2 min

Looking straight through femmes

Too girlie for some

Credit: Xtra files

A while back I was asked if I thought there was a growing number of super-femmes out there to balance the overwhelming number of drag kings, bois and FTMs kicking around queer women’s events these days. At the time, I thought not. I could count the number of femmes I could name on one hand. But now I’m not so sure. I’ve begun to suspect that there are actually multitudes of femmes out there, existing just below the gaydar.

I’ve only lately started to think of myself as a femme. Laugh if you will, but there was once a time that I fancied myself to be quite dapper in a Fred Astaire meets Jimmy Dean kind of way. Since I’ve started taking my own femme persona out to play I’ve learned some exciting things. For example, I’ve come to understand that dressing up can be a form of foreplay. That to be a femme is to experience a heightened appreciation of one’s body and its effects on others. As a femme, I get to wear my sexuality front and centre.

I have long envied the easy come, easy go sexual encounters taken for granted by gay men everywhere. I see in femmedom the promise of all that and more. If more women – femme, butch or otherwise – were more in touch with their own sexual appetites I suspect there’d be a whole lot less fruitless posturing and a whole lot more actual women actually getting laid.

The downside of being a femme is that we’re sorely undervalued if not outright ignored in many queer circles. It is often still the case that you’re not taken seriously as a queer woman when you’re dressed in a skirt and heels. You’ve either got to come on like a sledgehammer or resign yourself to the fact that the woman you’re trying to pick up is working under the assumption that you’re someone’s straight friend who tagged along for a laugh.

Paradoxically, there appears to be a real demand for femmes in this city. I recently attended the November instalment of High Femme Fridays at Tallullah’s Cabaret, a monthly event for femmes and their admirers. And while the femmes were scarce, the admirers were out in droves. A regular later told me that femmes, particularly femmes in search of other femmes, are often scared off by the intensity of the prowling that goes on there. Imagine that.

But High Femme Fridays is the anomaly. It is a rarefied environment where girlie girls are taken at face value instead of taken in with sidelong glances. Take that same crowd and drop them into any other queer space and I’ll bet you dollars to damsels that there is no such interest evinced.

Case in point, I recently performed as part of a femmesome foursome at a gig starring a local dyke band. We performed a few numbers in a mixed first set alongside drag kings, punk grrrlz and assorted queer crooners. It was a fabulous line-up, so I was thrilled to the toes of my high-heeled boots when the headliners singled us out when they took the stage.

I was, however, less than thrilled when they announced to the crowd that they were pretty sure we were all straight. In fact, I nearly fell out of the woman’s lap I was sitting in.

What possible line of reasoning could have lead to this verdict, I wondered? Surely it wasn’t the part where the four of us, dressed in fishnets, frills and sequins, danced suggestively in front of the overwhelmingly female crowd? Perhaps it was the part where we took off our skirts that had them confused?

To be fair, two members of my little troupe are straight. But given the circumstances I maintain that we all should have been presumed queer until proven otherwise. By that same logic, if just half of the femmes I previously assumed to be straight are otherwise, well, then I guess it’s time to stop counting and free up some hands.

* Julia Garro is Xtra’s associate editor.