Femme Friday: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer, sick, and disabled nonbinary femme writer and cultural worker of Burger/Tamil Sri Lankan and Irish/Roma ascent.

This generous, brilliant femme gifts the world with her wild and gorgeous prose and poetry, and well as editing, performing and doing social justice advocacy. She has been published in a whole bunch of anthologies like Femmethology and Octavia’s Brood and her own books include Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home and Lovecake. Please read more about this prolific, inspiring femme on her website, http://www.brownstargirl.org/, and whet your appetite for more of her essential queer art with the sample below.

Deep Gratitude to Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha!

 

Femmes are film stars

in the movies of our lives

Instead of dishwater we choose danger

grab belt buckles, smooth lip gloss

and make eye contact

We put Bollywood to shame

 

We’re the stars of our own danger-filled whirlwind

There are dramatic plot twists and more edge-of-the seat moments

than you can believe

and suspensions of disbelief?

Girl, you know we suspend disbelief

do shit ain’t nobody supposed to be able to pull off

We’re our own romantic epic

like Frida in Paris

Audre in Mexico

standing on two tree-trunk thighs

planted firm and swishing

 

When we’re girls and someone said diva

we breathed in that word

and it turned into a glimpse of a woman we saw once

on a multiplex screen

a beautiful lady

who shone in her skin

and rose out of it

Maybe it was our favorite aunty

or our mama when she was young

Maybe it was Frida or Rosario

Maybe we’ve never seen the one that could be us yet

but we make her up

we make her up outta thin air

outta brilliance and ass

 

from “femmes are film stars” by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Visible: A Femmethology Volume Two, edited by Jennifer Clare Burke

 

 

 

 

Published in: on December 2, 2016 at 2:51 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Freaks Rising

In a procrastinatory moment earlier today, I stumbled on Pablo Das’s article in the Lion’s Roar calling out Western Buddhism on its complacency and lack of urgency in the face of extreme danger for those of us targeted by the upcoming national administration.

“Western Buddhists,” he says, “during times like this we need more from you than standard-issue statements admonishing us to ‘sit with our fear and sadness.’ We’re already experts! We need safety. We need to know you see us. We need to know you can receive the enormity of what we are carrying. And we need protection.”

I’m saddened, but not in the least surprised that the Western Buddhist community leaves a lot to be desired in truly seeing queer bodies and queer spirituality. A while back, I got burned but good by another liberal, smug, “welcoming” spiritual community. That fUUcked up experience made me quite wary of organized anything spiritual, so I will probably just keep meditating and reading on my own, but if Pablo Das taught classes here instead of LA, I might give it a shot with him.

Yesterday, I had lunch with the young gay librarian who leads our local Queer Book Group. I think he wanted a little tea and sympathy, as he is running up against a similar white, cis, straight, bland, smiling, liberal wall with the library administration who thinks they’re all that because they allowed us to put in gender neutral restrooms. They’re currently telling staff: don’t wear safety pins, that’s political, don’t do a display about Black Power and Black Lives Matter, that’s political; that sort of thing. When the QBG posters were routinely getting torn down, the administration didn’t know what to do. Our hero began glittering them and that seems to have deterred the perp. “A brilliant queer solution!” crowed Tex, when I told her about it.

Right now, I’m listening to the Damned singing “Life Goes On” and thinking about the phrase that popped into my head the day of the election: Freaks Rising.

I’ve lived in the suburbs for over 20 years, and I know we’re here.

Earlier this week, I ran into a lesbian neighbor who told me in no uncertain terms that she thinks the next art exhibit at a local queer-owned gallery needs to have the word “cunt” in it. She’s a freak and she’s rising.

When Tex and I were at the National Day of Mourning, we got a text from a local queer who waxed extremely nasty about Thanksgiving and its disgusting history. They’re a freak, and they’re rising.

Our librarian is a freak, and he’s rising.

I am a freak, and I’m rising.

