Monday, January 30, 2012

Trans Femme Invisibility

Alexis Meade (Rebecca Romijn) of TV's Ugly Betty

Megan Evans wrote on The Huffington Post about suffering from "femme invisibility."

Megan is a "femme," which is a term for a feminine-looking lesbian.

If you are a "femme," the world assumes you are heterosexual because you do not match the stereotypical image of a lesbian, i.e., "short hair, no makeup, wearing baggy jeans and a t-shirt." The problem is two-pronged: it is difficult to attract other lesbians and you have to ward off heterosexual males because other lesbians and heterosexual males assume you are heterosexual.

The crux of her post is how to overcome femme invisibility?

She suggests that some relief has come from the fact that "the representation of lesbians has risen on TV. In particular, there has been an influx of femme lesbian characters." Additional relief has come from femme celebrities, who have come out as gay like "Portia de Rossi, up-and-coming actress Amber Heard, Miss California hopeful Mollie Thomas, and country singer Chely Wright."

Also, she launched a Femme Visibility campaign on her "blog, What Wegan Did Next, with the simple plan of inviting femme lesbians to send in their photos and together take a step toward shattering stereotypes and pulling off our invisibility cloak."

After reading Megan's post, I realized that femme lesbian transwoman also suffer from "femme invisibility." We are unable to attract other lesbians and we have to ward off heterosexual males because other lesbians and heterosexual males assume we are heterosexual.

If you are a happily married femme transwoman (like I am), the inability to attract other lesbians is a good thing, but we still have to deal with heterosexual males who are on the make.

Television is not much help. TV transwomen come in two flavors: the men in dresses (à la Work It) and the drag queens (à la Ru Paul's Drag Race). The handful of trans femmes on TV have been so short-lived (the average trans femme character lasts one episode of a TV show) that they have not made much of an impact on the public's image of a transwoman. They still think we are either men in dresses or drag queens.

I don't have a solution. More femme transwomen characters on TV and in film might help. And more femme transwomen coming out as lesbians might help, too, but who knows?

We have enough trouble coming out as transwomen; coming out as lesbian transwomen might be pushing the envelope too much too soon. Maybe one step at a time is the way to go; first step: gender, second step: sexuality.  

By the way, when a guy comes on to me, I usually manage to dissuade him off by pointing at my wedding ring.


  1. Unfortunately even flashing my ring doesn't work for me since I started venturing out, do you have any suggestions how I can keep the men away? Some say wearing minis, high heels and skimpy clothing is asking for trouble but I should be free to wear what I want shouldn't I? This is the woman I feel I am and dont want to look like im a librarian.

  2. Rachel ColeJanuary 31, 2012

    Hi Stana, I hadn't come across the phrase 'femme lesbian transwoman' before but it pretty well describes me!
    I broadly agree that it may take time for the world to get it's collective head around what it means, but that makes it difficult if you happen to be a 50+ single femme lesbian transwoman who would prefer not to be single and feels time is running out!!!

    Does anyone have any suggestions about how a femme lesbian transwoman might meet an accepting partner that does not require a life-time of searching?

  3. Stana, what a great thought provoking post!
    I'm not smart enough to have an answer.
    In my own experience, I have had much more success being accepted by the more "butch" segment of the lesbian population.
    I used the "accepted" word as in gender. In fact when I "hang out" with them I'm accepted by men around us as a "femme" lesbian.
    I am widowed, but being single I hate the aggressive sexual advances by guys and really don't know how to "read" a lesbian's yet.
    Thanks again for the wonderful thought provoking post!!!!

  4. Maybe it's because I'm a bimbo.... but I completely like don't understand????

    If you have a wife, and are faithful to her, then why do you care what other people wonder about your gender when you're enfemme?

    I mean, so what. If men hit on you, you just say "No thanks" and move on - that's what real women have to do all day long.

  5. The benefits of gender fluid work better for us, but can be confusing for others. WE know our wants and desires, but what we put out in vibe may be a hard read to others. The first comment about wearing mini skirts, needs to understand that women do that to attract attention (always got mine) as the beautiful bird in nature does. So I guess you have to take the package as a whole. Fresh baked bread stirs the appetite the same way. Its a problem women have had forever, its just turned around when we wear the skirt.