Not quite girlfags: Kylie Minogue and femme-queer identity

Kylie: gay icon

Recently, I was at a party where a Kylie Minogue CD was on rotation (I think it might have been Ultimate Kylie), much to the enjoyment of one of my femme friends. This got us talking about the “gay” icons that we enjoy like old Madonna and Lady Gaga, our love of the colour pink and our preference for a queer rather than straight description of ourselves. Following this, we considered the notion that maybe we could identify as being gay men in women’s bodies.

I wondered if such an identity descriptor was already in existence, and it was this that led me to the term “girlfag“- which refers to women that identify as being sexually attracted to gay men and/or gay subculture. I also discovered that several (straight) stars have described themselves as being “a gay man in a woman’s body” (for example, Posh Spice and Mila Kunis, though note: neither of them use the term girlfag!). On reflection of this sentiment however, I realised that it was somewhat problematic. Mainly, the trope of “trapped in the wrong body” is commonly cited by transgender people, who report gender dysphoria. Considering this, it wouldn’t be good if the expression my friend and I favoured was read as an offensive parody of trans identities. However, even if we nuanced our statement to reflect that we were akin to gay men in women’s bodies but that this didn’t impact upon our gender presentation, there are still further complications. Basically making this claim about our identity would entail making a parallel claim about what it is to be a gay man, which is therefore not cool on the reinforcing stereotypes stakes.

Despite these issues, I still think that there is some merit to the girlfag positioning. Basically my friend and I were reflecting a desire for queering our supposed girly-ness. Mapping our love for certain feminine things onto a gay paradigm allowed us to queer our femininity. I have always felt that there are things that I love that align with classic gay iconography (but then again this might be because there has been a lot more said about gay icons than lesbian, bisexual or other ones). And certainly the idea that I had more in common with a flamboyant gay man than a straight girl would ring true for me (for example, I once took a date home and played her the best-of CD “The Magic of Doris Day”, which didn’t really set the lesbian tone I was hoping for…).

So, maybe we’re not quite girlfags, but then again maybe we can embrace our “stereotypically-gay” tastes as part of a new lesbian/bi/pan dynamic of queer femininity. I hope so.

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5 thoughts on “Not quite girlfags: Kylie Minogue and femme-queer identity

  1. And, FWIW, I am not even a teeny bit femme, and I *do* parse my girlfag-ness as a form of gender dysphoria – an accurate description for me is “desire to be seen as male in the eyes of a male lover.” But, yes, it is a form of queering hetero desire – when you understand yourself to be queer but still have opposite-sex people as your primary objects of desire, that’s being a girlfag or guydyke. And, yes, I wish there were a different word (I’ve already gotten hate mail and the book is till four months out), but these terms have been well established for several decades and I couldn’t think of any others. And thanks, @binarythis, for the plug on the book – if anyone who’s a relevant blogger or reviewer would like to read one, drop me a note and I’d be happy to send an advance copy so you can see for yourself.

    Janet Hardy

  2. Hey, I’m a bit confused. After all that you’re writing I would shout out: HEY, YOU’RE A GIRLFAG!
    I’m a girlfag myself – one of the femme queer ones – and I find some of my thoughts put in better words in your statement here than I ever could have done it myself. 🙂
    Don’t limit the term girlfag too much on the “gay man in a woman’s body” thing. Many girlfags are genderqueer or come out as trans* afterwards, but not all.

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