Here in the suburbs, there are freaks in the post office, freaks at the Senior Center, freaks in the schools, freaks next door. We’ve been flying under the radar, isolated, overlooked, our power ignored, but that time is over. It is time to rise.

Rise, and find each other. Rise and interrupt business as usual. Rise and redirect the flow of energy. Rise and fuck shit up.

Rise and the neighborhood will never be the same again.

 

 

 

 

Meditation

Later … a small group of us squeezed in a trip to the park…so that a photographer could take publicity photos of John and me. Huddled against the November wind, John and I positioned ourselves on a bench, trying to find poses with which we both felt comfortable. Finally I gave up trying to find the pose that would not call up stereotypical male-female images and just let my body find its own position. I knew I wanted to hold John, for my own self, and so I raised myself up, and held his head against my breast.

 –Joan Nestle in the introduction to Sister and Brother: Lesbians and Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together, which she edited with John Preston

 

Generosity. We femmes are so generous. We love so deeply and we see, we always see, how we can help make things better. We can’t help putting on little get-togethers, making soup or cookies for someone, spreading humor and healing and keeping an eye on things. How many of us are or know a femme who is everywhere at once, salving wounds and doling out hugs to the whole world? You know, the femme version of the butch Mr. Fix-It, a femme who is wired to comfort, listen, sympathize, organize, make art and drive people places. We work so hard to give and give some more, and oh, the world is a better place for our queer bounty!

When does that impulse for generosity carry us too far into overwork, where we stop listening to our heart and find ourselves driven by “shoulds” or ego or the voices of the status quo? When we are tired, bone-weary, depleted. When we have given so much to others that we stop being able to distinguish what is really giving and what is just going through the paces. A gift from an exhausted and distracted giver may turn out to be a burden for the receiver, and no gift at all.

Femme sisters, be generous to yourself first. Rest! Perhaps one of the most difficult tasks of all. Rest does not mean numbing – one more piece/glass/episode, oh, what the heck, I’ll just finish the whole thing, I deserve it! – nor does it mean complete withdrawal from your complicated and demanding life. “Make the better choice,” advised my chiropractor as we talked about how to stick to an anti-inflammatory diet. We can make the better choice as we cherish ourselves, as well. A quick walk around the block instead of cookies; 15 minutes playing an instrument, singing or drawing instead of more wine; a book instead of a binge watch.

Not because you’re fat, lazy, unhealthy, a lush or a tv-head, my sweet darlings, but because you are precious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Femme Friday Mary Anne, the Madam of the Cathouse in “Fisherman” by Nalo Hopkinson

K.C. is female fisherman who, driven by loneliness and possessed of intense bravery, visits the cathouse in her village for the first time. The Madame proves to have a very soft spot in her generous heart for this rare and delectable client.

 

Deep gratitude to Nalo Hopkinson for loving the madam into our world!

 

            “You work as what, a fisherman?”

… I look back at she proud, round face with the plucked brows and the lipstick red on she plump lips. The words fall out from my mouth: “I… I stink of fish, don’t it?”

            A smile spread on she beautiful brown face, like when you draw your finger through molasses on a plate. “Sit down nuh, doux-doux, you in your nice clean pressed white shirt? I glad you dress up to come and see me.”

            “All right.” I siddown right to the edge of the chair with my hands in my lap, not holding the chair arms. I frighten for leave even a sniff of fish on the expensive tapestry. Everything in this cathouse worth more than me. I frighten for touch anything, least of all the glory of the woman standing in front of me now, bubbies and hips pushing out of she dress, forcing the cloth to shape like the roundness of she. The women where I living all look like what them does do: market woman, shave ice seller, baby mother. But she look like a picture in a magazine. Is silk that she wearing? How I to know, I who only make for wear crocus bag shirt and Daddy old dungarees?

… (the madam sits on K.C.’s lap) The madam smile and run a warm, soft finger over my lips. I woulda push she off me right then and run go home. In fact I make to do it, but she pick up she two feet from off the floor and is then I get to feel the full weight and solidness of she.

