Ballroom Culture’s Rich Alternative to the Trans/Cis Model of Gender | Hugh Ryan | Slate

As for the “queen” part of both terms? “It’s the line between us. The unity,” Bowles said emphatically. “Because we are family. We are queens—but he’s a guy queen, and I’m a girl queen.”

This understanding is 180 degrees from the emerging mainstream idea of the trans/cis dichotomy, in which these two identities are presented as polar opposites with no overlap. This difference stems from the vastly different origins and purposes behind these two ways of conceptualizing gender.

“Butch queen” and “femme queen” are terms by and for a queer community, where gender isn’t as cut and dried as it is in the straight world, for a variety of reasons. Because sexual desires and actions are themselves gendered, even the most masculine gay man is always dancing on the outskirts of cisgenderhood.

Fear of a Black femme: The existential conundrum of embodying a Black femme identity while being a professor of Black, queer, and feminist studies | Kaila Adia Story | Journal of Lesbian Studies

Lorde, Madhubuti, Piepzna-Samarasinha, and Fonteyn Lewis all contend that not only is the Black and feminine an ancient identity of strength, power, and divinity, but they also stress that the contemporary manifestations of a Black femme identity are based on a Black feminist tradition of recovering and resistance that seeks to undermine the racist and heteronormative assumptions that choose to see femininity as inherently White, and power as inherently male. All of the aforementioned authors insist that it is only racism and heteronormative conceptions of the feminine and of the queer that prevent outsiders from seeing a Black femme identity for what it truly is: a Black and queer sexual identity and gendered performance rooted in embodying a resistive femininity. It is one that transcends and challenges White supremacist, homonormative, and patriarchal ideas of femininity and queerness as White.

Gender/Racial Realness: Theorizing the Gender System in Ballroom Culture | Marlon M. Bailey | Feminist Studies

What ballroom members refer to as “realness” has remained the basis for the fundamental performance criteria in the culture throughout the several decades that it has been in existence. It is a set of performance criteria, a strategy, and, as I argue, a useful analytic concept that emerges from the ballroom community. Realness requires adherence to certain performances, self-presentations, and embodiments that are believed to capture the authenticity of particular gender and sexual identities. These criteria are established and function within a schema of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Racialized, classed, gendered and sexualized performances, self-presentations, and embodiments, to a large extent, give realness its discursive power in both the ballroom scene as well as in society at large.

Defining Your Gender As A Black Queer Femme Is Revolutionary—Don’t Take That Away | Sydnee Thompson | Black Girl Dangerous


The moment the word entered my head, the panic started. Maybe I’d been right all along and I was never really a “girl.” But if that was the case, was I just another immature kid trying to insulate herself from reality with made-up words?

Not a day goes by where I’m not hearing about divisive QTPOC forcing allies to expand their vocabulary beyond a Webster’s dictionary. Yet, what dictionary is of any use to a Black queer femme with a lifetime of scars who’s trying to understand their pain? And how can others like me learn to walk in our truths if our own “allies” question and berate us when we try to figure out what they are?

Rollersets & Realness: Black Womanhood Defined as Drag Performance | Shaadi Devereaux | Black Girl Dangerous

I once tweeted that black womanhood is inherently viewed as drag performance. A loaded statement to be sure, but also one I’m very confident in making. When the image of the perfect woman is coded from childhood as Snow White, the fairest and most sunburned in all the land, the idea becomes that all the rest of us are just donning costumes to imitate true beauty. The assumption is always that Black women are all imitating “true women” with long silky hair, light eyes and a list of features not associated with Blackness. There is surely a scale of womanhood in which black women, trans women, and those with large enough liquor cabinets to attempt both, find ourselves at the bottom. We tend to overlook this in how we view what it means to be trans and cis (presenting in a way deemed normative to the gender you were assigned at birth) and who has access to narratives of womanhood.

Queer Feminine Affect Aliens: The Situated Politics of Righteous Femme Anger at Racism and Ableism | Alexa Athelstan | Feral Feminisms

Critically, in both extracts, Bryan aptly highlights the racist white-supremacist colonial histories—inscribed within and surfacing from these contemporary white queer misconceptions and misreadings of her black femme embodiment—that provoke her righteous, historically rooted, and politically motivated black queer feminine disidentificatory anger towards white queer cultures from within. Kopene Kofi-Bruce also questions the politicised use of sexualised feminine embodiment as a central part of femme politics and community, reflecting the raced, gendered, and sexual politics of being a black femme Radical Cheerleader: “We femmes offered up our objectified bodies, adorable in rebellion and seemingly desirous of the attention. […] Why do women, and especially brown women, expect to have to show off our bodies, even while protesting?” (Burke 2009, 55). Whilst the hypersexualisation of queer femininities might thus function as an effective strategy for subverting white and middle class forms of (queer) femininities —traditionally constructed as desexualised, meek, modest, and demure creatures—this strategy of subversion can sit uncomfortably for some working class or black (queer) femininities that are often already hypersexualised by mainstream (as well as subcultural) racist and classist cultures.

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