Femme Feature | Val
Welcome to Femme Features. Femme Features is a blog series featuring femmes from all nooks of the LGBTQIA community. These rocking folks are activists, educators, bosses, parents, entrepreneurs, and all sorts of amazing human beings. Join us as we explore femme identity as so much more than a label, but truly a way of life.
Today’s Fashionably Femme feature is Val!
Val | Fashionably Femme
I can remember a time before I was aware of my femme identity. It was a time before I had embraced my sexuality and tried in vain to play by the rules of the hetero-patriarchy. Those were self-loathing days, because no matter what creativity I brought to my style, I slowly got the message that rebellion was viewed as failure. My 80’s combat boots were just a failure to rock stilettos; my voluptuous curves, a failure to be attractive to men; my thrift store creations, a failure to prioritize “the brand.”
As an artist, I knew on some level that I would never quite fit in, but that I could somehow use this to my advantage and challenge the norm. I first found safety in — believe it or not — the conformity of a catholic school uniform. Stripped down to the basic oxford shirt and wool blend skirt and yearning to differentiate myself, I was finally able to explore my creativity in small ways that often placed me in the detention hall for minor infractions. I bought the largest size uniform cardigan for a “baggy” look, dyed a swatch of my hair ruby red, and added a leather dog collar under my oxford.
Later, I traded in punk for the Grateful Dead – the ultimate break-up with bourgeois capitalist society. I explored ethnic Indian and Guatemalan prints, calico hand-sewn dresses, Turkish jewelry, and dove headlong into the counter-culture. While my creativity flourished, hetero-patriarchy remained inescapable. The paradox within this male-centric counter-culture was the crucible in which I first became aware of my sexuality. Yet I didn’t see myself represented in the LGBTQ community, and continued to struggle for some time with my identity.
Before coming out, I had to come to terms with never fully fitting in with queer culture as long as I didn’t reject my femme-ness. After coming out, women I dated sometimes shamed me for wearing makeup or encouraged me to “explore my butch side.” In queer spaces, I was assumed as straight or told that I didn’t “look queer enough.” My rebellion in these spaces continues and is defining to both my nature and my style. Today I fully embrace my femme style, and glimpses of my entire journey can be seen in my aesthetic. I embrace my curves by flipping classic vintage to my advantage, bringing to mind historical views of femininity. My attitude harnesses 80’s punk, questioning all authority and outdated ideas about feminine frailty and emotional weakness. I fearlessly explore ethnic-boho styles in a world that harshly judges the artistic postmodern ethos as “cultural appropriation.”
If my style comes across as intimidating, it’s because I hope to challenge stereotypes about passive femininity. While I have no interest in attracting the male gaze, I also hope to challenge what feminists & queers think about femininity and artistic freedom. As my style continues to evolve, I have centered it around core statement pieces that work well on their own or combined in non-traditional ways. Overall, I want to express my sense of joy about exploring life, art and culture, and give my blessing to anyone who wants to similarly explore what they are told is forbidden or inappropriate.
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