            “You go throw me off onto the hard ground, then?” she say with a firtly smile in she voice.

            One time, five fifty-pound sack of chicken feed tumble from Boysie truck and land on me; two hundred fifty pounds drop me baps to the ground. Boysie had was to come and pull me out. Is heavy same way so she feel in my lap, grounding me. This woman wasn’t going nowhere she ain’t want to go.

Published in: on November 25, 2016 at 12:42 PM  Comments (2)  
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Meditations for Femmes

 

When my grandmother died, I inherited her book, Meditations for Women published by the Abingdon Press in 1947. I think she got it from her Methodist church. It contains 365 meditations, each month written by a different woman, each month a different theme. Though not a Christian, I am comforted by this sweet book, especially when I come across passages my grandmother underlined. I have long wanted to follow in these women’s footsteps by writing meditations for femmes, to offer spiritual solace. Here is a beginning.

 

We femme caretakers often stumble when it comes to the job of taking care of ourselves. Our heart’s work makes it easy for us to know when a kiss, a cute outfit, a kind text, a care package of just-baked cookies, an old-school card sent snail mail will lift the spirits of one of us brought low by circumstance (and there’s a lot of circumstance this November). We can organize a community-building get-together at the drop of a hat, make community connections and encourage our colleagues like none other. But how often do we find ourselves on the outskirts of these life-giving events, casting an eye over the snacks and drinks to make sure everyone is provided for, never fully joining in the laughter and conversation ourselves? This November, let us commit to parsing out where, when and with whom we find reciprocity and healing. Let us commit to spending time with people who give as well as receive. Let us commit to spending time alone, unplugged, in healing solitude. Our work as community organizers and activists is more important than ever. That our souls remain healthy, love-filled and joyous undergirds everything.

Published in: on November 21, 2016 at 6:47 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Femme Friday — Miel Rose

Femme Friday   Miel Rose

 

Miel Rose has this to say about herself: I am a rural, working class femme who was raised by hippies in the wilds of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. I am crafty in multiple senses of the word, being both a witch and a lady who loves to work with her hands creatively. I am a textile artist, magic skills teacher, and healer currently living in Northampton, MA.

 

I have this to say about Miel: she is luscious, delicious, yummy, fabulous, beautiful, talented, creative, wise and sweet and that’s just the beginning! We met some years back during a reading tour for the anthology Femmethology, and have been fast femme friends ever since. Look for her at the winter farmer’s market in Northampton, teaching all kinds of interesting classes and of course, writing. Check out her collection of profound and loving stories, Overflow: Tales of Butch-Femme Love, Sex, and Desire, and find her in many anthologies, like Best Lesbian Erotica 2015.

 

Deep gratitude to Miel Rose!

 

There’s this woman I work with. She moves around with more confidence and self-possession than anyone I’ve ever seen. Sometimes I think it’s because she’s in her late forties, older than most of the people I hang out with. But who knows? Maybe she’s always been that way.

            She works in the bulk department at the grocery store I cashier for. I love to find excuses to sneak into the back and watch her, the muscles in her arms tense, as she hefts the 50 lb bags of dry goods around. She has this old school butch feel, and in this town, old school butches might as well be unicorns.

            After she got hired, my work clothes got a lot more interesting. My skirts got shorter, my jeans tighter, and this is really saying something. Plunging became the best adjective to describe my necklines. I started wearing more make-up to work, but drew the line at heels after spending most of a shift barefoot when I decided it was more comfortable than standing eight hours in front of a cash register in stilettos.

            I would watch her move around the store, her short graying hair tousled and messy, like she’d just rolled out from between some girl’s thighs. She drove me crazy. My mind would start running in circles. Did she date femmes? Would she even recognize me as a femme? Or would she think I was some young, freaky straight girl trying to fuck with her? She looked like the exact kind of trouble I liked, but outside packaging can be deceiving. What if she wasn’t a top? Lord knows she inspired bottom space in me.

