Kathleen Livingston

Femmethology Author Kathleen Livingston

Femme (n.) : A set of norms about femininity and the ways we transgress them.

How do you define your femme identity?

Femme (n.) : A set of norms about femininity and the ways we transgress them.

Lately, I identify as a cherry chapstick femme, a drugstore makeup femme. I let my nail polish chip off because I am a femme who likes to use her hands. A femme who always carries the heaviest things. A boot-wearing, bookish femme. In the past, I’ve been a short-haired, daring survivor femme, a shy, glasses-wearing femme, a colorful caricature femme, a stone femme.

I define my femme identity by borrowing from and redefining the femininities around me: the long-lashed, girly boy femme; the bold color-wearing, fat artist femme; the dirty feet camping femme; the old-school, lesbian activist femme. The femme with the ponytail and the flannel who drops pamphlets at my front door. I don’t know if she identifies as femme but she’s beautiful. The zine-making, faggy femme; the dangly earring, feminist femme; the genderqueer, trans empath femme; the voguing femmes; the femme who travels alone. When femmes get together, we rub off on each other.

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

My identities practice non-monogamy. This sometimes involves a lot of processing, but we’re up for it. My identities believe that they are shifting, infinite: sometimes the boundary-drawing, separatist femme bumps up against the femme who likes to play with her gender who pushes against the femme who would rather read than have a parade. In those moments, it’s clear that consent is the single hottest sex act:

“Do you want me to keep going?”


“Tell me if it stops feeling good.”

My identities like to feel good, to define themselves through desire, negotiation and play.

What are some joys of being femme?

The way my thighs brush together when I walk, half shuffle, half stomp, in tight jeans and boots. The way femme binds together my body and mind, teaches us all to revise our ideas of femininity. The way femme talks back.

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

Writing is the way I make life matter, how I make sense, how I put myself together, how I make myself real. What I’m trying to say is: while my other identities are negotiating consent and talking about their feelings, my writer self is tangled up and sweaty with them, taking it all down. My reader self still remembers finding Daphne Gottlieb’s poems at the now-gone A Woman’s Prerogative Book Store in Ferndale, MI the year I came out and watching the world grow much queerer than before.

How do we build community? Learn to read each other in a crowd. Talk to other femmes and listen. Write it all down.

How does it feel to be part of the Femmethologies?

Brave, smart, louder than before, more connected and less alone.

Femme is _____ (one word only, please).