When considering the topic of femme in/visibility I would say I have definitely experienced in/visibility as a queer femme in a straight world. Times that immediately come to mind include my first ever university queer party when I was the only person wearing a dress – a cute vintage frock at that, with my purple Dr Marten boots. I felt simultaneously visible as I stood out from the denim jeans and pants crowd, and invisible as my femme identity didn’t seem “queer” enough. I have been refused entry to queer venues as I must have been invisible to the bouncers, who read me as “straight”. *I don’t mean to disrespect straight folks, and I give my respect to trans* men and women who have come out and are living their lives courageously with partner/s of their choice who may be opposite sex. These experiences I am referring to I am positioning in relation to myself as a queer femme and how I am rendered visible or invisible by the gaze of others.
Invisibility can feel like rejection when my glamorous get-up renders me unseen or unrecognized by those I desire. I have felt invisible when I am dressed in high femme attire – hat, gloves, heels and a fabulous frock, and I confidently smile at a handsome butch on the street – only to have them look away or give me a puzzled stare in return.
Visibility can mean identifying and creating community, even in the most unlikely places. At a Peace Convergence in North Queensland, Australia, cooking with “Food not Bombs” for several hundred peace activists in 2007, I was identified as a “fat femme” for the first time, by a fellow Fat Femme from Canada.
However, visibility does not always mean security. Walking down the street with my lovers and having bottles and abuse hurled from cars at us because we are ‘fucking dykes”; I have learned not to take for granted my invisibility and the safety it can afford me when out in public. I can catch a train or bus without being asked, curiously or aggressively, “if I am a boy or a girl?” My in/visibility as queer means I am not often the target of threatened men who have something to prove. However, I can be the object of their desires, which is troubling in a different way. Deflecting male interest, I am told continuously “I don’t look like a lesbian”.
Homophobia, racism and sexism in society mean that being femme, queer, women, a person of colour, trans* or genderqueer we are not always safe from harm. It takes strength to resist the violence and oppression that shapes our lives. It uses resilience we have collectively when being true to ourselves. We are powerful when we are resisting a system of domination, hetero-normativity, class and cultural norms, which divide and make us the “other”. Our love is radical; even more so when it is not invisible.
I feel visible when my lover compliments me on my outfit, and observes admiringly that even my hair tie matches my clothes. I cherish her gaze. It is her words that I will remember long after a stranger’s insults have faded from memory. I am seen and desired by her, and it is that which matters most.
Latest posts by ladybetty
- What femmes can do - August 5th, 2011