Just as I was dozing off last night, I felt Rhett smile in the darkness. He said, “I love how you instinctively treat me like a dude.”
I cocked my very sleepy head, somewhat inquisitively. He said, “You lay on my shoulder and play with my nonexistent chest hair. When you touch me casually, it’s always like you’re interacting with a bioguy.”
Somehow I managed to file the thought away and not lose track of it before I could get to my computer this morning. (That’s something of a miracle – I have a tendency to have awesome post ideas as I’m falling asleep, only to forget them completely by morning. It’s an ongoing annoyance.)
I’ve heard this from several of the butches I’ve known over the years, and it always makes me smile a little bit.
I do tend to treat masculine as male. When I interact with a masculine-centered individual; it’s from the part of me that was born female, socialized female, and evolved into femme. So yeah, I guess it comes across as instinctive behavior.
Not all of it is, though. Some of it, I learned from the butches in my life. By listening, by paying attention to how they responded when I used certain socialized behaviors with them, by embracing what they enjoyed and downplaying what they didn’t.
I’ve never met a butch, for example, who didn’t enjoy having their physical strength complimented. I remember distinctly the first time I used the word “handsome” as a compliment for a butch woman. Her eyes lit up, and her smile said it all. That one smile that said, sweetly, “Thank you for getting it.” In my evolution as a femme, I’ve filed things like that away for future reference.
I’m an old-school femme in a lot of respects; this being one of them. While I’m politically sensitive, aware, and correct (*gagging*) enough to understand and embrace that femme is its own identity apart from all other identities, I identify as femme in large part because I enjoy the yin/yang of butch/femme so much. Part of what I believe makes me the femme I am is my appreciation for the intentional masculinity of my counterparts. I take pride in being a flattering backdrop for their identity presentation. I feel good when I make a butch, or masculine of center, or transguy, feel strong – whether it’s physically or emotionally or mentally.
Call it an internalized chauvinistic response if you want. You wouldn’t be the first. But femme, to me, feels sassier, sexier, and sweeter when it’s set next to butch.
I pass unnoticed in the world most days – my butches don’t. Most days, for them, the world is, at best, an unfriendly place. If I can make it a little more friendly, a little safer, then I do. I really believe that it’s my responsibility as a femme, and my payment for some of that privilege of invisibility.