My Femme

Originally performed for The Femme Show, 2008

My femme is from orange street lamps turning on at dusk and being home before dark. My femme is from jump ropes barrettes and braids in the summertime. My femme is from backyard BBQ's, hunting worms in the dirt and willow trees struck by lightning. My femme is a round, solid bowl; a vessel containing confidence and nourishment for my queerness.

When I was young, I felt femme from my roots, creeping up and growing up like tall, green vines. I felt femme rumble when the neighborhood girls whizzed past me on their bicycles and bandanas. I felt femme purr when Cecilia Barkowski in eighth grade math class reached across my desk and her long brown hair brushed up against my forearm.

Today, my femme is a queer artist activist: She gets down and dirty. My femme camps and farms and bakes and reads and sips tea at midnight and then takes the bus to work in the morning. My femme wears flip flops with skirts and rain boots with hairy knees. She is puddle stomping, dirty feet, lace and halter tops with boi crushes, boi kisses, boy shorts standing topless at the kitchen sink brushing her teeth.

My femme dances curvy and wide, sharp and hip hop. These large breasts and strong thighs and thick ankles break down expectations of small size and femininity. My femme is heavy like the weight of an ocean wave crashing against the sand. My femme was the weight on top of her hand in that thunderstorm. My femme is that kinky dominant top and that shy girl bottom. She's the taste of nectarines, red and wet sweetness on your lips. She's the taste of chocolate melting on laughing tongues; red hibiscus rose hips, witch hazel, pink and orange fruits.

I didn't learn this gender from books or theory. I just remembered it from my queer working class ancestors. They passed down its spirit and I honor it with this label, and language. My femme is feminist. Today, yesterday and a century ago:

My femme is feminist.

My femme is a round, solid bowl; a vessel containing nourishment for my queerness.

I remember - when I was just a girl - Cosmo, Vogue and Glamour taught me how I should be a woman. I sought refuge in feminism and queer community except I had to cut off my hair to pass and my lovers always questioned if I was a real dyke.  The L Word has been teaching us how we should be femme: thin, white, rich. And some femme communities are breeding competition. And some dyke communities are breeding internalized misogyny. And some dykes think that femme and butch replicate a hetero-normative lifestyle. No. There is nothing "heteronormative" about this femme. There is no winning for us queers when we work with this patriarchal system that works to oppress us. …Because my femme is still cat-called on the streets: his voice crude and mean, his glance righteous and untrustworthy.

My femme came out years after my first lover said she just hated my pink lipstick. My femme just hid in the cold dark closet of my first apartment on High St. That's where my girlfriend at the time cut off my long, braided brown hair. Her hands were thick and smooth, pulling at my scalp, satisfying her own version of the dykey aesthetic.

When she was finally through, I sat down slowly, the braided entrails of my crown in a circle around me and held tightly in my hand. There, I flashed back to years earlier: I was living downtown and out with my single self one Thursday night. My hair was long, braided and tied up off my neck. I wore a black, smooth halter-top. It was late August and the city hissed with summer heat and drunks. Three men stumbled out of a bar on Congress St. and followed me to my car; Picking apart my femininity.

When I finally got home I was stunned and scared and outraged and impulsively... cut off my hair. I wore hoodies and baggy jeans and that's when my queer comrades complimented me on my new hot look.

So tell me. Is your community safe? Tell me. Are femmes safe? Tell me will my queer family stand for me when my birth family will not? Tell me. Is this community safe for all femmes? Are these streets safe? Are femmes safe here? Tell me.

My femme is quiet, like the sound of the sun setting on September's trees or the sound of the rain covering the roof above my bedroom like wrapping paper. My femme is the taste of chocolate melting on laughing tongues; red hibiscus rose hips, witch hazel, pink and orange fruits. My femme is a solid, round bowl, a vessel containing nourishment for my queerness.

My femme is from orange street lamps turning on at dusk, and being home before dark.