Femme Invisibility Frustrations

It was only within the last three months that I finally noticed other queer women checking me out (if I can be so blunt) without me first having to come out. I’m still not sure what caused the sudden change to be honest. As you can see, I am very femme, high femme if you will. I like to wear clothing items that society deems feminine like heels, pantyhose, lingerie, and dresses. I enjoy the way I feel when wearing this style of clothes and shoes, I do it for me, what other people think has no bearing on the way I dress. But what I do find frustrating is that as a queer woman, the choices I make in my wardrobe, makeup, and hairstyle often render me invisible. I’m the type of woman that has heard comments like, “you don’t look queer” on a regular basis.

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I hear it from people who are well-meaning members of the queer community that fully accept my label and identity but still admit they wouldn’t have known it if they met me on the street. Basically, I slipped right passed their gaydar because of the way I am dressed. I have also heard it from others in a way that feels far more offensive and hurtful. What is interesting is how even within the queer community there is a preference for butch, masculine, or androgynous women. I’m guilty of it myself, I definitely prefer to date masculine of center women and I also find them much easier to identify as queer without asking. It is the result of growing up in a heterosexist society, we are taught to assume that everyone is straight unless we are told or shown otherwise.

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The part that is the hardest to admit to is the resulting internalized homophobia that I have experienced because of these comments and misconceptions. At times I have doubted my own queerness and questioned if I could use the label having only really dated women casually alongside some hookups. At times I labeled myself as bisexual but heteroromantic as some kind of an attempt to fully disclose this status. But I knew deep in my soul that I wanted to date other women despite the fact that I hadn’t found the right one yet. I was originally attracted to other femme women based on their physical appearance and the societal standards of beauty they completely lived up to. Now I know that I am actually attracted to masculine energy regardless of what body it inhabits.

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The person’s outer shell doesn’t matter as much to me as their personality, how compatible we are, and how they treat me. Dating masculine of center women makes me more visibly queer when we are out in public together, especially if we hold hands. Still, it is not quite the same as being out with a man. My experience is that restaurant servers will almost always bring two bills when I am out for dinner with a woman and they will bring one bill when I am on a date with a man. That’s heterosexism striking again, with people making assumptions about what a date looks like versus two friends having a meal together. These experiences are fascinating to me but also hurtful because I want to be recognized for the person I truly am and accepted no matter what.

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What’s funny is that dating butch women presents its own version of femme invisibility through society’s adherence to traditional gender roles. Men will essentially only address my date and women will address most of their conversation to me. This is emphasized if the topic is also gendered as you will see in the following example. On a recent date we went out shopping at the flea market and I was looking to purchase some tech equipment for my TV. It was quickly obvious that the sales associate, a cis straight man, was addressing the entire conversation towards my date. This continued to be true when I pulled out the cash to pay. After I had paid, he handed the item to my date even though I had just paid for it. Even as society becomes more accepting of queer and trans people, it seems much more resistant to doing away with traditional gender roles.

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Outfit Details:

Custom Made Velvet Lingerie: Impish Lee

Black Waterfall Duster: RebDolls

Hold Ups: Glamory Hosiery

All items were provided to me as a part of my collaboration agreement with each brand.

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