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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.”

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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How Casual is Casual Diversity

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Diversity, in numerous ways, is becoming more and more commonplace. People who used to search for themselves in the media they consume are now the ones creating that media, and as such it is more commonplace to find representative characters. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community especially are inserting themselves into the media they create. From books to movies and TV shows to comics, more and more queer characters are popping up. As a result, the addition of these characters is becoming the norm, contributing to a sense of “casual diversity” in media. But just how casual is this casual diversity? 

For many members of the LGBTQIA+ community, they want characters that reflect their gender identity or sexuality to simply exist in the media they consume. We feel like we’ve moved away from a time that requires queer people to explicitly come out, both in real life and in books. We don’t owe a “coming out moment” to anyone, but creators are still trying to find a way to toe the line between making diverse characters and letting them simply exist and proclaiming their existence to readers.   

I recently read two young adult novels that had LGBTQIA+ characters, and they were introduced in several different ways. Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger is a fantasy novel set in Chicago, centered on a young girl working as a bartender who discovers that perfectly mixed cocktails can give you superpowers. She works at a gay bar owned by a blind gay man and works with a very tall punk rock Canadian named Bucket, who is a trans man. Readers are introduced to the bar’s owner before the main character begins working at his bar, and find out he is gay only when he casually mentions his boyfriend. Bucket, on the other hand, has a coming out moment when the protagonist asks him why he works at a gay bar when he is very clearly not gay. He is almost obligated to come out to her in order to explain himself and his job. Likewise, in Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate, there is a pansexual character named Lucas who has a coming out moment with the reader. Not only does he have to explain pansexuality, but he also discusses how he cannot come out to his friends because of his status as the men’s swim team captain and the stigma surrounding that.

Though I’m sure these two authors had good intentions with their inclusion of these characters, they, unfortunately, send an underlying but powerful message to LGBTQIA+ and straight readers alike in regards to the necessity and potential danger of coming out. The way Krueger and Redgate set up Bucket and Lucas required them to come out in order to make the diversity visible, but this was not necessary. Krueger could have mirrored his simple mention of the bar owner’s boyfriend and describe Bucket wearing a binder, and Redgate could have mentioned Lucas’ previous crushes to people regardless of gender. Instead, they felt that they had to make their characters’ identities as obvious as possible, which only encourages the idea that LGBTQIA+ people need to come out in order to be acknowledged members of queer or straight communities. Lucas’ story especially highlights the general ignorance about pansexuality as well as the rampant homophobia present in men’s sports teams especially. This sends a strong warning to queer readers about the dangers of coming out and the potential harmful backlash for male athletes in particular.

It is important for characters like Bucket and Lucas to exist and be known and seen in books and other media, but creators are still finding an easy way to simply let these characters exist while also bringing them to the attention of readers and normalizing their existence. It’s a delicate balance between inclusion for the sake of inclusion and bringing too much attention to something that needs attention. It’s been a long journey already, but creators still have a ways to go to figure out just how “casual” casual diversity really is.

Originally posted 2017-09-06 14:20:41.

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8 Homophobic Brands to Avoid

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Here at TravelPRIDE, our goal is total inclusivity and acceptance. Bigotry of all kinds is all too common, and we like to promote a message of love as much as possible. If you’re looking to do the same, knowing where not to spend your money is a great place to start. There are plenty of gay-friendly companies, but there are also plenty of homophobic ones. Boycotting these companies (not giving them your support/money) is the perfect start to ending hate.

Chick-fil-A

Plenty of LGBTQ people already avoid Chick-fil-A already (partly because the food is not great, but that’s my opinion) because of company president Dan Cathy’s open homophobia. According to Huffington Post, a report was published saying that as of 2010 the company had donated almost $2 million to anti-gay groups across the country. So if you want a chicken sandwich, I suggest going somewhere that’s open on Sundays.

Urban Outfitters

People are getting whiplash from Urban Outfitters’ stance on marriage equality. With a conservative chairman and recent push back for pulling a pro-gay-marriage shirt from its shelves, Urban Outfitters reportedly, according to an article from SFist, “donates 100 percent of its ‘Marriage Equality’ t-shirt sales to EQCA and NCLR,” which are two group leading the charge against the recent Supreme Court challenge on legalizing same-sex marriage.

With its history of flip-flopping on the gay marriage issue, it’s best to stay aware of Urban Outfitters’ current stance. They seem to be supportive now, but this could change as homophobia remains present across the United States.

Barilla

My little gay heart has been overjoyed at seeing gay couples featured in various advertisements. But according to Barilla’s chairman, you’ll never see this from the pasta company. In an interview with LGBTQNation, he went even further in his attack on the LGBTQ community, saying “I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose.”

So much for gaining more customers, Barilla. I think I’ll be buying generic from now on.

Exxon

This one will have you taking the bus to work from now on. With a history of eliminating domestic-partner benefits for same sex couples, according to an article on Queerty, you might want to reconsider that gas-guzzling car as your go-to mode of transportation. Taking the bus will not only take money away from big oil’s profits and homophobic practices, you’ll help the environment too.

