Femme Friday — Constance Clare-Newman, The Bio

Can I tell you how much fun it is walking the streets of Ptown with Constance and witnessing her fearlessness as she sweetly and with genuine curiosity asks likely passers by, “Do you identify as butch/femme?” This because of our ongoing and hopeful organizing to make butch/femme space in Ptown, not as obvious a task as one might think!

Constance is such a dyed-in-the-wool, caring and gracious community member, showing up for her people on both coasts. Check out her efforts to get a real dance floor installed in the Ptown rec center:

https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/danceptown

http://provincetown.wickedlocal.com/news/20160816/provincetown-dancers-want-spring-in-their-steps

and read about her beautiful femme life below!

Deep gratitude to Constance!

Constance has over forty years of extensive experience in various movement disciplines. Raised by a ballet dancer mum from Australia, she was dancing before anything else. But being a horse crazy girl, Constance chose horses over dance and grew up to be a horse trainer and a riding teacher. Constance rode dressage professionally throughout California and spent four years studying in Europe. She trained horses and riders through the international levels of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). The horse business is filled with lesbians of all varieties and Constance taught and trained with red lipstick and nails while seducing lesbians and “straight” women alike. 

As a young dyke in the late 70’s, Constance had briefly attempted to present as she was instructed to: cut off jeans, T’s, work boots, short hair, no shaving, an attitude of tough. However, and thank the goddess, Constance fell for young butches who encouraged that tight red dress with heels for dancing and that bright red lipstick.

Constance’s next career and decade included a return to dance, a move to San Francisco, and a journey into recovery from addictions. As a modern dancer, Constance performed professionally in the Bay Area with Anne Bluethenthal & Dancers and Purple Moon Dance Project, both companies headed by lesbians and with strong lesbian themes. Lucky!

During this time, Constance was the only femme to work at Old Wives Tales bookstore, which although they had a history of severe lesbian feminist politics, the women who worked together during this time were all fabulously supportive of each other. Femme oppression was in the air, but not from the staff. Femme appreciation arrived in the 90’s in San Francisco. When The Persistent Desire was published in 1992, many butches and femmes breathed with ease again, or maybe for the first time ever. The butch/femme renaissance invited new discussions about sexuality that was exciting to many lesbians who had felt they needed to tamp down their desires for difference.

The next decade or so was spent finishing a BA and going to the 3 year training to become an Alexander Technique teacher. What drew Constance to Alexander was the possibility she saw in others not just of relieving back pain, but of embodying ease and grace and giving up a life of pushing and striving. Particularly one inspirational role model, Anne Bluethenthal, (another femme lesbian,) who prioritized a state of being and a way of working that prioritized what really mattered to her.

Constance met her butch husband in 2000, got married in 2001, (again legally in 2007) and has since enjoyed a delicious marriage in which deliciousness is emphasized.

Constance now lives in the desert of Palm Springs in the winter and in Provincetown, on the bay in summers. As well as running a beautiful house and garden and entertaining many guests, Constance teaches others to increase their postural and movement awareness and efficiency. Bringing mindfulness to all activities creates a life of embodied grace and choicefullness.

Constance’s current teaching is informed by all the disciplines she has studied, as well as her continuing education and exploration in somatic methods such as Continuum, Laban, experiential anatomy, trauma work and consciousness studies.

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

Don’t Apologize — Meditations for Queer Femmes

Right in the middle of a Valentine’s Day date with friends and spouse comes the call from the assisted living facility: Dad fell and hit his head. You need to get him to the ER. We middle-aged queer femmes always have some part of our hearts open to our responsibilities, even when socializing and relaxing. In this case, the femme doesn’t panic. She knows that the assisted living place has their protocols and those protocols don’t always fit what has actually happened. She also knows that if she’s going to be in the ER, she needs to finish her meal, go home and change and get a few provisions, and – perhaps most importantly – laugh and chat just a wee bit longer, savoring the good, queer company.

“This is queer self care!” said her friend recently, after they’ve enjoyed a lunch together, catching up on each other’s lives. It’s been much too long since they’ve made that time, just to sit and have a good, juicy, femme natter.

Dad has indeed bumped his head and the middle aged queer femme decides she’d better head over to the ER with him. He’s shaky and his color isn’t so good. Once there, she tries to settle in. A little girl is singing, making everyone in the waiting room smile. An old man gazes sympathetically at Dad, who has nodded off. The femme notices the other man is wearing thick, hand-knit shin warmers under his trousers.

Finally in a room – nice, since last time they had to hang out in the hallway – she sits, texting her spouse, reading her book, making sure to stay hydrated. She explains the situation to nurses and doctors as they pop in and out. Tests, speculation. In the next room, a woman’s nose won’t stop bleeding. In the hallway, college students keep their friend company as she weeps, cross-legged and miserable on the stretcher.

