Epilogue: The Good Lesbian

1903 depiction of women in "femme" a...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


(S pointed out to me that though it was really traumatic for me, I didn’t really get my feelings across about being dumped by the girl with the bandanna.)

I am a femme. I identify as a femme, and I was raised by a femme. Never did my mother suggest or mention that other people thought we were less-than because we were femmes.

So in college, I continued to wear dresses and do my make-up and my hair and wear heels. And I thought the girl with the red bandanna liked that. She said she did, anyway.

The small group of lesbians on campus weren’t like me, though. They all had short hair and wore men’s clothes. They were the kind of women I was attracted to. The problem, though, was that they really, really disliked me.

They made fun, both to my face and behind my back, of my heels, and my hair, and my dresses. They called me names, they made me less than. It was worse than being invisible–I was visible and ugly. I was everything they were trying not to be, everything a Good Lesbian shouldn’t be.

The girl with the red bandanna left me for one of those. A ginormous, shaved head butch with a wallet chain and biker boots.

From me, a fire engine lipstick femme, to a butch who hated femmes. Or, at least, this femme.

It crushed me, and it made me ashamed of being a femme. It made me hide. It made me cry. It made me think there was genuinely something wrong with me because I wasn’t a Good Lesbian.  Those women doubting my identity made me doubt my identity.

I stopped wearing dresses, I stopped wearing skirts. I traded thigh highs for men’s jeans.

And I lost me. For a long time.

But I’m older and wiser, and that little group of bitter lesbians is long behind me. I’m a femme. I’m a proud femme. I’m a femme in a butch-femme relationship, with someone who likes my heels and make-up and long hair, who appreciates the femme in me with the butch in her, right down to my stockings and lace.

But damn, it was a rough road to get to this place. I’ve been ridiculed by lesbians old enough to know better. How stupid to make us fight to be Good Lesbians, when you have to fight just as hard to be the person you want to be. Don’t you see the irony?

29 thoughts on “Epilogue: The Good Lesbian

  1. Hey Vic,

    I wore leather and boots and chains, before I even realized I was gay… And when I finally did realize it the University’s Gay & Lesbian Union = GLU (it was a while ago so no other letters yet) would not let me join the panels that visited classrooms because they didn’t want stereotypes on the panel…oh, but that wasn’t why I started this reply/comment…

    My heart goes out for that Vic (that part of her that is still with you). You are a stronger woman for it, as we all are supposed to be stronger after surviving tough times like that… but that wasn’t what I meant to say either…

    Oh, those butches — may have been at a community college, but I’m betting none of them read much. They lived in their closed little community and weren’t trying to be more than what they were in grade school. They were probably threatened by you, because there was an amount of jealousy there — envy toward you being able to be you.

    I’m just saying, they probably weren’t that happy with themselves if they were picking on other women to make themselves feel better. Sad, shameful behavior for anyone over 5.

    U R 6y :)

  2. As a butch, I wish I could apologize for all butches. It pains me to read about this happening to anyone. Can’t we all just be accepting and loving of each other?

    A pipe dream, I know, but I can still dream.

    I appreciate your femme-ness. Immensely.

    • The nice thing, Wendi, is that there are wonderful, caring, wise butches like you in the world who ‘get’ it. And I think the louder we are as a group, the more people we reach who need to hear what we have to say.

      I appreciate you too. :)

  3. All you need to be a ‘good lesbian’ is an eye for the ladies – whether you like them butch, femme or somewhere in between (if they are at two ends of teh spectrum….) doesnt matter one jot. Its a shame small minded individuals chose to make themselves feel bigger by making you feel small – as a butch I can only apologise, but that kind of gives the impression that i have anything to do with them just because i too have short hair and wear (mostly) mens clothing – and to be honest – I dont. But im still sorry. Well done you for finding yourself and more importantly being yourself – long may it continue.

    • Damn true, Anne.

      Having a blog like this one, with readers like yourself, proves that those small minded women were just a paltry example of butchness.

      Thank you for your thoughtful response.

  4. I wish I could say I understood femme-invisibility. Since the day I transitioned I’ve been a goth-girl in a country where real goths are like hens teeth. I stick out, and as my lil sister often enough complains “Wanna try out femme-invisibilty walk through Dublin city with Amanda.”

    But I do understand the hostility that lesbians, and especially a certain type of butch can direct at others. I can’t even count the number of attempted relationships, creative experiments, or just plain nights out that have been sabotaged by a local lesbian (in my home city) who hated me for being Ts. Who would call bouncers and announce loudly that there was a “man in the ladies room.” Or tell someone I was getting close to that “he’s pretending to be a girl cos he’s a convicted sex offender.”

    If you threaten the status quo, if you stand happily on the edge of a sub-society there’s always some asshole who just has to have a try at pegging you between the eyes with a rock.

    Well in the final analysis, we win, not them. When I’m in my 80’s I’ll have a wonderful slavegirl, a wonderful slaveboy, and a puppy loving and looking after me. She’ll have…her drug problem.

