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I think my biggest problem is being young and beautiful. It’s my biggest problem because I’ve never been young and beautiful. Oh, I’ve been beautiful, and God knows I’ve been young, but never the twain have met.
— Arnold (Harvey Fierstein), Torch Song Trilogy
I suppose the other big thing that’s happening in my life is that I’m about to turn thirty. It’s funny — in a community that privileges youth and beauty so much, I feel very good about turning thirty.
In comparison, I was scared shitless of turning 25 — I felt my shelf life was expiring, that I was never going to find a boyfriend, etc., etc. Read the rest of this entry »
since the last time I got it together to post. I do apologize for this. However, one part of the journey has been learning that, despite my trying to deny it for many years, browbeating myself to do ‘better,’ and desperately hoping for some kind of medical solution, I’ve simply got lower energy than other people — whatever the cause may be — and can’t always accomplish everything I set out to do. Especially since my life has been much busier than heretofore over the last month or so. And this is okay.
I’ve started a new academic career, in a field related to gender and sexual orientation. Much to my chagrin, many of the professors are coming at it from a place of a huge amount of unexamined straight and cis privilege and centrism, that really keeps them from perceiving a big part of their field.
It’s very frustrating. Read the rest of this entry »
But I have a really good excuse: I’m volunteering for the federal election campaign. Voting day is May 2, then give me a little while to decompress, and I’ll be back with you!
Today is the 20th anniversary of the release of Mylène Farmer‘s greatest hit, her anthemic single “Désenchantée.” I’m guessing that a lot of my readers won’t know her music, especially in more Anglophone areas, but she’s sort of the Francophone Madonna: one of the hugest gay icons around the time I was coming out, both in France and Quebec (she is French but was born while her parents were living in Montreal), and like Madonna with much of her fame spurred by her iconic and envelope-pushing videos. (Interestingly, like my other musical idols the Pet Shop Boys, despite not being especially popular in North America her career has endured and she is still a huge hit in Europe.)
I associate her music and this song in particular with 1998 and 1999 and 2000, at the height of her fame (her 1999 Mylenium tour was one of the highest grossing for any non-Anglophone artist) the time I first started meeting other queer kids and going to clubs, when playing “Désenchantée” meant madness on the floor, especially at Ciel! Mon Mardi at Sky which was one of the best nights of clubbing ever (it was before they renovated and while Mado Lamotte was still emceeing). I felt such joy at connecting, finding a place in this great motion; anything was possible.
And it didn’t hurt either that to me the song was an awesome anthem for the age I was and the activism I was getting involved in, or that she bends gender like all-get-out in the videos.
[Trigger warning: scenes of violence, including some apparently directed at a character due to gender presentation.]
And even more so than that were the lyrics to “Sans contrefaçon”:
Tout seul dans mon placard, les yeux cernés de noir
À l’abri des regards je defie le hasard
Dans ce monde qui n’a ni queue ni tête, je ne fais qu’à ma tête
Un mouchoir au creux du pantalon, je suis Chevalier d’Éon
Puisqu’il faut choisir, à mots doux je peux le dire
Sans contrefaçon je suis un garçon
Et pour un empire, je ne veux me dévêtir
Puisque sans contrefaçon je suis un garçon
Anyway, any of her music always brings me right back to that time, the wonder and tremulousness and intensity of my late adolescence and the beginning of my adult life, and especially “Désenchantée.”
In my ultimately futile effort to conclude my two-part Solstice-inspired series before Imbolc, here’s the other half of what I was led to reflect on during my trip to San Francisco this Yule.
I’ve long had a complicated, difficult relationship with what’s usually called the Sacred Masculine. A lot of Pagan practice, especially that related to or derived from Wicca, very much centres the notion of the Sacred Masculine as an essential and basic concept along with the Sacred Feminine in a duality that’s seen as the root of nature.
