In the Blog
Honoured Femme, Femmes Honoured
This year, World Pride honoured a group of activist organizers in the city of Toronto’s downtown core called Fierce Femme Organizers. They included: Kim Milan(Crosby), Catherine Hernandez, Gein Wong, Chanelle Gallant, Sedina Fiati, Leah Lakshmi, Dainty Smith, Monica Forrester, Belle Jumelles, Anna Camilleri, Alyson Mitchell, Vee Stun. (Missing were Arti Mehta and Kyishia Ka Ackees).
This is amazing. Each of these queer activists (some of colour) who identify as femme do amazing work in our community. To quote Pride Toronto: “In order to keep a community strong, a whole force of equally strong leaders need to build and maintain it. Toronto’s queer community is filled with such amazing diversity and activism and that can only survive and be relevant with the strength and persistence of organizers like these. Regardless of what organizations these individuals belong to, they are a group themselves, a group that works both together in tandem and individually to ensure that the community maintains its dynamism and effectiveness”.
It’s high time someone honoured these femmes and the identity of ‘femme’ itself.
The identity of ‘femme’ is one as complex as any other on the spectrum of queer identity. Please, don’t get it twisted…femme is so much more than lipstick and high heels and further, there are so many who identify as femme beyond cisgendered woman.
I hesitate to define femme here with the simplicity of words because femme can be a look, a style, or an attitude; its an embodiment of femininity; it’s a swagger of femme realness (being real, down to earth and always speaking your truth); it’s a fashion (as in clothes and make up), but it doesn’t mean it always looks like what straight ladies look like—in fact, far from it.
I didn’t take up the femme identity on my own. I was called ‘femme’ by my co-workers when I was hired at the centre where I work. I suppose my look suggested I was and am femme identified. So, I guess some of femme can be how you present; ‘feminine looking’ in the mainstream way of seeing femininity. But it’s also a fierce attitude like Sasha Fierce, Michelle Ross, Claire Huxtable and Jessica Rabbit all rolled into one. Or you. Or me.
Femme is political, kind, activist, responsive, loving, sexy, tumultuous, steamy, fun, playful and whole. It is not without, it is always enough; it is not in conjunction with another. It is in itself. Femme. Beauty, wisdom, love, sex; ripped stockings, chipped nail polish, well-kept manicure, housewife pearl necklace, manic panic hair dye. Femme is our gorgeousness personified. It is the side of our selves that feels like a pussy, wuss or wimp but turned inside out, flipped on its head and enjoyed because femmes are strong. Femme can be our feminine side. Femme is what makes the world go round (in my humble opinion).
World Pride honoured the work of these individuals as queers who are often made invisible because of their femme-ness. As femmes we have been seen as not queer enough and get seen as straight all too often. These folks’ work is being honoured because they do it while embodying femme. Which as we know, because of sexism is not an easy task. Being a girl, woman or anything that is seen as womanly (read effeminate men) are still seen by the world as secondary, Other and weak.
With Pride Toronto honouring these femmes, I also feel honoured. Highlighting the femme identity is critical in a world where lines are being blurred around queer and gender identity and something like femme can be seen as conventional while being so complex. At the same time, since the Fierce Femme Organizers aren’t an actual group that meets but rather a collection of particular organizers in Toronto queer community, I would like to add a few names to the Fierce Femme organizers group who mentored me,*** influenced me and gave me the courage to own my femme identity and see it as strong. (In no particular order)
Grissel Orellana Carlyle Jensen Karlene Moore Min Kaur Gitanjali Natasha Lena (boy femme) Karen Silverwoman Sarah Switzer OmiSoore H. Dryden Aruna Zehra Renee Pilgrim Ellen aka Ms. Aynn Throwpe Asam Ahmad Nedal Sul karen darricades Cee Sando Joan Johnson Sunshine Kyisha Ka Ackees Nadine Sookermany Rebecca Hammond Farrah Khan Lali Mohamed Dana Shaw Pandora Roxstar Wendy Babcock Charlie Mac Leanne Lapspace Krysia Lycette Villon CoCo La Crème
And the original femme in my life (i.e. who taught me ‘femme’) - Shirley Singh, my mom
***Some of these folks may not identify as ‘femme’ but they inspired my femme fierceness and courage all the same with their identities, part of which may include ‘femme’
In close, femme identity is not old news. It’s a fluid, vibrant, sexy idea that we all share a little of in our own gender and sexual identity closets.
Honour femmes in your life. Honour your femme side.