Femme is a term that refers to a queer person whose gender expression is considered to be feminine. It was originally used to distinguish feminine lesbian and bisexual women from butch women, and it is still one of the main uses of the term. It is common for trans and nonbinary individuals to use the term to refer to their identity or expression even if they do not identify as lesbian or bisexual women. However, this last usage is has been gatekept by the lesbian community. A common definition of femme is someone who queers or subverts femininity, as opposed to a butch person, who rejects femininity. Femme is also sometimes used as a gender in itself.
Some argue that the word femme[note 1] can only be used to describe people in the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and it can be a synonym of the expression lipstick lesbian in some cases. Because there are many stereotypes surrounding femininity, the term femme is often used to subvert cultural expectations about how a woman should look like. For this reason, many (but not all) people that identify as femme do not try to adhere to these stereotypes. This is similar to how the word queer was reclaimed by the LGBTQ community.
Femme has been used for women as well as men, and also for people outside of the gender binary. Nonbinary femmes struggle against the misconception that nonbinary people must have an androgynous expression, since their own expression is feminine.
Some people claim that in the same way that nobody uses the words bear or twink unless they are gay men, nobody should use words such as femme or butch unless they are women. Therefore, they consider it appropriation.
There is no universally-accepted flag for the femme identity, but several have been proposed. Below are some of them.
Notable femme people
There are many more notable people who have a gender identity outside of the binary. The following are only some of those notable people who specifically describe their own identity by the name "femme," "fem," or a close analog to it, and who do not identify as just men or women.
- Dev Blair is a multimedia artist who is a nonbinary femme.
- Niecy Blues is an American musician who describes themself as an agender femme.
- Kate Bornstein (b. 1948) is an author, playwright, performance artist, and gender theorist. Bornstein is "a non-binary femme-identified trans person".
- Sand C. Chang, PhD., is a Chinese-American clinical psychologist and educator. Dr. Chang is one of the authors of A Clinician's Guide to Gender-Affirming Care: Working with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Clients. They are nonbinary, genderqueer, genderfluid, demiboy, and femme.
- Sharon daVanport is an activist who founded what is now the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (formerly Autism Women's Network). DaVanport is a nonbinary femme.
- Ericka Hart is a sexuality educator and activist. She is a Black queer nonbinary femme.
- Sassafras Lowrey is an author and journalist, known for hir books about dogs. Lowrey is genderqueer, trans, femme, queer, polyamorous, and asexual.
- Nikkita Oliver, American attorney, poet, and activist, is a genderfluid femme.
- Mauree Turner, American politician and community organizer. Turner is a nonbinary femme who was the first nonbinary person elected to a state legislature in the USA.
- Donish, Cassie (5 December 2017). "Five Queer People on What 'Femme' Means to Them". Vice. Retrieved 8 June 2020. (note: article contains reclaimed slurs)
- "The Many Definitions (and the Continuing Evolution) of the Word "Femme"". them. 19 July 2018. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
- "What We Mean When We Say "Femme": A Roundtable". Autostraddle. 18 July 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
- Levitt, Heidi M. (2003). "The Misunderstood Gender: A Model of Modern Femme Identity". Sex Roles. 48.
- Tonic, Gina (24 August 2016). "What Does Femme Mean? The Difference Between Being Femme & Being Feminine". Bustle. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
- On the appropriation of femme on Lesbians over everything (lesbiansovereverything.com)
- Shewan, Briana (15 February 2019). "Are you Femme? What Femme Isn't and What it is". affirmativecouch.com. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
Femmes may have any gender identity; some consider femme their gender identity, whileother femmes may have a different gender identity (such as transwoman, nonbinary, cis-woman, genderfluid, agender, etc.) and consider femme their gender expression
- Schauer, Elyse (2016). "Ain't No Girl…Femme! Queer Femme Identity and Art Making (master's thesis)".
