Femme Friday — Karen Kelsky

A sister University of Michigan, Ann Arbor graduate, Karen Kelsky and I spent time in Japan together back in the 80s, and lo and behold, some time later, both came out as femmes! My memory is one Christmas letter from her contained the phrase, “Aren’t butches great??!!”

Karen was an academic for over 15 years, and you should check out her monograph, Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams. She also spent time making and selling jewelry from Japanese paper and fabric through her business, Paper Demon Jewelry. Currently, however, she is tearing it up over at The Professor Is In, tagging the Ivory Tower with her mad femme wisdom about how to actually get a job once you’ve spent all that time and money getting your degree(s). Her book, The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your PhD Into a Job is a hella of a read and she’s not kidding with the “essential”. If you’re a brainy femme spending time pursuing advanced education, (or a brainy anybody at all), you need to read this, and perhaps hire her services over at her website, http://theprofessorisin.com/.

 Deep gratitude to Karen Kelsky!

 I have a lot on my mind right now regarding the impact of Trump on academic life.  Kellee and I ran a free Academic Life Under Trump webinar a couple days ago, and it was good to open space for a conversation about the anxieties and uncertainties and fears this unthinkable situation has engendered. I am working up to a blog post on it, but not yet.  It’s still too much; I’m not at the state of coherence yet. I am at the state of resistance, however: I’ve done every form of resistance I can find, including protesting at the Oregon state capitol today, and calling representatives almost daily (about each new outrage). I urge all of you to do what you can: we must resist, and never normalize.

–Dec. 19, 2016 Pearls of Wisdom blog post

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

Lay your sleeping head…

Yesterday at the homeschoolers QSA, we had our check in, as usual, and at one point, one of the members muttered that some people were saying that 2016 was a cursed year.

“Let’s go around and say some good things that happened, then,” I suggested.

So many good things! One member is excited to have graduated to pointe shoes; another that her 18th birthday was this year; a third that a lifelong dream to be in a Gilbert and Sullivan show had come true. As for me, it’s simple: this was the year I thought my mother was going to die, and she didn’t. At 85, she is perhaps a titch more forgetful than before, but her enthusiasm, curiosity and sense of humor about the world are back in force, and I am SO GRATEFUL!

This has been a hard year, though. My work with queer youth has acquired so much more urgency and weight, my desire for queer culture grows daily, both for them and for myself, I am needy, wacky, freaked out, beside myself and all betwixt and between.

In fact, such is my volatile post-election emotional state, that I burst into tears when I read in Lambda Literary that Michael Nava has just published a new mystery called Lay Your Sleeping Head. AND THE TITLE IS FROM AN AUDEN POEM! Oh, Michael! Oh, Wystan! Oh, beloveds!!!

When he published Rag and Bone in 2002, the 7th Henry Rios mystery novel, Nava said that it was the last one. No more Henry, no more gay life in L.A., no more nuanced, gorgeous, queer Latino mysteries. It was wrenching, the loss of a literary friend, but I respected Nava’s desire to move on to other things, and have been waiting for the right time to read his novel, The City of Palaces.

But now, I can re-read all 7 mysteries, starting with The Little Death, and when I get to the end, it won’t be the end! What a gift. And the poem, the poem. I’m working on memorizing it, and I type it for you here.

May our 2017 bring solace in the form of oodles and oodles of ever-lovin’ queer art!

Lay your sleeping head, my love,

Human on my faithless arm;

Time and fevers burn away

Individual beauty from

Thoughtful children, and the grave

Proves the child ephemeral:

But in my arms ‘til break of day

Let the living creature lie,

Mortal, guilty, but to me

The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:

To lovers as they lie upon

Her tolerant enchanted slope

In their ordinary swoon,

Grave the vision Venus sends

Of supernatural sympathy,

Universal love and hope;

While an abstract insight wakes

Among the glaciers and the rocks

The hermit’s sensual ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity

On the stroke of midnight pass

Like vibrations of a bell,

And fashionable madmen raise

Their pedantic boring cry:

Every farthing of the cost,

All the dreaded cards foretell,

Shall be paid, but from this night

Not a whisper, not a thought,

Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:

Let the winds of dawn that blow

Softly round your dreaming head

Such a day of sweetness show

Eye and knocking heart may bless,

Find the mortal world enough;

Noons of dryness see you fed

By the involuntary powers,

Nights of insult let you pass

Watched by every human love.

