Sharon Waschler with her dog gadget

Femmethology Author Sharon Waschler

How do you define your femme identity?

It depends on the day. Hippie Femme. Enviro Femme. Disabled Femme. Femme with a Disability. Rural Femme. Femme with Big Dogs. New England Femme. I think that’s one of the great things about femmedom, is that there are so many ways to be femme. I chafe at what I see as the narrowing and constricting of what femme is or how femmes are supposed to look or act or be; during the past decade, femme seems to have come to mean perfume, high heels, dieting/thinness (and general smallness, including shortness), all in relation to a butch/trans partner. I object to that. If I had to alight on a specific definition for myself, I’d choose disabled femme. I think because disability has such a global impact on my life, and disability has essentially come to define all that I am and do (and am prevented from doing) I tend to put “disabled” in front of any identifier, including “femme.”

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

Oy. I wrote a few thousand words about this for the anthology! I would say eco-femme and disabled femme are the big intersections/contradictions, and they are interrelated, themselves. I have multiple disabilities, one of which is severe MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity). This means that the stereotypical markers of “femme”-makeup, perfume, nylons (or any clothing that’s not organic cotton or wool), etc., are out of my reach. Because of MCS and my other disabilities, I also can’t wear heels (or walk); go to dances, parties, or any other gathering of femmes or butches outside my home; or basically take part in any of the social/communal or exterior trappings of what’s perceived as the femme role.

What are some joys of being femme?

Having long fingernails and horrifying other dykes who don’t know you can still use your hands, even with nails. Going to your partner for anything you can’t do and saying, “Would you be a big, strong butch and . . . ?” They will complain that you’re manipulating them, but secretly, they still like to hear it. (Ooh, I’m gonna get in trouble for this. I might as well keep going.) Being right. (Because the femme is always right; even though sometimes we’re wrong, it that doesn’t change the maxim.) Doing something that feels normal and being told, to your surprise, that it is “cute.” Having a better selection of glasses frames, jewelry, and clothing to choose from.

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

In a way, writing has created community for me where nothing else could. Most of the people I’ve “met” in the last 13 years have been online, and most of them have been through writing. These are almost exclusively other people with disabilities, with a smattering of other writers, either erotica or lesbian writers or both. Without the Internet, my world would be limited to the walls of my home. Writing has created an international community for me. On the other hand, my disabilities have interfered severely in my ability to write and in the breadth and depth of my writing associations. So, of the writing community I have, most of the building has been done by a few other writers with disabilities and me. We had to chisel something out of the plaster of the walls; now there is a warren of disability writing communities online.

How does it feel to be part of the Femmethologies?

It feels like an amazing feat. I wrote that piece at one of the sickest times of my life, and looking back, I can’t believe I did it. It was probably ill advised, but it felt so important to me, it was so compelling; I think it helped heal something inside me that I had been trying to find an avenue into. I am really curious to see what the other contributors wrote. It’s also exciting to have written a long nonfiction piece, because for the last several years I have published almost exclusively fiction, poetry, or short humor essays.

Femme is _____ (one word only, please).