Language: Effeminate vs Femme

I don’t use the word “femme” to describe myself.  Never have, likely never will.  That’s not so say that I’m butch or anything, I just don’t like the word “femme”.  Other people use it fine, but not me.

Why?  Because rarely (if ever) will you hear a gay man refer to himself or another man as “femme”.  Effeminate, flaming, fabulous, but not femme.  Femme is a word that is used almost exclusively by lesbians for other lesbians.  It has been brought into the trans-masculine community by transmen who used to be lesbians and never bothered to learn the nuances of gay male culture.

What’s more, it is almost always used by the “women and transmen” people.  As in “I only date women and femme FtMs”.  Yeah, sorry, no.  That’s vastly offensive and if you don’t know why you can go read this.

Why is effeminate different?  It’s a word that is used by men to describe other men.  It’s not a word that has been historically used to describe lesbian dichotomy.  I dislike describing myself in lesbian terms, something that most transmen can’t understand as they were once lesbians.  I wasn’t, I don’t have that history.  My life has always been rooted in gay male experiences so I use words to reflect that.

Now, some transmen (I’d say most) are fine with using femme to describe themselves and others.  That’s great, people should be able to describe themselves how they see fit.  I simply take issue with people describing me with that word.

3 Replies to “Language: Effeminate vs Femme”

  1. All right, so . . . where does this song come from?

    I’m not gay and I’m not pretending to understand gay male culture. I’m bi: I like men and women. I tend to like them more if they are femme. I’m not into genderqueer trans people so much, which may be weird since I am one. But yeah, I like flamboyant men and feminine women. I don’t think that is anti-trans-men in any way.

  2. I actually like the word femme, because I feel it encapsulates the androgynous-leaning prettyboy type that I’d like to be, rather than the swishyness that effeminate implies. (Which is not to harsh on swishy gays in the least — I may not want to *be* them, but I most certainly want to *do* them.)

    I think you were the one who was writing about how FTMs always tend to overestimate how feminine they come off — I know I certainly did. When I was first starting to pass consistently, I thought it had to be GLARINGLY obvious that I’d been socialized as female, or if not that, then that I was queer as a $3 bill, but for the most part people don’t even guess that I’m gay. o_O

    I transitioned in Japan, and I would find that I was comfortable talking with women, American and Japanese both, because my mannerisms are certainly not feminine and the difference between our presentations seemed fitting, and that I was fine with Japanese men, because if I didn’t act like them, well — I was American, after all. But when it came to other English-speaking men, I was hellaciously uncomfortable because SURELY THEY COULD TELL that I wasn’t one of them, right?

    I think I am still *off* in my presentation just a touch, and people pick up on that after a while, but not in a way that ticks off the checkboxes for effeminacy, so I’m not read as gay, just eccentric.

    • Hey Gabriel, just posting to say I clicked the link to your website in your name and I think it’s pretty awesome 😀 Thanks for the info.

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