Femme Men Aren’t A Problem, Ignorant People Are

uh I’ve lived in Atlanta all my life and when I share that with other people, the response that follows almost always refers to the number of LGBT folk, especially black gay men, that live down here. And the remarks are almost always negative.

“There are too many gay niggas here!”

“That’s why there are so many single black women!”

“One of THEM hit on me!”

Just awful. To make matters worse, the people I’m converse with tend to single out a type of gay black male. The above remarks are usually followed by comments like:

“I see these niggas wearing make up and women’s clothes! It’s too much!”

“Why do they have to dress like that? Why can’t they keep their sexuality to themselves?!”

Yeah.

In the past, whenever those conversations came up I used to get really defensive and not in a good way. I used to downplay the number of gay men in Atlanta and emphasize the point that this stereotype of my city was exaggerated. I took special care to downplay the number of femme men. I figured those tactics would get people to stop disparaging Atlanta because of its gay population. I was too worried about Atlanta’s rep and it took me a while to realize that I wasn’t doing any good. It didn’t occur to me that what I was doing was homophobic. I can’t recall the exact moment when the light bulb switched but I handle those convos and other conversations about LGBTQ folks differently now. Perhaps it took me sorting out my own mess and hanging in queer spaces but I definitely changed. Instead of being ashamed of the stereotype, I embraced it.

As a matter of fact, I’m proud of the idea that my city is considered to be so queer-friendly. Safe spaces for LGBTQ people are crucial and while Atlanta isn’t perfect, I love that it can be a getaway for people. That said, this post isn’t about generating warm fuzzies for my hometown. This post is about another line of thinking that I had to wean myself from. Another reason why I’m able to address Atlanta’s stereotype in a more positive manner is because I stopped looking at femininity in a man as a negative.

A man walking around with a face full of make-up and leggings is just as much of a man as the dude walking around in a white tee, bagging pants and timbs. Both men are worthy of respect. If you think otherwise, that’s YOUR problem. Feminine men are not the downfall of society. They are not the reason black women supposedly can’t find husbands. And please, don’t feed me that “ITS THE EMASCULATION OF BLACK MENZ” shit either. Yes, this white supremacist society seeks to tear down black males but the dude with the sitting next to you on the train with glitter on his face isn’t the manifestation of that agenda. A feminine man is simply a feminine man. They’ve always existed and will continue to exist. If you have a problem with that, reexamine why you have that problem but no one should be shamed into fitting a norm because it makes other people uncomfortable.

As Edward Ndopu so eloquently put it:

My gender expression is femme, not effeminate. The latter is an adjective couched in a web of patriarchal, cis normative, trans misogynistic assumptions. The former is a self-identification grounded in the divine feminine. I very much claim my masculinity, it just happens to be a feminine manifestation of masculinity. Notwithstanding the sociopolitical imposition of an inaccessible world and cultural paradigm, disabled femmes of all genders teach able bodied ness new ways of being beautiful in the world. We firmly belief that there is no shame in seeking glamour, power and magnificence if you have been labeled undesirable, useless and inconsequential; there’s no shame because those things already abide within the spirit, they’re yours for the seeking.

What do you think? Discuss!

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6 thoughts on “Femme Men Aren’t A Problem, Ignorant People Are

  1. Chocolate Vent says:

    I’m trying to understand your statement – “They are not the reason black women supposedly can’t find husbands”. Does this mean that these men are not a contributing factor?

    The definition of emasculate is to “deprive of strength”. So if a man is acting & carrying on like a woman, how is that not deprivation of strength? If a man is acting like me, dressing like me and trying to think like me I don’t see how he can be strong as a man (which by the way, is what he was born to be) If anything, he is emasculating himself.

    • Ashleigh L.A. says:

      It is arguable that same gender loving men make the dating pool smaller for women and if that’s the case, it can be argued that lesbians make the dating pool smaller for hetero men.

      Also, a man being effeminate doesn’t make him weak and strength is not a strictly male trait. And yes, effeminate men are in fact men and the ones I speak of in this piece identify as such, it doesn’t matter if he “acts like you” or if he “acts like me”.

  2. Evette Dionne says:

    Another excellent post Ashleigh. I enjoyed reading it. Your perspective on this issue is refreshing and insightful.

    While I was a student at Bennett, I traveled to Atlanta several times for Spelman-Morehouse games and homecomings. I will admit that I noticed a large number of effeminate men in the community and it bothered me because I wasn’t accustomed to such open, authentic performances filled with agency. But after visiting again and again and again, I realized that this is essential to the cultural fabric of Atlanta and it makes the area incredibly unique. Instead of Atlanta being perceived as overpopulated with “gays,” it should be deemed a safe space for them to exist. Again, great post.

  3. Richard Wheeler-Ravennah says:

    Thank you for this insightful post Ashleigh. I experienced this same kind of dilemma when it comes to femme men. While I am feminine more than masculine, I used to think of men more feminine than myself to be discomforting. I was ashamed of how I treated my brethren by not supporting them. Ever since moving to Atlanta and being in a safe space for LGBTQ people, I have since become more comfortable within the community and I support everyone in this community. You make a valid point in their strength and striking down the norm of what makes a man a man. Bravo!

  4. Josh Timmerman says:

    I’m a man that has been seeking ways to become more femme in my deportment and mannerisms. My mom was the parent whom I looked up to. I often think that’s probably why I think more femininely. It’s mostly her advice, our shared experiences and her role model that’s in my head over my dad’s. I don’t see anything any more “wrong” with that than girls who take after their dads.
    A word about my strength as a man: it’s genetic and not going anywhere even if I wear heels and a skirt. I love my body and all its attributes. I’m keeping it all. I do have a female cousin who presents as butch and lesbian who, to this day, is also strong enough to beat me in a wrestling match!
    I love presenting as femme. I feel beautiful when I do so. Usually even more graceful. Men’s clothing and deportment is a bit restrictive in that it doesn’t allow for range of movement as well as a lot of female clothes and deportment. Also it lacks styling options. Women’s fashion offers many more textures, colors and types of attention grabbers. It’s more fun to me!
    Beyond all of this talk on fashion being femme is truly a way of being oneself. I am an active nudist and find that I can be femme , through my deportment and stylings, successfully as well. Henna tattooing is one of my fave ways of showing off my feminine graces. Flowers, vines and leaves are incredible wrapping from neck to toe!
    My wife has been my best friend and biggest supporter of my transition from timid and conservative male to proud femme man. My friends and I believe that sexual and gender identity are actually fluid concepts that are ever changing. It’s up to each of us to respect and love ourselves deeply enough in order to show the world who we are at any given moment.

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