Femme Friday – Femmes in Literature: America Chavez

Interviewed by Savas Abadsidis in the Advocate, March 9, 2017, Gabby Rivera, America’s writer, says this:

America’s a vibrant young, fierce, and gorgeous superhero babe. You can bet your Yeezys that she’s going to be dating. But it’s not going to be some heavy meditation on the stresses, inequities, and violence faced by LGBTQ people. We get enough of that in the news and in personal essays. That work is vital and important. But America’s series is meant to be a space of joy and fantasy. I also want it to be a healing piece of media/art so that folks who are being beaten down by the system and life in general can laugh and cheer and get a moment to breathe easy in this chaotic world. We get to watch America, an unapologetically queer Latina, deal with everyday love stuff. I’m so ready for that, aren’t you?

Hell yes! And deep gratitude to Gabby for giving us America, in all her hard femme glory!

Check out Gabby talking about her healing and transcendent creative work here!

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com.


Pingy-Dingy Wednesday — Kathryn Price NicDhàna, “Colonists, Descendants of Colonists, and ‘Indigenous’ Identity”

This Wednesday, some deep and compassionate thinking about the term “indigenous” for white people. I know it’s long, but it’s profound and necessary, so take your time, linger, savor, and never stop educating yourselves!

Katheryn and Amhran nam Bandia, you get one pingy-dingy! Thank you for your smarts, generosity in sharing your wisdom, and for alerting us to the dangers of Cultural Appropriation Cat and those who hold forth in “Newage Bafflegab crossed with TontoSpeak”! Because having a sense of humor and sharing some laughs at ourselves is one of the only ways we’re going to manage to get to the real work and not be held back by our fears of fucking up or of not being able to make a difference.

“Colonists, Descendants of Colonists, and ‘Indigenous’ Identity”

I’m a typewriter whompin’, card catalogue lovin’ white girl from back in the day, and I yearn for a time before the covers of trade paperbacks were all squidgy, so you can imagine that I don’t actually understand what a pingback is. I do know that it can in some way be part of spreading the love, and since that’s what I’m all about at The Total Femme… every Wednesday, I pay homage to the laughter and inspiration to be had elsewhere online.


Published in: on December 13, 2017 at 3:45 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes — Sad, No, Make that BOUNTIFUL Queer Stories!

Still feeling literary and looking forward to discussing Gabby Rivera’s profound and profoundly sweet novel Juliet Takes a Breath tomorrow evening with our fabulous Queer Book Group, and I’ve been thinking about queer stories.

The other day, when a friend handed me back the copy of A Scarlet Pansy I had lent him, he said happily, “I just loved how Fay had tons of entirely ‘dissolute’ sex all his life, with little to no repercussions!” Indeed, Fay the hero/heroine of Robert Scully’s 1932 novel, has everyone drooling over him, straight or gay, and beds a lovely bevy of fellas with great abandon. He is neither punished nor shamed for this, but rather takes it as his queenly due. Did you catch the date? That was 1932.

So I am wondering about the heavy legacy of what is supposed to be our literary due. Is it really true that all queer lit until our enlightened ages was sad and miserable? That no queer character lived happily ever after until The Price of Salt or Rubyfruit Jungle? E.M. Forester kept Maurice from being published until the early 1970s, and he wrote it in 1912! If a well-known author was writing happy queer stories and keeping them in file drawers, there must be oodles of other books by less-well-known authors out there!

Denying ourselves a history of happy queer lives reflected in literature seems to me to be another way we are robbing ourselves and allowing ourselves to be bullied by the status quo. As soon as we buy into the idea that unless we’re “normal” we are destined for heartbreak, we lose ourselves, we lose connection to a more complicated, layered and happy history that surely is available. Perhaps hidden, perhaps written down in a corking code using Ancient Greek and algebra, like those fabulous secret diaries of the randy Miss Anne Lister, perhaps otherwise misplaced or overlooked, but waiting to be found again and with us nonetheless.

