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Frowning on Femmes: Policing Femme Gender Expression

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When a world famous drag queen is physically removed from a gay club in Paris for presenting too femininely, what does that say about the queer community’s acceptance of femme gender expression? Nothing positive, that’s for sure. The Season 7 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Violet Chachki, was physically dragged out of the gay club Le Depot in Paris this past month. While they weren’t in drag, they were wearing makeup, and were not deemed masc enough to be allowed in. Chachki agrees that the policy is transphobic, which confirms that even if a space says it is queer/trans friendly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.

Femme Fundamentals

Le Depot is a prime example of the disgust and rejection of femininity in the queer and trans communities. To be femme means different things to different people. According to the lesbian blog Autostraddle, “femme” is a descriptor for a queer person who presents and acts in a traditionally feminine manner. Gina Tonic, a writer at media company Bustle, claims that “all femmes hit upon two key aesthetic and identity-related traits: Being feminine and falling somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum.”

For a non cis, white perspective, I asked Romeo Jackson, a 24 year old black, nonbinary femme student at the University of Utah, what femme means to them.

“Resistance; survival. To me, it is an homage to ways in which we have tried to eradicate black women from the Earth – from existence. It’s also a disposition, something you feel. Earrings, hoops, and lipstick are part of that, but more importantly, femme is owning something that is despised in our culture.”

The Power of Femme

Jackson confirms that the queer community has quite a bit of work ahead of us in regards to accepting and celebrating femme expression and culture. “We can’t be misogynistic. We have to understand what femininity looks like. That starts with people in power resisting the hyper masculine nature that we lean towards.” There are even opportunities to embrace femininity in activities as small as icebreakers for groups activities. “We do team builders in queer spaces but I’ve always wonderred, why don’t we take teen magazine quizzes and talk about those? Femininity is seen as unimportant.”

One of my personal role models is the gender non-conforming performance artist, writer, educator, and entertainer, Alok Vaid-Menon. “Their eclectic sense of style, political comedy, and poetic challenge to the gender binary have been internationally renowned. Alok was recently the youngest recipient of the prestigious Live Works Performance Act Award granted to ten performance artists across the world. They have been featured on HBO, MTV, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New York Times, and The New Yorker and have presented their work at 300 venues in more than 30 countries.” Their Facebook and Instagram posts often feature their phenomenal outfits and inspirational, personal, and poignant commentary.

The last time I wore this outfit (photo on the left) I was punched in the face by a white man who told me that “He was okay with gay people, but I was too much!” Every time I saw this outfit in my closet I thought about that man, that pain, that fear…and I couldn’t bring myself to wear it again. It’s been a year today since the incident & I decided to wear that red jumpsuit out with a big smile and a belief in something greater than myself. That man was wrong about a lot of things: but he was right about something. I AM too much! I am TOO honest, TOO beautiful, and TOO powerful to prioritize other people’s hatred over my joy. I am TOO free for fragile masculinity and I am TOO determined to end the gender binary to give up!

A post shared by ALOK ? (@alokvmenon) on

Femme: The Final Frontier

As my conversation with Jackson came to a close, it ended on a healing and inspirational note, as well as a call to action.

“Cis women, trans women, nonbinary people who are femme – there is a radical potential to build together. We could reimagine gender systems. So much of our society is based off of masculinity and capitalistic notions of femininity. Groups of femme folks working together will transform queer politics in a beautiful way.”

Originally posted 2017-11-05 16:33:27.

Sara Whittington is a genderqueer artist raised in Central Louisiana, but currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. They have had the good fortune to be able to travel across the country, as well as abroad. Some of their favorite trips thus far have been adventuring across Iceland, spending summers on Lake Michigan, and a family celebration in Mundesley, England. In their spare time, Sara enjoys writing letters to loved ones.

