Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Femme Feelings

As a thirty-year-old queer femme, I've come to be quite comfortable and proud of my gender, my self-expression, my femininity. It has been a long, complicated journey, and still is in many ways. But I'm also past that youthfully-self-obsessed stage of really needing to figure out my identity, and what I'm saying to the world with how I present myself. That seemed like a really heavy thing when I was younger, and now it feels more fluid and more like it's something that doesn't need to be shouted from the mountain tops at regular intervals. It's almost inconceivable that I actually care so much less about what the outside world thinks about me because of how I project myself.

But there are still battles to fight with owning my femininity, and am constantly reinforcing that I should focus on the empowering aspects of it all. Most of the outside world sees it as something for them, for their consumption and evaluation and very vocal assessment of. In some ways, it kind of is. That's a huge part of patriarchy and capitalism - people's bodies, especially women's, are not their own. My femininity is in everything I do, it's how I move through the world, how I connect with others. But it is also intensely mine, and loaded with my own layers of insecurity, self-confidence, expectations, etc.

I feel complicated about owning these seemingly stereotypical aspects of femininity - being nurturing, open, receptive, warm, enveloping, giving, dolled-up, on display, etc. I have enough of a knowledge base and self-awareness to know exactly what each piece means, but I still knowingly participate. I tell myself it's okay, I'm not actually a "bad feminist" because I am aware of what I'm doing and owning it, but sometimes it feels like it's not as much of mine as I pretend it is. But then other times, I do feel in a considerable amount of control, and it's exhilarating in a way that I can't properly put to words.

I've got a coupon to try Burlesque classes, which has become a big goal of mine for this Spring (in addition to archery and sword-fighting classes, which I have also already purchased coupons for). This is definitely a queer-punk-femme cliche, and am surprised by how much anticipation and excitement I feel. I am not holding onto any grand schemes of becoming a public performer, but am interested in my pushing my own boundaries to what I feel comfortable with. I carry myself with a fair bit of confidence these days, but still am completely overwhelmed by the thought of physically owning the space around me, and taking up as much of it as I want. I'm looking forward to what Burlesque could possibly teach me - how to move without inhibition, to be playful, creative, performative, unafraid of risks, and to be okay with my body and relish in the space it occupies. Sword-fighting and archery will also add to this, hopefully - to help me break past physically-confining inhibitions - and could have such a profound impact on how I move through the world. Also, all of these new activities will help me live out my dreams of being a bad-ass princess/power femme.

In NYC, with all the street harassment and strangers up in my shit and working for a huge advertising agency, sometimes it feels like I'm slipping away from myself. It's enough to make me want to hide, keep what I can from the rest of the world. But I'm not a bottled-up kind of person, and as a queer femme who also happens to be Sicilian, that's not actually a thing I even know how to do. As I inch closer to thirty-one, I  firmly believe more and more that it's time to let go of what has held me back for so long. To let my femininity grow and shine and feel no shame or degradation. Femininity is absolutely not antithetical to intelligence, independence, strength. It is actually an expression of those concepts. It is not frivolity, it is not self-absorption, it is not superficial or meaningless. My femininity is my direct expression of my truest, deepest sense of self. If that's not femme, I don't know what is.

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