Monday, 5 December 2011

In vision. (2)

Okay, that's enough introspection for now. Instead, here are some more pictures. They're not definitively male femmes this time – in fact one of them isn't even male – but I like them.

The first two are photos of "The Prettiest Boy in the World", fashion model Andrej Pejic. "Is that you?" I was asked about the second one. I wish!

The third is an 1894 painting of Ophelia by John William Waterhouse. Crossdreaming blogger Deborah Kate uses this as her avatar and you can see why: Ophelia's gender is so ambiguous. Yes, there's the dress and the hair, but these don't denote femaleness necessarily, and certainly not in our context. Meanwhile, Ophelia's left arm and hand seem almost deliberately placed to conceal the more obvious sexual signifiers. I have a print of this picture on my wardrobe door.

The last is Eddie Izzard again. (He also featured in my first picture post.) Compared with Andrej, Eddie doesn't have a lot to work with. He's just a big bloke really. And yet, some feathers, a few highlights, a bit of make-up, and he looks pretty too. As someone who is far more Eddie than Andrej, I find that very encouraging.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


From CNLester's twitter feed:

Always makes me smile, reading people arguing about being #stealth - some of us don't have the choice. #antistealth by default.


The arguments CN is referring to mostly revolve around whether or not transpeople, whose "trans" isn't obvious, or is no longer obvious, should live by "stealth" (that is without being "open" about who they are or were). It's primarily a political argument and I understand both sides – the stealth and anti-stealth positions. But I don't intend to write about them here, because I'm not trans in the same way, and it's not my place.

Or is it?

Thinking about stealth as it concerns TVs, as it concerns me: We don't seem to talk about this very much. We're just assumed to be stealth; we assume ourselves to be stealth. Our support groups assume that. All our discussions seem to be on that basis: safe spaces, safe times for cross-dressing, passing, secrecy, stealth. For this, as it were, default stealth, we're sometimes regarded (and disparaged) by other transpeople as part-timers, scuttling timidly in and out of the heteronormative woodwork, because we can. And it's true: anti-stealth transvestites aren't so plentiful. A lot of us are "out" at home, to a certain extent, within certain limits, but not so often in the wider world. And I understand all the reasons for that too.

So what about me?

I'm stealth. Pretty much; yes, I'd say that; I'm ashamed to say that. I'm not exactly part time – one coat, one cloth cap is the sum total of my "male" wardrobe – but I'm not anti-stealth either. Or even particularly "out".

Day to day, my presentation is hardly ever so femme as to cause alarm. In fact it's not very femmey at all. Although all my clothes are off the women's racks, they're not really that different from what I've always worn – jeans, jumpers, t-shirts, trainers. Maybe they don't look quite the same as those off the men's racks, but any apparent femme-iness is largely negated by being an otherwise un-femmey middle-aged man with a number-one shaved head. (And I don't actually mind that. I don't want to pass as a woman anyway, even supposing I still could; I just want to wear women's clothes – femme clothes.) Okay, I do get occasional comments such as: "nice jeans, mate" (sarcastically, having clocked that they're women's jeans); "that's a woman's coat!" (well, yes, so what?); or "do you pluck your eyebrows?" (no one has yet followed that up with "why?"). But there's nothing blatantly femme about my appearance. I don't go round the shops in a skirt and heels.

Similarly, while I think most people who know me know I'm a transvestite, that's not because we've ever had a serious conversation about it. I've not started one; they've not started one. They just know – without us having had to talk about it. I guess they all regard it, tolerantly, as my business (which of course it is) and choose (and probably prefer) to leave things as they are, without it intruding. And that's okay – up to a point.

So that's my life, mostly. Stealth. Stealth drag. Stealth living. Silence. Fear. Silence. Stealth. I said "up to a point", didn't I.

Excuse me while I go and chew the carpet.

Going back to the beginning: I don't think stealth is really getting us TVs anywhere. It certainly isn't getting me anywhere. Perhaps it's time we did talk about stealth.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


There's been a lot of talk again recently – on the forums and elsewhere – about the word "tranny", prompted by its use both by Kelly Osbourne (in an embittered outburst – about which Matt Kailey writes persuasively here) and by the participants in the real-life documentary ‘My Transsexual Summer’ (when talking about themselves). People are more than a little annoyed.

Since I use the word "tranny" as well, perhaps I should make my own position clear: While I don't mind other trans* people claiming and using it if they so wish, to me "tranny" means "transvestite". Certainly, that's what I mean when I use the term in this blog (as in my Inspirations post). And I think that's what most people – especially cis (non-trans) people – mean by it.

And I think most people understand that – and that's why they're angry. Because to use the term "tranny" to or about someone who isn't TV is to deny (or at least appear to deny) their own (non-TV) identity. Indeed, that's often the deliberate intent. For instance, calling a trans woman a "tranny" implicitly and offensively denies her identity as a woman and says she's just a man in a frock – and, of course, trans women take great umbrage at that.

But for transvestites, "tranny" mostly isn't an insult. We use the term about and amongst ourselves quite readily. Vicky Lee's transvestite almanacs even used it in the title (‘The Tranny Guide’). The only occasion I might personally regard "tranny" as insulting is when a person's intonation or accompanying words (such as "you f***ing...") render it so. But even then it's the pejorative intent that offends, not the word itself.

Anyway, that's it. When I use the word "tranny" here it's strictly and solely in reference to me as a TV and/or to other TVs (as long as they, too, accept it without taking offence) and never to any other trans* identities. And if anyone says that I can't define for myself what a particular word means, I'll refer them to Humpty Dumpty:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more or less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master — that's all."

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


In an article about the Independent on SundayPink List’ (which recognizes people within the LGBTQ community), Nat Titman writes:

I would love to read other people’s Inspiration Lists, especially international lists and lists covering queer and trans* communities of which I’m not a member. I encourage you all to thank everyone who’s inspired you, made it easier to be queer, trans* or gender nonconforming or helped you or your communities in practical ways.

Right, so...

To a large extent I've already mentioned many of my own inspirations here, so I'll make this list a bit more specific, noting a few personal reasons – while not discounting other things they may have done – these people have my gratitude.

In no particular order, they are:

Eddie Izzard – for doing so much to destigmatize transvestism.

Vicky Lee – for opening the pre-internet door to the tranny subculture.