In many ways that’s understandable and very useful to many. But for me it’s always been difficult to relate to. I’ve previously related an especially revelatory incident in which it was assumed that I, as a man, would naturally be drawn to the Sacred Masculine, and how thoroughly that didn’t work.
Sadly, even where we manage to avoid the grosser patriarchal aspects that most of us are trying to get away from, we often present the Sacred Masculine in a way that concentrates on very specific traits or aspects of the world that are culturally defined as lower-case-m masculine.
My friend Jack posted this on Facebook:
Discussing patterns of attraction with wife:
Her: I’ve historically been attracted either to prettyboys or to bears, and you’re not really either. *looks at me* Hmm…I suppose you’re–
Me: a weird mutant hybrid of the two? 😄
Her: …remember YOU said that, not me.
♥ ♥ ♥ Somuchlove.
And his friend Stuart Lorimer said:
AND I SQUEED.
I’ve complained about body issues in the past, and specifically one of the things I’ve always regretted is that, despite being hairy and kind of, you know, convex, I’ve never felt much access to bear-type spaces as a femme guy.
The way it was always explained to me, bear was about breaking away from the tyrannical non-masculine hegemony that governs all of gaydom and finally getting to be properly masculine. Bears are butch, trying to be a bear while femme is Doing It Rong, and I would be unwelcome. Period.
Maybe I’m wrong; maybe this is all some bullshit I’ve been fed. Heaven knows it wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe there’s lots of room for a hyperfaggy cub who wears fedoras and brocade scarves, can use the phrase “accent wall” without stammering, and is doggedly trying to educate himself about “product.” I would love to know that.
But in the meantime I love the idea of noticing that furry, non-tiny guys can be not just bluff and handsome but flamey and flirty and, well, pretty. So “prettybear” gives me a happy, and I’m sharing it with you.
Bill C-389 passed. The House of Commons voted — narrowly, but with support from every party — to outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in federal areas of jurisdiction and to consider crimes based on those grounds as hate crimes.
I’ve been working on this issue for a really long time and it’s an incredible relief and joy. For me, both as a genderqueer person and as someone in love with a trans man, it really hits home.
Let’s hear it for Bill Siksay, the bill’s sponsor and the NDP’s LGBTT issues critic. He’s a wonderful person and he’s retiring from the House at the end of this parliament, and I can’t think of a better legacy to leave behind.
It now must pass the Senate before the next election in order to become law. But if this should fail to happen, either because it gets defeated in the Conservative-dominated Senate or an election is called before it passes, the NDP has a very solid groundwork for reintroducing it in the next Parliament until it finally is passed. In the meantime, I hope the provinces move on introducing their own bills, to cover provincial areas of jurisdiction as well.
But enough of this. At least for a day or two, let’s celebrate
I already knew it was going to be amazing to be in San Francisco over the Solstice season, and the prospect of an unchained Pagan bonfire on Ocean Beach after two days of Radical Faerie space was already exciting enough. Let alone one, as a commenter pointed out, held while Mercury is in retrograde and there’s a lunar eclipse.
Even then, though, I certainly did not expect to abruptly decide to join the people who were taking all their clothes off and scampering into the Pacific Ocean. (The thought process basically went: “I live in freaking Montreal. How many chances am I going to run naked into the water on the Winter Solstice that don’t involve a hot tub?”)
Anyway, it’s a beautiful season of synchronicity in my life right now, and I’ve been taking advantage of it to think about the uses of gender and sacred androgyny in my Pagan practice, and a few issues arising from it. I won’t expand too much on that practice itself at present*. But here are a few recent things I had really interesting and valuable discussions of during those four days.
I’ve found that, as in all things, it’s super important to consider my cissexual privilege in doing sacred androgyny work. Two different trans friends made more or less the same observation within a few days, in slightly different contexts, that encouraging people to think outside the gender binary plays way differently if you’re speaking to cis or genderqueer people than if you’re speaking to trans people (particularly transsexual people who identify clearly as men or as women).