            I turned on my best flirt.

from “Undone” in Overflow: Tales of Butch-Femme Love, Sex, and Desire by Miel Rose

For Wanda

Wanda Sykes, an out black lesbian comedian, was booed off the stage at a venerated comedy event in Boston Saturday night, one that raises millions of dollars for a cancer charity. The event has been running for 22 years, and has surely seen worse than what Wanda unleashed, and in fact did, after she’d left when another comedian made rape jokes. He got laughs, not boos. Can I get a “Fuck you, motherfucker, fuck all of y’all!”?

 

For Wanda, I was up at 4:30 this morning, finishing an Op Ed for the local paper entitled, “Local Community Support More Important Than Ever”.

 

For Wanda, I am taking care of my queer body by exercising and not eating as much candy nor drinking as much wine as the situation actually warrants.

 

For Wanda, I am speaking up because I have a platform and the privilege to do so, and many, many do not.

 

For Wanda, I am smiling at my neighbors, even the one with the “Congratulations, President Trump!” sign. He used to coach my son in baseball, and his wife and I talk all the time about our dogs. Of course, I’m smiling at him.

 

For Wanda, I am showing up because I’m mentally and physically healthy enough to do so, and many, many are not.

 

For Wanda, I am strongly recommitting to the work I have been doing to support local LGBTQ+ youth, to continue to brainstorm and research how best to give them the kinds of events and education they need in order to grow up healthy and strong.

 

For Wanda, I am writing children’s books, where the children live full, creative lives as members of queer families.

 

For Wanda, I am writing queer smut, where the queer characters fully inhabit their gorgeous, queer sexualities and get up to all kinds of wonderful queer things.

 

For Wanda, I have recommitted to writing a blog post at least once a week, and to highlighting a beloved femme on every Femme Friday.

 

For Wanda, I am out at work.

 

For Wanda, I am holding my queer friends and community in my heart and reaching out to them to let them know that I love them.

 

For Wanda, I am listening to my queer friends and community when they reach out to me and tell me that they love me.

 

For Wanda, I am not listening to the voices outside me and within, that tell me I can never do enough, that I’m not good enough, that my work and love will have no effect.

 

For Wanda, I am making sure the dog gets nice long walks, and the cat gets all the lap time he requires.

 

For Wanda, I am singing, playing the piano, reading and writing.

 

For Wanda, I do my best to be humble, patient, creative and wise in the face of the parenting challenges and joys of being the mom to two dearly-loved young white men.

 

For Wanda, I am devoting my all to the love of my life, Tex, to make sure our marriage survives, thrives and is dressed always in glorious glitter.

 

For Wanda, I am paying attention to spreading love in every aspect of my life.

 

For Wanda, and for you.

Femme Friday — SublimeLuv

Amber Aliyah Rasool, otherwise known as SublimeLuv, is a Boston-area femme, poet, theraputic mentor and community activist. I had the great privilege of reading with her on the Body Heat: Queer Femme Tour in August, 2015, and never got tired of hearing her recite her gorgeous, sexy, hard-hitting poetry. Catch her at “If You Can Feel It, You Can Speak It” at the The Milky Way Lounge in Jamaica Plain, or check out her chapbook, Roar of a Lioness.

 

Deep gratitude to SublimeLuv!

