It pains me to say that while I remember that day, when I was a CA and you a wee firstie, I don’t remember meeting you! I don’t want you to take it personally though, because I was a TERRIBLE community adviser. Some advice to my babes with anxiety- never take a job in the place where you live. Being judged on bulletin boards when you’re trying to hide in your room is the WORST. I know some larger schools compensate with free room and board, but not moho! We made $88 every other week for a pretty emotionally draining job. Don’t do it.
That being said, I wonder if we would’ve been ready to be friends all those years ago. I think about this sometimes with Katie, who lived down the hall from me during my first year in college, but who I didn’t fall in love with until my senior year. In the time between I fell in and out of love multiple times, went through some of the worst depression of my life, went to therapy for 2 years, learned how to take care of myself, and grew up. If I hadn’t gone through that, maybe I wouldn’t have been ready to accept the love and support she (and you) had to offer. I think the same holds true for my journey to identifying as femme. It didn’t come all at once, I had to work for it.
During my senior year of college I had a conversation with my brilliant femme friend Jessica about doing anti-racism work in the student orgs on campus. She was the chair of the QPOC student group, and I had just stepped down from my role as chair of a different LGBTQ org. I told her that I felt frustrated because while we came up with ideas to make the group more inclusive, I never felt like they were put into action. She offered me this brilliant advice that applied to activist work as well as my whole life:
Progress is very rarely linear. The idea that your problems have an all-encompassing, rational solution is a masculinist way of thinking.
She rocked my world by telling me that. As a newly identified femme I wondered, what is a feminist way of thinking? In my experience, when people are asked to describe femininity they will describe appearance and when asked to describe masculinity they’ll describe character traits. What, I wondered, are the character traits of being feminine?
For me, being femme means viewing vulnerability as a strength. We live in a world that privileges being “rational” over being emotional, but what would it look like if we listened to our joy and our anger and our grief? What would it look like if we treated others with radical empathy, and tried to view things from each other’s perspective instead of putting our opinions first? What would it be like if we made space for conversations that are are painfully honest, and instead of looking for a solution, just sat with our discomfort, knowing that to err is human? What if we made space for our humanity and the humanity of others?
Being femme to me means trusting that growth is a part of a process. There were times in the midst of going to therapy where I felt worse than where I started. I would cry for an hour and leave feeling like I had been ripped open, to go huddle in my bed. Those were the times when the real work was done. I had to look into the eyes of the grief at my center, and only by doing that could I take away some of it’s power over me. Being femme means trusting in your own resilience and throwing yourself heart-first into the world.
And femme means community. Femme means being the drunk girl in the bathroom who tells everyone else how pretty they are. Femme means making safe sober spaces (where you still tell everyone how pretty they are). Femme means calling your friend on their walk home, so they don’t have to be afraid walking alone. Femme means sharing and crying and laughing and validating and calling out and calling in, and taking care of each other.
I’m very lucky to have many amazing femme friends, whose constant love and validation has buoyed me on the daily. For me, being femme also means being grateful for all the love and light in my life.
You’ve got all my love Hannah, and I’m excited to embark on this blog-venture with you! So for you, same question: what does femme mean to you?