femme joshua bastian cole

Femmethology Author Joshua Bastian Cole

How do you define your femme identity?

Well, to me, femme is a queer identity, but when I have to define it for people who don’t know what it could mean, I’d say, in my case (in terms of how I self-identify as femme,) that it has a lot to do with metrosexuality, which is a much more recognizable term, I find, existing outside of queer communities. When I say “I identify as femme” to people who are not in queer spaces, I get a furrowed-brow expression as a response, especially from people who know I’m FTM, because they think I must just be very confused. ‘Didn’t Cole want to be a man? Must’ve made a mistake or something if he likes girly things.’ As if men can’t like girly things… or what the hell is a girly thing anyway? But when I say, “well okay, I’m a metrosexual,” always the response is “ohhhh okay. I get it now.” Never fails.

I also have to say that one of the first things I’d say to someone when trying to define my femme identity is that for me, it has a lot to do with my interaction with partners, as well. For me, I often seek a protector/protected dynamic, which is not to say I’m a victim or a survivor of anything in particular. I like feeling safe, having my own personal body guard… someone who’ll give me a flower to see me smile… someone to curl into a ball next to.
I think it’s one of the nicest feelings in the world.

I wouldn’t say that’s girly, but it’s probably pretty femme-y.

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

I am FTM.

For many people that’s all I have to say, and therein lies the contradiction. There is certainly a pervasive mentality, as evolved as I like to think people are, that FTMs must be macho men, be straight, and have lipstick-and-high-heel wearing girlfriends. That’s all over the place, from inside and outside the trans community. It kind of amazes me, because I guess I take queerness for granted. I forget how non-queer the larger world actually is.

I didn’t discover femme as an identity until I was already out as trans and presenting as male. I was discovering the kind of man I was most comfortable being, and over time, little puzzle pieces fit into place and “femme” and “ftm” have managed to stick together, forming a clear picture on my coffee-table, so to speak, for quite a while. Sometimes things just click.

However, given that FTM is such an important identity for me, I do live as a man, and I’ve been on hormones and passing for a long time. Even though I’m out as trans, people just know me as a dude who used to be a girl. The femme part is not something people (at least non-queer people) are able to pick up. I mean it’s pretty particular really, and it doesn’t seem to mean a whole lot in hetero space. It gets lost. It frustrates me sometimes because I get left out of things because I’m a guy, things that I would like to be involved in as a femme. For example, the women I work with have “girls nights out” and they also meet weekly for a stitch-and-bitch that’s girls only. I’m not invited to those things.

I have always surrounded myself with women as friends. Usually, they are queer women, but queer or not, I definitely feel more comfortable on a peer level with women than I do with cisgender men, or even transmen a lot of the time (at least the transmen in the area where I live.)

But they don’t think of me that way, like a peer, because I look very male, even if they know I am not male. They think that because I chose to look this way, and I love to look this way, that I must want manly things (what’s a manly thing?) and that I must also want to be in men’s space. Can you see me in a bar or something watching football? I can’t! Give me a stitch-and-bitch any day (okay, I can’t really knit or anything, but still I’d rather be there!)

It’s like other people say I can’t have both things: looking like a man but being in women’s space. It’s like it’s not allowed, and I have to pick one or the other, and because I picked T, I’m not allowed in the girls club anymore. I wonder if they’d have invited me in female space if I didn’t pass. Maybe something about my voice and sideburns can’t let them see me any other way, and I wonder if they’d see me as male at all if I didn’t have them. It’s a sad, but true thing that people see what they see and interpret it how they do. The world does not think in trans: it’s men and women for a lot of people, which leaves me out.

What are some joys of being femme?

Benefits of being femme include:

  • Getting to look sharp all the time
  • Smelling nice
  • Being sought after by non-femmes, or other femmes for that matter
  • Having exquisite taste in all things

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

I think writing is important to enhance the diversity inside of the trans community.

When I was coming out, there was very limited info out there. When I figured out what was going on with me (which didn’t really totally match a lot of the narratives out there at the time,) I decided to make it available because there is no reason my story and other stories shouldn’t be heard and easily accessed. I had a struggle finding information, and that is just so unnecessary! I’ve always felt it was important to help make it easier for the people after me.

As for community-building, there’s some debate as to whether there even is a trans “community” what with all the bs and backstabbing that goes on. Come on, we all know that’s true. I’ve written about that before, and phew that didn’t go over well…We all want “community” but a handful of insecure jerks make that utopian ideal impossible, no matter how much writing I do. There are a lot of unhappy trans people out there, and the internet allows for a lot of faceless harassment. However, that’s not gonna shut me up anytime soon.

My current project is a new musical called Transitions, which is pretty obviously heavily trans-themed, but I am committed to making it accessible to non-trans people, even non-queer people, but at the same time making sure it’s something trans people will also like…not some dumbed-down thing we’ve all heard before. I think that’s what community-building really is: building bridges between different people.

How does it feel to be part of the Femmethologies?

Exciting! Validating. Satisfying.

Femme is _____ (one word only, please).