I recently realized that I have an issue with feminine women. As a person who ID’s as a woman and often presents femininely and is attracted to feminine women, this is a bit of a conundrum.
Here’s the story: when I first came out, I didn’t know how to reconcile my gender presentation with my sexuality. Like many queer women, my first introduction to lady-on-lady relationships was The L Word. I wanted to see myself in the characters and, in order to do that, I felt that I had to choose one to connect with. I was really attracted to Shane – like, super into her. But I also thought Carmen was fine as hell. But Shane and Carmen were dating each other and although Carmen totally had a thing with Jenny, who was relatively feminine like she was, Shane, who mastered tomboy swag, only seemed to date femmes.
While I was attracted to Shane, I also kind of wanted to be her.
Complete with the stunted emotional growth and inability to commit.
In my teen brain, that meant ditching the girly crap and becoming one of the guys – or, as some of us called it, a lesbro.
That idea was furthered compounded by two things –
- Walking into my Gay and Lesbian Center for the first time with a Farrah Faucet blow-out and short shorts and being told by my peers that I “looked too straight to be gay.”
- Falling in love with my also-coincidentally-lesbian best friend (typical) who insisted that I couldn’t be what she needed, because I was too soft.
I wanted to prove to her that I could be the one in charge and tough and dudely and I wanted to prove to my fellow queers that I was not straight.
So I embarked on a journey of masculinity that lasted through college – and I pulled it off pretty well. Beyond even my clothing choices, I was very forward and flirtatious in a stereotypically masculine way. I licked my lips, wagged my eyebrows, put on the husky voice I knew would drive a femme girl crazy. Even as I began to embrace more feminine dress and style, I would turn on the masculine swag once in the presence of a femme lady.
It was either this or a bunch of pictures of women in sports bras and snapbacks.
To be honest, I enjoyed this sense of power and, to be fair, it wasn’t all a show. I like opening doors for people, male or female, and I like being a top when the mood suits me, and I like wearing ties and button downs and men’s briefs, and I like paying for dinner and, yeah, I like driving femme girls crazy with my Shane-esque antics sometimes.
But after a while of this all-the-time persona, it started to feel like a burden – like I was riffing off of other people’s expectations instead of really acting and presenting how I felt like acting and presenting. Furthermore, even with the real sense of power I had, I also felt a huge barrier to other parts of my identity. I didn’t feel like I could be “soft,” or vulnerable, or seek protection.
What do you do when you want to be the person on both sides of the table?
So I started to explore my femininity – dresses, heels, make-up, the whole thing. I also explored my ability to be vulnerable and submissive, which is not necessarily an aspect of being feminine, but was something I did not identify with being more masculine. As I did this, I became more inclined toward dating masculine-presenting folks of all gender identities.
That’s gone on for about a year or so now and, while that’s come with its own set of (often sexist and misogynistic) trials, it’s also been incredibly enlightening and empowering. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’m starting to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Recently, I’ve actually been single and that’s been one of the most liberating aspects of my journey. It’s meant not identifying my presentation with the needs or expectations of my romantic partner. It’s amazing to wake up in the morning and decide whether I feel like wearing men’s briefs or frilly lingerie and not worry about whether it will enforce or detract from my partner’s ideals about their own gender expression.
In fact, it’s helped me realize that the last thing I want to do is date someone whose presentation is affirmed by my presentation. I want to always be me, regardless of who someone else is. And now, having explored myself as both a “femme” and a “boi,” I realize that both of those identities fit me and I’m no more or less one thing than the other.
And yet, I will only outwardly declare myself as a femme to most people, because I’m afraid of it being taken away from me. I’m afraid that if I don’t declare my femme-ness, that expectation of masculinity (of protector and top and always-in-charge) that I lived with for so long will stick to me again and I’ll go back to being only half of myself.
So although I also identify with being a boi personally, I still only openly ID as femme. For now.
Unfortunately, I’m realizing that this translates into negative feelings towards other femme women. When I go out and I only get hit on by studs or masculine-presenting folks, I feel resentful that other feminine women don’t approach me – that they can’t see what I can offer, through the eye-liner and big hair and tight dress.
But I’m also afraid to approach them, because I’m afraid they will see my inner boi and become attached to it.
I also know that I can’t help but feel protective toward more feminine women and I’m afraid that that will become their only expectation of me. I have yet to learn how to express my desire and need for equal protection. Worse, I have no idea how to accept it, when it’s offered.
Basically, I’m afraid that feminine women aren’t attracted to my femininity and I feel resentful toward them for it. So I avoid them, romantically.
Of course, what that means is that I’m not giving them the benefit of the doubt. I’m treating feminine women as if they are unable to protect themselves and unwilling to protect others. I’m treating feminine women as if they can’t be strong, aggressive, powerful, and in charge.
I’m treating feminine women the exact type of way that I hate to be treated, when I present as a femme (which, lately, has been more often than not).
So I have some things to work out, friends. I guess the first step is admitting it.
Check out CloudNoodle’s post to read more about femininity and internalized misogyny.