This was the first time the whole house held a recorded vote on the issue. The tally was 143 for and 131 against. All New Democrats and Bloquistes present voted in favour, as did most Liberals; however three Liberals voted against and several abstained. Most Conservatives voted against, but five voted in favour, including one who spoke against the bill at second reading, which to me indicates that they can be turned. Exciting days ahead.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet Bill several times, and a more self-effacing, caring, devoted MP, with more integrity and commitment to our communities and giving voice to the silenced, you will never meet. He has been in politics for every one of the right reasons. We’re going to lose one of the best MPs Canada has ever had, in my opinion, as well as an unprecedented voice for trans and genderqueer equality.
However, he is not resigning now, but staying in parliament until the next election. So he will continue to shepherd C-389 until then. Also, the bill was seconded by no fewer than 12 MPs, including Megan Leslie of Halifax who has worked with the trans community for years and gave a wonderful speech at 2nd reading. So if it doesn’t pass in this parliament, I’m confident it’ll be reintroduced in the next.
While in Ottawa on other business, I recently had the distinct pleasure of hanging out with my friend Ariel and the ladies of Femme Family Ottawa, a wonderful example of the communities that femmes build for ourselves. These femmes (all genders of femme are welcome, though all the other attendees at this particular meeting were women) meet every month for an informal chat at a cute café in Chinatown. I was a bit of a novelty, both as a boy and as a Montrealer, and I enjoyed the cross-pollination that went on.
One of the women brought up femme invisibility, a concept that comes up repeatedly in femme queer women’s thought. If I am characterizing it accurately, it is basically that femme queer women often feel that they are not being read as queer, owing to stereotypes of what queer women look like and do. They may feel not embraced, whether in queer women’s spaces or in the world in general, if they are read as ‘traditionally feminine’ and therefore as straight women. It’s a frustrating place to be, and not just because it makes it difficult to get laid.
I’ve just gotten back from a weekend in Ottawa on business, and finally had the opportunity to hang out with Femme Family Ottawa, an awesome group that gets together for lunch and kaffeeklatsching every month. A dear friend (the one I mentioned in this post, who I hung out with in Copenhagen and helped to inspire this blog) is a member. We all had a great time chatting about our femme stuff. One or more posts are going to come out of the discussion we had.
Anyway, between the business in Ottawa and a new job, I have been rocking a lot of really cute menswear lately and I have to say I am really, really enjoying it. I regard brightly coloured dress shirts as one of the best things ever to have happened to men’s clothes (it’s hard to imagine now they were all but unknown twenty or thirty years ago; you could have any colour of dress shirt you wanted as long as it was white, or if we were going really crazy, white with little stripes). Then you have the joys of ties, vests, and hats to go into.
(Slightly shameful fashion story: some time ago I was watching a video of a young gay boy testifying in front of a committee on same-sex marriage in I think it was the Vermont state legislature. He gave an impassioned and cogent argument on equality and dignity, and all I remember is that he was wearing a brick-red shirt with a slate grey tie and matching vest and I decided immediately that I wanted that outfit. It remains one of my favourites.)
In Ottawa, for example, on Friday I wore a fuchsia shirt and a bright white tie; on Saturday, when I went to lunch with the femmes, it was a lavender shirt, purple and black striped tie, dark slate striped vest, and my favourite fedora (which I had bought in Copenhagen with my friend; I have a large head, and apparently so do the Danes as it was the first place I’ve ever been able to buy a hat off the shelf). Today it was a bright red shirt, darker red tie, and the vest again; all with jeans (I do love tie and jeans, although unfortunately I can’t wear jeans at my new job).
I do think it’s interesting that something coded as strongly male as the shirt and tie can become marvellously fey and enjoyable just through the choice of colours. It also looks good on my body, especially with a vest. I spent the weekend feeling like a grown-up Kurt Hummel. It’s something I want to explore a lot more deeply.
Happy equinox, gendernauts!