Dad dozes, the femme dozes. She can’t help overhearing the woman next door, who is hurting and miserable, and the woman’s daughter. “I’m sorry,” says the woman, “we need some more gauze.”

“Of course!” This from one of the nurses, the one wearing cute red scrubs, his head shaved, a nice heavy silver ring in his left earlobe, a slight accent, a slight swish. “Honey, don’t apologize. You sure don’t have to apologize to us.”

The femme has been thinking how much saner it would be if all this hospital resource, time, materials, labor, was directed towards taking care of the elderly in their own homes. Dad would fall. The nurse would come and evaluate – all that portable equipment on rollers, why couldn’t it travel? And if it really was an emergency, then fine, get on in to the hospital. Or what if you came in, they checked you out and sent you home with follow-up care? No way, in the current system. But at least there is family. At least there is that life lesson: don’t apologize.

And even with all the mishigas, even though, in the best of all possible worlds, you would  be home in bed, even with all the noise: You are beautiful. You are perfect. You are who and where you are meant to be.

Every Monday (or Tuesday), 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.

Published in: on February 21, 2017 at 12:55 PM  Comments (2)  
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Rollin’ in the Femmemobile

One of the things that being femme did was relieve me of having to perform certain duties that I actually don’t like to perform. You know, how real women are supposed to be able to do everything for themselves, from opening the door to operating a skid steer?  I am not one of those femmes who can brag about wielding chain saws and changing the oil whilst rocking fish nets and 6 inch spiked heels. I don’t like to change the oil; I would hate to have to remember how to change a tire; I have no interest in using a chain saw or chopping wood or any of those other things. And I really don’t like putting gas in the car.

Usually my butch does these things for me, and that actually makes me feel more femme, more queer, and I don’t have to feel less of a woman, less of a feminist because I don’t like to do these typically “manly” things.

Today, however, the tank was on empty. And I was a bit far from home. I was in a town that had self serve gas stations, unlike my own darling town where that is outlawed. You can’t find a self serve gas station in my town! It’s fabulous. So, even though my butch has assured me that when the tank warning light goes on I can still drive for 20 miles, I’m actually not very good at gauging miles, so I didn’t know if I would be able to get home.

Bravely, I said to myself, “Suck it up and go into the self serve gas station, ‘cause it’s not like your dad didn’t teach you how to do this when you were 14 and learning to drive in the VW bus.” So I did.

I drove up. I got out. I put in the credit card and I had to fiddle around with it for a long time, but finally it let me start pumping. And I did. I filled up the tank and I got back in the car, and I said to myself, “Good job, little lady!”

That’s when I noticed there was gas all over my leopard skin patterned gloves.

Femme Friday will return soon! Watch this space, and don’t touch that dial.

Published in: on February 17, 2017 at 5:36 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Snow Day — Meditation for Queer Femmes

When we’re children, a snow day is cause for celebration, a delicious present that keeps reality at bay. As adult femmes, we remember that feeling with a regretful shake of the head as we suit up to go shovel, make sure the roof is ok, the pipes aren’t freezing; as we figure out if we can make it to work or have to call in; as we shoulder all the grown up realities we are responsible for.

Perhaps, though, as evening comes around and the light begins to change, the snow luminescent, not blue, not white, perhaps you can lean on your shovel, or hang up the phone or settle into a moment of meditation. In the depth of winter there is peace. A snow day is a break in the usual rush of things. We are not separate from the elements. Our busy lives, filled with activities, are not the driving force.

Full moon on snow. Let go.

Every Monday (or Tuesday), 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.

Published in: on February 13, 2017 at 4:41 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Making Queer Culture – Meditation for Queer Femmes

The presidency of Trump has given those of us who might have been in a gentle slumber an opportunity to wake up. We have always needed the shared strength of other queers, from the homophile movement to combatting indifference to our health concerns, especially in regards to AIDS. Not only do we need each other’s individual wisdom, humor and support, we need to be lifted up by our queer culture.

At the National Day of Mourning this year, several of the speakers shared stories about ancestors coming to them in dreams. That gift is only available when a people has deep, cellular knowledge of their own cultural heritage. We queers need the knowledge of our own queer cultural heritage. We need the strength that comes from knowing our own unique art and literature and humor and cuisine. We need the strength of our forebears as well as that of queers of all ages. Gathering our people around us to make and partake of queer culture will give us the strength we need.