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Thanksgiving Alternatives for Everyone

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Halloween is (unfortunately) over, and if you live in the United States that means it’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving plans. By now, we’ve all come to realize that contrary to what Norman Rockwell’s Freedom From Want wants us to believe, this holiday isn’t perfect for a variety of reasons. Maybe you recognize that Thanksgiving celebrates nothing but the near-destruction of a culture and has been heavily white-washed over the years. Maybe your family is transphobic or homophobic. Or maybe you don’t have a family to visit, or they’re too far away. Whatever the reason, for many, Thanksgiving is an altogether unpleasant and/or unsafe holiday. But don’t worry, you have options. So whether you’d rather avoid your family or just can’t make it home this year, here are some ideas to consider so you don’t wind up eating dinner alone on Thanksgiving.

Friendsgiving

As adults, we have more freedom to decide how we spend our holidays. This usually involves deciding who hosts and who to invite, but this doesn’t have to only extend to family. If you’d love to host Thanksgiving dinner at your place, invite a bunch of friends over and make a potluck out of it! Have everyone bring a dish, and enjoy the family you’ve built along the way. This provides a safe space for those who don’t feel safe at home, and you’re more likely to enjoy your holidays. I’ve done this in the past with my other LGBTQ friends, and it was a blast. I felt so at home with no one to judge me (and no awkward political arguments breaking out).

Reach Out

If your close friends would rather spend Thanksgiving with family and you have nowhere to go, remember that there are always others who probably don’t have plans either. Reach out to coworkers and neighbors if you have them, and see if they have somewhere to go. If not, the potluck idea works here too and is a great way to get to know people better. And sometimes you might get lucky and a coworker or neighbor has an extra spot at their family’s table. Maybe you don’t like spending time with your family, but there are good ones out there that are more accepting.

Give Back

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful and to give back to those around you. If you’d prefer to skip the holiday meal altogether, consider volunteering. Soup kitchens and shelters can always use an extra volunteer and give you a chance to make someone else’s holiday a little brighter. Volunteer Match lets you locate volunteer opportunities in your area so you can start giving back sooner.

 

Remember, many people can’t go home for the holidays or aren’t comfortable around family, so pay attention to those around you. Ask people about their plans and consider including them in yours if they have nowhere to go. The holidays are all about caring about each other, and this is just one of the many ways we can spread the love.

Originally posted 2017-11-15 14:55:13.

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#FiveFilms4Freedom LGBT+ Film Festival

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The #FiveFilms4Freedom 2017 film festival is travelling across the pond this November. Originally hosted in Britain this past March, it is the first and largest LGBT+ film festival, and has featured independent LGBT+ short films from around the globe.

The film festival began in 2014 in Britain, sponsored by the British Council and the British Film Institute. It is a part of the larger BFI Flare film festival, which began in 1986, and is sponsored by the Love is GREAT Britain Campaign. .

This year’s #FiveFilms4Freedom festival marked 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain. As such, all five films were created by UK filmmakers.

After the films premiered in the UK in March, they were brought to Washington, D.C. on November 1, and will be shown in Los Angeles on November 13 and in New York City on November 16. The festival will also feature a panel of prominent LGBT+  rights advocates from the US and the UK, as well as two participating directors.  

The films focus on a range of LGBT+ relationships and issues. The majority of them are love stories; Crush tells the story of a young girl who finds herself smitten with another girl she sees at a train station, Heavy Weight deals with a young male boxer and his reaction to the arrival of a new fighter, and Jamie is a very modern story about a man who bravely decides to meet with the man he has been talking to on a dating site. The other two films explore very different experiences in the LGBT+ community. Still Burning is about a young migrant living in Paris who shows his brother the exciting and freeing voguing movement. The title is taken from the film Paris is Burning, a documentary about the voguing movement in New York City and its effect on the African American, Latino, gay and transgender communities. The final film is a documentary set in Scotland, entitled Where We Are Now, and focuses on a transgender parent and her bisexual daughter.

The BFI Flare festival as well as #FiveFilms4Freedom have given the LGBT+ community an excellent place for celebration and representation, especially in the UK. With the decriminalization of homosexuality 31 years ago, British LGBT+ representation is extremely important because it has only been able to exist for a short amount of time. The festival allows filmmakers to make LGBT+ people and relationships extremely public, and continues to encourage and support the idea that LGBT+ people can make and star in incredible pieces of media. The move from showing the films in Britain alone to showing them in the US will hopefully continue to encourage the rise of LGBT+ relationships in mainstream media as well as in independent media.

