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Frowning on Femmes: Policing Femme Gender Expression



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.


Donald Trump’s Failure to Declare Pride Month Proclamation is ‘Dissappointing’ and But Not So Surprising




President Donald Trump has still not yet (or maybe never will) issue a proclamation for Pride Month. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community groups call it ‘deeply dissapointing’ but not so surprising. It is a paradox to have former President Barack Obama issue a federal proclamation every year dating back to 2011, and seeing no recognition at this time.

Congressional Democrats are now criticizing the President for not showing any acknowledgment of June being LGBT Pride month. Sources say that Seventy-two congressional Democrats on Friday criticized Donald Trump for refusing to issue a proclamation. Fifty-three House Democrats signed a letter, while 19 senators joined a second letter, for Trump to take action. The effort in the house was led by New Jersey Rep. Donald Norcross, while Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin led in the senate.

“The White House’s decision to remain silent about Pride Month after eight consecutive years of presidential recognition sends a troubling message to the LGBT community that your administration is not committed to advancing equality for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We urge you to honor your campaign promise to be a ‘real friend’ of the LGBT community by issuing a proclamation and supporting lasting change and progress through policies that advance LGBT rights,” the letter states.

Ivanka Trump was the only Trump family member to recognize LGBT month with a series of tweets. The first daughter’s tweet said that she, “wishes everyone a joyful #Pride2017. This month we celebrate and honor the #LGBTQ community.”

“I am proud to support my LGBTQ friends and the LGBTQ Americans who have made immense contributions to our society and economy,” she said in another tweet, regarding the subject.

No one in the LGBT community was having it with Ivanka Trump for wishing a ‘joyful’ Pride this year. For instance, The Advocate which is a predominant gay magazine, had a few words for her.

“No rainbow hashtag can fix what the Trump administration is doing.”

Other well known gay social media’s like celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton responded to the tweet with his twitter account.

“Who is this ‘we’ you talk about? Because your father isn’t celebrating us – that’s for damn sure!!” Hilton said.

Ivanka is usually labeled as complicit as her father by the LGBTQ community. In NBC News and elsewhere showed that Donald Trump received 14 percent of the LGBT vote against Hillary Clinton’s 78 percent.

During last year’s election Donald Trump positioned himself as a pro-LGBT Republican. On the campaign trail Trump promised he’d be “better for the gays” than his opponent Hillary Clinton. The president even made history by mentioning LGBT issues during his acceptance speech at the Republican National convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

In February, Trump rolled back protections for transgender students which allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity. It started the movement of “Trans equality now.”

Another attack Trump did to the community was when he rolled back protections in May by signing an executive order relative to religious liberty that pro-LGBT organizations say will only open the doors for further discrimination against gay americans.

Now, Trump broke the tradition at the start of Pride Month this year by not declaring a proclamation. Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, called “deeply disappointing.”

In order to prevent the LGBT movement from losing ground after the most pro-LGBT White House in history under President Barack Obama, veteran activist and director of Rise and Resist, Ken Kidd says leaders like himself need to remain involved and continue to make their voices heard.

“We should celebrate the heritage of Pride and the gains that we’ve made. But we also need to stand and fight to hang onto them and fight for our future,” the longtime New York City activist said.

Originally posted 2017-07-01 18:55:58.

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In Berlin, Love Wins Again – Germany Makes Push to Legalize Gay Marriage In Big Win for LGBTQ Community




In Berlin , today is a day where love wins again – or at the very least, gains another step forward. According to various sources, the lawmakers of the German Bundestag voted heavily in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The official count in favor of the bill is 393 votes to 226, with four abstentions. Though this was a vote for the lower house of the Bundestag, it is quite likely that the upper house of the Bundesrat will follow suit.  

