by: Ariana Barreto
Hundreds upon millions of women have their assigned sex and gender expression match. Every day, we proudly walk around with our lipstick, panty hoes and high heels. Our high pitched voices and long thickened black eyelashes comfort people in knowing that sexual reproductive organs match our self-expression of a femme identity. For some, this is only a mere part of what is it to claim the femme identity. However, there is much more to all of us femmes.
Many femmes reclaim the hyper-femininity of women through traditional gender presentation, and others choose to throw a curveball. We’ll wrap an Ace bandage around our torsos to make our breasts disappear. Maybe we’ll pack six inches of silicone into our boxer briefs and tell you to refer me as “he.” We’ll pick the clothes that society only wants men to wear and rock them with our finest swagger. We’ll prance around with our five o’clock shadows to shake up someone’s world. Some femmes are easily spotted when we dress as men and labeled simply as a “bull dyke” and become confused by that label. Some of us femmes, like myself, gamble with desire — to own this stereotypical femme identity and trade it in for machismo.
When we play with gender presentation, people panic. They panic from not knowing what genitalia lies between my legs and try to comprehend why I, or any female-bodied individual, would switch or play with gender. It’s always this uneasy smile that cringes with bewilderment when they look at us, one I see often when I dress as my alter ego, Roberto. I can feel people eyeing me up and down as I board public transit. The CTA attendant fixes their eyes at me, trying to see if it’s the same girl that boards the train every Monday at the same time.
The society around me eyes Roberto with a mixture of contempt and disorientation when I dress in drag, as the possibility of a femme wanting to be masculine dumbfounds them. As I am told, I do femme very well so why would I want to? These questions always provoke a great deal of “rationalization” as to why people gender bend, and some people presume that we’re trying to gain the same privilege of men. Others assume that I’m just channeling my real “bull dyke” identity.
The clothing I buy and dress in should not inform my society about my reproductive organs. This idea is not just simplistic, but also moronic and animalistic. As a society, we’ve successfully brainwashed our peers, friends and families to seek for someone’s assigned birth sex through apparel. We’re lead to believe that someone’s sex needs to displayed through some cotton fibers from our damn sweaters.
As a self-identified femme, I do not seek to gain male privilege when I dress in drag. On some radical days, I seek to mock the gender that is presumed to run this world. More often times than not, it’s simply because I do not want to wear a pair of tight jeans. Queer or not, everyone has the right to play and own a gender that is conformable or for a political statement. Many members of our society attempt to tie sexual organs, sexuality and gender — all of which is to considered to be constant.
Gender is a hell of an obstacle to surpass. I want to say that it’s hard out there for a gender-fucking femme, but that isn’t the only case. It’s a strenuous journey for anyone who plays with gender.
This is my rude awakening. Everything that has ever been taught to us about gender, sexuality and reproductive organs connecting needs to be deprogrammed. The identities that represent our community are beautiful, brilliant and resilient — but most importantly, all of these identities can be subject to change.
Note: The photo above is of Ariana/Roberto, taken by Jessica Neria.
Ariana Barreto studies at DePaul University majoring in Public Relations and Advertising with minors in LGBTQ Studies and Spanish. She’s also the interm Co-President and Event Coordinator of Spectrum DePaul. Ariana is a Latina Queer Activist and a sassy one at that.