Meditations for Queer Femmes – Femme Birthdays

My birthday is tomorrow – 57 femme years on this earth! Oh, deep gratitude, for sure, but also: every human challenge and sorrow. The full sweep. Birthdays have traditionally hit me hard, as I appear to be constitutionally inclined to focus on the negative, the haven’t dones, the don’t haves. The good news, however, as my therapist is wont to say, is that I linger there less long, thanks to many teachers, many books, many gifts freely given. Many queer ancestors from whom I continue to learn and with whom I continue to think about queerness and other human issues. Many queer contemporaries – including, you, my sweet sisters! – who inspire and accompany me. With whom I can agree, disagree, laugh, cry.

A difference from the birthdays of my youth when I thought I was straight and what a miserable straight girl I was! is that I now face the beamish day as a full-on femme. I’m sort of used to it now, being queer, I mean, although the force of heteronormativity and all is such that I sometimes still encounter an odd quizzical moment where I stop and cock my head like a puppy and think, “Wait – is this really who I am and what I’m doing? Whoa!” But for the most part, I go about everything I do as my queer femme self with my queer femme sensibilities and knowledge and wisdom and creativity and stubbornness and all the rest of it. It’s a daily gift, and a gift to consider on the day of my birth.

Talk about negativity! I’m not even going to list the horrible things that are going on as we speak – you see and think about them enough, and I know you are doing every bit of what you can to counter them, in all the myriad, marvelous ways we queer femmes know how to do. It doesn’t matter what it is; there are infinite ways of translating human love into action and it is always blessed work. The cynic in me, and my long habit of focusing on the negative may whomp me tomorrow, at least for a bit, but I am counting on you. I am counting on me. Let’s together remember that queer femmes – and not just us, but so many other dear sweet humans on this earth – are dealing out, gathering in, showing up, sharing, marching, dancing, making love, writing, arguing, making art, singing, calling out, protesting, celebrating, rescuing, healing themselves, others, their neighborhoods, their cities, the world. We are all capable of healing work. It is our biggest gift and perhaps our biggest challenge, especially now. Today, tomorrow, help me shift the focus. It starts with our birth. It starts with us. It starts right here.

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, kind, and wise and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)


Published in: on December 31, 2018 at 8:33 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes — Dag, Noam!

Yesterday on Democracy Now!, Noam Chomsky was telling it like it is, in that familiar, deeply exhausted monotone. I listened to his devastating illuminations until I just couldn’t anymore and I had to turn him off. Not because I don’t believe him, not because I’m trying to hide my head in the sand, but because listening was very rapidly having the effect of immobilizing me. And I refuse to be immobilized.

Before I turned on the radio, I had already done some really hard listening. Earlier that morning at the homeschoolers QSA, a new member had begun opening up and sharing a bit about their life and struggles. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I was listening to this young queer with every fiber, every atom of my being.

A millennial friend recently told me that she is turned off by the climate justice movement because the predominant energy is punitive: if you don’t drop everything and fight for the earth in the particular way they demand, all is lost and you’re an asshole. How familiar that is to me, rabid anti-nuke activist that I was in the 80s. I am remembering those times today, and also hearing my mother’s voice. When I demanded she use her prestige and position as a respected archeologist to join me in anti-nuke protests, she said she wouldn’t be good at it. What she was good at was teaching, and she told me that she was going to keep teaching undergraduates, and if just one student in her Intro to Anthro class learned something about the way human beings interact, if just one student then went on to be inspired to do the work that they are good at, then she would have done her job. I hated hearing that at the time, but I am now repeating it here. Doing the connecting, loving work that you are good at cannot help but have a positive effect on the world.

[Trump’s] extremely unpredictable. But this—the relations with China are an extremely serious issue. China is not going to back down on its fundamental demands, concerning Taiwan, for example. And if Trump—a lot of what China is demanding, I think, is—it shouldn’t be—is not acceptable. It shouldn’t—it’s not internationally acceptable. But the reaction through use of force is just extraordinarily dangerous. I mean, you cannot play that game in international affairs. We are too close to destroying ourselves. You take a look at the record of—through the nuclear age, of near—of accidental—sometimes accidental, sometimes kind of irrational actions. It’s almost miraculous that we’ve survived.

Then he started talking about the Doomsday Clock, and I turned off the radio.

Dag, Noam. I love you and I love Amy for your brilliance and your persistence; I deeply appreciate Democracy Now!’s mission to deliver non-corporate news, but I can’t live there, and I can’t pretend my time would be better spent doing something other than what I am called to do.