Sarah Waters brazenly and wonderfully makes up an intricate queer past where queers are real people, have full and rewarding lives, along with lots of sex and adventure. What a gift it is when artists queer the queer story! Speaking of which, we can also go back and do a little revisionist work on some of the lugubrious classics, like for example, what if Mary, the femme from The Well of Loneliness, cruelly betrayed by Stephen, gets to Canada with the odious Martin, ditches him and makes her way to an early version of wimmin’s land run by a motely crew of dykes with survival skills and no use for the fellas?*

All our queer voices must have a place, and all our queer stories are precious and important. I am just thinking that there is a reason that many of the extremely difficult stories are given more room than the ones starting with a healthy queer life and going from there.

Juliet Takes a Breath is one of those stories – and am I mistaken, or is the young protagonist more than just a smidge femme?? – and I am so fucking grateful! “I want my work to be centered in joy,” says Gabby Rivera, who is also the writer for Marvel’s America, featuring America Chavez, the first queer Latinx hard femme superheroine.

Centered in joy. Oh, purr!

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

Femme Friday — Alison Nowak

Alison Nowak is an illustrator and writer. She has received awards from the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles and 3×3 Magazine and has been featured in 3×3 Magazine’s New Talent Gallery. She received her MFA in Visual Studies with a concentration in illustration from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where she now teaches illustration and other topics. Alison has worked with a wide range of clients, from individual artists with small projects to retail stores launching national ad campaigns. Please check out her work here:



Flipping through an old issue Size Queen (anybody remember Size Queen??), I came across Alison’s wonderful, life-affirming piece about wanting to be a fat girl’s fairy godmother who “could stomp into a 16 year old’s life YELLING, ‘Hey GIRL put down that celery! I’ve brought you hot fudge, I came to tell you life ONLY gets better from here on out.’” The piece includes an utterly delicious illustration of said fairy godmother, who is topless, by the way. Excellent! I was so charmed I tracked Alison down on the you-know-what!

Deep gratitude to Alison for naming the toxicity, for the kind and thoughtful words, and for that absolutely necessary and life-saving fat girl’s fairy godmother!

Femme – Alison Nowak

I don’t think I had a particular moment where I talked to people about being femme. It was more that I gradually gave myself permission to be more and more myself. To try harder if I felt like it.

 I grew up in a small town west of Minneapolis that was almost entirely white, Christian, and conservative. As a teenager in the 90’s I was fat, queer, liberal, and agnostic. Things people commented on and disapproved of in roughly that order. I owned those identities despite the fact that they were a liability to me, but it took a toll. Being different and surrounded by contented sameness is exhausting. I fled for the Bay Area as soon as I could make it happen.

At 18 I was kind of a mess. I was almost phobic about trying to make myself look nice, a hold-over from my childhood where it felt worse to try and be shot down. I had a weird, unfounded belief that everyone looked the way they looked naturally, if they were more conventionally attractive than me it was because they were born that way. My entire strategy for functioning at that point was about not trying too hard.

Going to college and surrounding myself with people who loved me changed my life. My friends thought I was beautiful and I truly felt beautiful. I identified as femme at that time. It was only occasionally that I would rub up against my old reality. At age 20 an entire Super Shuttle full of people debated my gender in front of me. “I’m a girl,” I said, eventually, once people had stopped trying to weigh in. I was not intentionally androgynous. At this point I still believed make up was cheating somehow, that I should be judged by my raw appearance. Clothing was worse back then too. Nothing fit me well, so I defaulted to comfort. I look back at pictures of myself during this time with some horror, which is interesting because I was more comfortable with myself then than I was at any other time. I didn’t look femme but I felt femme.

I finally came to wearing makeup after watching drag performance. That makeup was so clearly unnatural it couldn’t fit with my belief that everyone just looked a particular way naturally. If queens could completely change their appearance then maybe I could change mine as well. Once I started wearing makeup I never wanted to stop. I feel more myself when I have it on.

