Femme Friday – Femme Klatsch! With Constance Clare-Newman

Femme Klatsch is a new feature, where queer femmes chat with one another on all themes femme. Sweet femme sisters – chime in!

 What does femme mean to you?

Who are your femme role models?

How did you find your femme?

Today, we begin a conversation with Constance Clare-Newman

The Total Femme:

Can you talk about how your understanding of “femme” has evolved over the years?

Constance:

When I first accepted my femme identity I was so excited. Yay! I could admit to loving butches. They could admit to loving my femme being. It was San Francisco in the early 90’s and butch/femme love was being celebrated. So many butches and femmes out on the streets, that it almost seemed the norm. I think it has never been the norm in lesbian society, but during that brief butch/femme renaissance, we were the trend of the moment. We were leather dykes and activist dykes and corporate dykes. Working class or downwardly mobile (it was San Francisco), we femmes were girly in our tiny skirts with Doc Martens for day and shiny heels for night. Lots of cleavage and glitter or sleek in leather. Butches in their Dickies and chains with keys. Butches in biker jackets with stickers all over. Butches in suits and ties. Dressing up for each other and appreciating the Otherness. In love with the otherness, which had been hiding in lesbian circles for a while.

Some percentage of us lesbians have always been drawn to the difference butches and femmes love in each other. I’m sure since the time of Sappho, some of us have loved and been turned on by our similarities, and others by the differences. The particular way butches and femmes enchant each other with their differences is unique.

When I first came out, I loved butches and felt desired in a particular way by them, but felt ambivalent about the dynamic. In the 80’s, in my small town, no one talked about being butch or being “feminine” without a little derision. We were all supposed to be equal, and tender, and womyn-loving-womyn. While aspects of that were delightful, the overall desire to conform, so as to belong, certainly hampered my own deeper desires. Growing into my femme identity was something that came with little bits of acceptance over quite a long time. Of who I was as a child, as a young woman, as a lesbian who desired lesbians who were on the “butchy” side, to who I became as a femme clear about her need for a butch.

For me, that need is for a woman who looks like a guy, who has the emotional accessibility of “female,” and stands in her power as Top/Daddy/Dyke. Who loves and is enlivened by my sexy girly or elegant lady ways of looking and being. Who is empowered to be who she is in the world by my love, admiration, support, protection. Who responds to my femme sexuality with her butch sexuality, and nurtures our differences.

Lately, with gender blowing up in all our faces, I see lots of young people exploring non-binary ways of being. Still, whether in San Francisco, LA or Provincetown, I do see a percentage of young butches and femmes together in the mix. I don’t know how they identify today, but I do see them, openly drawn to each other’s difference and turned on by the unique frisson that has always been.

Deep gratitude to Constance for sharing her eloquent femme story!

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

 

 

Meditations for Queer Femmes – First Day of Spring

No matter when we femmes come out, no matter our age, we share the exhilaration of coming in to our truer, more genuine self. We feel so good, so full of love and comfort, so juicy and sexy now that we’ve found our femme! That moment of pure joy, of uplift, when we know who we are and feel it from soul to toes; that sweet enlightenment – how we wish to shout about it! Look world, a brand new femme is born!

But that same world we’ve moved through until now rarely shifts to accommodate our shining, genuine selves. At our most vulnerable and ecstatic, we are shut out. Sometimes the rejection is immediately apparent, sometimes the awareness creeps up on us: we are no longer considered a part of the normal progression of things, despite the fact that we are finally where we are meant to be.

We all confront this according to our natures and our resources. We may go back in the closet, if that’s the only way we can keep our jobs or our families. We may fight tooth and nail. We may pull a certain amount of denial around us, murmuring, “Oh, she didn’t mean it like that!” and “He’s really not a homophobe – he was just joking!” We get angry, depressed, astonished, bitter, and frustrated. Dealing with this heartbreak, we are distracted and pulled away from our human birthright of being allowed to deepen our self-knowledge and act on that knowledge to bring our unique gifts to the world.

But not today! Today, dear femme sisters, on this first day of spring, meditate on your truest, deepest selves.

Blow on the embers.

Rekindle your sacred femme fire.

Illuminate. Regenerate. You are a blessing, you are blessed.