 

For Orlando

I pick up this pen
Putting it to paper
With a heart that
Is shattered into tiny
Specs; like broken glass
Attempting to pick up the pieces
Reflected in the mess
Is my own image
How fitting
They could’ve been
Me, us, my friends, my city
I could die-never breathe again
Over my sexuality
It took me years
To be brave enough
To live in my truth
Such a soul schocking realization
That truth can make one target
But before hate takes me under
I hope my Black Lesbian Womanhood
Shines so bright that
They become blinded by it
May my kiss on her lips
Be a sonic boom
That leaves them deaf
If they see us dancing
Let them be forever frozen in their place
Made statue, spectacle for eons
May the world eternally
Label them ugly
They are the epitome
Of miserable and ignorant
For they hate love
And can’t get
Over gender

http://mssublimeluv.tumblr.com/

Holler Their Names

We have a history of remembering our dead by saying their names, holding them up and allowing them to rest in peace and power. The names of our people are stitched into the AIDS Quilt, chiseled on wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, listed in Holocaust museums, on the walls at Ellis Island and on WWI, WWII and other war memorials in cities and towns worldwide. The names of our beloved are reverently intoned on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, after Orlando, in “Hell You Talmabout” and so many more.

Keeping these unjust deaths in the forefront of our political consciousness and in our hearts is incredibly important.

On the heels of this election, I would also like to start holding up and hollering the names of women and girls (and the occasional queen!) who are inspiring us to remember connection and community; who are birthing revolution and delivering mercy; who keep us laughing, dancing, loving; who celebrate beauty with their art and lives; who help keep us grounded and taking care of business.

Please join in! Because we are not alone and we are everywhere, still loving right the fuck out loud.

 

(I’ve put a wee moniker by each person’s name, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for these amazing folks!)

 

Nia Witherspoon – playwright, teacher, femme goddess

Kin4Life – “Black in AmeriKKKa”

Mahtowin Monroe – National Day of Mourning/United American Indians of New England

Jeannette Hawley – organizer, seamstress, writer, yoga babe, baker, femme goddess

Mel Goldsipe – organizer, activist, Arlington Human Rights Commission

Michelle Obama

Miel Rose – healer, artist, writer, femme goddess

Big Freedia – “Dangerous”

Samantha Sparks – recycling/environmental activist in Chile

Kate Clinton – lesbian comedienne

Milva McDonald – organizer, writer, blogger

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

Constance Clare-Newman – healer, dancer, organizer, femme goddess…

This is SOOOOO not the end of the list!!!!

Published in: on November 10, 2016 at 3:51 PM  Comments (1)  
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Oh, Girl

You know, President Obama said “pussy”, too. Or maybe it was “cunt”. Anyway, it was in his book, Dreams of My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance and I experienced it as liberating. Here was a thoughtful, conflicted, loving person using sexual language to talk about his life as a man, a black man, a straight man, in the US. I use sexual language to talk about my life as a woman, a white woman, a queer, a femme, and I use it with love and as a way to access my own power. The man we’ve put in the White House after President Obama moves on does not use the word “pussy” in any of these liberating ways. He wants it, and he grabs it. End of story.

Sending Hilary love and gratitude today and may she continue to evolve and do good work for all of us. Rest up, and come back fighting, girl. I know you will.

Early this morning, at the dawn of another gorgeous New England fall day, Tex and I turned to Rachel Maddow for her take on things, and later, I’m sure I’ll check in with Amy Goodman, Mia McKenzie, Winona LaDuke, my mom. I’m thinking about the Raging Grannies. I’m thinking about the American Indian midwives working on reservations to bring back a more loving way of welcoming children into the world. I’m thinking about the baby born in the Standing Rock camp. I’m thinking about the women singing true and strong in the all-trans choir, Butterfly Chorus. Of all the women, dykes and straight, tearing it up on college campuses, in non-profits, politics, music, media, literature. I’m thinking about the girls in the fourth grade class I’ve been reading to every week, and their older sisters in middle school and high school. I’m thinking about my indomitable femme friends and colleagues scattered across the country. I am sending love and pussy power to all of us.

“Stay in your body today, baby,” Tex said on her way out to work this morning. Despair is so heady.

Love your pussy today, sweet darlings, take solace and find strength in pussy power. Regardless of what’s between your legs, lovers, you have the power of pussy. We need our pussy power and our bodies and our love today and going forward. Think pussy. Think revolution.