    Or to put it another way. We may sometimes be drunk, and they might be ugly, in body, heart and soul. But come the morning and we’re sober. But they’re still something only a truck tire, or a mother could love. ;-)

    (for the record not having a dig at all butches, I rather fancy quite a few, just the disgraceful bitches who need their chuffs kicked so hard that they’ll end up wearing them as earmuffs.)

    • I know it’s not my place, but I’m sorry you’ve had to go through it too, Amanda. It sucks, and it really sucks when it comes from other people who live on the fringes of social ‘norm’ as well.

      I think you should be so, so proud of yourself for living as the person you are and want to be. I’m proud to ‘know’ you.

      I think it’s not just the butches who brought me down–it’s anyone who brings other people down.

      • Of course it’s your place. Vic feeling and showing empathy for others is something that I view as a duty, a responsibility, which is at the very core of being a decent person. When you say you’re sorry that I went through what I went through it makes my memories of those events less painful to relive. Not because it erases them, but because it reminds me that every step of my life to date has led me to this day, this place, this online…I guess friendship with someone I truly admire. Someone who but for that horrific bitch, and other people who were even worse, I may never have gotten to interact with.

        So absolutely your place to comment. :-)

        I can honestly say that I am mostly proud of who, and what I am. There are areas of my person, and nature which I hope to improve. But growth and change are part of living, and what does not grow, does not truly live. So it’s probably for the better that I do still have some parts of me I want to improve on. But I have to admit that everytime I use the word “futagirl” to describe myself I do feel extremely proud. I mean it’s a hentai term which, when you strip away the fetishism surrounding it, does describe my mental, and emotional nature to a T, and goddesses, science, and a really great surgeon willing someday it will reflect my physical sense also. I’m proud of it because I’m taking a kind of nasty word, and making it mine, embracing its core meaning and loving being that.

        I’m the girl your parents couldn’t warn you about, because they had NO idea I existed.

        Now it’s my turn. I wish the unpleasant butches had never gotten the chance to hurt you. A heart and mind like yours deserves much, much better. But on the other hand if you hadn’t been hurt that way you might have never found your missus…swings and roundabouts. Not that that thought makes me wish any less fervently that you had not been hurt. Sometimes being a human being is a confusing mess of emotions isn’t it?

  5. I’m so sorry. People like that give us butches a bad name…Clearly they had the idea that there’s some uniform or some membership rite you need…when let’s face it…all ya need on the list is to find women hot….check!

  6. It’s hard enough for anyone to be themselves. It’s even harder when you get criticism and ridicule from the places we least expect it: our friends, family, lovers, peers, people we think should accept us for who we are. Unfortunately, the nature of the human condition is such that we are trained to think in comparative (and specifically hierarchical) terms about almost everything. I am more/less attractive than this person. I have more/less money than this person. Person A is better/worse than Person B. It’s possible to train yourself think differently, to break out of the habit of drawing lines and building walls, even within our own communities, but it’s hard.

    I have a lot of respect for you for sharing this whole experience and for choosing the difficult path to finding yourself, a self that belongs to you and not a group of peers, not society, not a religion. It’s not easy. But here you are. You made it!

  7. Wow, Victoria, what a story. I’m so sorry you had to go through that, but it sure made you a super person. We have such pre-conceived ideas about everything. Why can’t we just be who we are and let everybody else do the same. Folks assume because I was a bad-ass cop that I must be butch…things are not always as they seem.
    Thanks for your writing!

  8. I came out later in life – I met S. and that was all she wrote for me. I didn’t have to change a thing about myself or try to fit in, as there was NO community where I lived. S. was very butch, but with long hair – that combination was fascinating for me (I still mourn the long hair) but I don’t think we classified ourselves as anything but together. :) She swags, and people ask me if I want fries with that shake… LOL
    That being said, I am so sorry to hear how much pain you went through just trying to be yourself. I don’t think that there is a worse feeling – being yourself and being found somehow “lacking.”
    I love your discussions :)

    And I did get the “emotion” from the first post :)

  9. Aren’t you overjoyed you put people like that behind you? I know you, and I think you’re a lovely not just on the outside, so all that crap you went through made you an incredible person. C is as femme as they get, and while I’d love her no matter what her hair style was, I love the fact she won’t go to the grocery without lipstick on. I tease her that they won’t let her in. What I’ve learned in the last few years is, life is fleeting and to be enjoyed in the moment. I’m happy you found S, who loves you for you and the heels. If I had to guess, red bandanna is kicking herself for the stupidity of youth. Thanks for sharing.

    • Aww, thanks Ali. :)
      How about your experience of femmes? How were they perceived in your experience? I love that C won’t leave without lipstick! (And how much do I love the dynamic between Cain and Emma?)

  10. As butch to femme, I’m so sorry. Sorry they couldn’t appreciate you and sorrier for the damage they did to you, Vic. Thank goodness you can write about it and we all can learn from your experience. Thank you fo doing this.

      • OMG, beguiled, beguiled, beguiled. As a matter of fact, my first gf is coming to visit us this weekend. She claims she doesn’t identify f or b, but at age 14, Kim Novak was her role model as I recall. Black eye makeup, bleached blonde hair, shimmying. The women’s movement messed with my head, but I couldn’t stop being me or responding to femmes.

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