Femme Friday – Susanna, “Hell yeah queer femme!”

Susanna and I met at the Dyke March some time back, and had a great time talking femme and beyond. We have continued to run into each other over the years at all the best queer places, and I am loving getting to know her and making femme community together!

Deep gratitude to Susanna for her life-long feminism, her willingness to embrace the freedom of femme, and her generosity in sharing her queer femme wisdom with us here.

I claimed “femme” for myself a little more than 10 years ago, in my early thirties. I had come out as a dyke ten years before that, and had been a feminist since about the third grade when I was so fired up about the ERA that I started a girls’ rights club and went around wearing  button that said “64 cents” or whatever pittance women were earning for every white man’s dollar at that point (today it’s  79 for all women combined, 60 cents for Black women and 55 cents for Latinas ::growl:: ).

At 30 or so, I was thrilled to be queer but felt the “femme” label was somehow a diminutive of or a backing off from “woman,” a word whose under-use I still think betrays widespread misogyny. “Femme,” at that point, felt limited or constraining, a containment of the possibilities I had learned “woman” held.

It’s funny because now “femme” feels the opposite. Now, “femme” signifies to me simultaneous queerness and femininity, the power of “woman” I learned from feminism, combined with the edge of queer, the refusal to accept unquestioningly the received constraints of sex and gender.

After a lifetime as an anxious person who historically has been oriented toward learning the unwritten (and sometimes nonexistent) rules and following them, the lesson I’m learning from femme is that I can break or bend the rules to create greater possibility and freedoms in my life. This lesson started in the realm of fashion, when I would ponder the appropriateness of going somewhere looking like something—and decide I could do whatever the fuck I wanted. Wear makeup? Yeah! I’m a queer femme! Go without makeup? Yeah! I’m a queer femme! Tight jeans to work? Ditto.  Combine leopard leggings and a plaid flannel? Hell yeah queer femme!

This lesson is proving to have multiple applications in the non-fashion realms of my life. Career wise, for at least a decade I’ve had jobs that required me to know with authority. This is both a pleasure and a torment for the anxiety prone perfectionist—but my “hell yeah queer femme” approach has helped me lighten up, and realize that I can not-know without putting myself at risk. More than that, I’ve learned the place of not knowing sometimes results in the best thinking/collaboration/movement. The workplace equivalent of matching plaid and leopard print, if you will.

In the realm of sex, love and romance, the lessons of femme have l been multiplied by the lessons of poly and kink: Ask for what you want; if you don’t get it deal with it like a grown up; learn to recognize both limits and abundance. For me, here too there had been a proliferation of possibilities as I’ve embraced femme— lovers and playmates from across the gender spectrum, into all sorts of things I may have longed secretly for but never dreamed I’d get to try. Today, I get to love and play and flirt like never before. And when things are especially sexy, deep, soul-moving, or even  awkward and mismatched, I get to grin and say to myself, “Hell yeah queer femme .”

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com.