You are exactly who 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 March 20, 2017 at 5:00 PM  Comments (2)  
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Femme Friday — LaSaia Wade

IMG_0093.JPG“Calling all femmes!” the workshop description began. I was in Philadelphia for the Creating Change conference, and my head was spinning with the variety and amazingness of workshops, plenaries, and day-long institutes, but this one was a definite: “#CCFemme17: Our Bodies are Powerful”. All the same, when I walked in and saw that I was maybe the oldest gal in there, I hesitated. I need not have. LaSaia Wade and her co-presenter, Alison Amyx, skillfully invited each and every beautiful femme in the room to connect with our heart’s strength and physical power, and connect meaningfully and genuinely with each other. At the end of the too-short time we had together, LaSaia enfolded me in a loving femme hug, a gift I will always carry.

LaSaia, whose name is pronounced ” LA-SY-ah WAYD,” and whose pronouns are She, They, Goddess, shares the following bio:

LaSaia Wade is an open Afro  Puerto Rican Indigenous Trans Woman, she’s the founder of TNTJ Project member of Chicago TGNC Collective, Trans Liberation Collective and Director of Brave Space Alliance. She graduated in 2010 with a BBA in Business Management; as coming out as trans she has 10 plus years in organizing and advocacy work with black, indigenous, trans and gender nonconforming folx around the world. She is the current Director of Brave Space Alliance, business owner of Mystical Bee Hive, while facilitating trainings across the U.S.  

 Deep gratitude to LaSaia for the brave and loving work she brings to the world!

 Check out an honor bestowed on LaSaia this month here:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10158276524820398&set=a.435717750397.366746.812810397&type=3

and this timely and important statement:

https://radfag.com/2016/10/05/turnup4tt-a-public-statement/

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

 

Making Revolution with the Faggots – Monday Meditation

In the QSA, members argue about how best to support all folx represented by the letters in the wide, wonderful cauldron of alphabet soup. One member points out that almost no groups in the area currently support plain ol’ lesbians. “We’re still here, you know!” she says. Another member argues passionately that we’re more powerful all working together, and that separating into smaller and smaller identity-based groups will only work to our disadvantage. “The assholes want us to stay isolated from each other!” they say. “Only my trans brothers really understand me, though!” whispers a young man tentatively. “When I’m with them, I can finally just relax and be myself.” “I know,” agrees the femme. “I can really let my hair down when I’m with other femmes. Maybe it’s a question of needing both kinds of groups – support groups that are more narrowly defined and action and social groups that include us all?” “That will just end up leaving people out, though,” counters another member. “I don’t know anyone else who’s exactly the same as me, so where do I go for support?” There is no good answer, and the discussion is ongoing.

In the 1977 homo-psalter, The Faggots & Their Friends Between Revolutions by Larry Mitchell, with drawings by Ned Asta, the faggots would be nowhere without the the women who love women, who would be nowhere without the fairies, who woud be nowhere without the queens; the queens who “know it takes all kinds to make the revolutions”. All of these folx have their own kinds of knowledge and fuckery and wisdom: the queens elaborate their forms of outrage, the fairies have left the men’s reality in order to destroy it by making a new one, the faggots cultivate beauty and harmony and peace, and the strong women remind the faggots that in the coming revolution we will get our asses kicked and that we will win.

All of these folx love dessert, women’s wisdom, the earth, fucking, kitties, community, gossip, rule-breaking, gardens, masturbation, books, visions, each other. Sweet words from this sweet book to end this meditation:

They know that without the uncalculated giving of affection everyone is lost. They know that friendship freely given sustains them.

 

Femme Friday – Literary Femmes: Bridget the Apothecary in Moll Cutpurse: Her True History by Ellen Galford

It’s sometime in Elizabethan England, and Bridget the Apothecary is basically running her father’s shop when Moll comes in, demanding to be changed into a man. Although Bridget is wary, her father orders her to start giving Moll various powders and potions in order to make money. After a misadventure that leaves Moll sodden with river water and deathly cold, she stumbles to the apothecary and Bridget puts her to bed. In the morning, Moll is back to demanding that she be made into a man. Bridget will have none of it.

Deep gratitude to Ellen Galford for loving Bridget into the femme literary canon!

           “Carry out your commission, and turn me into a man!”

