On Saturday, March 5, LGBTQ folks (gay, bi, lesbian, trans, pan, ace) got together to attend The Femme Event - a day-long conference confronting and exploring issues facing men and women in the LGBTQ community who are femme. We discussed sexism in the LGBTQ community, femme-femme relationships, femme-butch relationships, femme empowerment, femme invisibility, misogyny in the LGBTQ community, and more. It was a day of in-depth exploration, honest questions, sharing of insights and listening to new perspectives. Overall, it was a great success.
Except for one thing: there were only 15 people who attended the conference. Why is that?
One reason that was given to me off the top was that "the Pride Center is a small space and it's going to be packed with people." So, some people opted out because of the size of the Pride Center. As it turned out, we could have accommodated at least twice the number of people who came, if not three times. And while 45 people is not a huge crowd, it begins to be a critical mass that may be able to effect change. So, note for the future, take reservations, so that people know it won't be over packed.
Fifteen people can change things, too, it's just more difficult. If just because those fifteen people are often the ones who are ALREADY doing so much in their corners of the community. So, by their self-selection to attend this event, they are self-identifying as do-ers. I personally know that at least half of those present were already volunteering and organizing in other areas of the Pride community. I think the fact that they still made time to come to this event was amazing and really necessary. But, we needed others who are not as involved already to attend.
So, how do we pique people's interest? Maybe the title was too obscure or, dare I say it?, off-putting. Some people said that they thought it was a women's event. It wasn't. A third of those present were men. And men who had a lot to say about being femme. It was very illuminating to hear them speak about the downsides to being femme in their lives. A handful of women said to me, "I'm fine with being femme, I don't need to talk about it." Totally ignoring the femme struggle for others and the fact that we need people - of all presentations - to help fight that struggle. That kind of apathy/complacency doesn't help our community at all.
And then there's just the femmephobia, sexism and misogyny in our culture that may have played a role in keeping people from the event. Perhaps people were turned off by the idea of spending six hours exploring issues related to being femme. And if that's the case, all I have to say is: OUCH. That sucks.
If you knew about the Femme Event and didn't show for a reason other than "I had work" or "I live in Tennessee," please do share. We want to know. What kept you away? Who do you think is going to fight for the rights of Femmes in our community? Are we just going to ignore this problem? I certainly hope not. How will you pitch in?