Category Archives: Queer

Evolution of Identity, Part 1: Coming Out Again

My identity, like that of most folks, is a complex, multi-faceted thing. It is never static and is often confusing. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never truly find myself. And sometimes I never want to. I have learned so much about myself in the past couple of years, and about love and community and solidarity and letting go and moving on. Every time I think I finally know my truth, I learn something new. It’s scary and exciting.

I thought I was pretty settled on queer as the best identifier for myself. Queer femme to be specific. But after some really insightful, thoughtful and often volatile discussions on Tumblr regarding the queer community, labels and misogyny, I realized I had some deeper digging to do. I was ‘queer’ but why? Why ‘queer’ and not something else? Was that really the best fit or was I avoiding deeper introspection?

It took a while to get to this place but I had to finally admit that having a romantic and/or sexual relationship with a man (cis or trans) held no interest for me. I wanted my relationships to be with female-identified people. And yet, I shied away from using ‘lesbian’ as an identifier. I’m not sure if I did it consciously, certainly not in the early stages of my evolution. But when those discussions appeared on Tumblr, I realized that I, too, was guilty of shunning ‘lesbian’ in favor of ‘queer.’

Queer just seemed so much more radical and as is pointed out in the links above, lesbian tends to be seen as passé and associated with more mainstream politics or less politically aware in general and therefore lesser in the radical queer crowd. But where did this idea of queer as a monolith come from? Why has the larger queer community decided that there’s a specific set of rules to follow in order to be The Best Radical Queer. Why do we keep setting up these hierarchies amongst ourselves? These are important discussions we need to be having.

Lesbian identity also has been marred with the existence of a transphobic radfem history that obviously cannot and should not be glossed over. However, radical lesbian feminists were certainly not all MichFest loving transphobes so the damnation of an entire identity based on a small subset is truly unfair. Those who choose lesbian as an identifier are also frequently accused of propping up the gender binary. I disagree. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to want to center your relationships around female-identified people while still supporting those outside the gender binary. Some people are binary-identified and some are not. One does not negate the presence of the other.

I agree that, as others have more eloquently asserted, telling women that centering their relationships around women is somehow less radical is straight up misogyny.  But in a culture so entrenched in misogyny , I think the most radical thing I can do is to reclaim ‘lesbian.’ I want to rescue it from the unfortunate parts of its history and honor the important, groundbreaking parts. I refuse to let the insecurities of others in the queer community keep me owning an important part of myself. Because this is about me and my desires and those desires do not include men and I’m done caring about their feelings being hurt over it.

I’m a lesbian. A dyke. A femme dyke to be specific. Deal with it.

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It’s a Very Vegan Femme Xmas!

Hello lovelies. I am doing my damnedest to get into the holiday spirit and I was inspired by FuckYeahFemmes‘ recent post on gift ideas for femmes to make a little list of my own. (Forgive me for borrowing/expanding on a few ideas, S.)

1. Handmade lotions and potions!

I am generally all about pinching pennies but every once in a while it’s nice to splurge. It’s also nice to support independent (and vegan!) artisans. My very favorite soap is made by a small company called Metropolis Soap Co., which I discovered at the Renegade Craft Fair here in Chicago a couple years ago. All natural ingredients and the soaps smell divine. (And they’re all vegan!) They contain coconut and shea butters so they’re super moisturizing. My very favorite is the Agave Nectar and Green Tea (though being a neo-hippie, the Earth and Patchouli comes in a close second). Metropolis also makes whipped shea butter, lip cream, aromatherapy oils and herbal spa soaks.

If you’re more the DIY type, you can use this simple recipe to make your own moisturizing sugar scrub:

Mix one part sugar (I like to use turbinado) to one part oil (I find that almond or jojoba works best). Generally 1/2 cup of each is good for a small jar. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil(s) and mix. And that’s it! (Sandalwood, frankincense, lavender, bergamot, and patchouli are all good choices for things such as anxiety, depression, fatigue and stress.)

Merry pampering!

2. Tools of the Trade

Hi, I’m VeganFemme and I’m a makeup junkie. Admitting is the first step, right? Even though I’ve already got quite the collection, I can always use more. Luckily, there are more and more companies putting out vegan cosmetics nowadays. The entire e.l.f. line is now vegan and a bonus…it’s cheap! I have some brushes from them and honestly have found zero difference between those and the ones I used to have from Sephora. They also have huge eyeshadow palettes with all the basics any artist would need at great prices (and they have sales all the time).