And you, my femme sisters, my dears. I see you. I know what you’re doing. You’re confiscating your butch’s purple socks, the ones hy’s inexplicably fond of, because you’re not going to let hym go out in public looking that girly. You’re rocking your baby; you’re walking the dog, going down to the Climate March, going to the Black Lives Matter meetings; showing up how and where you can, from cleaning the catbox to doing your duties as an elected official, to smiling at your cantankerous and judgmental neighbor.

I know that it all connects up.

You and I, sisters, are part of something bigger. All the millions of acts of queer femme caring we make contribute to the love the world so desperately needs.

Every Monday (or Tuesday, Wednesday, even), I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was a fabulous straight femme, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

Life-Changing Women’s Week

Living in the suburbs, things are nice. We are lucky enough to have a backyard, with a wonderful apple tree, a large yew, a gorgeous dogwood and magnolia. Yesterday, walking the dog, I made him wait for a long time as I enjoyed a catbird, nestled in a tall, bushy rhododendron, going through its entire repertoire: cardinal, sparrow, blue jay, sparrow, cardinal, blue jay, cardinal, cardinal…. It’s quiet and safe here, and the air is a lot fresher than in Boston. Our house is in pretty good repair and we have lovely neighbors. It’s comfortable.

Years can pass.

Years can pass where you put off the effort that it takes to pay attention to parts of yourself that aren’t fed in the suburbs. You think everything’s ok. You have daily tasks, you’re working, the dog needs surgery, your older son has a rough patch but now seems to be doing quite well in college, your younger son drives you crazy ever since he got the i-phone that he is now never without and that has supplanted reading, conversation, participating in household chores and sleep. Your old parents live down the street and their care takes up a lot of time. Your cat has now lost six collars to his active outdoor life, a life you worry about seeing as how a neighbor just one street over saw a coyote at 7am, just trotting along. Cats have been disappearing, sad fliers on telephone poles.

Everything’s fine, though. Normal.

Earlier this month, for the third year in a row, I went to Provincetown during Women’s Week for a writing retreat. It’s always a blissful time; this year, it was revelatory.

I drove down on Friday, and Tex was to come along on the plane later in the week. In the car, suburbs behind me, my mind more or less exploded. Everything I saw and heard made me think – about my writing, two novels knocking around in my head, about the organizing work I’ve been doing, about life, about being queer. By the time I got to our rental, I was in a state. My creativity, no, my queer creativity had roared back into life and had completely taken over. I spent most of the week indoors writing, keeping reading company with Felice Picano (Like People In History) and Richard Rodriguez (Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography), doing puzzles, crocheting, writing, writing. Tex got there, and I kept beavering away. But every time I went out, something magical happened. I met a butch/femme couple who remembered my reading from last year, and was anxious to buy another book with one of my stories in it. Tex and I met another couple who have been together 37 years and who were truly some of the nicest women we’d ever met, and then we kept running into them all over town, and every time we did, Tex and I felt as though we had been blessed, because their presence was so profoundly healing. Another couple we met made us laugh so hard in Toys of Eros with their shenanigans that we almost forewent going to see Karen Williams that evening, but are so glad we didn’t, because she is such an important and hilarious lesbian visionary. We were embraced by another butch/femme couple, with whom we are now machinating about how to sponsor a couple of butch/femme events next year. And that’s not even the half of it, Mary!

Back in the ‘burbs, after (this is not metaphorical) a tearful farewell, Tex and I feel a shift in our bones and hearts. Ignoring the wellspring of queer love necessary for sanity – in other words, chugging along in our suburban haze, excuse me straight suburban haze – is taking a huge toll. We can do it, yes, we’ve proven that, and living here has provided us with opportunities to do work that is fulfilling and important (in ESL tutoring and queer organizing for me and hunger relief for Tex) but our own souls have been crying out. We can’t put off this soul work any longer, deep into middle age, surrounded by tasks and responsibilities, the precariousness of our lives as humans, fallible and without any guarantees of safety, longevity, health. This was revealed to us in Provincetown just now, a gift, a blessing. In Provincetown, the gay mecca, where we were broken open by the lesbian energy and utterly queer culture. Where we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and wanting and connected to other queers, and where we have now sworn we will return as often as possible. Not only that, but we are determined to carry Ptown into our suburban realm, be mindful of taking a spoonful – a whole bottle! – of queer medicine every day. Caught in the straight undertow for so long, we are now strapping on our rainbow floaties and paddling in the opposite direction. Sharks and storms be damned, we are swimming with the mermaids now!

Published in: on October 21, 2015 at 2:30 PM  Comments (1)  
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