What Is It To Be Femme: People of Color, Gender Presentation, and the Mental Health Angle

What is it to be femme? Masc? Gender nonconforming?

In today’s society it is absolutely acceptable for a man to be a masculine man and a woman to be a feminine one. Where does this apply in terms of the identity in the LGBTQ community? The psychological and mental health of what standards society places on these norms can be detrimental to one’s mental health and psyche.

As members of the LGBTQ PoC community, we have to put a “front” to what society views us as. Many in our community feel as though we should not stand out or be that "flamboyant" or “butch” so as to not rub others the wrong way who already have an apprehensive view of the “lifestyle” we partake in. Even within our very own communities we judge and view others as superior because they are able to fit into society and not stand out or rustle anyone’s feathers. But whether you are “femme” or “butch” or anything in between, why must we have to look over our shoulders and worry how others will perceive us?

One must need to first look at where one is from and how one is brought up. In my experience with my clients, I have seen that an overwhelming majority of us, who struggle with their identity and how to act/conform, come from minority backgrounds. As members of the LGBTQ PoC, we must remember that being the “machismo” or the “strong Black woman/man” have been embedded in our being from the day we were born and even before.

A person who is different in regards to being LGBTQ PoC in these communities will often struggle with their identity for many years and can result in mental issues such as: depression, anxiety, anger, manic depression (bipolarism), self-defeating attitudes/thoughts, and sadly, suicide. It is often seen as being a minority in two ways, a PoC as well as a LGBTQ person. Not only are we pigeon-holed into these roles within our respective PoC communities, we are also being pressured by our own LGBTQ community to be the most socially acceptable person as well.

The truth is, from what I have seen and by personal experience, why do we put ourselves through this? Whether you are that flamboyant gay who can light up a room, or that butch guy/chick who can hang with the best of our straight counterparts. One should not base self-worth and acceptance on what they feel is more appropriate and acceptable in society today.

We must accept each other’s differences, and accept each one as a staple in our community since we are all different and can all contribute to the world in many ways. Celebration of these differences is vital to the existence and acceptance to this illustrious community that any and everyone would be privileged to be a part of.

To be FEMME is not negative. When I look at the word FEMinism, I don’t think it to be negative or that it should have some sort of stigma to it. It is beautiful and encompasses so much that we must all embrace it and embrace one another. Let us show the world that we are not to be marginalized by our counterparts or by society’s standards of what they think is acceptable behavior or what is the right way to act.

The best revenge is to live your life, to be your best self--do not ever let anyone take that from you. Let that flame within you be bright enough to dull others’ ignorance/hate to things that they do not know. Shine on fam, shine on!


Ryan A. Rodriguez has a Master's in Rehabilitation Counseling with a concentration in Psychiatric Rehabilitation, and a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion with a Community Health Education Minor. 

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