Richard O'Brien – for the song Sweet Transvestite (especially as performed by Tim Curry – such attitude!)

Julia Grant – for the BBC documentary ‘A Change of Sex’.

Ian McKellen (famous relative) – for coming out on Wogan in 1988.

Leslie Feinberg – for hir prideful book Transgender Warriors.

Kate Bornstein and Riki Wilchins – for their playful gender theory.

Dorothy Allison and Patrick Califia – for the courage of their writing.

Stephen Whittle – for his activism and intelligence.

Okay, I could add many more names to this list – many more femmes, for instance – and perhaps at a later date I will. But for now, those eleven will do. Thank you to every one of them.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Femme tides.

I'm feeling a real need to up my femme at the moment, by which I (mostly) mean wearing increasingly "girly" clothes. Floaty skirts are coming out of the wardrobe, serious lingerie (as opposed to ordinary knickers) from the bottom of drawers, heels from the back of the cupboard – I'm wearing four-inch stilettos as I write. I don't know why this might be.

It's not the full moon. We're just past the new moon right now (see here), so it can't be that (unless it's butch which waxes with the full). My biorhythms say I'm high on the physical and emotional curves and in an intellectual trough. Astrology tells me that The Sun is in Scorpio, plunging me into the depths of my 12th house, while Wednesday's New Moon coincided with Venus and Mars at apparent right-angles, which could all be significant. Okay, I don't really believe in any of that.

But femme does seem to come in phases – or as tides. This seems to be a spring tide. There's been a recent thread on Angels about "ebb and flow", with talk of balance and imbalance, pendulums swinging, ups and downs, and so forth. All very pertinent and interesting (until it went off-topic and became a clothing advice column). Someone also mentioned stress, which may have more relevance than syzygy: I'm currently in the middle of a big job, the deadline is approaching fast, and I'm absolutely not going to make it. But then I haven't noticed any such surge when I've failed to meet deadlines before. So that's probably not the reason either.

I suppose there doesn't need to be a reason. I just feel more femmey at some times than at other times – and that's simply the way things are. I think I'll go and put on a frock.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Reading my way into femme.

In her introduction (the title of which I've stolen) to the Persistence anthology, Zena Sharman writes:

I've read my way into everything that's ever mattered to me—feminism, social justice, queerness, femme. (...) I started going to the gay bar, took up go-go dancing for a queer punk band, and read everything I could get my hands on. It was in books like The Persistent Desire and Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity that I found words for who I was, and through these a lineage, a community, my heroes. Nearly ten years later, femme is more than just a word on a page. It's who I am.

Well, I don't go to gay bars (not specifically anyway) and I don't go go-go dancing, but I did read my way into femme...

My cross-dressing goes back to my earliest memories and for a very long time it was just something I did, with little care or thought for why. The label "transvestite" (when I even bothered with one) was sufficient. In my early 30s, for no obvious reason, that all changed – perhaps I was just at that stage in what Vicky Lee calls "The Tranny Journey" – and I started reading and thinking seriously about cross-dressing, sex and gender. Although I didn't formulate them so precisely back then, there were two important issues I needed to resolve:

1) The conflict between sex (in the erotic sense) and gender (in the male/female sense) – so that cross-dressing should not be reduced discretely (in the mathematical sense) either to sex (to be dismissed as male deviance) or to gender (to some notion of femaleness), but acknowledge both sexuality and gender as integral.

2) The conflict between male cross-dressing and the usual feminist critique thereof: that male CDs are, for whatever reason, merely acting out patriarchal stereotypes of womanhood – so that our own form of "femininity" might be justified theoretically and politically without reneging on a general feminist understanding of gender (which I largely accepted).

Trawling the bookshops – Mushroom, Silver Moon, Gay's The Word (of these only the last is still going) – and later the internet, I, too, "read everything I could get my hands on". Books such as: Gender Outlaw, Pomosexuals, Public Sex, Read My Lips, Sex Changes, S/he (my copy has a different cover), Skin, Stone Butch Blues, and Transgender Warriors.

Reading all this literature – which was written with such fierce honesty, intelligence, playfulness, poetry, pride – opened me up to new ideas, new feelings, new ways of thinking about gender; and about transgender and transsexuality; about lesbian, gay and queer sexuality; sex-positivity, radical sex, sexual politics. The list of books above comprises some of my favourites, but there were plenty more: Vicky Lee's Tranny Guides; numerous trans and drag autobiographies; texts on sexology, sociology, anthropology, the law – whatever I could get my hands on.

And I'd not yet gotten to femme. Although the authors I'd read included two feminist femmes in Dorothy Allison and Minnie Bruce Pratt, their femme was specifically lesbian and didn't speak to me directly. It was another book which resonated more: Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues. This is primarily a lesbian book too, but it's also about transgender and cross-dressing – and significantly, cross-dressing as part of a gendered and sexual identity (issue 1 resolved), and which did not feature straight male CDs at all (issue 2 circumvented). Relating immediately to the main character, Jess (who is fictional but based, I think, on Feinberg's own life), I naturally compared our differing identities and then began to consider whether my own cross-dressing might be conceived as a mirrored counterpart to hers. I started investigating lesbian butch in earnest, and as there wasn't much uniquely butch theory available at the time, this mostly meant reading about butch/femme.

Eventually it struck me: There was no need to figure out an upside-down male version (so to speak) of female butch and all the confusing geometry of reflections. Butch already had a reflective counterpart – femme. And if butch could be female, why couldn't femme be male? (Perhaps if I'd read about gay male femme I'd have gotten there sooner, but never mind.) From that realization everything fell into place:

Why is there a sexual component to our cross-dressing? Because femme is both a gendered and an erotic identity. Why are we drawn to overtly feminine clothing, of a type most women would never wear? (The type men buy for their wives at Christmas and is returned to the stores by the truckload in the New Year.) Because our real need is to express our femme natures – and femmes do wear such clothes. Why do male CDs (as Helen Boyd asked) "so rarely have any interest in the actual lives of women?" Because we're not women, we're femmes – and men. (Though this answer doesn't negate the question; in my opinion, the study of feminism should be compulsory for all male cross-dressers.) And as regards the conflict with feminism – lesbian femmes had already staked out that territory (see, for example, my femme and feminism post).

Nearly six years later (going back to Zena Sharman), femme is more than just a word on a page. It's who I am.

