Long gone are the days when queer women were either ‘Femme’ (if they were more feminine presenting), or ‘Butch’ (if they were more masculine presenting). Thanks to the rise in social media apps such as Instagram and TikTok, we’re now seeing that there are SO many ways to label (with words), and slay (with fashion), our sexuality…So many labels to describe the different types of ‘queerness’ based on gender expression. ‘Gaydars’ malfunctioning everywhere.
A quick rundown on what some of these labels actually mean…
- ‘Femme’= possessing qualities considered typical of a woman. Existing on a spectrum, there are different types of Femmes, such as…
- ‘Hyper-femme’ (traditional feminine style). Usually an extreme expression of the aesthetic aspects of femininity.
- ‘Hard-femme’= feminine presenting but with a more masculine ‘edge.’
- ‘Futch’= somewhere in between ‘femme’ and ‘masc.’
- ‘Masc’= possessing qualities considered typical of a man.
- ‘Soft Masc’= generally appears ‘androgynous’ rather than adhering to strictly feminine or masculine norms and gender identities. Though, usually does present more masculine than feminine.
With such diversity in gender expression, as highlighted above, comes the inevitable ignorant (and very annoying) question; ‘but whose the man in the relationship?’ (major ick). There is no man in the relationship, that’s kind of the point…
People ask this because we find ourselves, perhaps unknowingly, so caught up in the ‘rules’ of a heteronormative society, whereby men are seen to be the ‘dominant’ sex- tall, short hair, big muscles, ‘wears the trousers’- and, women? The ‘submissive’ sex- short, long hair, slim, dress and makeup wearing- that they find the concept of two feminine presenting women, or two masculine presenting women, hard to understand.
Fortunately though, as diversity is encouraged, relationships which don’t meet the stereotype of one partner being masculine presenting and one partner being feminine presenting are no longer seen as revolutionary, they are just… seen. How wonderful- a big ‘up yours’ to a heteronormative society that has tried to quieten anything that threatens its closed-minded narrative for far too long.
Wonderful but… confusing? No sooner are people coming out as queer than they feel like they have to come out, again, to define which ‘type’ of queer they are.
Things now though, are no longer so black and white. Someone who knows all about the growing use of labels within the queer community is TikTok influencer Kenna Bethany (@kenna_bethany). Kenna, now 25, started her TikTok account at the age of 22, initially just jumping on trends before finding her niche in the, now very popular, ‘WLW’ TikTok community.
Wholly embracing the more ‘modern’ labels being used to define sexuality and gender expression today, Kenna self-identifies as ‘Alt Femme’/’Stem.’
As a content creator, Kenna uses TikTok to explore what it means to be a queer woman today. Off the back of her relatable videos (think your cool Gay Auntie with the best advise), she has built up quite a following (116k followers, 132.2 million views).
On how TikTok is influencing people in defining their sexuality as a means of expression, here’s what Kenna had to say…
‘In my experience, people love having extra detail as a way to describe themselves. People don’t tend to adopt these extra labels until they’re already comfortable with their queer identity. The hardest part is figuring out you’re not straight. After that, you’re under the LGBTQI+ umbrella and can specify more if you want to – but you don’t need to! There’s no rush (or need) to adopt a really niche label, just enjoy exploring the community and meeting the cool people who are a part of it.’Kenna Bethany
Ultimately then, it can be said that the increase in labels across the likes of TikTok is influencing, largely positively, LGBTQI+ people and the way in which they identify. Serving to reaffirm one’s identity by allowing them to feel ‘seen’, and to connect to an identity that ‘fits’, we have the choice to label ourselves however we want. We have the CHOICE. And, that is something to be celebrated. We must celebrate the fact that queer women are, finally, being represented across social media. By seeing such diversity- people living their best lives, defying norms and stereotypes- we are shifting views on gender and sexuality, which can only be a positive thing.
‘You can’t be what you can’t see’, hopefully we will also see such representation being mirrored in the mass media- on TV shows, in mainstream publications, so that we can all feel seen,