Although some may be aware of the terms butch and femme, as applied to lesbian women, there is little awareness of femme outside of a lesbian context. Femme can actually indicate a gender that is altogether separate from woman, and people across gender presentations and sexualities may embrace femme in a queer context.
- Lapachet, María (3 July 2014). "International Femme Appreciation Day". A Femme in NYC. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
- "Lesbian Culture & Visibility". QueerEvents.ca. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
- "Glossary". Life Outside The Binary: Nonbinary Transgender Information Centre. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
- Michelson, Noah. "This Is What Femme Looks Like". HuffPost. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
- Nichols, Margaret (1987). "What Feminists Can Learn From The Lesbian Sex Radicals". Conditions (14): 161.
For some women, gender is less important than s/m identity; for others it is less important than some other aspect of personality. Still others are attracted only to butches or only to femmes—but they can be male or female butches or male or female femmes.
- "'I wanted to capture this idea that femme men are considered less than by the queer community': TQ talks to Lev A.C. Rosen". The Queerness. 3 August 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
- Bashan, Frankie (7 September 2020). "What Does It Mean To Be Femme?". Little Gay Book. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
- Twitter hashtag #FemmesCanBeThems
- smith, s.e. (27 April 2015). "Beyond the binary: Yes, nonbinary femmes exist". this ain't livin'. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
- @Dev_Blair (25 January 2018). "Starting 2 prefer "they" pronouns because so many people wanna equate "she" pronouns w/ me being a woman n that's not really what I mean when I say non-binary femme-what I mean is my gender is neither male nor female but I do strongly align with femininity" – via Twitter.
- Oyer, Kalyn (January 28, 2021). "SC women, nonbinary guitarists participate in She Shreds Media riff a day challenge". Post and Courier. Retrieved January 30, 2021.
- Raymond, Gerard (July 11, 2018). "Interview: Kate Bornstein on Their Broadway Debut in Straight White Men". Slant Magazine. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
- "Sand Chang". Trans Bodies, Trans Selves. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
- Kramer, Kaiya (11 December 2015). "Ep 69 Dr. Sand Chang Licensed Psychologist Interview". The Queer Life Radio. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
- Harrison, Christy (2 April 2018). "Food Psych #150: Disordered Eating & Gender Identity with Sand Chang". Retrieved 28 April 2020.
- Ho, Sandy (7 May 2018). "Disability & Intersectionality Summit: Interview with Sharon daVanport". Disability Visibility Project. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "PEOPLE: Why Sharon daVanport built a support network for autistic women and nonbinary people". Echo Chamber Escape. May 26, 2020. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
- Finley, Taryn (February 8, 2019). "Ericka Hart Is On A Journey To Dismantle Medical Racism". HuffPost. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
- Métraux, Julia (6 March 2020). "How Sassafras Lowrey Made Writing About Dogs a Career". Narratively. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
- @sassafraslowrey (11 October 2019). "and to have made a core aspect of my career around writing the queerest books and stories I can imagine. Happy #NationalComingOutDay Queerly yours a: #runaway, formerly #homeless, #genderqueer, #trans, #femme, #queer, #polyamorous, #asexual, #little, #leather boy" – via Twitter.
- @NikkitaOliver (November 7, 2020). "As a Black gender fluid femme abolitionist I can applaud a Black womxn 4 achieving her dream while also saying that same Black womxn is not a role model for me nor the future I desire. I dream of a world where Black womxn don't have to lock up people 2 be a public servants" – via Twitter.
- @MaureeTurnerOK (5 November 2020). "That's me! Mauree Turner. Pronouns They & She (not preferred, just pronouns) I am a born n raised Muslim-Oklahoman. Non-binary femme, & community organizer. The work I've been doing with, in, & for my community goes back years" – via Twitter.
- Smith, Kelsie (5 November 2020). "Mauree Turner is the first nonbinary and first Muslim Oklahoma state lawmaker". CNN. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
- Note that, in French, femme means woman. This article is about the English usage of this word.