The older I’ve gotten the more I understand that self-care is a radical act, defiance against what I was taught to think about myself or what I deserved. For me what is most important is authentic expression. I would love if we could push past binary labels entirely to something more expansive. My partner is trans-masculine and we talk a lot about what masculinity could look like separate from its toxic aspects. I also strive to separate the toxicity from femininity, and do my best to make sure that I am acting or looking a specific way because that it what I want, and not because I’ve been programmed to believe that is what I should be doing.

If there’s one piece of advice I have for femmes (and people of all identities) it is to treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. We live in a society that profits off our insecurity, and for that reason the most radical thing you can do is love yourself in all your perfect imperfection.

In terms of how being femme impacts my creative practices, I have a strong interest in female characters, and their stories. I am currently in the middle of writing a novel that has several female characters I would identify as femme. In my illustration, I’m often drawing animals instead of people, but I when I do illustrate people, I think it’s important to represent them specifically and as individuals. There is strength and beauty in diversity.

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com.


Published in: on December 8, 2017 at 4:57 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Pingy-Dingy Wednesday – South Seattle Emerald and Sharon H. Chang’s article “Supporting Indigenous and POC Businesses this Holiday Season”

All the way from the other coast comes this lovely article about paying attention and remembering your values, even while all around you people are practically vibrating out of their skins with that ol’ Christmas Corporate feeling.

South Seattle Emerald and Sharon H. Chang, you get one pingy-dingy! Thank you for reminding us to slow down and stick to it. Your advice holds for all year, every day!

“Supporting Indigenous and POC Businesses this Holiday Season”

I’m a typewriter whompin’, card catalogue lovin’ white girl from back in the day, and I yearn for a time before the covers of trade paperbacks were all squidgy, so you can imagine that I don’t actually understand what a pingback is. I do know that it can in some way be part of spreading the love, and since that’s what I’m all about at The Total Femme… every Wednesday, I pay homage to the laughter and inspiration to be had elsewhere online.

Meditations for Queer Femmes — Queer Femme Body

How often we are told in words and examples and unspoken disapproval from all quarters that the site of wrongness is always in the body. I love Queer Fat Femme’s joyous statement, “Every body is a good body” because it gives a big middle finger to that evil message, and positions us on a path of self-love. Points to the real culprit: a culture that has swallowed ideas like, “The body is a machine,” “The body is a source of foulness,” “The body is to be controlled by any means necessary.”

When a femme friend and I read The Well of Loneliness together, we were struck by how much Stephen loves her physical body when she’s young: “She discovered her body for a thing to be cherished, a thing of real value since its strength could rejoice her; and young though she was she cared for her body with great diligence, bathing it night and morning in dull tepid water – cold baths were forbidden, and hot baths, she had heard, sometimes weakened the muscles.” She doesn’t begin that long descent into self-loathing until she encounters the “civilized” view that the body is gross, sex is gross, and anything other than het sex and presentation is beyond gross. And we queer femmes, although perhaps less gender non-conforming than Stephen and her modern counterparts, are also betrayed and damaged by this entrenched yet deeply unnatural cultural hatred of the body. For girls, especially, this hatred works on us practically from infancy. We’re told we’re too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, that our bodies exude odors or grow hairs that are unacceptable. Most obscene of all, we’re taught that all these things are our fault, that they are entirely under our control, and if we don’t manage them, we are entirely to blame for being “fat”, “gross”, “smelly”, whatever it is. There’s a spray, a pill, a regimen, a procedure and a course of action for that, and if those things impact the amount of joy and spontaneity and growth of spirit in your life, then that’s too bad. At least you’ll know you’ve done your best to corral your body so that it doesn’t offend other people. As if striving to conform to the soul-crushing status quo is a good reason to expend precious life energy!

At the National Day of Mourning this year, we were told that not only do we need to decolonize our minds, we then need to indigenize them. What would this look like if we did this for our bodies, as well? If we really acted as if Every Body is a Good Body? How freeing for our spirits and minds if our bodies were treated kindly; if we took friendly interest in each other’s differences, if we allowed each body whatever it needed in order to feel comfortable and at ease, rather than forcing a one-size-fits-all straight jacket on everybody! If it was just taken as a fact of life that all bodies are unique, all bodies have their own specific ways of moving through the world, their fascinating needs and multi-faceted desires? Because guess what, that is a fact of life! And that we’re not separate from other bodies, of animals, plants, the earth: we’re all part of the same great patterns of life and death, and it’s all normal.

