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Effeminacy describes a man’s performance of traits or mannerisms that are usually associated with femininity. This may encompass a broad range of activities extending from a man merely displaying emotionality through to displays that are more distinctly marked as feminine—such as wearing obvious makeup. When a male body performs femininity with the purpose of identifying as the opposite gender, then this body would not be identified as effeminate but as transgender.

One of the reasons why effeminacy has been central to LGBTQ politics is that, in contemporary Western culture, effeminacy is read as the dominant signifier of homosexuality. This wasn’t always the case, however. Throughout history, there have been examples of cultures that have accepted (and even celebrated) performances that would, by contemporary standards, be deemed ...

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