I can describe the joys of being *with* a femme: They recognize me, sometimes before I recognize myself, which is the subject of my essay in this anthology.
How do you define your femme identity?
My identity is butch, actually. I’ve come to define myself as a transgendered butch, but that term often creates more questions than answers. I wear men’s clothes, use women’s bathrooms and avoid third person pronouns. I’m polite when addressed as “ma’am” or “sir”, and gracious when others struggle with the limited pronoun choices. I haven’t yet found a pronoun that fits me perfectly, so I don’t expect it of anyone else.
How do other identities you have not only intersect with femme but also contradict it?
Answering this as a butch: I’ve noticed that my Southern manners are very useful in my identity as butch! In areas where it is contradicted, the contradiction is externally determined. Shrieking when I see a spider or being overly fond of bubble baths doesn’t contradict my own butch identity, but sometimes it contradicts others’ views of my butch identity. I just see myself as an arachnophobic bubble bath-loving butch, that’s all.
What are some joys of being femme?
I can describe the joys of being *with* a femme: They recognize me, sometimes before I recognize myself, which is the subject of my essay in this anthology. I know it’s an overused cliché and I should be smacked upside the head with the nearest copy of The Persistent Desire (which is at the moment 20 feet away), but the point remains: Femmes see me the way I want to be seen. It feels good to be known.
What role does writing play in community-building for you?
The greatest opportunity writing provides is the opportunity to tell my story on my own terms. Over twenty years ago, before the term “riot grrl” was ever coined, I was a punk rock dyke who knew only a handful of others like me. I started a band called the Ellen James Society, and after a few years of defining music in my own way and playing show after show to a tiny but passionate audience, I noticed one night that there were hundreds of punk rock dykes in the audience, singing along to every song we played. I had created exactly the community that I had sought. Now, instead of writing songs, I write essays. Putting my story out there gives others like me a way to find me, and each other.
How does it feel to be part of the Femmethologies?
Butches often tell their stories as if they sprang from the womb with a fully formed butch identity. Yet over and over I hear femmes talk about how they helped butches recognize who they are, how they guided butches to their identity and nurtured them. This is my story as well, and I am delighted to share it in Femmethology.
Femme is _____ (one word only, please)