For my birthday, my lovely girlfriend found an exciting show for us to go see at the DC Community Center: Femme Fest.  This traveling female troop of actresses, poets, and activists have been putting on shows in cities around the country for the past couple months as part of the only theatrical project in the US exploring femme identity.

So me, being excited and well…me, decided to get all dolled up in my femme-y finest for the event: skirt, nice blouse, eyeliner and shadow, earrings and a vaguely matching necklace- stuff I generally wouldn’t put the effort into even though I often like how it looks.  Little did I know, a good portion of the show explored the ways in which femme identity isn’t really all that tied to looking like a pretty girl.

One of the headlining performers, Johnny Blaze, did an entire piece deconstructing the ideas of masculinity andfemininity as they applied to trans-folk and butch/femme dynamics.  As a transperson who doesn’t desire to actually transition to another gender (and in fact identifies as a mixture of genders and outside of the binary system), Johnny’s monologue examined the idea that we can mentally identify one way, but present ourselves in another.  As a transperson, ze presents female…but doesn’t want people to identify hir as such. …Which made me squirm in my seat a little.  Because here I was, completely playing into the role society has handed me (a soft femme counterpart to my tie-wearing, collared shirt and business shoes butch-esque girlfriend).

I have femme tendencies and if pressed to take sides, I would say I prefer that identity.  HOWEVER, the way I dress rarely aligns with this- I am a creature of comfort, so I dress in whatever is best for the climate.  In some cases, that means a skirt, and not because I want to look pretty but because it’s too damn hot for pants.  So the gender performativity I displayed at the femme show made me even more uncomfortable for its inauthenticity.  I was femme that night because I felt it was appropriate, rather than because I wanted to be.  BAH.

BUT GENDER RANTS ASIDE…the show was fabulous.  There were some hysterical numbers like the Society for the Preservation and Promotion of Sapphic Social Mores (SP-POSSM) and a Victorian burlesque dance to “Sexy Bitch,” as well as some moving monologues about the dehumanization of transpeople and the most powerful poetry I’ve heard in a long time.  I highly recommend you go see this if it comes near your city, whether you identify as femme, queer, kinky, or none of the above.  It’s good for everyone.