I ran across Wendi Kali’s awesome photo series on Everyday Feminism in which she showcases diverse women discussing how they embrace various parts of the butch-femme spectrum. As a self-proclaimed lazy femme, I found the photos and accompanying comments dazzling. It was refreshing to get such a varied perspective on what is a very hot topic in the LGBT community. So many of us have fixed ideas of what “butch” should look like and what “femme” should look like and these women handily debunk those limiting ideas.
Personally, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I used to be one of those women who would never date an outwardly butch woman because I mistakenly assumed they were trying to be men. It took some time and education, but now I get it. People are people and how they express themselves outwardly is personal and not always an indication of them trying to be anything other than themselves. Ironically many people would assume that my sweetie is a tomboi or a butch just based on her athletic mode of dress. (She doesn’t claim any label.) But she is so much more girly than me and I tease her about it all the time. I tend to actually be more aggressive than she is. We laugh about how we must confuse people all the time.
Anyway, Autumn and Dana were a black lesbian couple featured in the piece and I loved their take on things:
30 years old
Long Beach, CA
“I perform this hyper femininity because it feels really comfortable for me. It serves as a physical manifestation of my natural state of mind (soft, elegant, glamorous, sweet), and it makes my heart sing. I like the term ‘high femme’ because I’m quite over the top with my femininity. It’s about personally being in love with your own designated femme markers rather than succumbing to being ‘feminine’ because it’s what you’re supposed to be. It isn’t about being a better femme or more of a true femme. For me, it’s about having fun with a highly extreme exaggeration of feminine gestures. It’s definitely a parody, an act.
“It also connects deeply to my love of performing burlesque. I actually tried to be feminine when I first came out. It didn’t quite flow. It felt contrived, and it was because it wasn’t authentic. As I allowed my high femme self to develop on its own, I found that I wasn’t fighting with myself over how I presented. It came naturally after deconstructing my thoughts on performing femininity and re-building what it all personally meant to me. More changed in my mind and then I feel like I began to blossom outwardly. I think it’s worth noting that I feel like a high femme even outside of my clothing and makeup.”
35 years old
Long Beach, CA
“I have been comfortable expressing my masculine energy as far as I can remember. Around high school, I felt ashamed of it, but quickly reclaimed my masculine expression after high school. The older I get, the more comfortable with my masculinity. Now, I am expressing both my femininity and masculinity interchangeably. I’m proud of who I am and how far I’ve come in spite the lack of resources and community available to me during my time developing my identity. I feel free to explore new realms with my partner, and I’m so grateful for the communities that I belong to now for their support.”
Calling all butch-femme couples who want to share their photos to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.