TikTok doing more for queer femme visibility than any TV show

User-generated content presents the queer femme identity as a source of creative expression and a cause for celebration – something that I haven’t seen anywhere in popular culture

Alice Wilson
Monday 23 May 2022 09:49
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<p>What these stories have in common it that they showcase the unapologetic existence of femme lesbians and queers</p>

What these stories have in common it that they showcase the unapologetic existence of femme lesbians and queers

Queer representation in popular culture has been taking off in the last few years; from Queer Eye, to Ru Paul’s Drag Race to Orange is the New Black; heteronormativity’s chokehold on our screens has been incrementally loosening. The recent smash hit of Netflix’s adaptation of Alice Oseman’s queer graphic novel Heartstopper is another welcome addition to the telling of queer stories and celebrating non-hetero love.

But a character often conspicuously absent from these stories is the queer femme woman, and especially femme-for-femme couples.

We might say that Orange is The New Black’s Piper and Alex offer a glimpse into femme-for-femme attraction, since they both wear their hair long and use makeup, but one of the central conceits of the story is how fraught and problematic their relationship is.

Likewise, Heartstopper’s Darcy and Tara present as a “straight passing” femme-for-femme lesbian couple, but again, a significant portion of their narrative is dedicated to Tara’s struggle with coming out and portrays the homophobia she experiences from her classmates as a central part of her experience as a lesbian femme.

Taken together, femme queers don’t have a great deal of cultural models of a nice, chill, happy life just doing muggle things and having a decent time.

Where TikTok differs from these few-and-far-between cultural portrayals of femme life is in the abundance of joyful, functional, diverse femmes showcasing their daily existence with glee.

Much user-generated content on TikTok presents the queer femme identity as a source of creative expression and as a cause for celebration. This is something that I haven’t seen anywhere in popular culture.

TikTok user jessicastacey_ posted a cute, happy video of her lipsyncing with the words “femme on femme is UNDERRATED” across the video. It has nearly 15,000 likes and all kind of lovely femme solidarity is going on in the comments.

Likewise, kelseajadex has a profile full of celebrating the beauty and fun of her femme-for-femme relationship, including clips of them dressed up in a bar together, celebrating at pride, going for walks, and lounging around at home. Muggle stuff. Exactly the kind of uncomplicated, pedestrian activities that we so rarely get to see lesbians of any kind doing, let alone femme couples.

And tishkabobz has hundreds of adorable clips of her and her femme partner being cute together, dressing up (exquisitely) as Gomez and Morticia from The Addams Family, and just generally being in love.

As well as showcasing femme-for-femme couples, TikTok also provides an abundance of content on simply being a femme queer, whether in a relationship or not.

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Queer femme women often report concern around not looking “gay enough”. As user michaelaviv assures in her helpful how to video; the steps involved for how to be a femme lesbian are as follows: identify as a lesbian, identify as femme, and don’t let anyone set standards for you for what they think femme should look like.

What these stories have in common it that they showcase the unapologetic existence of femme lesbians and queers. These snapshots and the many millions more like them catalogue a life well-lived as a femme.

There is already so much evidence that “you can’t be what you can’t see”, and whatever scourges social media is accused of wreaking on society, the vibrant femme-for-femme community on TikTok is having a positive impact for the femme queers of the world.

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