Salvation Army (according to the same article from Queerty)

Between Salvation Army’s open homophobia and Goodwill’s exploitation of differently-abled employees, as revealed by Huffington Post, I’m at a loss as to where to donate my stuff. That being said, knowing that Salvation Army actively fights pro-gay-marriage legislation, I think I’ll be holding a lot more garage sales in the future, and you should too if you’re part of the LGBTQ community.

Purina

On the same Huffington Post list as Exxon and Salvation army, the Fancy Feast company refuses to provide benefits to same-sex couples. While they haven’t confessed anything more openly homophobic than this, partner benefits are still a huge deal and spending your dollars on other pet food brands might be a wise choice.

Boy Scouts of America

Surprise, surprise. A male-dominated group not supporting same-sex couples? Astonishing. This isn’t a company, per se, but the BSA relies on donations, and you can decide to support a better, more gay-friendly organization. While the Boy Scouts do allow openly gay males to join, it’s still taboo to be an openly-gay leader. It’s progress, but not nearly enough. If I were you, I’d donate to a worthier cause, such as the Girl Scouts of the USA, a group that is openly pro-gay and pro-choice

Cracker Barrell

While not at all shocking that a southern-themed restaurant wouldn’t support the LGBTQ community, it’s not exactly funny. In another Huffington Post article, it was reported that “In 1991, 11 employees were fired for not displaying ‘normal heterosexual values,’ as was prescribed by an intra-company memo.” The same article reports the company has been known to segregate its customers in restaurants. So add racism into the mix, and you get a company not looking good for any minority. So if you’re craving grits and biscuits, I’d recommend finding your favorite southern dishes elsewhere.

I think we all know that this list is far from complete. It would take weeks or maybe months to find and list every single company with anti-gay practices. If you want to help out your fellow readers, let us know in the comments what other companies you boycott because of their homophobic policies. We’d love your participation in adding to this list, so we can continue to fight hate wherever it appears.

Originally posted 2017-09-05 13:55:21.


Also published on Medium.

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Liberal Leader Takes a Stand Against Discrimination

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Disclaimer: I was not raised with any religious affiliation so I may be unintentionally offensive. I mean no offense to anyone who may be religious!

At this point, most of us are aware of the fact that people can’t help being born with a same-sex attraction. However, there are a select few who believe that being in the LGBTQ  spectrum is inherently and morally wrong and that having a same-sex attraction can be cured. Within this select few, there are some who believe that it is fine to discriminate against LGBTQ people because they do not fit their misguided religious narrative.  

“A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation”.

In both the US and Australia, the concept of religious freedom sounds good in theory. What’s wrong with practicing one’s religion? At base level, this does not harm anyone. There are people, though, who abuse this right and claim that discriminating against LGBTQ people is justified because LGBTQ people do not align with religion (although there are religious gay people…) An example of this is Texas’ proposed Senate Bill 522, which would allow county clerks to deny marriage licenses to LGBTQ people because same-sex marriage may go against the clerks’ religious beliefs. This is clearly a problem as LGBTQ people deserve the same rights as everyone else.

Luckily, people are fighting against this antiquated belief system and realizing that change is an inevitable part of life and it is better to be on the moral side of change. One such person is Nick Greiner, federal president of Australia’s Liberal party. Greiner urges both liberals and conservatives to support same-sex marriage as he believes that “great institutions evolve all the time.” This statement can be proven true by looking back in history, whether it be the advancement of LGBTQ rights or the ratification of the 19th Amendment. I am hopeful that Australia will soon achieve marriage equality but, of course, there are objections.

As an American, I can say that this is true and that the above video holds no merit, as since same-sex marriage became legal in the US, being gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans has not become “widespread and compulsory.”

This campaign was aimed at the Australian population to dissuade citizens from voting yes on marriage equality as the people in this video claims that it will damage religious freedom. This, of course, is not true as the United States achieved marriage equality and did not damage anyone’s right to religious freedom. In the words of Nick Greiner, “Any case for enhancing protection for religious freedom exists today and is not dependent on a change to marriage laws.” He also realizes that no negative consequences arose from the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage.

“The experience in these countries has been that no one has become more gay, or less married, and the achievement of the reform has been a unifying moment for people across the political spectrum.” -Nick Greiner

Greiner also recognizes that in heavily religious countries like Spain, same-sex marriage has not taken away anyone’s freedom of religion. The argument that it does is inane because it is simply not true. The legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia will not take away anyone’s right to practice their religion, nor will it create an increase of LGBTQ people. Nick Greiner recognizes these facts and, hopefully, he will be able to lead Australia in the right direction and have same-sex marriage legalized across the country. By legalizing same-sex marriage, Australia can become a more cohesive nation and convince other countries to become frontrunners in the name of equality.   

“Together let’s celebrate the many achievements of this government and focus on the real challenges and opportunities our nation faces.”

 

Originally posted 2017-09-04 17:32:11.


Also published on Medium.

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