of their sexuality and gender identity. This makes me fight for these identities even harder, and that’s why I mostly write about illness and disability and, on the flip side, sex. However, being disabled has taught me about embracing vulnerability and the incredible strength in vulnerability. I have to be so tough to survive how sick I am, but I also need to lean on people a lot, and to trust they will catch me. A butch said to me at one point that the reason I relate so well to butches is that disability is a liminal identity, and so is butch—and for me, being disabled is far more in that category of liminal than femme. Being a Midwesterner (now trapped in New England) also confuses the kind of hipster coastal notion of femme, because I think the kind of femme I grew up believing in was the kind the very strong matriarchy in my family put out—which was a gritty, feisty, raised-on-the-farm kind of femme, even though I grew up in a Midwestern town. I don’t think either of these contradict femme, however, I just think they make it more interesting and complicated and three dimensional.
What are some joys of being femme?
This is going to sound so silly but I always think of the Bob Dylan line, “she aches just like a woman, but she breaks just like a little girl.” I think for me, possibly because I’ve got a little Daddy-girl fetish, being able to be this vulnerable little girl, this badass princess who also cries and grieves and gets to embrace the full scope of human emotion while a butch holds her and makes it all okay, is just a powerful thing. And I’m not saying I need a butch or hot transguy to make it all okay—that’s just a perk. But I also love the strength of fully embracing my sexuality and being deep in my body. That’s joy to me.
What role does writing play in community-building for you?
It’s my way of reaching out from a pretty exiled place, since my disability effectively exiles me (again explained in my essay). So writing is my voice, my way of connecting with the world and shaping what’s out there. It’s essential.
How does it feel to be part of the Femmethologies?
Femme is _____ (one word only, please)