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The Whore Next Door: Femme Defense 

Wednesday, Jul 16 2014
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San Francisco has a reputation for being one of the most gay-friendly cities in America, but this year's Pride festivities were marred by two attacks on members of the queer community that are being investigated as hate crimes by San Francisco police. On Pink Saturday, two women were attacked by a group of men in the South of Market area near Ninth and Mission streets. Their assailants reportedly shouted slurs about the women's sexual orientations before assaulting them. Later that evening, a member of beloved queer activist organization The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was also violently attacked by a group of people. Suddenly, the city doesn't feel quite so friendly.

Those of us who express our femininity often pay for it when we leave the house. Catcalling, unwanted advances, and even violence are a part of daily life for folks like me, who feel most comfortable in makeup and high heels. Sometimes, when we travel in pairs, like the couple who was attacked during Pride, our risk increases.

A few weeks ago, I was on a date in Oakland with another femme. ("Femme" is a catch-all term for folks who express their gender on the feminine side of the spectrum.) I'm attracted to all sorts of people, but as of late, my favorite flavor is femme. I simply can't get enough fake nails, big hair, and high heels. I love getting all dolled up together, going out on the town, and then putting my whole hand inside her when we get home.

My date and I were having a wonderful time flirting and sipping greyhounds at Cafe Van Kleef. Her mouth tasted like fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and I got lost in a kiss with her. When I came up for air, I noticed a man we didn't know was holding his hands up to frame our faces, as if he were about to take a picture.

"You oughta be in porno," he said with a leering smile.

Two femmes often attract unwanted attention like this, which can really put a damper on date night. But I didn't want to exacerbate the situation by getting angry, especially since this man was twice our size and we were cornered in the back of a dark and crowded bar, so I calmly told the man to have a good night and please let us be.

He responded by raising his voice and calling me a "fucking cunt." Hot fear rushed through my body. In light of recent events, encounters like this one have crossed the threshold from annoying to downright terrifying. My date and I left the bar unscathed, but we were both pretty shaken up, so we headed home early and, sadly, skipped the fisting.

When I go on a date with a man and end up kissing him in the corner of a bar, we never attract a crowd of eager onlookers. If I'm on a date with a man, other men don't come up and ask to take our picture when we are in the middle of a conversation. If I walk down the street holding my fiancee's hand, nobody whistles or asks us if we want to party. When I'm on a date with a woman, especially if that woman is hyper-feminine like me, we are almost guaranteed to encounter all of these interactions in a single evening. Even in the liberal, "gay-friendly" Bay Area, a girl's night out can often feel like a videogame where we get points for every drunk catcaller we safely sidestep in our stilettos.

The LGBT movement is making great strides, and yet the war on femininity is still going strong. When femmes are attacked at a celebration of LGBT pride, it reminds us we aren't safe — not even at our own party.

In the city where sequined drag queen dreams are supposed to come true, wearing a miniskirt should not put a target on anyone's back. Masculinity is a powerful tool to wield, but just as Spiderman's uncle says, with great power comes great responsibility. People with the privilege of masculinity can choose to use it for good by respecting femme spaces and speaking up when they see harassment. Pride is a time to celebrate the diversity of gender expressions and sexual orientations — let's come together as a community to make sure the celebration is safe for everyone.

About The Author

Siouxsie Q

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