So throw a themed dinner party. Start a queer salon. Request that your local library sponsor a queer book group (see Arlington, MA’s Robbins Library’s Queer Book Group for inspiration). Do a queer Feed and Read (a potluck combined with reading out loud together the queer story or novel or poetry of your choice). Invite other queers over to watch queer media and/or plan and execute political actions. Plan a femme fashion show or a butch/femme barbeque. A dance, a field trip, a writing group.

We cannot rely on the scraps thrown to us by straight culture, and we cannot afford to wait for better days, because the world needs our queer resistance right now.

We need our ancestors to come to us in dreams.

Every Monday (or Tuesday), 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.

Published in: on February 6, 2017 at 8:21 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes — Nice to See You!

“Nice to see you!” says Rhea, an elderly resident of an assisted living facility. The greeting is not reserved solely for the people she knows, but for everyone. At the facility, attendants, visitors and residents are quite diverse. Skin colors, religion, class, sexuality, gender presentation, ability – there are many differences among them. Doesn’t matter. “Nice to see you!” says Rhea, smiling her sweetest smile, cheerfully and generously including us all.

Because of oppression and isolation, all stripes of queers are forced into a position of spending inordinate amounts of time and energy constructing and defending our identities. This is certainly true for queer femmes. It can take such a long time to feel a sense of belonging. The femmes who stay silent, watching and listening and never contributing to a conversation; the loud femmes, who talk so much with such authority that you never see their vulnerabilities. All of us reaching for that sense of community, a place where we not only see but are seen. We are always coming out to straight people as queer, lesbian, whatever we decide to say (really, how can they be expected to understand femme and who has the time and spiritual energy to constantly be explaining?) and, almost as often, to our queer kin, who have their own ideas and prejudices about femme.

Identities, all identities, evolve as we age. This is a human birthright, to be able to continue to discover yourself as you gain experience and wisdom. Our wider culture does not generally feel elders have much to contribute, and our own queer culture – or rather “cultures” – is so separated by age that we don’t often have the opportunity to interact with one another across generations.

There are times when, damaged by hate, all our energies must go to daily survival. There are times when, bolstered by community and art and laughter, we can reach out without being depleted. At all times, we can grow stronger by imagining a lifeline connecting us. Let us recommit, femme sisters of all ages, to casting that lifeline, one that links us and sustains us, that holds us and uplifts us. Where we can rest in the love.

Let us be generous with each other. Let us help one another. Reach out a hand.

When Rhea says, “Nice to see you!” you get the feeling she’s saying, “We’re still alive! Different people are interesting! You’re obviously a fine person!” and perhaps most profoundly, “Where would we be without each other?”

Every Monday (or Tuesday), 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.

Femme Friday — Jewelle Gomez

I have here on my desk a signed copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Jewelle Gomez’s novel, The Gilda Stories, a treasure in 1991 when it was first published, and a treasure still. I had the great good fortune to take part in an all-day workshop Jewelle co-led at the Creating Change conference last Thursday. (Having inadvertently left my copy behind, I rushed off to Giovanni’s Room during lunch and, thank goodness, Jewelle’s book was in stock!) The workshop, “Thriving: The Eric Rofes Legacy: Envisioning a Transformative Queer Movement Focused on Sex, Health, Politics, and Liberation”, points to the focus of Jewelle’s activism which is expressed in story and direct action: sexy, wholesome, politically wise and profoundly liberatory.

“Hold out your hand, doesn’t matter which one,” said Jewelle last Thursday, in a closing ritual. 40+ queers reached out. Jewelle read the words of her ancestor, Chief Seattle, about connection, then cast a lifeline out to us. She told us we are connected, now, and that we are all holding onto the lifeline. To remember that, to envision the connection when we need strength and support. The love and power in that room at that moment was queer magic that I will never forget, that is sustaining me now as I write and that will continue to do so for life.

And now you, dear reader: hold out your hand!

Deep gratitude to Jewelle Gomez!

One summer evening BC (before cell phones), my home telephone was out of order so I strolled down to the corner in the musky urban night air of Manhattan to call a friend from a phone booth. As I was talking two male passersby started telling me in lewd detail what sex acts they would like to perform on me. I thought about the fact that women go through this debasement regularly, routinely. How we usually steel ourselves and block it out. But this time, on that evening long ago, rage welled up in me like a tidal wave. I told my friend on the other end of the line to hold on.

