It’s been over a year since the question of whether or not I was femme took over my life, prompting relentless conversations with every single person I know and culminating in a three-part series on femme as more than aesthetics. It felt really fucking good to be at the Femme Conference in Baltimore last weekend after all that, after coming into this solid confidence that femme is mine, despite any scrutiny or insecurity I might feel in such an aesthetics-focused and potentially competitive environment. It also felt really fucking good to be there with some experience of this type of event under my belt after Unholy Harvest last year, to know better how to take care of myself as an extreme introvert with social anxiety and BPD-caused thin skin. The conference was both intense and incredible in equal measure, and since I have SO MANY FEELS about it, I’m going to use them to group the highlights!
Pretty much every single femme I talked to agreed: packing for FemmeCon was seriously anxiety inducing. As I’ve decried repeatedly, femmeness is often reduced to aesthetics, which means when you’re going to be surrounded by femmes (at the adult equivalent of sleepaway camp, with all the same potential for hijinks, no less), it feels really fucking important to look hot. Despite that, I felt pretty chill about it, and might be brave enough in 2014 to fully ladybro-down without fear of being read as an ally instead of a femme. This conference went to great lengths to be accessible and comfortable, and while the organizers weren’t perfect, it seemed like they did a pretty good job. They also seemed quite receptive to feedback; there’s already discussion on the Facebook event about how to organize caucuses better next time, for example. Aside from one really obnoxious exchange with an older femme at the play party, I didn’t generally feel that other femmes were dissecting me or my outfits, or placing me in proximity to a high femme ideal. It felt like most people there valued and respect the vast range of femme style and gender expression, though of course I’m in favor of the request that we start complimenting each other on more than our clothes, from the Mean Girls workshop on femme competition. Also on the topic of comfort, my hotel bed was perfect, and so were my roommates for the weekend. It was so nice to have a few full days to get to know these two friends-of-friends femmes from Boston, and to meet one of their friends who crashed with us for a night!
Particularly appropriate, since I missed Fierté (including a dyke march) to be at FemmeCon! There were three main reasons I was proud of myself this weekend. The first is that I think I did a really good job of managing my mental health: taking plenty of time alone when I could, talking myself down when I started getting anxious or agitated, and using the medication I’ve been prescribed pre-emptively instead of mid-crisis. The second is that my Cuntext-related work got some props! Two of my roommates inadvertently quoted me: one, my comment on the fingernail flagging post at Bossy Femme and the other, my submission to the Beyond Lipstick project. Also, Kim Crosby included a quote from Femme Post III in her presentation on deconstructing and resisting femmephobia, which is so flattering because she is so goddamn brilliant!
The third reason to be proud was that I went balls-out and, for the first time I can remember, avoided a potential missed connection situation! I’d been eying this stud with a killer smile all night while we were out dancing at Grand Central on Friday. Neither my roommate nor I could tell if she was there alone or not, and no one made a move beyond her asking if I was having a good night at one point. When my group was leaving, I went up to her and told her I thought she was really attractive and wanted to kiss her good night, if she was there alone. She said she wasn’t alone; I said “Aw, have a good night, then!” and we left. I was already really excited that I’d managed to say what I had to say, but then while a few of us were standing near the coat check, one of our group came out and told me someone was asking for me inside. When I went back in, a femme in a cute, short, floral dress came up to me and said, “My partner wants to kiss you good night! Go ahead, it’s okay,” so I said thank you and went back to the dance floor. I walked up to the stud and said, “Hey,” and she said, “Hey,” and I wrapped my right arm around her neck and kissed her, feeling her left hand slide around my waist and then down over my ass as we added a little tongue. It was like a teenage dyke TV dream (I mean, if TV ever portrayed healthy nonmonogamy), and a perfect way to end my first FemmeCon day.
I really, really like to think. FemmeCon gave me a hell of a lot to think about, in terms of both femme community and my own positioning within it, and that’s the main thing for which I’m grateful. The huge discussion on Saturday about femme competition, attended by more than 60 femmes, was really effective at opening a lot of boxes whose contents I look forward to sorting through more. I went to a workshop on racism and colonialism in femme communities that was aimed at white allies, which gave me a lot to check in with myself about: how to work on my socially anxious tendency to avoid eye contact so I don’t passively make people of color feel fucking invisible, how not to just screech at fellow white people who do racist shit and instead offer support, how and why it’s happened that every single one of my girlfriends has been a masculine of center queer person of color, and also Friday night’s avoided missed connection, since we talked about white people cruising queer people of color in various contexts, and both the stud and femme from Friday night were black.
The panel discussion featuring working class femmes was a huge highlight of the weekend. I mostly just feel incredibly privileged to have gotten to listen to three panelists (Arti Mehta, Kirya Traber, and Blyth Barnow), a moderator (Chanelle Gallant), and many participants who were so smart and open and articulate, and so incredibly strong and vulnerable. My background is solidly middle-class, and I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but it was truly an honor to get to hear these femmes speak. Though this was an exhausting final event, it’s probably reverberated through my mind the most over the past few days, perhaps because class is kind of hard to figure out, or perhaps because the panelists were just so mindblowingly good. A roommate and I talked about growing up where we both did after this panel, and both wish there were more resources and venues for middle-class people to grapple with their placement within this stuff, so if you have any suggestions, let us know!
One major development for which I’m grateful came out of the “intergenerational dialogue” on Saturday–a group of femmes based in New York with whom I’ll be forming a mentorship group on relationships, sex, and kink. We already have our first meet-up set for early September! Though I didn’t quite end up with the grandma-aged femme mentor of my dreams, this group spans about a decade and I think we’ll learn a lot from each other. And also have a sweet time hanging out.
It goes without saying that I’m incredibly grateful to every single femme who was there that weekend, for making us 400 strong, for effectively taking over the entire hotel, and for engaging so fully and working so hard to make it good. I saw more individual acts of human kindness this weekend than I normally see in a year, from the couple who picked my travel buddy and I up at the train station and drove us to the hotel for free, to people letting each other crash in their hotel rooms when situations changed, to femmes who didn’t even know each other ensuring each other’s safe rides home.
- No public Twitter messages.