EDITOR: At the request of the author, we are keeping their identity anonymous. Their voice in this discussion (coming to us by way of France) matters to us, and so does their safety and well-being. -Chief
Who I am depends on who you are. My existence is so multifaceted at this point that I can reveal the one that compliments you best. I simply draw on my personal experiences so that I can fit in; because you have to fit in to be accepted. You have to fit into a box that has a clear label on it. If you're somewhere in between, or nowhere at all, then you're not accepted, and it's because people are scared of differences and they are scared of what they don't know. They find faults in it.
I am a Black, West Indian, femme, queer, female. But not really Black because I grew up in a white neighbourhood. And not really Caribbean because I was born in the UK. And not really femme because some days trying to maintain the aesthetic is far too draining. And not really queer because I'm sitting in the closet poking my head out with no immediate intentions to take a leap of faith.
So that leaves female. I am a female who "talks like a white person" and has "lost her roots" but is also "pretty for a Black girl" especially because she "doesn't look gay". Changing myself to fit in has become a way of survival and a way of living. It was necessary to assimilate at school to make friends and of course I would do my best to understand my family. But presenting myself as a femme to the LGBTQ community first made me invisible but now I am a commodity.
For me, being femme isn’t just an aesthetic, it’s also the personality traits that are associated with femininity: compassion, empathy, thoughtfulness, supportiveness, and warmth. This is what makes me the go-to person when the people around me are in crisis or are in need of support. This is what makes me a commodity rather than being invisible, it gives me value. It gives me purpose. It also gives me more to deal with, to think about, to process and to internalise. It’s emotional exercise and somehow it becomes an expectation, but it doesn’t go both ways…
I don't fit into a neat little box. I am not wholly accepted. I allow people to see the part of me that I'm sure they'd accept and I hide the rest. I hide my Black from the whites and my "white" from the Blacks. My queer from my family and my femme from the queers. I'm always hiding or performing and willing myself to fit in. But you wouldn’t know because you can’t see my tears as you use my shoulder to cry on.
So when an opportunity presents itself for the roles to reverse, for me to express myself, for me to share my feelings, it almost seems unreal. It's happened once and I couldn't quite believe that I had found a niche, a calling, a truly safe space. I went to a gathering organised almost exclusively for femme presenting people of all genders, sexualities and backgrounds. It was a chance for us to all support each other and share the emotional exercise. We listened and shared experiences that, for once, were relatable and familiar for me. We were all united by our femme identities. It doesn't have one face or one form, it presents itself in limitless ways. I can assure you that when femme energy of that magnitude comes together and celebrates the diversity of our identities and the resilience and strength of our character, our tenacity, it's nothing short of miraculous. It's what keeps my heart warm and my mind open and gives me life each day.
Send questions and comments on this story to email@example.com