What do we celebrate about our queer femme bodies, what do we adore? How do we love our queer femme bodies, love with our queer femme bodies? Some of us may start by experiencing such relief that we do not need to package ourselves for the gaze of straight men. We please ourselves, clothe our queer femme bodies with the outfits and pizazz that bring our queer femme hearts pleasure. Through pain and ecstasy, we are never separate from our queer femme bodies, and the Western schools of thought encouraging us to view her as a machine or as irrelevant (“it’s the mind that counts!”) or as a foul burden we must drag around do us no favors. What if we didn’t have to spend so much time re-learning the love of our bodies? Because nobody is born hating themselves in that particular way. That is learned behavior and is imposed on all of us.

Whatever their shape, ability, age, state of health, location and size, our queer femme bodies are to be adorned, honored, loved and held up as the sacred manifestations of the life force that they truly are. Come, now, femme sisters, with your good, queer bodies, and join in with our brother Walt to sing of yourselves!

I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious,

Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy,

I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my faintest wish,

Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of

     friendship I take again. (Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”)

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

Femme Friday — Femme 1999! Dawn Dougherty

When Best Lesbian Erotica 1999 came out, I was riding herd on a toddler and awaiting the birth of his brother. Taking a bath alone at the end of a long day was one of my only moments of peace. So, to “die-hard femme” Dawn Dougherty thank you for that bubblin’ hot bath story! And all best wishes to you wherever you may be, from the femme I was tin 1999, and from the femme I am now.

Deep gratitude to Dawn Dougherty for letting us step behind the shower curtain and witness her super-queer, super-sexy love affair with bathing!

            The tub had filled nearly to the top and the bubbles formed high, soft peaks. Perfect, I thought. I turned the knobs off and put one foot into the fiery water. It took me several minutes to adjust to the temperature. I lay back and momentarily hesitated while I debated leaving my hair dry (I was having a good hair day, after all). In the next instant I plunged my head into the sizzling water and came up with a mass of wet, dangling hair. I pondered how I wanted her to first see me. I leaned forward with my arms wrapped around my legs and hair hanging down my right shoulder. I sat up tall with sudsy nipples just above the water line, hair fanned out across my back. I finally settled on leaning back with one knee bent slightly above the water.

            She opened the door and caught me mid-thought. My stomach did a somersault as she paused at the door and stared at me. The only sound was the water dripping slowly from the showerhead and her deep exhalation. She stood in the doorway for what seemed like an eternity, watching me.

            “That is the best image I have ever seen in my entire life,” she finally said.

–“Water Marks” by Dawn Dougherty, from Best Lesbian Erotica 1999, Tristan Taormino, ed., selected and introduced by Chyrstos; Cleis Press, 1999

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com.




Pingy-Dingy Wednesday — ray(nise) cange, 5 Ways White Transgender People Have Privilege Over Transgender People of Color

Writing at Black Girl Dangerous, ray(nese) cange generously gives us the opportunity to look hard at privilege. And if white transgender people have privilege over transgender people of color, think about how much privilege those of us who are white cis people have.

Thank you, ray(nise), for breaking it down, thinking about the flag, and for sitting us down for a talk.


I’m a typewriter whompin’, card catalogue lovin’ white girl from back in the day, and I yearn for a time before the covers of trade paperbacks were all squidgy, so you can imagine that I don’t actually understand what a pingback is. I do know that it can in some way be part of spreading the love, and since that’s what I’m all about at The Total Femme… every Wednesday, I pay homage to the laughter and inspiration to be had elsewhere online.


Published in: on November 29, 2017 at 6:59 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes – Walking on Sand

I walked on the beach a lot when we were in Provincetown recently. It was cold and windy but the light, as always, was effulgent. Looking down, there are stones of all colors, shells, crab limbs dropped by sea birds, seaweed, bits of trash, including pieces of broken glass that need to cook a lot longer before they get to call themselves seaglass. Looking up, there’s that light and the ocean moving.

