Long, long ago in 1967 a couple of years before Stonewall and armed only with John Rechy’s “City of Night” as a map I went out on the road exploring first to Greenwich Village and then to San Francisco.
I looked like a sixteen year old and I attracted the chicken hawks. I had my first few sexual experiences with gay men. everyone of them told me having sex with me was like having sex with a girl because I was a girl in bed.
I started observing the so called femininity of gay men. It really isn’t femininity. It is obvious gayness. Susan Sontag called it camp. I think it is innate and “gay” not masculine or feminine and I’ve seen elements of it in the butchest of gay men and the nelliest of queenish gay men. It is the thing that causes me to look at a number of straight right wing Christo-fascist Republicans and think, “Who does that closet case think he is fooling.”
As for the masculinity of lesbians. In the 1940s and 1950s see “Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold” many in the lesbian community that was studied gave oral histories indicating that femmes weren’t considered real lesbians, only butches were.
Far more recently I made the comment regarding the emergence of female to male transsexualism, “There are two kinds of lesbians, women and men.” It is a nasty quip.
In the 1970s I had a discussion with the other women on the “Lesbian Tide” where I was a photographer and production artist regarding an article on Butch/Femme. This was the 1970s and many feminist women had opted to become lesbian as a political choice. Butch/Femme were considered artifacts of a pre-liberation time.
I was a photographer, played electric guitar as well as accoustic, soldered together kits for my synthesizer, did Tae Kwon do etc. Yet I also wore tight designer jeans and t-shirts etc. In short I defied the Butch/Femme labeling. During our editorial meeting we sort of decided that butch/femme existed as a comparison of one person being more butch or femme than an other.
But I’ve also observed in the years since that many lesbian identified women are more bisexual the way I am and that being feminist and competent complicates defining as butch or femme based on patriarchal ideas of femininity.
Among lesbians there are some traits that seem obvious lesbian traits in the same way gay men seem to have obvious traits and they aren’t really masculine in the same way those of F to Ms are instead they are lesbian and cause lesbians to ask the question, “Doesn’t she realize she is a dyke?”