The Necessity of Femme Spaces

PHOTO: Rebecca Storm

PHOTO: Rebecca Storm

Safe space.

The idea of a safe space was novel; it’s grown more common as people of various identities reap the rewards of celebrating their own diversity. Often derided for its roots in perceived feminazi idealism, the notion of making a space appropriate for the cultivation and maintenance of one’s identity is really the result of a very human need. Queers flock to DIY spaces for reasons other than simply being around folks most like themselves. It’s also the importance of feeling comfortable with the things that make us who we are, because these identities are not always comfortable even if they are accurate.

Why is that?

Well, in a society that devalues all people who question and eschew heteronormative standards, the weight of that treatment has profound consequences. To be rejected is to be judged, more so it's to be judged without valid measures. This is one of the most damaging forms of adversity queer people face. The effects of existing in the world as it is weigh heavy, they infect the mind and soul, and they taint the sense of self many queer folks struggle to maintain through self-acceptance or exploration. It's no surprise that the prevalence of mental illness in communities of queer folks and gender non-conforming individuals is both high and well documented.

Intolerant societies contribute greatly to the mental duress experienced by so many queer folks. It's an intolerant society that allows transgender suicide rates to rise to frighteningly high values. It's an intolerant society that forces queer people into the recesses of their often-mocked safe spaces that do nothing more than offer comfort, community, and growth. At a deeper, Meta level, it's an intolerant society that allows misogyny to penetrate even the most radical and superficially inclusive queer spaces.

This is what makes the femme less like other queers; they battle a unique form of misogyny.

I am a firm believer that masculine-identifying individuals be held to high levels of accountability, particularly in queer social groups. This is because of Western society’s tendency to equate masculinity with power and the belief honestly knows no bounds. It’s the femme that has to navigate the mental obstacles that present when forced to encounter and confront masculine overreach, and I have seen this many times in activist circles. There are also accounted instances of what happens when the well is poisoned and sometimes very serious offenses take place.  

They may not know it, but queer masc folks are capable of exercising a very particular brand of misogyny that at first glance is noble because it’s rooted in radical tenets. Though upon further inspection, it’s nothing other than a condemnation of the feminine ideal. Whether it’s criticizing femmes for wearing make-up, presenting in ornamental fashions, or for appearing to subscribe to the expectations of the gender binary—all of it is nothing more than an insidious attack on those who identify as such. It's important for queer femmes to celebrate their love for the delicate, the flowery, the ornamental, and the unabashedly beautiful. Further, when we account for those femmes who were denied the chance to express themselves in this manner before coming of age into the right body or identity, it becomes even more egregious.

For me, denying anyone the opportunity to indulge in their own identity is not a truly queer value. Neither is determining whether or not anyone’s particular exercise in autonomy is valid or useful. I say that because if to be queer is to eschew society’s expectations regarding sex, gender, and expression, certainly none of those actions align with that idea. Every society will have expectations; expectations help eliminate the guesswork of day-to-day functions—it just so happens that the ones ours have for us don’t vibe well with who we are. It’s important that folks who participate in any push for cultural change never forget this: no matter how noble a cause may be, we will always battle the possibility of repeating the mistakes of our own oppressors.

Let’s try to be different.