It’s not that easy to walk on sand. You have to use your core, and even if you do, it makes you sore in muscles you don’t usually think about. A wave might soak your shoe. But every time I started to feel tired or think it might be better to take my walk on the street, I realized that I was smiling and that really, I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Maybe something about the bracing difficulty of walking, something about the beauty and the wind and the uncooked seaglass – I don’t know what it was, but out there on the beach I found myself mulling over identity. If you think you know what someone’s identity means, it’s easy to ignore the reality of their life. Example: the many people, straight and otherwise, who refer to Tex as my “wife”. They know I’m gay, they know I’m married, so obviously, the person I’m married to is my wife. As misassumptions go, it’s not the worst one ever; nor is it the end of the world when the two of us are referred to as “ladies”, but it’s irksome. One reason for this is that if people think they know your identity, it can give them license to ignore what that identity actually means to you. It is a false sense of knowing that can close them off to the rewards of keeping an open heart and taking on the challenge of observing, asking and stepping into the unknown. It is a reminder to me when I find myself making assumptions about what someone’s identity may imply.

When first I found my femme, I was uncertain, so I clung to what I thought were requirements. I bemoaned the fact I couldn’t walk in heels due to physical issues, that I wasn’t a high femme, or what I thought a high femme was supposed to look and act like. Happily, those moments passed with minimal damage and I have since learned many enlightening lessons about myself and about other femmes. Queer femme feels so roomy to me now. So much still to explore, because identity is always moving, always revealing more. I’m so curious, so grateful, so inspired by queer femme.

Queer femme sisters, love yourselves this week. Love yourselves by making time to walk on the beach or in the woods or by water of any kind, where you can let your thoughts drift and touch on things sublime.

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


Published in: on November 28, 2017 at 3:31 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Femme Friday on a Saturday – See That Femme

She thinks she should probably tone it down. No one gets it and she just confuses people.

It’s hard enough navigating trans.

She and her girlfriend aren’t into roles.

She and her girlfriends aren’t into roles anymore. Femme is kind of passé, right? Lipstick lesbian and all that? It’s almost 2018, for heaven’s sake!

She doesn’t know why she likes stuff people think is girlie; she just can’t help it.

She can’t be femme because she likes other femmes and she has this little problem with straight girls.

She’s not femme just because she likes butches and trans guys. That’s a stereotype and has nothing to do with her. An old stereotype.

She used to think she was femme, but then she fell in love with a cis guy and got married, and no one even thinks she’s queer anymore, let alone femme.

After she had kids, she just turned into “mom”.

She doesn’t think she’s “the right kind”.

She’s fierce as fuck online, but in real life, she’s not even out, because it’s just not safe.

She’s a femme you know.

Slip her a copy of the Femme Shark Manifesto

Tell her to research LaSaia Honey Wade’s work in Chicago.

Sing praises about The Femme Show and the madfemmepride meetup.

Point her in the direction of your favorite femme books and links and art.

Talk about your femme life openly and with love. Say things like, “This event is sooo not femme friendly – there’s no coat check and the art is the equivalent of saltine crackers framed and hung on the wall!”

Broadcast your femme.

Femme is not finite. Femme goes on and on. I am a 56-year old white, cis, queer femme mom, an old school, married, butch-loving writer and reader of queer story, organizer, accomplice to other oppressed groups. Ask me what I mean by all those designations; they evolve and deepen yearly. Ask me what my femme cronehood looks like. Let’s talk together about the duties of femme elders. And I would like to know about the perks, too. Are handsome and attentive butch attendants involved? What do you think?

Who are we now and who are we becoming in the richness of femme?

We don’t all agree on the meaning of femme, but that’s ok. It means we have a lot to talk about and a lot to discover. And we must talk together and keep each other company as we make our discoveries. We must hold each other, encourage each other, inspire each other. I’ll show you mine.

Will you show me yours?

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com.