Femme: Defining Ourselves


Since my post on Deciphering Butch/Femme, which gave a brief checklist on how to determine whether someone is Butch, I’ve had several requests to do a similar description of Femmes.

Femmes are complicated to describe, as each of us have unique personalities, styles, and life stories. Femmes are the most invisible of all Lesbians. We are usually viewed with suspicion, because people often mistakenly assume we are either trying to “pass as straight” or that we actually are Straightbians. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Femmes know from an early age that we are “different”, even if we don’t have the vocabulary to describe this feeling. We always know we are not like other girls in some fundamental way.

From the earliest age we can remember, Femmes feel as if we live in an alternate universe: we are separate and different from everyone we meet; always on the outside. While frustrating, this distance also gives us the unique advantage of seeing the world with the clarity of an outsider’s perspective. Sadly, however, this same uniqueness also sometimes makes us feel invisible and misunderstood.

Femmes don’t see ourselves anywhere: not in books, not in stories, not in movies, not on television…not ANYWHERE.

We could not relate to the fairy-tale princesses of childhood stories. At all. Who would helplessly sit around waiting for anybody to save her, much less a man??  Not us, that’s for sure.  We would figure out how to cut that long hair off, make a rope out of it, and rappel down that castle wall all by ourselves, thank you very much. We might even save another girl or two while we’re at it.

We may have strongly identified with Marcie on Peanuts as children. We got crushes on our elementary school’s tomboy (or perhaps on the dyke PE teacher).

We were likely friends with both girls and boys; even often serving as a mediator and message-bearer between the sexes; a theme that likely continues into adulthood.

When we came out, prior to dating a Butch (unless we were fortunate enough to have a Butch as our first lover), we probably dated dykes and/or Straightbians initially…but we felt confused, because we knew something was missing.

It wasn’t until that first Butch comes into our Femme sphere (even if as only an acquaintance or friend) do we realize exactly what was missing!

Once we fall in love with a Butch, we never understand how anyone could ever look at our Butch and mistake her for a man, because, as a Femme, we really see  (and appreciate) our Butch as the doing-woman-different female that she is.

While we may appear (at least somewhat) stereotypically “feminine” in mannerisms and appearance, we are typically very practical. We would not wear kitten heels and a miniskirt on a hike in the Alaskan wilderness. We are likely to be strong, independent, and self-sufficient. We can probably fix a sink, change a tire, and/or kick-box; and we are Femme regardless of what we are wearing or what we are doing.  We dress down or dress up, depending on the situation.

(The incorrectly-named “High Femmes“, the type who wouldn’t even go to Walmart without full makeup and sexy stilettos, are not Femmes at all…they are Straightbians).

Femmes love our Butch partners fiercely, and we would defend them to the death. But while our Butches make us weak in the knees, they don’t make us weak in the head.  We wouldn’t hesitate to tell our Butches off if we needed to. One mistake people often make is in thinking that Butch/Femme relationships are a mimicry of heterosexuals. The truth is that Butch/Femme partners are equals in every way; we don’t have the power imbalances and manipulative gymnastics that often underlie heterosexual unions.

In summary, sometimes (but not always), sometimes people in the general population may not be able to identify Femmes as Lesbians simply by looking at us ~ well, unless we are with our Butch partner, of course. (However, Lesbians with good gaydar do usually pick up on us, and particularly so when they are around us longer than just a quick first glance).

The biggest problem for Femmes is Straightbians who are LYING about being Femme/Lesbian. These LIARS lead to much misunderstanding and incorrect notions about Femme Lesbians. The main thing to remember is that Femmes are 100% Lesbian; Straightbians are 0%. There is no overlap whatsoever. You either are a Lesbian, or you are not. The bottom line is: Femmes are Lesbians; Straightbians are not. The end.

16 thoughts on “Femme: Defining Ourselves

  1. I identified with some of this, but not all. I was a fairly typical girl growing up, and butches definitely make me weak in the knees. But I’m not very feminine these days. It sounds like you’ve defined femmes as always partnered with butches. But isn’t there such thing as two femmes together?


    • Hi purplesagefem,Thanks for your comment! To answer your question, based on my own thoughts, as well as based on numerous discussions with others over the years, the term Femme is traditionally/typically used to designate those of us who are attracted to Butches. For two “feminine” lesbians who are attracted to each other, they would typically be referred to as “Lipstick Lesbians”. It’s useful shorthand to differentiate the two in conversations. But I have seen the term “Femme” be used to describe any “feminine” lesbian, which is indeed confusing and that’s why I like to specify. Thanks again for your comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed the post very much. Thanks. I agree also that Femme is intended to describe those who are attracted to Butches. That is the usage I have always heard and used & I have been out a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I related to this post very much. I find that too many people are uninformed or misinformed about Femmes, and about Butch-Femme relationship. Thanks for bringing us some visibility. Oh, and regarding the above comments, I wanted to say that I agree with you that the term Femme in lesbian culture indicates an attraction to Butches. This is not actually confusing, unless people use the term incorrectly, which does happen a lot. The way I explain it to people is that the term Butch-Femme is well-known for a reason. (It is not called Butch-Lipstick Lesbian). Femmes are attracted to Butches. Lipsticks are attracted to other Lipsticks.

    Liked by 3 people

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  7. I absolutely love this. This is me, right down to the crushes on baby dykes in my childhood, “close female friendships” etc. I fell victim to the usual compulsory heterosexuality, but now I am free again and with women only. Fierce Femme.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, Thanks for commenting! I did another post on later-in-life lesbians, about those who do initially TRY to be straight (which is impossible if a lesbian, but sadly common) to please family/society/church/etc. before coming out. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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