Another favorite of mine is Sugarpill cosmetics. I’m on a mission to collect all of their loose shadows along with every matte shade that’s vegan (all the loose ones are).

Of course, all of that requires storage solutions. And lesbians love storage solutions, right? Caboodles ain’t just for teenagers, femmes. That is why this bad boy is on my own Xmas list.

3. Sexy stuffs

Tired of the typical boring, ugly harnesses available to us fabulous (vegan) femmes? Yeah, me too. But have you seen these?

This is my new favorite, the Veronica, available at Good Vibrations. There’s another equally cute one in the same style with a red-and-white horizontal stripe pattern. So femmetastic.

                           If you like sparkles, there’s the Princess from ASLAN, available via the Sensual Vegan. That same style also comes in a sleek, shiny black vinyl and can be found at a few different online retailers as well as the wonderful Smitten Kitten in Minneapolis.

Finally, there’s this cute purple corset number that Early to Bed carries. It even has tabs on the inside to attach garters!

4. Self-care!

Y’all know how important self-care is by now, right? And you probably also know then that it isn’t always easy to budget for self-care.  So wouldn’t that make a fantastic gift for friends and family? Here in Chicago, as I’ve mentioned before, we are lucky to have the Sage Community Health Collective. Sage offers trauma-informed, harm-reductionist healing services such as acupuncture, bodywork and herbs on a sliding scale basis. They also offer gift certificates and this holiday season are selling wellness soup packs, Chinese herbal tea and more. And if you don’t have something like Sage in your community, try calling local acupuncture and/or massage clinics to see if they offer gift certificates.

5. Cruelty-free Warm Fuzzies

I think the only tolerable thing about winter is the cute accessories you get to wear. And everybody could use another scarf or hat, right? Etsy has lots of vegan options. Cammobear has some super cute slouchy, pom-pom hats and softspoken makes lovely scarves and berets. And I am absolutely loving this “accidental cowl” from The House of Hemp.

6. Femmespiration

Nowadays there are tons of blogs, websites and Facebook groups dedicated to femmes. I love the great and almighty interwebz, don’t get me wrong, but there are certain great texts that are worth owning. Here are some classics:

The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader edited by Joan Nestle
The Femme’s Guide to the Universe by Shar Rednour
Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity edited by Chloe Brushwood Rose and Anna Camilleri
Visible: A Femmethology, Volumes 1 and 2 edited by Jennifer Clare Burke
Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities by Ulrika Dahl and Del LaGrace Volcano
Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme edited by Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman
Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino

7. Charitable donations

If, by chance, your femme happens to have every little thing they need, you might want to consider making a donation to a worthwhile charity in their name. Here are some excellent organizations that could use whatever you can spare:

Sasha Farm
Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois
The Night Ministry
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP)
National Network of Abortion Funds

Happy Holidays y’all! Fellow femmes, what’s on your list?

Femme is Home

Within the queer community, femme is often reduced to simply outward appearance, but a dress does not always make a femme. It is difficult to formulate a clear, concise definition of femme because femme at its very core defies simplicity. For me, femme is a way to proudly own my femininity and express all facets of myself, soft and flowing complete with rough edges and bursts of color. Femme allows me to subvert the prevailing notions about what femininity is and who it’s for. My very being is a ‘fuck you’ to the idea that women doll ourselves up to snag a husband. Femme is liberation. But femme isn’t simple. I’m a sassy Appalachian femme; a stubborn, never-backin’-down Aries femme; a feisty short-haired, edgy femme; a compassionate, pleather-wearing vegan femme; a flirty, shimmying belly dancer femme. I’m a femme who loves stompin’ it out in heels as much as I love retiring to the couch in my PJs for an evening. I am at once graceful and goofy, serious and silly, always passionate, oftentimes to a fault. I walk with a femme swagger that can hypnotize. My femme identity is much more than simple femininity. It’s not just a costume but a performance emanating from my core.

(The bulk of this post originally appeared in an earlier post of mine, The Complexity of Butch and Femme. I edited and condensed it down for a fellow Tumblr femme, vivelesfemmes, who is putting together a queer (southern) femme zine project for a class.)