            “I’ve never heard such stupidity in all my days. I’ve heard your story, and I begin to know you a little, and yet for the life of me I cannot understand why you should wish to change your sex.”

            “Mark me well, apothecary, I dislike certain lectures first thing in the morning. And I do not pay you for your opinions, but for your skill. So double the dose, or whatever will make your elixir do is work, but do it fast, for I have no more time to waste.”

            “And what if I gave you all the drugs of Arabia and the poisons of Italy and the horns of unicorns powdered and the bones of dragons? I would grow fat and rich at your expense. I could try out new elixirs till doomsday.”

            “I will make myself a man! And if you do not change me with your powders I shall find another pill-merchant who will.”

            “You won’t, Moll. Mother Nature made you a woman, and a woman you must be.”

            “Mother Nature made a mistake.”

            “What sort of mistake?”

            “Anyone as brave and strong as I am ought to e a man. Not a silly petticoated woman who bleeds and breeds and whimpers.”

            “For all your bold bravado, Moll, you’re a silly child who knows nothing of life.” I was so angry I almost struck her, then remembered in time that she could easily knock me senseless, so forebore, and simply drew her down into the bed again, for she shivered with cold and vexation. Such anger as she felt did not prevent her from clinging to me closely, for the chamber was freezing. Such anger as I felt did not prevent me from rubbing her back and shoulders, to make her warm again.

            “They say alchemists know how to transform base metal into gold. Surely changing female to male is not so different.”

            I stopped rubbing. “Are you implying that woman is base metal, and man is gold?”

            She grabbed my wrist, and then put my hand back on her back and made me rub again. “Indeed, the order of the world has made it so. Women are slaves and men are masters. And I, mighty Moll, the terror of Cheapside, the scourge of Southwark, am meant to be among them.”

            “You are as blind as you are foolish, Moll. What of Her Majesty? She’s no slave, but the bravest, wisest, most glorious of princes – and still a woman. When she was young, you know, she bled every month as you and I do.”

            “Foul treason!” cried Moll. “Her Majesty never…”

            “You’ve been mixing too much with men. The world is full of brave, strong women. If you’re too stupid to see them, it’s your loss, not mine.”

            I sat upright, and pulled the covers up around me.

            She pulled the covers down again, and pulled me with them. “Even women think I’m a freak. They treat me like a two-headed calf. They’ll have nothing to do with me.”

            “What about me?”

            “You’re an exception.”

            “Just another two-headed calf like you are, Moll. Well, if you looked farther than the end of your nose, you’d find a lot of us about. I promise you, Moll, you can be as bold and strong and free as you are now, and still be a woman, and the wisest of your sisters will love you for it.”

            “Love,” she sighed, “is also part of the problem. For when I love, and when I lust, it’s woman who’s my object. Cruel Meg of the kitchen was not the only one who smote me so. There have been two or three others since, that have tempted me. They offer friendship, but I want something more. And when I have made this known to them, they shun my company, or laugh at me for a mad, moonstruck fool. Because I’m nothing to them without a stiff bull’s pizzle and a pair of wobbling balls.”

            “The more fools they,” I said, stroking her arm. “I think perhaps you have been unlucky in your choice of women. For there are those of us who know that such machinery but gets in the way of a woman’s true pleasure.”

            “I’ve never hungered after such toys myself,” she answered, letting her hand wander over my thigh. “But they seem to be needful.” Her voice shook slightly. “I’ve never met a woman who wanted me without them.”

            “Now that proves it, Moll. You are a fool.” I kissed her over and over again, then drew her close and taught her otherwise.

 Moll Cutpurse: Her True History by Ellen Galford, Firebrand Books, 1985

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

Published in: on March 10, 2017 at 3:25 PM  Leave a Comment  
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What Do Femmes Do In Winter? — Meditations for Queer Femmes

The word in a newsletter from her CSA is “Farmers”, but her weary eyes see “What do Femmes do in Winter?”

We knit, we plan, we foment revolution.

We shovel snow in some parts of the world; in others, we plant our gardens and fan ourselves with that pretty fan from Japan someone gave us, the one that still smells a bit like sandalwood incense.

We read to our babies, to ourselves, to our butches. We chop firewood. We deal with frozen pipes. We bake.

We travel to the library, a play, a movie. We brave the weather to get to a friend’s birthday party, leaving our boots at the door ‘cause we brought our bunny slippers with us.