Tickets for the festival in New York City are still available for reservation here. The festival is on November 16 from 6 – 9 PM at the Barclays-ASK Auditorium on Seventh Avenue. The festival is also currently accepting submissions for next year’s festival here.

Originally posted 2017-11-13 21:00:23.

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Online Dating While Genderqueer #notokcupid

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Anatomy, pronouns, sexual orientation. These suddenly become much more important when talking to cis men online. I often don’t disclose my gender identity or pronouns in conversation because I don’t want to scare folks away. I also figure it’s more of a 2nd date conversation. I do mention my pronouns in my bios, though. I don’t want to hide my gender identity, but I also don’t want to talk about it a lot. There’s more to me than just my gender (or lack thereof), and I’m not interested in teaching Queer Theory 101 courses when we could be talking about movies, or where we grew up, or which Disney Princess is our favorite. It’s an exhausting thing to talk about – there’s a lot of emotional energy and work involved, often met with even more invasive questions, a sense of entitlement, and arguments.

Living in Brooklyn, dating can be exhausting. A major pro is the seemingly endless amount of options/available folks. At the same time, a major con is the seemingly endless amount of options/available folks. There is a lot of sifting and sorting that needs to be done before even meeting someone in real life. Here are three dating apps I’ve used, and my experiences with each.

OKCupid

OKCupid is one of my favorite dating platforms thus far. The expansive options for gender identity/sexual orientation, and the option to not be seen by straight people, is validating and creates a safer space for an already vulnerable venture. OKCupid does require a bit more work – not only in filling out your profile, but when looking for cuties. There is a swipe feature, just like Tinder and Bumble, but OKC is a better platform for folks interested in dating, not just hookups.

Bumble

Bumble has been a recent favorite of mine, simply because of fast results. I get to know within seconds of a swipe if someone also likes me, and I have to message first within 24 hours, giving me the power to initiate conversation. If the other person doesn’t reply within 24 hours, then the connection is lost. I enjoy this feature because I get to set the tone. Getting a dick pic instead of “Hello, I also adore the film ‘Nacho Libre’” is a much less successful and appealing opener. Bumble is not as trans or queer friendly. There are two gender options for your identity and who you are looking to talk to, and you must select one for each. You can also only change your gender once – so you better decide which end of the binary you’d like to claim, and stick with it!

Side note: I’ve also heard that Michael Che is on Bumble. Michael – if you’re reading this, let’s get coffee?

Tinder

OH GEEZ. I had a tinder account for quite a while, and haven’t been back on it in over a year. Apparently, it has gotten more trans inclusive, with a total of 37 gender identity choices. Tinder is the ultimate hookup app. That doesn’t mean one couldn’t find folks seeking other types of interactions, the likelihood might just be slimmer. To me, Tinder feels like a frat party, and I’m not in Greek Life.

When Life Gives You Interactions with Dumb Bois, Make a Hashtag

On any dating platform, you’re bound to have some … interesting conversations. The internet is powerful – it makes people braver, ruder, and sometimes dumber. When I’m getting harassing messages from dumb bois, I feel safer telling them off than I do in real life. I’m less likely to get assaulted, physically and/or emotionally. I also screenshot EVERYTHING. If you feel comfortable talking to me that way, then I’m sure you won’t mind me sharing that with the entire world. Here are some memorable interactions I’ve had that I’ve posted to my personal Instagram:

Notice how he doesn’t deny it… #notokcupid #smelly

A post shared by Sara W (@swhitt17) on

So greedy. #notokcupid

A post shared by Sara W (@swhitt17) on

When he’s a dumb boy but also loves @rupaulofficial ? #notokcupid

A post shared by Sara W (@swhitt17) on

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!! #notokcupid

A post shared by Sara W (@swhitt17) on

… but you're not a feminist? #thingsthatmakeyougohmmm #notokcupid

A post shared by Sara W (@swhitt17) on

Boy, can I relate. #notokcupid

A post shared by Sara W (@swhitt17) on

Originally posted 2017-11-13 18:58:09.

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