And now I've read a lot of books on femme as well: Brazen Femme, Femme: Feminists, Lesbians & Bad Girls, Femmes of Power, The Femme's Guide to the Universe, The Femme Mystique, Visible: A Femmethology (and Vol.2) – and books by femmes, and more by butches, and there's always more to read on the blogosphere.

But at the moment I'm mostly reading about male femininity from the perspective of feminine gay men – which is another topic for another time.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

male fem.

In a new (old) post, ‘Fem’, Tranarchist Asher Bauer declares: I am male and I am fem – which immediately got my attention. The linked piece ‘Self Explanatory: When Your Gender Isn’t’ goes further:

Butch has a corollary, and that corollary is fem(me). These words describe gender expressions as unconnected from sex or gender identity. They are free-floating concepts, capable of being attached to all kinds of men and women. When I transitioned, I took the ideas of “butch” and “femme,” so central to the lesbian community, with me into the world of gay men. Other fem trans men, I think, have done the same.

..."gender expressions as unconnected from sex or gender identity" – damn, yes, absolutely! And I've done the same as a femme hetero cis man, which leads me to another part of his post:

I can’t think of a single cissexual man of my acquaintance who identifies as fem. (...) It really makes me wonder: why are trans men so much more willing than cis to identify with and present femininity?

I'm not sure that's entirely true about cis men. Okay, for the population as a whole it probably is. But there are quite a lot of cis male CD/TVs, and we mostly identify with and present femininity (albeit, in many cases, on a periodic and curtailed basis). And my position is that a lot of us are in fact femmes, even if we don't necessarily identify as such. And perhaps the reason we don't is because fem(me) is not a familiar concept in our community. Unless we hang out with lesbian femmes or gay male femmes (which straight male TVs generally don't) or else do a lot of relevant reading (which I did – see a forthcoming post), we're unlikely to know anything about femme at all.

That's one of the points of my blog: to offer an alternative theoretical framework for male cross-dressing, based on femme, which other people can pick up on – or not – as they see fit. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, it's not completely unknown anyway.

But returning to Asher's blog and his identity as a femme trans man – I just love that. As he puts it: Personally I respect femininity. In someone who is expected to be masculine it is particularly transgressive. I enjoy that transgression. Yes indeed. And similarly, the identity of butch trans woman (as held, for instance, by Amy Fox). As Asher writes again:

And what?

And girls are naturally feminine?

And girls are all attracted to men?

While these types of essentialist arguments might hold water for some, hopefully nobody who would take any such statement seriously is even reading this. No—men and women are diverse. Some women are masculine, some men are feminine. We all know that here. Why should it be so hard to accept that this goes for trans men and women as well?

Exactly so. Just because we're men (cis, trans, or whatever) doesn't mean we have to be any particular kind of man. Or woman. Or anything. Gender essentialism is such a pile of crap. Basically.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

More on pronouns.

In my earlier post on pronouns, I indicated a reluctant willingness to accept "he" (and therefore "him" and "his" too) as long as no assumptions were made about what "he" might mean. Thus, at the next Recreation meeting, I said I didn't really like pronouns but that people could use "he" for me. And this little statement got a nod of understanding.

But now I'm thinking about changing my mind, because I've just come across a post by Kate Bornstein: A Tribute to Mx Justin ViVian Bond, which includes the half-sentence "V (Justin ViVian's pronoun of choice)". Say what?! Going to Mx Bond's own site, there is this explanation:

Not long ago I was asked to speak on a panel at Columbia University entitled “Denaturalizing Gender and Sex”. Before introducing me the organizer of the panel asked how I would like to be “pronoun-ed”. I wasn’t quite sure how to reply. Obviously for the majority of my life I’ve been referred to as “he” or “him” and to a lesser degree “she” or “her”. I don’t usually think about it too much except when reading it in print where it has annoyed me to no end. I’ve never really addressed it because I have had no better suggestions to offer. For some time I’ve been familiar with the words zee, hir, or they as gender-neutral terms but I’ve never really liked them. So the fellow who was going to introduce me, upon sensing my dis-ease suggested “they” because “that’s Genesis P-Orridge’s preference”. I said okay thinking I might as well try “they” on… “if it works for Genesis….”

Well after introducing two of the other panelists I heard my name followed by “they” and I began looking around to find out who the other people were he was talking about, then I remembered that “they” was me. I got a good chuckle out of it but my pronoun quandary was clearly NOT solved.

So what I’ve come up with is “v”. Since my name is Justin Vivian Bond and since Vivian begins with a V and visually a V is two even sides which meet in the middle I would like v to be my pronoun.

For example:

Justin Vivian Bond was described in The New Yorker as “a bar of gold in the new depression”. V’s latest eponymous show at Joe’s Pub will be Saturday January 8th at 11:30


“Have you seen Justin Vivian?”

“Yes, V ran to the store to pick up the dress v is having altered.”

V covers it all.

In the future if I see or hear the words he or she, her or him, hers or his, in reference to me, I will take it either as a personal insult, a weak mind (easily forgivable), or (worst case scenario) sloppy journalism.

Ah, that's splendid! And v's descriptions of "Prefix: Mx" and "Gender: Trans" are also very engaging.

So, I guess my pronoun should be "J". As in: "Is Jonathan coming tonight?" "Yes, J said J'd be down at 6:30, but J'd have to leave by 9:00 so that J can catch J's bus home."

Okay, maybe not. Using "J" in there makes it all a bit convoluted and clumsy. But it's a nice idea all the same :)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Jasper's Wardrobe.

Well, it seems I wrote Jasper off too soon in my initial post. Clicking the link therein on an impulse, I discovered he's restructured his site so that it functions in the blog world once more. Nice to see. Jasper is an interesting guy and an – perhaps the – original male femme blogger. Although... I do have problems with some of the stuff he posts.

For one thing, Jasper's identity seems to be defined, at least partly, in opposition to transactivists and feminists, with whom he has running battles. So you get headings like the recent "Women's Studies Made You Ignorant" and "Male Lesbians, Feminine Boys, Sissies, I Went Trans So You Don’t Have To". Okay, those are probably deliberately provocative with more than a dose of humour added, but still, for me they're a distraction. Feminism and trans theory are two of the most important branches of modern thought, our most serious tools in examining and reshaping the world we live in, when we're dealing with gender. Feminists and transactivists are – or should be – our allies and friends, not our opponents. We should be able to carve out our own space, own our identities, without sniping at theirs.

And then there's Jasper's interest in AGP. For instance, he reblogs Hontas Farmer: For a long time now many trans activists (...) have crusaded against the very notion of autogynephilia (...), or denied the very existence of autogynephilia. (...) The transactivist claim that autogynephilia is based on pseudo science. (...) That autogynephilia is just the work of a transphobic quack named Ray Blanchard.

I have to say I agree with the transactivists entirely. AGP is pseudo-science. It's a lame attempt to pathologize a particular area of human behaviour in the specific instances where it's deemed gender inappropriate. It's that supposed inappropriateness that we should be challenging. We don't need some gender-defending scientist to give it a silly name and tell us there's something wrong with us.

Similarly, in an earlier post by Jasper himself, there is: Anne Laurence (...) builds off of Blanchard’s theories of Male Femininity as a Desire Disorder. The theory has been labeled as “Evil” within LGBT because it sees both male crossdressers and MTFs as the same phenomenon of Becoming-Woman-Desire.

To me, a theory that calls male femininity a "disorder" of anything is just more pathologizing. Okay, I wouldn't call it evil, but I'd say it's at best obscurantist. It deflects us from debating the nature of gender, sets up a normative view of gender as axiomatic, and places us outside the discourse, as aberrant. Oi! Blanchard! No!

Furthermore, in my opinion (and this is just my opinion), male cross-dressing and MTF trans are not the same phenomenon – not in general terms. (For individuals they often can be, as the phenomena overlap, or as people struggle to reach their own understanding of themselves; but that's a different matter.) For those who are MTF trans, "becoming-woman" is not a desire, it's an imperative. Whereas for male cross-dressers – at least if we define ourselves as femmes – "becoming-woman" is a red herring, because we're not women. To use "becoming-woman" in our case merely reiterates a cultural – and false – correlation between sex and gender. For us as male femmes, the categories "man" and "femme" are not incompatible, and to throw the word "woman" in there simply confuses things.

But as I said, these are only my opinions. Obviously Jasper has his own opinions, and it is those which make his blog and his youtube channel worth watching. I shall re-add the Wardrobe to my blog list and enjoy the show :)

Monday, 8 August 2011

Pronoun trouble.

Last week I went down to Recreation Nottingham for the first time. I'm always rather shy and tongue-tied around new people (not that I have much conversation at the best of times), but they seem like a nice bunch. One of the things they did, before getting down to any business, was go round the group and have everyone say their name and which pronouns they preferred. I'm (insert name) and I like "he", or "she", or "they" (gender neutral), or "ze", or whatever. It's a nice idea.

Actually we did this twice (once again after someone else came in later on). First time I said "I'm Jonathan and most people use he, but I'm not really bothered"; second time I said "I'm Jonathan and I use he, but whatever you like is fine", or something along those lines. But what I should have said was: "I'm Jonathan and although I take other people's preferred pronouns very seriously, I've never thought about my own all that much." So, I've been doing that now.

The pronoun "he" is correct for me, but, well, y'know. Occasionally I get called "she" – in trans company, or on trans forums (cf my previous post), or by mistake – and "she" is kind of nice. It recognizes my femme pronoun-wise, if only inadvertently. Whereas "he" doesn't. Using "he" is like ticking the "M" box on a form. I always want to append a "but" to it. Okay, I could get round any pronoun qualms by using a neutral one, but that seems a bit of a cop-out for me. My gender isn't neutral. And "she" is simply wrong, since I'm not female. No, "he" is correct. But then there's that "but" again.

And that "but" means this:

Just because I'm male and accept the pronoun "he", please do not assume that you therefore know anything else about me: how I think, how I feel, what I like, who I like, what I know, what I do, what I can do, what I can't do, what I understand, what I don't understand, how I dress, how I have sex, how I eat my breakfast ... anything. The gender "male", the pronoun "he", the ticked box "M" tells you nothing about any of this. I am not from Mars. Stick your gender stereotypes up your arse and set fire to them.

So, okay, that's settled then. You can call me "he". But...

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Femme names.

My own femme name is Jennifer. Say it fast and mumbly and it sounds sort of like Jonathan. Previously I called myself Joanna – a partial anagram of Jonathan – but I never really felt like a Joanna, so I changed it.

I should explain that in this context "femme" has a different meaning to the one I am mostly applying in this blog. For male TVs a femme name has nothing to do with "femme". It's simply a female name; a name we use when we're in "feminine" mode, possibly in drag, or possibly just in company with other TVs, or other trans people, or friends, or whoever, either in person or online. A femme name, usually accompanied by female pronouns, acknowledges a certain femininity, whether outwardly expressed or inwardly asserted.

Often this feminine expression is temporary and alternates with a masculine "Bob" mode, indicating a bi-gendered identity. In other words, a person senses their own gender to be both feminine and masculine, and may express this in different ways at different times, perhaps in drag and perhaps in drab. The Manchester-based trans support group The Northern Concord used to (and probably still does) issue membership cards "for the both of you", reflecting this dual gendered nature.

In my case, however, there aren't two of me. That is to say, I'm uni-gendered not bi-gendered, and that single unigender is male. So why do I have a femme name at all? Why do I, for example, sign up for trans-related and butch/femme forums as "jenalex" and mostly post as and respond to "Jen"?

The reason is one of inclusiveness. I've always been bothered that signing up and posting as Jonathan (as male) would be to place myself outside the MTF community, whereas I see myself as part of it. Or at least as coming from it. Even if I no longer regard my own "F" as actually female at all, but as a valid and integral part of "M", of male. Which means I'm not really MTF after all. Or at least I have a slightly unusual and personal interpretation of it. Or...

Okay, I'm rambling now.

As it happens, I've just signed up to a new local trans network as Jonathan. So maybe I'll make Jonathan my new femme name. Mmmm, degendering names, regendering names.

Sure, why not? :)

Saturday, 25 June 2011

So, what is femme? (2)

Right, here it is — a definition of femme that's inclusive, incisive and intelligible. I doubt I'll ever be able to put it better than this:

femme is dispossessed femininity. It's the femininity of those who aren't allowed to be real women and who have to roll their own feminine gender.

Rolling their own is what cis-femme lesbians did in the fifties. By class and by sexual preference, they were dispossessed of real womanhood. For what woman is complete without money or a man? So they learned how to improvise, how to sew; how to turn a thrift-store sow's ear into a vintage silk purse.

Rolling their own is what contemporary femme dykes do. Invisible in straight spaces and frequently trivialized in queer ones, they must voice their own femininity in a way that does not get shouted down or ignored. No easy task.

Rolling their own is what drag queens and trannies do and have always done. For what woman is complete without hairless skin and a cunt? We too learned how to improvise, and when we were mocked as caricatures of real women, we often became skilled caricaturists, owning the insult, engulfing it.

And this is what femme gay men do, too. Dangerously visible in straight space and often ridiculed in gay male space, femme gay men take the shit from all sides. The straights dish it to them because they're visible. Second-wave feminists dish it to them because they're both feminine and male, and have thus sinned twice. Other gay men dish it to them for acting like, well, chicks.

What these groups share, aside from a fondness for eyeliner, is the illegitimacy of their femininity. That's how I understand femme: badass, rogue, illegitimate femininity. It's the femininity of those who aren't supposed to be feminine, who aren't allowed to be, but are anyway.

— Elizabeth Marston; from her piece Rogue Femininity in the fabulous 2011 anthology Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, compiled and edited by Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman.

The contributors include – okay, I'll just list them all in order (I like lists): Anna Camilleri, Kimberly Dark, Miriam Zoila Pérez, Anne Fleming, Karleen Pendleton Jiménez, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Jewelle Gomez, romham padraig gallacher, Zena Sharman, Ivan E. Coyote, Amber Dawn, S.Bear Bergman, Brenda Barnes, Nairne Holtz, Laiwan, Stacey Milbern, B.Cole, Victoria A. Brownworth, Sasha T. Goldberg, Chandra Mayor, Donnelly Black, Redwolf Painter, Sinclair Sexsmith, Belinda Carroll, Zoe Whittall, Elizabeth Marston, Amy Fox, Jeanne Córdova, Rae Spoon, Elaine Miller, Thea Hillman, Bevin Branlandingham, Sailor Holladay, Melissa Sky, Prince Jei and Misster Raju Rage, Ben McCoy, Michael V. Smith, and Debra Anderson, with a foreword by Joan Nestle.

If any of those names mean anything to you at all, you should go and order the book right now!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Femme clothes, women's clothes.

To begin with, an axiom and a statement:

Axiom: There are no areas of human endeavour (apart from those related to procreation), no facets of human intellect or human personality that are inherently male or female. Society may attempt to designate them as such, but all such designations are false.

Statement: Women's clothes are the prime signifiers of femme.

The axiom I hold to be definitely true. The statement comes with several provisos, not least that its truth is somewhat complicated by the axiom. Because if most aspects of human behaviour are not inherently gendered, why should inanimate objects attached to humans be gendered? Why should the majority of human clothing be designated either as male or female? What in fact are women's clothes?

Recently, I've become quite intrigued by the idea of de-gendering or re-gendering clothing. That is since reading another thread on the mHB forum and the online archives of Graham Holmes, former leading light in the Total Clothing Rights group. (Okay, I have some problems with the apparent assumptions of TCR, in particular as regards women's own clothing rights, but that's a topic for another time.)

When I read Graham's articles I immediately thought "this guy is femme". And I thought the same about Jon-Jon Goulian, the author of a new book: The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt. And I may well be right. Or not. That would be for them to say. But in any case, that's not the question right now. The question is...

What are we (Jon-Jon, Graham and I) all doing? We're wearing women's clothes as men. Why? — and here, rather than reaching for complex, loaded explanations such as "transvestite" or "cross-dresser" (Jon-Jon says specifically he is not a cross-dresser; Graham says he is, but challenges what that means) or even "femme" (my favoured descriptor), let's apply Occam's Razor and take the one that makes the fewest assumptions — Because we want to wear prettier clothes.

Do men have pretty clothes? Not really, no. (Alright, the 1980's New Romantics had ruffles and stuff, but that was a particular look, not a general one.) So we have to wear women's clothes. But ultimately these clothes are just things: certain fabrics in certain colours and certain designs, which society has designated as women's clothes.

So let's not do that. Let's de-gender and re-gender. Pretty clothes de-gendered are now just pretty clothes. Pretty clothes re-gendered are now just men's clothes (literally: clothes worn by men). Using this logic (which, I have to say, is not originally mine) we are not cross-dressers, whatever anyone else might think. We are just men wearing clothes that society has arbitrarily designated as female. And as a corollary (rewriting my initial statement): rather than women's clothes being the prime signifiers of femme, it is simply that femme clothes are primarily designated as female.

Okay, I'll confess: I'm not totally convinced by that logic. But I want it to be correct. The sheer subversive audacity of it fills me with glee :)

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Fuck Yeah, Trans* Femmes!

As an adjunct to my previous post, I've just come across a call for trans femmes (i.e. anyone who is both trans and femme) to post on a new tumblr blog: Fuck Yeah, Trans* Femmes!a tumblog dedicated to femme expression and/or identity amongst trans* people of all genders.

"Please signal boost," they ask. So:

We want you, gorgeous trans* femmes (or trans* people who do femme) to submit!

Trans* people are often marginalized in femme spaces, and femme is often marginalized in trans* spaces, so this is our attempt to “fill the gap” and showcase femme within the trans* communities. Our aim is to be inclusive of nonbinaries and other underrepresented intersectional identities, as well.

We welcome followers of any gender, trans* status, and presentation! But we’re looking specifically to showcase the intersections of trans* identity and femme presentation among our submitters.

Original source: Call for Submissions.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Trans and femme.

So far in this blog I've been hammering home the concept of femme vs. trans: the idea that, for a lot of male TVs, notions of femaleness are (in my opinion) false and that our natures are actually femme (and male). And I'm as sure as can be that this is true for many of us.

But – and it's a big but – I must emphasize that the opposite can also be true: that some TVs are not femme (or at least not just femme) but trans; that notions of femaleness can be correct too. And in this case it might be considered that such natures are obscured by femme: that it is only after someone's femme has been allowed free expression that they can get past the "feminine" aspect, realize there is more to their gender issues, that they are essentially female, and (possibly) that they need to transition.

Perhaps it's that journey – from male to femme to female – which gives rise to the old joke: "What's the difference between a cross-dresser and a transsexual? Two years." (cf Anders, ‘The Lazy Crossdresser’, p5). Obviously that's not always true, any more than my conception of femme (contra trans) is always true, but it's sufficiently true (i.e. sometimes) for the joke to be funny. And there are many other truths as well, and which holds for which person is not for anyone but them to say. In this I think it should be as Patrick Califia once wrote: The best we can do is speak our own truth, make it safe for others to speak theirs, and respect our differences.

While on the subject of trans and femme, I should admit that using quotes from ‘My Husband Betty’ to illustrate my “not woman, but femme” post was somewhat suspect. Because Betty herself is both femme and female (and has since transitioned). I might also add that the author, Helen Boyd, doesn't need any instruction on these matters from me. (It has been, and is, the other way round.) Nor any lessons on femme and feminism either. Here I'd just like to flag her recent interview on Safe Space Radio, in particular the part (from 18:13 to 22:41) with "the shoe store story". I've made a transcript (a nice pun!) of that section (in case the interview gets taken down), but it's much better to go and listen.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

femme guy!

Reading a new post in one of my favourite blogs (The Femme's Guide) a couple of days ago, I noticed a link to another blog: femme guy!. Awesome! Another male femme blog. I went there straight away.

It turns out that this one started over a year ago, with the following introduction:

Welcome to my fabulous new blog about femme guys! (Because, like everyone else, I desperately needed more reasons to spend time on the computer.)

I have noticed over the last little while (by which I mean, like, ten years) a distinct lack of internet resources targeting the community of femme guys. Believe me, I’ve looked. The most I’ve ever managed to find is one or two laudatory mentions in a few blogs, one or two Facebook and Livejournal communities, and a whole lot of hate.

And yet it’s not like there’s any lack of us. You can’t turn around in queer men’s spaces without walking right into a profusion of non-traditionally-masculine-presenting fellows. But you’d never notice it – our whole existence is silenced, denied, and (paradoxically) vigorously shouted down. A galaxy of kinks, fetishes, and types of every kind are catered to (so much the better!), but femme boys are nowhere to be found among them. (And yet
someone must be having sex with us, considering how much of it we have.)

So this is a blog about men, boys, and other male-identified folks of all varieties, embodiments, karyotypes, and histories who are femme, feminine, effeminate, non-masculine, faggy, nancy, sissy, faerie, limp-wristed, limp-fisted, genderqueer, gender enhanced, and gender euphoric – anything but gender-normative.

As you'll swiftly gather, femme guy is coming at this from a different direction to me: from queer men's space. Whereas my blog is coming from straight men's space. Or, perhaps more accurately, femme guy is coming from queer gay men's space and I'm coming from queer straight men's space. But anyway...

What I like most about femme guy is how he, as a gay man, is taking in a lot of ideas from trans writing (Julia Serano is a particular favourite of his). Because that's almost a mirror to my own journey: from a trans perspective (initially) and absorbing ideas from queer/gay writing (albeit more lesbian than gay male, but never mind). The result is that aspects of two men's very different identities – gay, straight, queer, trans – are all connecting at femme.

I just have to say: that pleases me immensely :)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

It's not about sex; it's about gender.

How many cross-dressers have said those words? I've said them myself – and meant them. Meanwhile, significant others and the rest of the world look on, see us getting off, and think "yeah, right". But cross-dressers are not wrong and are not lying. It's just that the language we're all (CDs, SOs, everyone) using is inadequate.

Rather than "sex" and "gender", the crucial (and missing) word, I think, is sexuality. By sexuality I don't mean who you're attracted to (whether you're straight, gay, bi, or whatever); nor what turns you on as part of a sexual encounter (morphology, nakedness, latex, whipped cream, baked beans). These may be part of someone's sexuality, but they don't encompass it. Instead, I'm talking about another aspect: how you feel about yourself, your body, your desire; how you see yourself as a sexual being; and how you express it all.

For male cross-dressers that aspect might be exemplified along these lines: wanting to be the pretty woman in the room, the confident and sexy woman, the one that turns heads, the revamped Olivia Newton-John in Grease (never mind how implausible that thought); to feel that particular female sexual energy, not in a sexual act, but within oneself, as bliss.

To a certain extent a male cross-dresser can do that on his own. He can get dressed up, stand in front of a mirror, give himself the thumbs up (in female Fonz style), turn his own head (a good dose of self-deception is quite helpful there). Hence also, I'd guess, the practice by some CDs (not me in this case) of posting provocative photos online: so as to be the sexy woman in the virtual room, turning the virtual heads, responding flirtatiously to salacious (but anonymous) comments.

Of course, when a man's sexual feelings are heightened he may want to do something about it – and for a man by himself (with or without computer interaction) there is an obvious solution. But that, I think, is a consequence of his feelings, not the impetus for them. To put it more bluntly: he's not dressing in order to jerk off; he jerks off because his sexual feelings have been so amplified that he wants or needs to, and because he can. At the start he very likely had no such intentions at all; he just wanted to get dressed up.

So why wear women's clothes? After all, any man can dress to feel good about himself: perhaps powerfully masculine in a smart suit or uniform; cool and confident in t-shirt, jeans and a leather jacket (the Fonz proper); even sexy and gorgeous (handsome) for a night out. Yes, but those feelings are rather different from the ones we're after. I'd also suggest that they're not even male as such, but butch – the adjunct of femme – which brings me back to my blog theme.

Notice my use of the words "female" and "woman" in the third and fourth paragraphs above. That was deliberate; I wanted to put things in more familiar (for cross-dressers) and universal terms. But I'll say again now that "female" and "woman" seem inappropriate; that these are femme (not female) feelings; this particular sexual energy belongs to femmes (not women in general); that it's the femme who turns heads in this particular way.

In the end, for me, it probably is about sex after all, because it's about sexuality. But it's about gender too, because this facet of sexuality is inseparable from gender expression. And the taxonomy that connects these aspects of sex and gender in the most apposite way in this precise context is — wait for it — femme.

(This stuff becomes so much easier when you think about it in femme/butch terms and put woman/man to one side.)

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Male femme, sexual fantasy and desire.

It is very common for male transvestites, irrespective of their (our) sexual orientation, to fantasize about sex with men. Indeed, most of my sexual fantasies are about men. But..... I'm not really attracted to men. (And that's not some lame sort of denial: I have had sex with men, but it doesn't do it for me where it counts.) So what are these fantasies about?

