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Femme is an adjective used to describe individuals in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and cross-dressing communities that display feminine traits and behaviors. It's most commonly used to describe feminine lesbians, although others within GLBT circles, such as gay men, may also be described as femme. Femme lesbians are often called Lipstick Lesbians, while femme gay men are sometimes called Flamers.
Femme comes from the French word which means woman. While technically an adjective, it's used as a noun by many people with feminine characteristics who classify themselves as femmes.
Femme is the opposite of Butch, which concerns masculine identity.
Femme identity is deeply personal. It's difficult to generalize about what it is to be femme. Some femmes love wearing short skirts, stilettos, and make-up. Others feel more comfortable in jeans, cowboy boots, and a natural face. Some people assume that femmes are submissive, but many femmes are happy taking a more dominant role in their relationships and professional lives. Some are mild and meek-mannered.
Some suggest that femme women are attempting to adopt traditional gender roles. However others, such as lesbian historian Joan Nestle, believe that femme is a distinct gender all its own. Yet both people within the GLBT communities and heterosexuals have been known to question the difference between femme lesbians and straight women, beyond their differing sexualities.
According to one femme, the difference comes because femme is still seen as outside the norm. She commented that unlike straight women, she and others like her "know what it feels like to be dismissed and not taken seriously, to have our very lives, families, and identities questioned by queers and straights alike."