Femme fatale

La Femme FataleI’ve been coming across the term femmephobia lately, and I’ve realised I’m guilty of it. It means something like being dismissive of or reactive to femininity, in whatever form.

I think for me, it’s been a kind of self-protection. I’ve had to put up with the vast majority of femme trans women I meet being dismissive in one way or another of me as a trans tomboy – generally by negating my existence as a woman, and wanting to see me as androgyne, or gender-neutral, or just “not yet done”, as though my tomboyhood is just a phase I’m going through on my way to True Womanhood™ (I know, I’ve banged on about this before, so I’ll stop now).

What I’m interested in right now is how I’ve consequently bought into some kind of protective femmephobic behaviour. The fact that I evolved a language for myself where I would describe these femme trans women as überheterofemme is actually pretty unpleasant. Worse yet, I’ve been noticing how often I find myself in conversations with cis folk where I tell them I’m a trans tomboy, and then they want to take the conversation down a path of us colluding in slagging off* femme trans women for being “over-the-top” in their presentation etc.

I’ve gone along with this a few times, I confess. Partly, it’s an opportunity to vent some frustration at the trans women who have been so dismissive of me (and left me feeling very isolated sometimes) – a retaliatory way for me to feel like it’s not me that’s the mutant. But partly, it’s also subtle a way of “getting cis folk on my side”, so I feel safer.

I’m not going to do this any more – it’s divisive, and it doesn’t help anyone in the end. I’m a little ashamed to admit all this. But it’s part of the growing-up process, I suppose. So, for the record:

I have no idea why people who present differently from me present the way they do – but if I want to know, I’ll have to ask them. If I’m not willing to do that, I can at least stop making assumptions. I don’t have to understand other people in order to accept them (though I’d like to make the effort to understand them too). And this is what I’ll tell people when they want me to participate in transfemme-deconstruction.

All I need to do is be a little more brave than I have been.


[*Note: “slagging off” is Brit-speak for what Americans call “ripping on” – language is weird…]


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