The topic of femme invisibility seems to have come to the forefront of queer discussion lately. Sinclair has written about it, as has Essin’Em and likely a myriad of other bloggers I’m not yet aware of. Of course this topic resonates with me as a self-identified tomboy femme. So this will be me, trying my best to organize my thoughts and express them in a coherent manner. Godspeed.
I identify as queer. For me that implies being attracted to the person regardless of how they identify in sex and gender—fairly synonymous with pansexual, I know, but I prefer the term queer because it sounds less clinical and more friendly. I do tend to gravitate towards masculine-identified persons who possess XX chromosomes and the corresponding genitalia, but my life partner is a transman and I do still experience attraction to cis-males. So I really don’t fall into a neat category to where people can look at me and say, “Oh, she’s gay,” or “Oh, she’s a dyke.” That probably contributes to my potential invisibility.
The thing is… I haven’t really experienced that invisibility yet. I’m sure people have looked at me and not recognized me for the queer femme that I am, but the outward discrimination has not yet reared its ugly head. Likely that’s because I haven’t spent much time in any kind of public scene yet. I haven’t had the chance, having lived in two very unenlightened locations before moving to Portland. Now that I AM in Portland, though, I wonder if I will experience this invisibility and how I will react to it if it happens.
I do have quite a bit of experience in defending and coming out, though, and that has to do with Emmett being trans. Emmett does pass a lot of the time, but every now and then he is mistaken for a dyke or butch woman and if I’m around, I speak up and correct the person who made the error. And yeah, it does get tiresome. I do get irked that people are so comfortable in their preconceptions that they don’t truly open their eyes to the world around them and open themselves to new perspectives. Not every slightly androgynous but masculine-appearing person is a dyke; sometimes they are trans or even simply genderqueer.
And along the same line, not every cis-female-appearing person is a straight woman looking to attract a cis-male. Sometimes that woman is a queer or gay or [insert chosen identification here] femme. Sometimes that woman is a transwoman.
It’s all a matter of opening one’s eyes, stepping outside one’s zone of comfortable perceptions and taking in the whole picture versus just matching up the person’s appearance with a neatly defined, exclusive pigeonhole.
And just know that if you see me around, it doesn’t matter if I’m wearing jeans and Chucks or a skirt and heels. It doesn’t matter if I’ve put on a full face or if I’m clean of makeup. It doesn’t matter that my hair is long and will be growing longer and that I’m often with someone who is very masculine in appearance. I am queer, I am femme and things are rarely as they seem.