Femme Friday – Literary Femmes — Else, Femme Forever?

            Let’s keep talking about Elsie, later known as Else. After I posted about this character from Isaac Fellman’s novel, Dead Collections, I continued reading and lo and behold, things began to switch up. I’m going to talk about that, but first I want to talk about me for a moment.

            When I say that I’m an old school femme lesbian, I think sometimes other queers take that to mean that I have really rigid ideas about identity. Like they wouldn’t be surprised to hear something gnarly issue forth from my lipsticked lips that would make them need to say something grumpy about me on social media. I wonder if even my last Femme Friday about Elsie might play right into that scenario. But, my loves, I kept reading, as one should and must and sometimes does, and it turns out that perhaps this character wouldn’t identify as femme, at least not all the time.

“These days,” says the main character, Sol, “the best word for my partner is genderfluid.” Previous to this passage, there’s a sex scene where Elsie asks Sol to fuck her like he would fuck a man. When he does, it’s so super hot and mind blowing and wonderful, but then Elsie says, “This will ruin my life.” Now that’s oppression, the effect of narrow-mindedness, not on Elsie’s part, but on our own queer culture. Elsie’s worried that now they’ve unleashed parts of themselves they’d kept hidden or didn’t quite know about yet, that their community will turn on them. They’ve been perceived one way – a femme who loves a butch – and now they’re acting “wrong” for that identity according to the aforementioned oppression and narrow-mindedness. My tagging them as femme was half hopeful and half recognizing certain things in them that ring femme to me. Even after reading the above passage, I felt like there’s room in Femme writ large for someone like Elsie. I personally used to wear the occasional suit and carry a wallet – I liked the way it let me play with power. I’m also remembering endless threads on butch-femme.com about how there’s not one right way to be femme or butch.

            Femme has never stopped feeling right for me, and I rather suspect I’ll take the identity of butch-loving old school queer femme lesbian to my grave. You can throw as many era-specific qualifiers around it as you want, femme remains the anchor for me. It’s how I queer gender and sexuality. It’s at my core and it’s at the heart of how I am in the world. And sure enough, I’m not certain I could ever pinpoint its exact meaning because it shifts and moves, changing as I change, but it never stops feeling right. I do wonder if that might also be true for this character, but I can’t be sure. And if not, I won’t stomp around insisting otherwise! But there is a point in the novel where Else says that they think they’ll always be femme (I seem to have lost the page number so don’t have an exact quote, but look, I’m posting anyway, go, recovering academic, go!). I wonder if they have kept some of their femme leanings or loves, and that things they treasured about femme have stayed with them. I do believe Else might very well be part of the Femme family, and their journey is precious and lovely to read.

So, once again, deep gratitude to Isaac for loving Else onto the page. For giving them strength and anxieties and grief and horniness and a full and intricate queer life, and for exploring one aspect of femme with respect and joy.

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 life! If you’ve written a femme story or poem or song, oh, please let me post it!

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three or four times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday, Femme Friday on Friday, and (new for spring 22!) the occasional Sometimes On A. 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.”) And…as I go through life life life, I will post as I am able, Mabel.

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