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Femme Invisibility and Butch Marginality

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Having lived on both sides of the fence, as a boyish girl and a lipstick lesbian, I can speak with some authority about the challenges of each position. I would first like to mention that discussions over whether butches are male identified or not assume that there is a single way to be butch, when in fact all of these labels we use have multiple meanings and are lived in many different ways. Of course, those among us who present ourselves as most masculine often get the brunt of heterosexism from strangers, be it crappy service in business establishments or the terror of physical violence. So one generalization I am prepared to make is that our butches are a courageous bunch.

However, the butch presentation of self also sometimes affords an advantage in a heterosexist world. That same visibility which can be so problematic provides a chance for people who don’t want to be nasty or violent but are just really uncomfortable with queers to avoid us, or censure their topics of conversation so as to avoid knowing about our personal lives, or just to brace themselves so as not to look stupid when the ‘L’ word comes up. Now that lipstick is a part of my life, I have to face people’s enormously uncomfortable shock when they realize that their assumptions have been wrong. You meet someone, have a great conversation, but all the while in the back of your head you’re wondering if they’re still going to like you, or how they’re going to handle it when it pops out of the closet. Often, the poor unsuspecting soul can’t figure out where to look or what to say until 30 seconds later when some weak remark about the weather comes out and I’m left wanting to apologize for the shock and dismay I’ve caused.

I’d say that butchness leaves its bearer paradoxically exposed to heterosexism and protected from it. It all depends who you’re dealing with.


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So, pretty much, I feel invisible to both worlds.

If only there was a way to let everyone know how lesbian I am without compromising myself or my style. Ugh....

I have the same problem!

I'm thinking about going butch, at least a little.

Actually, when I got into junior high and started developing my own dress sense, everything was very mannish. I wore men's jeans, T's, big heavy necklaces, and even had a mannish haircut. When people started calling me "Rei" (rhymes with Ray), my mom flipped out and threw all my clothes away. She made me dress girly for the rest of the years I lived with her.

And even though I haven't lived with her for the last four years, it has just now occured to me that I can do whatever I want, now.

I'm just not sure what that is!


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This topic hits SO close to home for me. I am for sure considered "femme" by many of the people I know in the gay community. I get made fun of for it a lot because most of the women that I am friends with currently who are gay are considered butch. I know that they are just making friendly jabs. They are my friends, and friends tease. But it is very frustrating for me to walk into a bar with some of my pals and be ignored because it is assumed that I am the straight friend along for the ride.

HOWEVER. I feel like this has made me into a person who confronts others instead. Because I am more or less "invisible" in the gay community, it forces me to be the one who approaches a girl I am interested in. And as for being hit on by men, I consider it to be flattering and just inform them that I am not interested and that I play for their team. Sometimes this just makes them more interested, at which point I become frustrated. I think the invisibility topic is one that pertains to each girl individually. I may be invisible in bars, so I make myself stand out. I still wear my skirts and heels and I still look relatively "straight", but I get myself noticed.

The necklace idea was a good one. So is wearing a rainbow bracelet. I wear one everyday and it is the most common way that I find other lesbians in everyday situations. You can find one that fits your style.

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