Femmethology contributor Caitlin Childs

Femmethology Author Caitlin Childs

How do you define your femme identity?

I am a queer intersex woman who purposefully and thoughtfully creates and plays with a feminine gender that was consciously created by and for me. My femme gender is smart, sassy, tough, glamorous and fun. My shoe collection consists of tons of heels (4”+ please!), skate shoes and lots and lots of boots.

My style varies between classic pin-up burlesque bombshell, punk rock riot grrrl and the always trusty jeans and t-shirts. My armpits are always hairy but I shave my legs most of the time. Bikini Kill’s self-titled EP changed my life, yet Britney Spears is one of my favorites. When I grow up I want to be a combination of Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls and Ruth from Fried Green Tomatoes. My femme identity did not come easily or quickly, and I had to work through a lot of my own internalized femme phobia and misogyny to get here. My identity as a femme changes and gets deeper and more complicated daily. I love contradictions. I love the surprises people hold and the way that opposites can co-exist in one person.

How do other identities you have not only intersect with femme but also contradict it?

As an intersex person, I have often felt different from other femmes. So much about femme identity and femininity is linked to being penetrated vaginally (I was born without a vagina) and often to having children (I was born without a uterus, too). Being a femme woman in a body that was initially assigned female but finding out when I was a teenager that my body didn’t quite fit that narrow category definitely informed my views on my own gender identity. Many assumptions are made about me and my body because of how I present my gender, because of my time as a sex worker, etc.

What are some joys of being femme?

There are so many! For me, my identity definitely does include the inclusion of performance and this leo loves to perform! I love to dress up and embrace my exhibitionist side. I love thinking about femininity critically and mindfully in a way that incorporates my feminist, queer, anti-capitalist, anti-racist politics. I love to surprise people and challenge them when they find out I am queer andfemme and smart (you’d be amazed how many people think that feminine = dumb.)

What role does writing play in community-building for you?

I don’t really consider myself a writer most of the time. I am a community organizer and activist. Sometimes writing is a part of that for me. I am hesitant to call myself a writer most of the time because I have no real training as a writer and when I write, I write the way I talk. I think writing can be powerful and a good way to connect and reach out to people outside of one’s immediate communities. As a high school drop out with no formal higher education, reading has always been valuable to me in building my identity and learning about the world. Books really can and do change people’s lives. I also think that the culture of being a writer with a capital W can be elitist and heavily classed, so I am still struggling to find my place as far as a writer identity goes.

How does it feel to be part of the Femmethologies
I am thrilled to be a part of the books. I think a new book of writings by and about femmes is long overdue. I hope that the large numbers of submissions to the books shows how big and diverse the community of folks who are femme identified are and that we can start correcting the myths and stereotypes around what femme is and make sure that people will never forget that there are many ways of doing femme and that all of our identities are no only valid, but extremely valuable.

Selfishly, I hope that being a part of this book can help me connect with other femmes. I think that femmes face many barriers in building friendships with each other. Women are taught to compete with women and with all of the talk of the supposed scarcity of butches and others who are interested in femmes in the queer community, it is no surprise that much femme/femme competition exists. I also think that many femmes are scared to be vulnerable to other people, especially other femmes. Many femmes I know (including myself and many of my femme role models) are tough women who are survivors who have fought tooth and nail through life. It is often hard for us to be open about our fears and vulnerabilities. It’s hard to reach out to anyone, especially other femmes, and build real trust. I am hopeful that this book can help us do some of that work and build community together.

Femme is _____ (one word only, please).

Complicated.