The new post I’m gestating (it’ll be about how femininity is equated with artificiality) has been delayed for a bit (ETA: Here it is!); I’ve just gotten a sweet new job without giving up the old one, so I think it’ll be a little while before I work up the mental energy to finish it, and I really should give Julia Serano a reread first.
In the meantime, I will buy time by shamelessly recycling existing material. For those of you who enjoyed my post on body image and the effeminate guy — apparently it’s received the most hits of any of my posts to date — I felt I should highlight a really interesting comment that was left on it. Commenter enoch said [paragraph divisions added]:
As a transmasculine person, I have some trouble keeping my femme identity visible to people who do not understand the full range of femme possibility.
Interestingly enough, I’ve found the that more masculine I make my body appear, the easier it is to layer the trappings of male femininity on top of. Now, this may be because, as a female-assigned person, I will look like a small, youthful man for much longer than my male-assigned counterparts, but I don’t think I’m frequently read as a twink (there are a few creepy old men who sit around in the garden of my local LGBT center who certainly look at me that way, but pretty much no one else).
Still, I am presented with the challenge of making my body masculine enough that I will be interpreted as a femme guy rather than a butch woman. I think that people who understand that transfolk have as much variety of presentation as cisfolk generally recognize my femme identity quite quickly.
Perhaps instead of looking for cues among femme women, you can look for cues among femme transpeople, some of us have learned how to combine masculine appearance with femme identity in innovative ways you might not have considered.
This is a really interesting point, and one I’d never considered! Props to enoch for bringing it up.
No content here, just to say I’m feeling awesome because I have a sassy new haircut (looks better than it has in ages) and I spent the entire day calling and annoying political staffers about bill C-389. Never underestimate the power of a fag with an agenda, a list of MPs’ phone numbers, and unlimited long distance.
Kisses and welcome to new readers!
“ Soft people have got to shimmer and glow- they’ve got to put on soft colors, the colors of butterfly wings, and put a paper lantern over the light. It isn’t enough to be soft. You’ve got to be soft and attractive. And I-I’m fading now!”
– Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
As mentioned in the last post, I’ve spent just about the most unpleasant May in recent memory battling it out with a really rather dreadful spot of stomach lurgy that showed up and decided to make itself at home. Beyond the more prosaic misery attached to it, I’ve been feeling just about the least sexy I have in years. So it seems a good time to talk about body image.
A number of years ago I had one of the most frustrating conversations ever. I was just starting to try to intellectually work out this femme thing, and was opening up to an older gay friend about it. “Oh come on, you’re not femme,” he said. “Sure, you play at being femme like we all do, but you aren’t really femme.”
When I protested, he pointed out a hot guy across the street from where we were sitting. He had nice arms and was wearing a tight tank top and a sarong. “Well, for one thing,” my friend said, “to be femme you’d have to look good in a sarong, and honey, I’ve seen you in a sarong.”
Here are some of the words I like to use for my gender, and why, and what they mean for me.
femme. I’ve recently gotten into some interesting discussions on this. After a radio show on femmes, a woman expressed surprise that I, as a cissexual male, identify in this way. At another time, a person called into question my use of the words “butch” and “femme.” What they were getting at was a belief that “butch” and “femme” are exclusively lesbian words. It’s true that they’ve been used in the queer women’s community for many decades, no doubt originated there, and denote well-developed systems of self-expression. However, queer men have been using the words “butch” and “femme” for ourselves and one another for decades, i.e. it’s not something I made up. I actually didn’t realize that my use of them could be surprising to others. (ETA: I go into more detail on this here.)
Anyway, I like the word “femme” in preference to “feminine” or “effeminate” for a couple of reasons (even though I sometimes use those words too). Read the rest of this entry »
(continued from A Femme Grows in Montreal, part I)
I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 18. Continuing in my tradition of learning everything I ever knew about being a fag from lesbians, I first started to consider the label ‘genderqueer’ when I read it in Alison Bechdel’s wonderful comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in the mouth of her butch, drag kinging character Lois, who proclaims, “I enjoy being a girl… in a perverse sort of way.” This gripped me. For me, it had never been a question of reconciling my feminine ways with my manhood; it was about being something other than a man.
