Femme has many different meanings and often refers to a person who embraces, reclaims, or subverts their culture's understanding of what it means to be feminine, especially in their gender expression.[1][2] While femme is often associated with the lesbian community due to its origin,[3][4][5] it is also used by queer people of various gender identities and sexual orientations, such as bisexual women,[5] gay men,[6] and transfeminine people.[7] It can also describe or label a person's gender identity.[2][3] Some variations are "hard femme," an edgy or hard-rock expression of femininity, and "high femme", usually an extreme expression of the aesthetic aspects of femininity.[3] Femme is often understood on a spectrum of butch to femme[1][2] or stud to femme,[1] or as a binary pair of butch and femme.[4][2]

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In the United States, butch/femme roles were common in lesbian communities during the first half of the 20th century.[4]


The Femme Flag

A femme flag design proposed by Tumblr user noodle

On or before December 1, 2017, the Tumblr user noodle posted a seven-striped femme flag design. The purple colors were chosen to complement the orange stripes of a proposed butch flag and were also inspired by being "one color off from" the pink and red lesbian flag.[8]

Perceptions and discrimination[]

Although working class butch/femme culture in the 20th century was not a simple imitation of heterosexuality, that assumption led to stereotyping and dismissal by many lesbian feminists, the medical establishment, and more affluent gays and lesbians. The dominant discourse of feminism and lesbian feminism in the 1970s and early 1980s regarded butch/femme communities as incompatible with feminism and marginalized them in lesbian history. From that perspective, butch/femme roles were criticized as reproducing patriarchy and hierarchies within women's relationships; they were not seen as being distinct, transformative, or a form of resistance to the oppression of women.[4]



  • The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader by Joan Nestle
  • S/He by Minnie Bruce Pratt
  • Femme: Feminists, Lesbians, and Bad Girls by Laura Harris and Elizabeth Crocker
  • My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home by Amber L. Hollibaugh

Public figures[]

  • Indya Moore[9]
  • Jonathan Van Ness[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "National Glossary of Terms" by PFLAG on <>(Archived on 2024-02-20)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "The Misunderstood Gender: A Model of Modern Femme Identity" by Heidi M. Levitt, Elizabeth A. Gerrish, and Katherine R. Hiestand in Sex Roles, volume 48, numbers 3/4. Published February 2003. (web archive)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Femme" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer(Archived on 2021-12-09)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community [20th anniversary edition] by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis. Published 2014 by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group).
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Femme Mystique, with Lesléa Newman (editor). Published 1995 by Alyson Publications. Multiple essays by multiple authors
  6. "Marilyn, Mayhem, and the Mantrap: Some Particularities of Male Femme" by Alex Robertson Textor in Femme: Feminists, Lesbians, and Bad Girls, with Laura Harris and Elizabeth Crocker (editors). Published 1997 by Routledge.
  7. "What We Mean When We Say 'Femme': A Roundtable" on Autostraddle. Published 2016-07-18. (Archived on 2023-09-03)
  8. [Untitled] (original link down) by noodle on <> (Tumblr post). Published 2017-12-01. (Archived on 2017-12-03)
  9. "10 Gender Non-Conforming Entertainers Breaking The Mold Of The Binary" by Ruff, Rivea on <>. Published 2022-06-16 by Essence Magazine. (Archived on 2023-06-04)
  10. "Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness: “I’m Nonbinary”" by Tirado, Fran on <>. Published 2019-06-10 by Out Magazine. (Archived on 2024-04-17)