Butch and femme dating
“I stand on the sandy road that runs between the two encampments, at the boundary of womanhood.I don’t want woman to be a fortress that has to be defended.It was the femmeships in my life who inspired me, made me feel seen and affirmed, and the relationships with partners, one of whom half-joked that as queer women we were becoming more lesbian through dating each other.It was the queers, femmes, butches, genderqueers, dykes, that made and make up my organizing community, my friendships, my ex-partners, and the people I build family with that make me inspired, feel seen and affirmed, alive in my dignity and wholeness.While there were some exceptions, the femininity I saw appreciated most was straight or queer cis men who took on femininity or femmeness, much like the ways in which in queer communities femme feels more celebrated, ’radical’, and gender-fucking when it’s embodied by masc folks rather than from women.That said, there are amazing and badass dyke/queer/femme-identified punk women and to not acknowledge that would be a mistake.That said, as much as it’s is part of our collective herstory, I hope butch/femme continues to have a celebrated future and grows, thrives, keeps on pushing the boundaries of womanhood with unabashed queerness and unapologetic (and yes, persistent) desire.Because I would not be here, as I am, without that legacy and without those people — and for that I am grateful and loving even in the middle of hard, messy, complicated conversations where no one is asked to shrink or shirk their dignity.
It deeply informs my trans womanhood while remaining separate from it, shaping how I can inhabit a binary gender and play with it in a way that stretches past the lines patriarchy and cissexism puts in place.
In that moment, our womanhood became seen as wrong or the problem: whether that’s because we’re trans women and not ‘real’ or ‘women-born-women’; or when women get paid for their sexual labor and use sex work to survive and thrive; or when butch women declare themselves to be masculine and reject cis and heteronormative standards for womanhood; or when femmes unabashedly love and play with femininity to step into our full power and claim it on our own terms — not on men’s or heterosexuality’s.
It wasn’t just a limitation of the gender universe of womanhood, it was also silencing the ways those experiences of women and gender non-conforming/genderqueer experiences of gender informed a queer, working class, trans, butch/femme, sex worker feminist politic that was expansive, transformative and revolutionary.
All of this is within the context of queer/lesbian communities after the feminist / lesbian sex wars in the 1970’s and 80’s.
Often when the sex wars gets discussed, people mostly talk about the debates around porn and sex work, but that was also tied into a broader discussion and debate over BDSM, butch/femme, trans lives and existence, and working to define what a ‘good feminist’ and ‘good lesbian’ was and is.
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That’s not to say that we shouldn’t struggle with it or consider it the capital ’T’ truth. I struggle with it myself and hold my own contradictions with it, as a femme who primarily and historically has dated other femmes. To be honest, I think so much of my initial rejection of butch/femme came from deep sources of internalized femmephobia and misogyny and rejecting dyke culture outright, throwing the gorgeousness out with the TERF bathwater.