At another revelatory time I joined a program that went into schools to do anti-homophobia workshops. As part of the training, a trans person came in and had us play “gender gumby,” a game where we would brainstorm as many labels for gender as we could think of and then drew lines to make up a network of those that applied to us. It was the first time I, personally, had ever been encouraged to think of my gender as potentially non-binary, something other than a check-box. I was thunderstruck.
I identified far more with being a fag than with being a man; given two check-boxes, I would check off M, but I always wanted to scratch it off and write “Femme gay boy” instead. My gender was a queer one.
I didn’t have the standard super-faggy little kid narrative. I was pretty much a full-on nerd, which at that point was practically its own gender. I didn’t have either GI Joes or Barbies; I had stuffed animals, books, and Legos. Both the war toy and doll commercials on Saturday morning cartoons weirded me out – I identified them right away as weird, fake plastic shit that I couldn’t imagine anyone finding the least bit entertaining, and watching the commercials for them was just cringe-making and embarrassing.
Not that there weren’t certain signs of what was coming. There was that odd affection for rainbows, and at one point I had a dollhouse, but no dolls – just furniture, which I would rearrange. That’s right, interior decorating at age 6. There was also the music teacher who introduced me to musicals in grade 6, where I promptly went bananas for The Phantom of the Opera, and all those obscure operas to which my dad received free tickets that he gave to me and Mom. (I’m pretty sure I was one of the few 12-year-old boys to have seen both The Pearl Fishers and Dialogues of the Carmelites.)
Welcome to my fabulous new blog about femme guys! (Because, like everyone else, I desperately needed more reasons to spend time on the computer.)
I have noticed over the last little while (by which I mean, like, ten years) a distinct lack of internet resources targeting the community of femme guys. Believe me, I’ve looked. The most I’ve ever managed to find is one or two laudatory mentions in a few blogs, one or two Facebook and Livejournal communities, and a whole lot of hate.
And yet it’s not like there’s any lack of us. You can’t turn around in queer men’s spaces without walking right into a profusion of non-traditionally-masculine-presenting fellows. But you’d never notice it – our whole existence is silenced, denied, and (paradoxically) vigorously shouted down. A galaxy of kinks, fetishes, and types of every kind are catered to (so much the better!), but femme boys are nowhere to be found among them. (And yet someone must be having sex with us, considering how much of it we have.)
So this is a blog about men, boys, and other male-identified folks of all varieties, embodiments, karyotypes, and histories who are femme, feminine, effeminate, non-masculine, faggy, nancy, sissy, faerie, limp-wristed, limp-fisted, genderqueer, gender enhanced, and gender euphoric – anything but gender-normative.
A few issues to clear up: I’m firmly committed to having this be a space that is anti-oppressive on all fronts. (Please see the Comments Policy.) Conversely, I am trying to stay aware of the privilege I experience as a white, cissexual male Anglophone of middle-class origins living in Canada. Should I express myself in a way that is oppressive, I would appreciate being called on it.
Also, generally in this blog I’ll be referring, for simplicity’s sake, to “non-masculine men” or “femme men” as a way of expressing the big long list from two paragraphs ago. I do apologize to those who may find that what I have to say applies to them, but do not identify in this way, and who might find it alienating.
So you have some idea of where I’m coming from: I’m a late-twenties Canadian, living in Montreal. I’ve been out as a gay man and as non-masculine since age 16, and have been using the words femme and genderqueer since about age 21. I’m an eclectic Pagan (mostly Reclaiming/Radical Faerie) by religion.
And now, on to the femmeness. We will conclude today’s entry with one of the brightest femme boy stars on the horizon at present, singing what is one of this blog’s many possible theme songs: