Monday, 21 April 2014


I sent my submission to Queer Feminine Affinities off today. It's longer than the longest piece I've ever posted on this blog: ‘Sissies, Trannies, and Jeffreys’ was 2025 words. This one is half as long again and took months of reading and an indeterminate time writing – two rough, "working" drafts; 250 copied-out passages of various lengths (from 17 books), reduced to 143 usable quotes arranged by theme; three full, printed drafts (the first 4118 words) each then edited; and finally, the submitted draft (3098 words) containing 57 stripped-down quotes. (My thanks to Lynn Jones for reading it through and providing thorough and helpful feedback.)

I just hope the editors won't mind the 98 extra words (above the stated maximum of 3000) too much, and that the manuscript won't suffer this fate: “If they said maximum, assume they mean it and will bin it if wordcount any higher” (as one friend tweeted me). Deleting over 1000 words was hard enough; I got stuck on the last 98. But trying to bring the word count down was very useful. A set maximum forces you to be rigorous (ruthless, even) and tightens up your writing considerably. In this age of blockbuster novels, there's a whole load of flabby writing around. Ursula Le Guin can say more in 150 pages than most (genre-equivalent) authors can say in 600 or 700. Perhaps authors should be set limits: this many pages and not one page more or it goes in the bin!

As for my piece, maybe I'll get to post it on here, maybe not. Certainly, if it's rejected. In the meantime, here are three (of the 250) passages copied out in my research. I posted these on the Angels forum to see whether anyone could relate to them. (Answer: Yes.) They're all from ‘The Femme Mystique’ (ed. Lesléa Newman; Alyson Publications, Boston 1995). Parts of two of them made the draft sent in.

Mmmm-hmmm, she can hold her breath longer than anyone I know, this other me. This inside girl who won't insist on being called Woman. Just when I think she's gone for good she comes back with a vengeance, and each time reasserts herself with a little more self-assurance. Looking me in the eye and saying, “I'm not going to put up with your being disgusted with me and embarrassed by me. You might as well love me, because I'm not going to leave you.”
— A.J. Potter, in ‘French Fries and Fingernail Polish’ (p183).

Being femme means that I enjoy expressing myself sometimes in ways our society considers feminine. On occasions I'll wear dresses, makeup, and heels, and have fun with my femininity. Other times I grow tired of making myself up and instead enjoy jeans, sweatshirts, and sneakers. Even though these latter times tend to outnumber the former, I am still femme. So then what does being femme mean? To me it means both accepting and rejecting society's definition of femininity, questioning the parts that don't fit and rejoicing in the parts that do. It means choosing how I want to be and who I am, and knowing that the choice is mine alone. It means I can be as feminine as I want, but that I don't have to be.
— Christy Cramer, in ‘Being Femme’ (p275/276).

Does it all start with closets? When I was a teenager, I would go into my mother's closet when she was out and try on her clothes. She had a strapless long-line bra with a dozen tiny hooks and eyes down the back. The cups were so stiff they stood up by themselves. I didn't need tits to fill them. Hooking myself into the bra was my favourite part of the dress-up, slowly, painstakingly fixing the look onto my body, becoming the woman to be looked at, clasping myself into my own vision of desire. Becoming the object of my own gaze, I'd slip my mother's black low-cut cocktail dress on over the bra, or her sleeveless gold lamé jumpsuit. Posing for the mirror, constructing the look that spelled sex to me.
— Wendy Frost, in ‘Queen Femme’ (p305).

I can relate to what these three women (femmes) are writing for sure.


  1. An extra 98 words of awesome? Well, I thought so. :-)

    I really hope that your article gets the green light, as it was a very interesting read. I think I'm right in saying that you and I are walking a slightly different path, but at the same time, so much of what you'd written fitted well with my experiences and, where it didn't, was really thought provoking. Good luck!

  2. Thanks, Lynn :)

    Yes, I hope it gets included too – well, of course ;) – but also because it stakes out my claim in this territory, and I'd very much like that done in a larger (albeit still pretty small) arena than just this blog. #published

  3. Howdy, Jonathan. A friend pointed me at your page today thinking you share my odd not-in-any-pigeonholes world. From what I've seen so far, (s)he was right!

    I must say I hope you do share more of your work with us. Those excerpts from your source material certainly speak to my own confused attempts to understand who I am. (just by way of background: I fully identify as a heterosexual male, clothes strewn about the floor and beard and all, but I am most comfortable wearing dresses and skirts of soft material -- none of that rugged denim and canvas "utilikilt" stuff for me!)

  4. Hi Ralph

    Thanks for dropping by :) . I'm having a look at your blog right now. Or rather, I was. Obviously I'm back here writing this reply right now.

    No, I'm not really interested in "skirts for men" either. If I want any rights, it's the right to express femininity, not the right to a different kind of masculinity. I can do that already ;)

    But you asked for more quotes. Okay, here's another one I didn't use:

    I want valuing of the feminine for femmes, for all women and girls, for boys and men too, for anyone, regardless of biology and orientation, who can identify with or as feminine, in whole, or in part. Femme identity is currently dependent upon queerness, upon a queer sexual orientation and identity—but what would a world be like where all complex strong feminine identities and femininities were valued and honored? Maybe then we could all be femmes.
    — Ryn Hodes, in ‘Seams’; from ‘Visible: A Femmethology’; Vol.2, p66; ed. Jennifer Clare Burke (Homofactus Press 2009)