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A feminine voice

A feminine voice


Rachael Smith couldn't find other lesbians who fancy big silver hoop earrings, red stilettos, and the perfect application of eye shadow. So now she's the "Donna" of her own mafia.

Atlanta is the queer capital of the South. Our pride celebration is phenomenal, the gay nightlife is dizzying, and gay neighborhoods and gay-owned businesses abound. When I moved here in 2002, I knew I'd found home.

But when it came to lesbian nightlife, my options were limited. Out one night at the city's most popular lesbian bar, dressed in my prettiest clothes, I noticed a strange phenomenon. Amid the diversity of styles and ages there was not a skirt to be seen. No dresses, no high heels, and no makeup.

I've always been a feminine creature, from my childhood love of the "truly outrageous" Jem cartoon character to my current love of MAC cosmetics; my queerness and my girliness have always gone hand in hand. Looking around at that bar, I felt alone.

But every so often, through the smoke and strobes, hope came in the flash of a big silver hoop earring, a red stiletto, or an expert application of eye shadow. I'd look twice--could it be? With a smile we would exchange an uncommon joy, a delight in seeing our own.

Because this happened so rarely, in January 2005 I invited a small group of femme friends to dinner, and the Femme Mafia was born. Word spread, and our monthly dinner party grew. By June we had a Web site. By July we'd been featured in the local gay paper.

By the fall we had close to 100 "Mafia Femmes," and our "Planning Donnas" began preparation for an anniversary party to celebrate the community we'd created. The overwhelmingly successful gala received rave reviews for its production, its entertainment, and the diversity of its attendees.

Just by meeting with each other monthly over dinner, the feeling of visibility among femmes in Atlanta has increased significantly. Where once we were invisible, now we are recognized as hardworking community members--sassy, flashy, and outspoken.

The Femme Mafia has meant so much to so many of us, especially to me, the Mafia Donna. And in August a group of us will make a pilgrims' journey to San Francisco for the Femme 2006 conference to share with our sisters from around the world a little of the solidarity we've built for ourselves.

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Rachael Smith