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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 »
Historically, one of the first lines of attack for what we could term the liberal gay and lesbian movement in combating prejudice in the mainstream was targeting stereotypes in the media. And one of the most vigorously and consistently attacked stereotypes was the presentation of queer men as effeminate.
Those of us around at that time will remember the disgust directed at Jack from Will and Grace. Before him there was Jody of Soap, Harvey Fierstein and Scott Capurro’s characters in Mrs. Doubtfire, and Robin Williams and Nathan Lane’s characters in The Birdcage. Conversely, any gay character who isn’t femme is lauded for breaking stereotypes (as if masculinity weren’t itself a stereotype of men).
The reductio ad absurdum came when the boys of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy were accused of incarnating gay stereotypes. One of them in particular (I forget which one) reacted with irritation, because he wasn’t asked to portray any stereotype at all, but was simply being himself. Read the rest of this entry »
Trigger warning for suicide and for gender-based familial and psychologist-inflicted violence and abuse behind the cut — this one is pretty grim.
This is the tragic and infuriating story of a young man who was subjected to mental and physical abuse by his parents, at the behest of a “therapist,” because he was unmasculine. The therapist used him as a data point supposedly validating his “therapy” for “unwanted” gender presentation and the gayness with which he linked it. Despite growing into a superficially successful adult, he was never able to heal from the trauma this had caused and took his own life at age 38. His sister and brother are left to pick up the pieces.
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.
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.
A question occasioned by a strong emotional reaction recently experienced in a bookstore:
Are there any queer-boy sex books that aren’t totally masculine-normative, that talk about femme boys as if we might conceivably be attractive, in which all the advice about sex doesn’t have an undercurrent of “and this is how you can be a Real Man in bed with your lover!”, and that actually mention trans guys?
Recommendations eagerly solicited.
From time to time, I get into a discussion that goes more or less along the following lines: there’s pressure on straight men to be masculine, and there’s pressure on queer men to be feminine, and both are equally bad. Or: some queer men will reject you for being too femme, and others will reject you for being too butch. Or: you are just feminine because it’s expected of you as a queer man; you’re just conforming to the stereotype and either putting on a show for the straight people or trying to impress other queers.
Not to be too blunt about it, but I’m always forced to wonder which planet these people grew up on. Where in heaven’s name is this mythical pressure on any (cissexual) man to be feminine? Where have they ever seen it? What evidence or experience can they possibly point at to back up what they’re saying? Who do they imagine I am impressing by being this way?
Let me tell you what pressure I had in my life to be femme, either before or after I came out: none.
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.)