Femme Friday – Janine Evers and “The Femme Closet”

I met, Janine, a sister butch-lovin’ femme, in Provincetown, where we had lots of fun getting to know each other at the Ptown Femme Klatsch and beyond. Janine is an absolutely fabulous artist. You can follow her on instagram, or check out her work at

https://www.fourelevengallery.com

and

https://www.facebook.com/janineversart/

Deep gratitude to Janine for her generosity in sharing these honest and soul-searching thoughts on femme identity as well as her own beautiful journey to Femme.

The Femme Closet

This is not an article about clothing: although it would make a fun topic to discuss some of the beautiful, creative, sexy, feminine and diverse wardrobes of Femme Lesbians. This article is about the metaphorical closet; you know, the one LGBTQ people have had to hide in for so very long throughout history, and sadly, often still do. And what I would like to discuss here, is specifically a closet that I’ve found myself in; hiding my true femme identity and desires within the Lesbian community.

A few weeks ago, I was headed down the street on my way to meet up with some Femme friends at a local coffee shop, when I bumped into a couple of other friends on their bicycles. They stopped to say hi, and they asked where I was off to, to which I replied I was off to a Femme Coffee Klatsch where we discuss any and all things Femme. My friends on the bikes, (who identify as Lesbians ), both chuckled… Nervously? Patronizingly? Judgmentally? Perhaps, yet I chose to ignore any possible subtexts in the moment, and instead invited them to join in, to which they chuckled again, and one friend said of the other, “Jill defies labels. And she can rock a dress too!” More laughter and, “Have fun!” they said as they rode away.

Hmm…these are dear friends, who love and care about me, and so surely they meant no harm; just playful teasing. But it felt hurtful, it felt as if I was not being acknowledged or taken seriously by my friends. I did bring this up at the Femme Klatsch, and it was helpful and comforting to learn that they too have encountered that type of…dismissiveness? Homophobia? Lack of acceptance? within the Lesbian community as well. What is it exactly that makes non-femme identifying, gay/queer, label-less Lesbians so uncomfortable with the Butch/Femme dynamic? I’m not entirely sure, but I have also found that not only is my femme identity questioned, so also is who I am attracted to. comments like, “She looks like a guy”, and, “ I don’t get it. If you want to be with someone who looks like a guy and uses a strap-on, why not just be with a guy?”.

My own personal coming out story took a circuitous route. Although I first came out as gay in high school in the late 1970’s, it was not a smooth journey to understanding my identity as a femme lesbian. Growing up in the suburbs of NYC and coming from a progressive background, liberal parents, and alternative school education, I had no rejection from my friends and family when I told them I was gay. I’m very fortunate to have had that loving support and acceptance. Once I’d figured out I was a lesbian I thought it would all be smooth sailing into happy relationships. So when I got to college, I joined the feminist and gay alliance groups to meet others from my tribe. I looked around at the other lesbians for clues as to how to dress, wear my hair, walk, talk, etc. So I cut off my beautiful long brown hair, started wearing non gender specific clothing, tried walking with a bit of a swagger, and joined the women’s softball team. I was not an athlete. Dance and yoga were basically it for me! I had a girlfriend in college who I lived with for two years. She did carpentry, fixed cars, had a natural, subtle swagger, and was good at softball. Basketball too. I found all this, along with other things obviously, very attractive about her, but what I didn’t understand was that in order for me to be a legitimate lesbian I didn’t have to look or be like her. This generic, homogenization of gay women of that era that I bought into not only influenced how I presented myself to the world in my physical appearance, but how I dealt with and expressed my sexual desire. My girlfriend and I, along with other lesbian couples we knew, all looked and acted the same…somewhere along the lines of androgynous to soft butch perhaps, but I don’t think we even defined ourselves as such. It was more that how we were was the ‘way’ to be a lesbian. Interesting that there was room in there to express our more butch qualities, but definitely not our feminine sides. This became increasingly difficult for me, this feeling that I had to repress my more naturally feminine self, and I began to feel really confused about my secret desires for how I would like be made love to. My biggest worry was that I had a desire to be penetrated. If I wanted something inside of me, then I must not be a lesbian! it was very confusing. I honestly don’t think I was aware of strap-ons, or butch dick. I had no clue really. In my next relationship I ended up with a woman who was much more femme than any lesbians I knew at the time. I was drawn to her silky long blonde hair, her sense of style which included pretty scarves and heels or little ballet slippers, and especially her bright red lipstick! What I didn’t understand was that my attraction to her was more about desiring to look like her, than it was about desiring to be with her. After that relationship ended I was left totally confused about my sexuality, and so I thought, “Back to men, I guess.” I wasn’t sure that I was indeed straight, but perhaps, I thought I was Bi, and that it might make more sense for me to be with a man because at least I felt more comfortable in being myself both in my look and persona, as well as in bed.  But the smooth sailing to happy relationships that I had first hoped for once I’d realized I was gay, and then had hoped to find when I went on to be with men again, well, it never happened. After two marriages and two divorces to men, I thought, “something is really wrong with me”. Why couldn’t I feel that ultimate connection I so yearned for?

It was shortly after my mother had died, 10 years ago, that I began to really do some soul searching to understand my feelings and desires that I had so long repressed. Eventually after joining a dating site, and searching through many profiles of lesbians it began to finally become clear to me who I was attracted to…butch women! I began to read some butch/femme erotica, and check out websites that talked about the butch femme dynamic. I finally realized that I wasn’t strange, or perverse, or messed up, and that there were others that felt as I did. I was nearly 50 years old when I came to understand my true identity. These days it seems that labels are becoming dirty words. no one wants to be confined to labels, but rather be fluid in their genders and sexualities. And that’s wonderful! I love how so many young queer people are embracing all the nuances of this. But for me my journey has led me to a label…a very specific one, and it has given me the power and the acceptance that I have craved for so long in trying to figure out who I am in this lifetime, and to finally come out of the Femme closet to own my identity as a Femme Lesbian who is attracted to and loves Butch Lesbians.

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story!

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)

 

 

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Lovely!

  2. What a wonderful story! I loved it! Thank you for sharing it!

  3. I’m so glad you found what you were looking for inside yourself all along- that journey can take a while hey? May the final third of your life be full of Femme fabulousness and Butch boldness like never before! Love G 🌈


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