I turned on the two men and began screaming like a mythical banshee. I could see that they thought I was overreacting – they were “just being guys.” But my harangue exploded uncontrollably, stripping away their macho posturing. One man yelled desperately to the other, “Brother, she’s crazy!” He clutched at his friend’s arm and they fled down the street away from me. I was shaking with the pen-up fury of all the women who’ve ever been harassed on the street. I came back to myself when I heard my friend, terrified that I was being murdered, shouting my name through the telephone receiver. I thought with shock that if I had had a weapon in hand I would have gleefully beaten or shot or stabbed or bombed those two guys. Instead I went back to my flat and wrote the first installment of what would become The Gilda Stories. –The Gilda Stories, Forward, July 2015

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

Published in: on January 27, 2017 at 1:19 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditation for Queer Femmes — Loving Our Femme Selves

Walking into a room filled with other femmes, any one of us might have a moment of trepidation. Do I look like a femme? Act like a femme? Move, speak, think like a femme? How do I measure up against all these other femmes? Maybe there’s some femme essence I don’t posses, a secret I don’t know?

Trained by a consumerist society to believe that what we have is never enough, having already braved struggles to unearth our queer femme identity, having swum hard against the rip tide of the status quo, we carry so many insecurities.

Femme sisters, step into this room. Femmes are here to welcome you. Each unique. Each with gifts to share, from make up and hair tips to elder wisdom. Personalities, styles, energy, age, race, ability, class – a delicious mix of all these and more.

Open your heart. Insecurities may arise, but allow them to still again, as all emotions and thoughts will naturally do on their own, if given a chance. Open your heart. Listen as femmes speak about their bodies the way we view them, care for them, pleasure them. Offer your own sweet, funny, sexy femme story. Allow a shift from compare, self-judgement, dismissal to learn from, appreciate, treasure.

Femme sisters, step into this room. Femmes are here to welcome you.

#CCFemme17

Our Bodies Are Powerful, workshop led by LaSaia Wade and Alison Amyx at the Creating Change conference, Philadelphia, Jan. 2017

Every Monday (or Tuesday and this week, it’s Wednesday!), 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.

Gay for Love

Beloveds, I am winging my way to the Creating Change conference later this morning, the one in Philadelphia, the one where there’s a bunch of gays for pay and other queers machinating and fomenting.

I’ve never been, have always wanted to, and this year, Mystic LGBTQ+ Youth Support Network is sending me!

Yesterday in the QSA, I explained to the kids what “gay for pay” means. They understood completely! (I didn’t have as much luck explaining “Carol Merril” to them, oh well, I mean, as in, “Could you please be Carol Merril and show us that on the whiteboard?”)

I don’t get paid a cent for the work I do with queer youth and queer community, and have, in previous years when looking at the Creating Change offerings, felt I would be on the outside looking in if I went. This year, I have a badge and an affiliation, even if I make no salary.

I’m gay for love, and I will get back with you later. Please forgive the lack of Femme Friday this week! And darlings, stay strong and keep up the fierce, gentle resistance.

I love you.

Published in: on January 18, 2017 at 9:02 AM  Comments (1)  
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Meditation for Queer Femmes — MLK Day Celebrations

In reading the vignette below, a recounting of the MLK Day celebration for our suburban town, I hope you can find ways to connect to your own queer femme relationship with Dr. King’s work.

When I was a little, chubby, white, baby femme bookworm, I just assumed MLK Day was already a holiday, although that actually happened much later. My suburb, just next door to the city of St. Louis, had experienced white flight, so that by the time I got to high school, the student population was over 90% black. Jessie Jackson spoke in our auditorium, telling us, “You are somebody!!!” At that assembly, there were some white students refused to stand for the Black National Anthem, while others were actively involved in organizing against apartheid.

Last night, in the Boston suburb where I’ve lived for over 20 years, my butch and I joined the mostly elderly white crowd for our town’s MLK Day celebration. We all stood for the black National Anthem, and the familiar peons to Dr. King were spoken earnestly and lovingly. An award was given to a white minister who “embodies Dr. King’s values”. We sang “We Shall Overcome” and enjoyed the Mistress of Ceremonies’ seamless, rambling, beloved routine (what will she say this year?!).

The white minister who received the reward is she who refused the queer kids I work with their Drag Extravaganza.* I remained seated, as did my butch, when she received a standing ovation. Queerness, in fact, is glaringly lacking, year after year,** although the piano player last night was definitely gay.

As a white, queer, avoirdupois, middle-aged, femme bookworm, I absolutely believe that MLK would love the gays. Everyone uses his words to further their own versions of justice and much has been written about how his increasingly outside-the-box and radical thinking has been watered down. As we continue to strive to, in the words of Colson Whitehead, “Be kind to each other, make art, and fight the power,” can we honor this man’s legacy by honoring his truly world-changing ideas and including everyone?

The Mistress of Ceremonies called for the audience to give the MLK Committee suggestions for next year. My butch and I will be complying with her request.

*Please see my post “Love Letter to the Methodists”

**Please see my post, “Would MLK Love the Gays?”

Every Monday (or Tuesday), 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.

 

Published in: on January 17, 2017 at 6:35 PM  Leave a Comment  
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