An invisible notion of identities hidden behind the veil of expressions, femme invisibility is an area of concern in contemporary times.
Based on the pedestal of stereotypes and conventional norms, femme invisibility is another product from the factory of impressions; the founder being our very own society. Delineating the meaning in its existence itself, ‘femme’ nestles down to those women with a queer identity who portray traditional feminine characteristics in their daily lives.
In plain sailing, the ship of femme is considered to be the exact opposite to the ship of butch; the latter being the term used to describe someone who delineates the attributes of masculine mannerisms in regards to the societal standard.
A common notion prevalent in the minds of individuals pertaining to lesbians is their way of dressing and idiosyncrasy; if one is attracted to females, one has to possess short hair, absence of makeup and dress oneself with masculine attires. This creates a feeling of alienation for those women who do not follow the above pattern and are secluded within the queer community, thus paving the path of intra-circle invisibility.
Narrative films and series based on the LGBTQIA+ community have been able to erase this line of invisibility to a certain extent but not completely. Femme women still feel lost in the tangled web of identities as there is an absence of an approach to recognise such women; they mostly slip under the blanket of ‘straight women’.
Knowingly or unknowingly, these women are both victims and assailant of the invisibility with no particular approach to recognise femme women in public surroundings; the only option being left to stick a ‘I am gay’ sign on their foreheads.
I have been in a relationship with my girlfriend for the past three years. Her style orientation is towards the masculine side, so people who know about us accept her sexual orientation. But when they talk with me, they say statements such as – How can you be a lesbian? You don’t dress like a boy. This is not the end. Many of my guy friends often try to flirt with me because they assume I am straight because of my appearance.Anonymous
Femme invisibility is not only restricted to the lesbians but also throws its shadows on the bisexuals and the trans people as both of them are assumed to be straight by default and relationships with the same sex are mostly seen as a ‘move’ for attention from other people.
I believe it is not only limited to gay, bisexual and transwoman. It may be encountered by anybody—after all, femme/masculine/androgynous is how we present ourselves and it is totally independent of our gender or sexuality. I am a non-binary bisexual person and I present feminine.Dixita Purkayastha, first year student at Royal Global University, Guwahati.
So, most of the people, for some reason, I don’t know why still refuse to believe that I am a non-binary person because apparently I “look like a girl”. Firstly, how is a girl supposed to look? These are all society-created norms. And next, the disbelief of people that I am bisexual because I have been with a guy for a very long time. But that is the fact, bisexuals are attracted to two or more genders, what is the unbelievable thing here?”
Existing as a dirty secret of one’s mindset is the heteronormative tendency of people to assume one person to be ‘the man’ and the other one to be ‘the woman’ even in a gay couple. This brings an array of seclusion for femme couple as it is mostly considered to be unusual, thus giving rise to the term ‘lipstick lesbians’. Other individuals of the queer community consider being ‘passed out as straight’ to be a privilege but it has turned out to be a thunderstorm of identity crisis for femme women.
Femme women are a part of our society and the queer community as much as other individuals are; ascribing societal norms on their identities is non-justifiable.
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