But even then, there is an uphill battle that comes in the form of the Constitutional Court, Germany’s major judicial body. As noted in the online political magazine Der Spiegel, “The fact that the times have changed does not change this interpretation of the constitution, says former Constitutional Court President Hans-Jürgen Papier. ‘If people want to open marriage up, then the constitution has to be changed. Simple legislators cannot do so on their own.’” Then again, the wording of the aforementioned Basic Law states that marriage “shall enjoy the special protection of the state.” Needless to say, this language has always been interpreted by the Court in a purely heteronormative manner.

Of course, there are also political considerations behind the introduction of the bill in the first place, and the implications of the vote. After all, there is a federal election in three months’ time, and all of the center to center-left parties in the Bundestag insisted on same-sex marriage as a primary condition for any coalition talks. This turned into a major political move, as Chancellor Angela Merkel is governing with a centrist Grand Coalition since 2013. And though Merkel voted against the bill, the fact that she declared it to be a “vote of conscience” is perhaps a sign of optimism or calculated pragmatism, depending on who one believes.

So yes, it is a minor victory, but it is a victory for love nonetheless.

Originally posted 2017-07-01 13:50:07.

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How Moving to a New City is Different When You’re Queer



We all know what it’s like to move. You get a new job, or are accepted into college, and you start to plan. If you’re like most people, you worry about housing first. Where are you going to live? Will you need roommates to afford rent and food at the same time? Is it close to work and/or school? If you have a family, you have to consider your children and/or your spouse. After all of that, there’s the actual moving part. Renting the van, motivating yourself to pack boxes and somehow convincing yourself to throw away half of the junk you’ve collected over the years because you won’t miss a single piece of it. There are so many hundreds of factors that go into a move, all of which have to be carefully considered and carried out. It’s chaotic and exciting at the same time, and scares you more than anything.

Now imagine the same process, but as a queer person. I’m a queer woman, which puts me into two minority groups immediately. And as a queer woman, in order to even begin choosing a new place to live, I have to ask a few questions first:

  1. Where should I move? 

If you’re moving for a job, this is usually decided for you, and you’ve probably already done your research into what your new place of residence is like, as well as how the job is going to be. But say you’re going to college, and you’re picking places to apply. Some of what you have to consider includes things such as “do these schools have LGBT clubs,” “is the city around the school relatively gay-friendly?” When you’re queer, it’s almost never as simple as “Look, this school has the Philosophy program I’ve been wanting. I’ll pick that one.”

  1. Is this city gay-friendly?

Let’s face it, we all have a few straight friends. But contrary to what sitcoms and romcoms portray, no LGBT person ever wants to hang out exclusively with straight people all day, every day. That’s just not how it works, especially if you want to, I don’t know, date someone at some point. Finding a community is important, as it’s not only about social interaction with similar people, but also a sense of security and comfort.

  1. Is it woman-friendly?

As I mentioned above, security and comfort are a huge deal. Being a woman isn’t always safe, so choosing your housing is vital to your well-being. Is the house/apartment you’re looking at in a safe neighborhood? What are the crime rates (murder, sexual assault, theft, etc.)? Is the demographic similar to what you’re used to?

When I moved into my first apartment at university, I didn’t consider any of these things. I found the cheapest place close to campus and moved in my stuff, no questions asked. It was a nightmare. Our neighbors were loud, creepy, and had parties every other weekend that left me hiding in my bedroom with the doors locked, hoping they wouldn’t get drunk enough to bust open the door to “talk” to me and my female roommates. The neighborhood was relatively quiet, but not somewhere you might walk a dog alone at night, and certainly not somewhere I felt safe enough to hold my girlfriend’s hand in public.

My second place was a vast improvement and if that first little hole-in-the-wall taught me anything, it was that there’s a lot to consider when moving somewhere new. But be aware, for the hundreds of factors you have to consider while moving, if you’re queer expect to ask a couple dozen more in the process.

Despite the stress, moving is still an exciting time. If you keep your wits about you when coming to a new city, you’ll be just fine and can then look forward to the new friends you’ll make along the way. Cue the packing montage in which you sob amid a pile of high school yearbooks and memorabilia.

Originally posted 2017-06-30 19:02:56.

Also published on Medium.

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