Being a lesbian seems…complicated. I thought gay men were preoccupied with roles and structure, and we are, but we have nothing on the ladies–especially the ones portrayed in Nairne Holtz’s latest book, Femme Confidential. But Holtz invests those labels with enough heart and character so that they’re people instead of concepts, creating a work as interesting as it is instructive.
Bad girl Veronika, along with Liberty, the daughter of left-leaning Quaker hippies and trans woman Dana and a host of tangential players (Beth, Diamond, Holly, and others) come together and fly apart again in what, at times, is a dizzying whirl of one-night stands and two-week relationships as they all try to find their places in both the lesbian community and their own lives. But most of all, these are people who are trying to find a way to be comfortable in their own skins and have room left over for love.
Make no mistake, the cast of characters is a large one considering the people who flit in and out of the clubs, the discos, and the sex establishments, but Holtz manages to keep everyone straight (pun fully intended) while smearing the rather strict role structure that pervades the community. All three of the main characters, however, have a divide they try to bridge or negotiate in some way. Liberty is trying to find a way to be all things. As she says while getting ready for a night at the club:
My black velvet bra was accompanied by an onyx pendant, and my red silk boxer shorts that were a size too small and more like hot pants were paired with army boots. Some people might have called my look “genderfuck,” except it wasn’t really. Masculinity or even androgyny just wasn’t me. I wanted butch and femme to be like shoes, something you could slip on or unlace, but it wasn’t that simple.
But as a trans woman, Dana has the most difficult path to walk because she’s seeing the divide from a totally different perspective:
It was sort of depressing the way masculinity, something Dana wanted to eradicate from her being, was so embraced, so desirable in this community she was supposedly part of. She had thought Liberty didn’t want to be with her because her body could never be female enough, but it was more complicated than that. Dana not being butch was also a problem…Did every femme want a butch and every butch want a femme? It had seemed that way to her until the night she discovered that some of her butch teammates wanted each other.
Her story was the most engaging to me, especially after she has her bottom surgery and becomes involved with Holly after seeing her at a BBW (Big Beautiful Woman) event. But, really, all the characters here are interesting and leave the reader with something to think about as far as roles, gender fluidity, and expectations go. Highly recommended, and a great way to start 2018.
© 2018 Jerry L. Wheeler