We deal with crises, we maintain, we get silly, we take long, hot baths.

Femmes in winter store up strength and knowledge and love so that when spring comes, we can peel off a few layers and let the sap rise.

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 March 6, 2017 at 5:47 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Femme Friday – Femmes in Literature, Mary Llewellyn from The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

“All my life,” says Mary to Stephen, “I’ve been waiting for something.”

To me, this is a quintessential femme statement, or rather, the statement of a femme who responds sexually and romantically to butches and fucking finally gets to meet one. Brave, tough Mary, who has worked with Stephen tirelessly driving ambulances during the First World War. Mary, the orphan, Mary the true and loyal lover. Perhaps because she has so much less to lose – no Morton, no ice queen bitch mother, no horses, no family name – she is much more radical than Stephen, unwilling to accept the lot of the invert in the tortured, noble fashion of her lover. She insists they be around other queers, queers Stephen regards as almost entirely degenerate while Mary has a more compassionate and worldly view. Stephen’s limited understanding of Mary as a pure innocent drives her into poorer and poorer behavior, culminating in an act of supremely craven betrayal.

We had to wait for novelists like Sarah Waters, Isabel Miller and Ellen Galford for happier endings for our fictional historical ancestors, but Mary (and Angela and possibly even Puddle) live and breathe as historical femmes and give us a window into the lives of those ancestors.

Deep gratitude to Radclyffe Hall for loving Mary Llewellyn onto the page!

 

Mary said: “All my life, I’ve been waiting for something.”

            “What was it, my dear?’ Stephen asked her gently.

            And Mary answered: “I’ve been waiting for you, and it’s seemed such a dreadful long time, Stephen.”

            The barely healed wound across Stephen’s check flushed darkly, for what could she find to answer?

            “For me?” she stammered.

            Mary nodded gravely: “Yes, for you. I’ve always been waiting for you: and after the war you’ll send me away.” Then she suddenly caught hold of Stephen’s sleeve: “Let me come with you – don’t send me away, I want to be near you….I can’t explain…but I only want to be near you, Stephen. Stephen – say you won’t send me away….”

            Stephen’s hand closed over the Croix de Guerre, but the metal of valour felt cold her her fingers; dead and cold it felt at that moment, as the courage that had set it upon her breast. She stared straight ahead of her into the sunset, trembling because of what she would answer.

            Then she said very slowly: “After the war – no, I won’t send you away from me, Mary.”

 

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


 

When I Was Your Age — A Meditation for Queer Femmes

The freckle-faced young white femme shows up at the meeting wearing dark purple lipstick, her curly red hair in pigtails, her feet in high-heeled silver boots. Today, members of the QSA are going before the school board to educate them about LGBTQ+ identities and issues. The young femme speaks knowledgably and with great passion about demi-boys, demi-girls and other identities, about the reasons you might want to put your pronoun in your signature line, and about the ins and outs of queer community online. She is thirteen.

When I was your age, I was wearing Beatles t-shirts and obsessing over John Lennon. My best girlfriend and I waited on the sidewalk outside of the Dakotas and finally saw John leaving. We were too cool to ask for an autograph, just fluttered about, telling him how much his music meant to us.

The young Latinx femme wears fire engine red lipstick and gauzy scarves. One of her paintings takes up the whole wall, part-graphic novel, part-geometric tromp-l’oeil. Her passion spills out in her laughter and her mad dashes as she greats friends and fans, guiding them around the gallery. She is twenty-two.

When I was your age, I was trying so hard to be straight. I thought something was broken inside me, that my romance was broken. I couldn’t write, or only if I tricked myself by listening to music as I sat in front of the typewriter, pretending it wasn’t a big deal, that it wasn’t anything, really. I chose to date mean, unavailable straight guys, perhaps in an unconscious move to self-sabotage myself. I didn’t have words for being queer and didn’t come out for another eight years.

Dear young femmes, when you are my age, may your long, queer lives have given you lots of sex and joy and adventure and satisfaction. May you be loved and loving, creating your art, weathering life surrounded by your darlings. May you have made a difference in the world.

When you are my age, may you be held in community and in family, resting secure in your femme wisdom.

Just as I am.

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 28, 2017 at 4:35 PM  Leave a Comment  
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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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