Femmepire Records is a new series of interviews with queer people of the femme(inine) persuasion. In the queer community, femmes often get lost or subsumed or ignored because femininity connotes straightness, unlike more masculine or androgynous presentations of gender, which are typically read as queer. Being femme doesn't necessarily mean "lesbian." Femmes are diverse, and can be gay, bisexual, lesbian, trans, genderqueer, and so on, though, of course, not all feminine-appearing people identify as femme.
Femmepire Records is about busting myths and stereotypes and talk that says femmes are hiding behind straight privilege. It's about community and about being seen, not just for dating and sex purposes, but I'd be lying if I said that wasn't partially what prompted my
rage frustration renewed interest in this topic. What it's not about, is pitting people against each other or making any kind of definitive statements about femme-ness. It's about bettering the dialogue and each other's understandings of gender, sex, and identity. It's about gaydar, how we survive, and how we find each other, which is still incredibly difficult, even in the big glitter meccas like San Francisco.
So without further ado, here's Kelly.
In a few words, define femme.
To me, femme is about fucking with femininity. Femme is taking the things that mainstream or dominant culture deems feminine and playing with them, being tongue-in-cheek feminine. Femme is about playing with the appearance, attitude, desire, and behavior that mainstream society ascribes to the genuine or ideal woman.
Do you identify as femme? Why?
I do identify as femme. I'm not high femme. (High femme is a lot girlier in dress and appearance than I am.) I like things that are feminine like dresses, heels, makeup, long hair, etc., and I like experimenting with those elements. I like to cook and host parties and make things.
Regardless of your previous answer, do other people identify you as femme? How do you feel about that?
I don't necessarily think they would. I'm pretty femme in my professional life. But whether my skirts and my makeup translates into what other people identify me as, I don't know. There's a fine line between performing something in a queered way and being perceived as the genuine artifact. (I could get Butlerian here and say all gender is performative, but some performances are more clearly queered than others.) I don't necessarily mind this. Sometimes being femme feels fairly subversive, like I'm undercover in the straight world and no one realizes that I'm trying to fuck with them.
Do you feel like you have to try harder to be read or seen as queer? If so, how do you deal with that?
I used to worry about this when I was younger. I really wanted to look like a queer woman because all the lesbians I knew thought that I was just another straight girl. But now I don't really bother.
How does your gender affect your sexuality, if at all?
Holy shit I can't even begin to answer this question without a ridiculously long essay. In brief: I am typically attracted to femmes, regardless of gender. I don't perceive femme to be about my sex life. In fact, I can be pretty aggressive and dominant when I want to be. And that's the charm of being femme, to me. I will put on lipstick and heels, and I will curl my hair, and then I am going to strap on a cock and fuck you until you beg me to stop. And then if I get tired of that, I might let you fuck me instead. So maybe I'm a bad femme?
On the other hand, sometimes I get lazy about being femme since I'm in a relationship with a woman. Like, oh, I have a house and three cats and all that married shit with this lady, so I'm queer enough. I feel like when I was dating before meeting her, I would play up or play down my femmeness depending on the person I would go on a date with. I think sometimes I worried that being too femme with men or women would make them think I am a passive partner, in any sense.
What are some resources/websites/books/movies you look to for inspiration about femmeness/queerness?
What prompts you to present the way you do? Is it something you consciously think about?
I do sometimes think about it. I was a child/teenage model, so I grew up around doing my hair and makeup and being really pretty to look at. When I went through my feminist queer whatever awakening thing in college, I experimented with all the typical markers of femininity that feminists are supposed to hate. I stopped wearing makeup and bras and I stopped shaving. I decided I like wearing skirts and makeup.
Sometimes if I am wearing something that makes me look physically butch (since I've become a die-hard weightlifter), I will try to femme it up a little so people don't read me as butch. And then of course I've just read so much gender and feminist and queer theory that honestly if I try to figure out what is me acting with agency to fuck with gender structures and what is me *being* a girl, I would go crazy. Sometimes I worry than I don't look femme in my professional life, but that I just look like a straight girl.
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