Looking at the lesbian paradigm once again: butch/femme is a significant erotic pairing, two women's mutual desire for each other's differing forms of gender expression as women. That's not to say that all lesbians follow this paradigm. They don't. Even within butch and femme, the pairings femme/femme and butch/butch are perfectly valid. And very many (most?) lesbian relationships do not involve butch or femme at all.

But in this instance I'm thinking, as a femme man, specifically about butch/femme as the focus of desire. And given that I fantasize about men but don't actually desire men, perhaps what I really desire is butch women and just use men as butches by default (which, given everything I've said and think about gender, is a bit crass of me, but there you go; sexual fantasies don't have much to do with well-considered gender analysis).

The question is: do I really desire butch women? I've always thought it was androgynous women I liked, but, hmmm..., maybe it's butch women. For instance, listing some of the women on film that do it for me: Sarah Connor in Terminator 2; Ripley in (especially) Alien 3; Vasquez in Aliens; Jordan O'Neil in GI Jane (after she's shaved her head of course); Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby; Kara Thrace (Starbuck) in Battlestar Galactica; Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager (if only for one particular scene in a turboshaft); Jean Seberg as Saint Joan (okay, that's quite soft butch there).

And then there's tomboys. How many films are there where the really cute tomboy (e.g. Doris Day in Calamity Jane) gets a makeover – a girly haircut, a pretty dress, make-up. And there! So she was pretty after all! She looks so much better now! No, she doesn't. She looked great before, you morons.

Is it possible to go further than the personal and suggest that a lot of straight male cross-dressers – male femmes – who fantasize about men, might in fact be attracted to female butches? I don't know. But perhaps it's something worth considering at least.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Femme and feminism.

A current debate on the mHB message boards (in which I've been trying to propagate my view of male cross-dressing as femme) has had me thinking (tangentially) about how feminist-informed women perceive of male cross-dressing and, from there, how feminism perceives, or has perceived, of femme expression in general. The following is an attempt to summarize my (ongoing) thoughts in a coherent way...

Femme and feminism have often been uncomfortable companions and the reason for that is not hard to apprehend. Prior to feminism (in particular, the second wave) women were generally expected to dress in a certain way, behave in a certain way, conform to the oppressive gender rules laid down by a male-dominated society. Among the many achievements of the feminist second wave, one was to say a resounding "no" to all this. And the importance of their (albeit partial) victory cannot be overstated. Freedom (including gender freedom) means nothing without the ability to say "no".

However, in gaining that gender freedom, a converse (though not opposite) one was (perhaps inevitably) constricted: the freedom for some women to choose to present in a fem(me)inine style, to wear pretty or sexy clothes, and so forth. Such presentation was disparaged, as it was held to be reinforcing the gender status quo, and that women who opted for it were either dupes or traitors: in either case collaborators in their own oppression. This disparagement was heightened within lesbian feminism, as the erotic roles of butch and femme were further derided for aping an unenlightened and heteronormative conformity.

Eventually femme feminists themselves said "no". We are not puppets of the patriarchy; we are not perpetuating gender stereotypes. We are informed by feminism and we choose this form of gender expression. ("Refusing the fate of Girl-By-Nature, the fem(me) is Girl-By-Choice" – Lisa Duggan & Kathleen McHugh in their Fem(me)inist Manifesto again.) We choose it because it expresses an essential part of who we are: femmes. In this, lesbian femmes (Joan Nestle, Madeline Davis, Jewelle Gomez, Amber Hollibaugh, Dorothy Allison, Minnie Bruce Pratt, ...) have been in the vanguard: because femme is also about sexuality, and the denigration of femme (and butch) struck at the erotic heart of their lives. Now, in the 21st century, there is a burgeoning femme pride, albeit still in the leftfield of queer and (trans)gender debate.

Nonetheless, the battle fought by the feminist second wave, the freedom to say "no", remains important (especially as that freedom seems once more to be being eroded – for an exposition of this topic see, for example, Natasha Walter's recent book ‘Living Dolls’). Because not all women are femme. It's not possible even to say "most" women, even in the simple majority meaning of the word. (As to the actual proportion – majority, minority, large or small – who can possibly say.) But it doesn't matter anyway. All that matters is that some women are femme; that they have the right to choose femme expression for themselves; and, equally, that other women have the right to choose otherwise.

Having got thus far, it is not much of a leap to realize that such gender freedom might also be necessary for men. That some men are femme, too, and have the same need to express it. And that, in doing so, those men are not necessarily maintaining gender based oppression, and are not just acting out their own stereotypical, hyper-sexualized visions of women. Rather, they are appropriating the major cultural signifiers of femme (women's clothes) and using them to express their own femme personalities. Or so it seems to me. Even if most such men would probably not explain themselves in anything like those terms.

Regarding men's ability within society to express their femme, that is perhaps another question – or perhaps, another battle. At present western culture is barely tolerant of male femininity (in whatever form it takes: trans, femme, sissy, ...), but to some extent at least this is our own fault. Women did not gain such gender freedom as they do have without fighting for it. As a wife of a cross-dresser (quoted by Helen Boyd in ‘My Husband Betty’) put it: "We had to burn our bras. You're going to have to wear yours in public." In the light of everything I've just written, that seems a very pertinent comment.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

So, what is femme?

I'd really like to answer that question, but femme is an elusive quantity and as such is difficult to define.

We cannot begin with a definition; we cannot offer assurances of any kind. For "fem(me)" is not an identity, not a history, not a location on the map of desire. The fem(me) body is an anti(identity)body, a queer body in fem(me)-inine drag.

— from A Fem(me)inist Manifesto by Lisa Duggan & Kathleen McHugh.

What cannot be seen, what cannot be held or pinned down, is where femme is (...) Femme is inherently "queer" – in the broadest application of the word – as bent, unfixed, unhinged, and finally unhyphenated. Released from the strictures of binary models of sexual orientation and gender and sex. Released from a singular definition of femme.

— from the introduction to Brazen Femme by Chloë Brushwood Rose & Anna Camilleri.

Interestingly, and significantly for me, in the same piece Brushwood Rose and Camilleri relate a "pivotal acquaintance" with a man they call "Jim":

Both of us had begun to sense the need to articulate femme as a gender experience that is never tied to biological sex. (...) What would it mean to be a femme and not a woman? What would it mean to be femme outside of a lesbian framework? What is it that femmes have in common? What makes femme different from femininity?

And then we met Jim. A straight man. A femme. Jim lived and worked as a man. Jim also lived and worked in what most would describe as "women's clothes", but what might also be described as "high femme" clothes. Many people would call Jim a transvestite. Jim called himself femme.

Our brief but pivotal acquaintance with Jim helped us think about the common dangers and pleasures of femme as an experience that is informed by and also exceeds lesbian herstory; as a way of being that cannot be described as quintessentially feminine. Instead, femme might be described as "femininity gone wrong" – bitch, slut, nag, whore, cougar, dyke, or brazen hussy. Femme is the trappings of femininity gone awry, gone to town, gone to the dogs. Femininity is a demand placed on female bodies and femme is the danger of a body read female or inappropriately feminine. We are not good girls – perhaps we are not girls at all.

Perhaps not, no :)

As for the original question: I guess I'll return to it in subsequent posts.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Not woman, but femme.

Helen Boyd's My Husband Betty is one of my favourite trans-related books, in particular for the way she elucidates the difficulties faced by female partners of male cross-dressers. But on rereading it (yet again) a few passages have already (I'm up to page 51) stuck out:

(p14) how insulting it could be when your husband, in professing a desire to "feel like a woman," dressed in clothes that to you made him resemble someone you'd call a slut.

(p44) I don't really buy the argument that men who crossdress are getting in touch with their "inner woman" because they so rarely have any interest in the actual lives of women. What they are interested in is their own expression of their own version of femininity, which is a whole different thing altogether. What I see and experience and hear about is closer to that idea than any other, that crossdressers are men, with men's notions of what women are, who then choose to express those male-centered ideas about femininity in a very masculine way. They don't help with the laundry or make dinner, they don't train themselves to make more room for others' needs than for their own. They continue to be the same guys they always were, in dresses.

(p45) men understand their own "femininity" as men, and they know women through their own men's eyes. That may be why some crossdressers portray such a sexualized image of women when they dress as them. It may also be why their notions of femininity seem a little absurd and outdated.

The trouble arises, I think, from the use (by cross-dressers themselves) of "woman/women" in those passages: "inner woman", "feel like a woman" – what do those statements even mean? They imply that "woman" is some unifying category, that every woman has the same feelings, experiences, needs, desires, etc, which is blatantly silly. Rather than "feel like a woman", it would be far more meaningful to say: "gain access to certain feelings that our society restricts to women".

And those feelings are femme feelings. Thus we can rephrase the above accordingly: "inner femme", "feel like a femme", "portray such a femme image", and so forth.

The correlation of "femme" with "woman" is familiar but false – clearly, because a lot of women are not femme. I'd guess that, as a woman with tomboy leanings, Helen herself is not femme. So she wrote (p14): "dressed in clothes that to you made him resemble someone you'd call a slut". Correction please: not a slut – femme. And quite likely high femme – often a cross-dresser's needs and feelings have to be relieved in only occasional outbursts, leading him to (over)compensate by upping his femme.

Incidentally, this also explains why (cf p25) the cross-dresser "devot[es] endless hours to ritualized crossdressing" instead of "taking care of children or cleaning the house". That is, because the cross-dresser's need is not to "be a woman" (whatever that might mean) but to express his femme. And taking care of children, cleaning the house – helping with the laundry, making dinner – have nothing to do with being femme. Indeed, they have nothing as such to do with being a woman either. They're merely gendered tasks imposed on women by the prevailing (male-dominated) culture.

The point is that the word "woman" is misplaced, I think, in a lot of explanations about male cross-dressing. Change it to "femme" and the explanations make much more sense – at least to me.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Male femme in vision.

To show what I mean, here's a picture of an archetypal male femme:

That's Eddie Izzard, of course.

As far as I know, Eddie doesn't describe himself as a male femme. Instead, he creates his own personal labels: "an executive transvestite", "a male tomboy", "two lesbians trapped in a man's body", and other such esoteric and piquant nomenclature.

But "male femme" is also appropriate, I think. Notice that Eddie is making no attempt to pass. There's no sort of woman there, no disguise (for whatever reason) about who he is. There's just a man in women's clothes, looking good, feeling good, displaying his femme style. A femme man.

A male femme.

Got me? :)

Monday, 7 February 2011

Why this blog?

Because there doesn't seem to be another one on this topic (at least not since Jasper gave up his wardrobe last year), and I have a lot of related thoughts that I want to put down and see if they make sense to anyone (supposing anyone else ever reads this), including me.

And that topic is: cross-dressing – from a male perspective; i.e. men wearing women's clothing; why we do it – or at least why I do it (I'm not speaking for anyone else here, though I'll assuredly try); what it all means, culturally, socially, personally, politically; trivial stuff like that. And while people have written about all this before – at length – there doesn't seem to be anything much from the precise angle that interests me: male femme.

Other cross-dressers' explanations often feature gender-specific words such as "woman", "female", "feminine" – in contexts such as "feeling like a woman", "expressing my feminine side", etc. That's all perfectly fine. Everyone has their own understanding of these extremely personal issues. But for me such words and contexts are problematic.

Such words relate to "woman" and I'm not a woman. I don't feel like a woman in any particular sense (even supposing such feelings could be satisfactorily defined). I'm not female. And I don't know what "feminine" really means, except that it comes with a lot of suspect cultural baggage.

But "femme", on the other hand, is not tied down to "woman". Femme comes from the alternative binary butch/femme, which depicts differing gender expressions within a single sex. Traditionally that single sex has been female: the butch/femme paradigm is traditionally a facet of lesbian sexuality, with women expressing different gender roles within a lesbian sexual dynamic. But the paradigm can be (and has been) expanded.

For example: it is significant to note that a lesbian butch is not a man and is not trying to be a man. She is what she says she is: a butch woman – though she may (or may not) use male clothing to express her butch nature. Extrapolating from this, we can say that a femme man (irrespective of his sexuality) may use – does use – women's clothing to express his femme nature. As a cross-dressing man I would say that is exactly what I'm doing: not a woman, not trying to be a woman – just expressing femme as valid facet of male gender.

That is, male femme – which is where I started, and from where I'll go on – in future posts.