W.H. Auden, January, 1937

Meditations for Queer Femmes

Whether or not we work directly with queer youth, we adult queers provide role models and beacons. An end-of-the-year prayer for all the femmes who have queer youth in their lives.


Creative forces, sweet golden light

Help me stay focused on the good work

The children are reaching out

They are losing their T-passes, wearing yesterday’s t-shirts

Perhaps they have had too much coffee today

And in their pockets are tear-stained bandanas


Arrange the energy so that my heart floats

heavy with passion in my chest

this one loves her mother so much

this one worries about his old father

and this one lets her sister sleep with her when the sister can take no more


They are not to be hindered by loutishness

they must be allowed to connect to those places

those places where diamonds gleam

buds are bursting forth

they must be able to provide

in all their colors and glory

what the world needs

and what makes all of us rejoice


Keep me marching forth

keep my eyes open

Let me not fail these children

Our children

Miasma will not overtake me

I offer up

I rejoice and demand

Please smile on me

your child, grown older

hold me steady

hold me close

let us all go forth


Every Monday, I will 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 December 27, 2016 at 1:42 PM  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

My People! My People! Sister Me!

While I am still in the throes of extreme embarrassment, I write this hasty post: just now at the grocery store, I noticed a cheerful young queer with a huge star tattooed on her elbow. Being in something of a cheerful mood myself, I said to her cheerfully, “You went a lot bigger than I did!” and showed her my own, much more modest star, on my wrist. We fell to chatting, and she showed me her most recent tattoo, then asked if I was going to get another. Did I say, “Yes, but I’m not sure what yet?” and leave it at that? No. I had to go into a whole description of Hot Head Paison, Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist and how I want to get her tattoo because it’s time for a little of that energy, know what I mean, know what I mean?

Tex would say, “Baby, remember, you don’t feel like it, but you’re middle aged and you’re a grown up, and young people are skittery and shy and don’t always understand that grown ups are actually people like themselves…” Plus, I’m usually around young queer people who get me and are, for the most part, fond of me. Anyway, this particular young person, instead of smiling and sistering me, (“sister”: when a queer out in public derives pleasure and joy from recognizing a sister queer and a certain happy look comes into their eyes and their shoulders relax and the two of you are free to engage in friendly queer-flavored banter) shuttered her face and gave me a neutral and vaguely alarmed glance. Dang it!

I’ve been thinking a lot about queer culture. How non-contiguous it is, how most of us, especially in the suburbs, don’t have access to it. There are no queer centers in this area, and we have found that offering queer-only space to queer youth is of interest to only a few, given that queer kids are told that they are “welcome” everywhere. At Queer Mystic, we’re beginning to work on a new model of support for queer youth: fostering queer culture with queers of all ages. Whether they are able to articulate it or not, we believe that queer youth need and benefit from queer culture: understanding queer history, meeting queer adults and elders and hearing their stories, participating in queer cultural events such as concerts, art exhibits, open mics, plays, etc. The more situated in your culture you become, and this is true for everyone, the more you are able to find yourself, the more you can rock your own power.

I am kind of laughing at myself right now, how I keep getting myself in embarrassing situations due to my undimmed expectations that all queers should sister each other, that they want to. I was reminding a straight friend yesterday that I’m really only about 24 in queer age, since that’s as long as I’ve been out, and so my queer sometimes may not seem to line up with my middle-aged face and body. I can be very enthusiastic!!! I hope that, after the shock wears off that a random middle aged lady said “homicidal lesbian terrorist” to her while she was just trying to stock the nut shelves, my young queer friend may come to enjoy the fact that another queer sistered her.

At the same grocery store just now, there was a butch femme couple, maybe 20 years older than me. I smiled and smiled at them, but unlike with the young queer and our tattoos, there was no easy way of making them see me as queer. If I’d been able to, though, I bet they would have sistered me.

Published in: on December 22, 2016 at 11:57 AM  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

Meditation for Queer Femmes

Generations work differently for queers. It’s interesting to think that a femme who comes out in later years may well have more in common with a femme 20 or more years her junior, one who had the resources and support to come out as a teen, than she does with a straight woman her own age. In the same way, a femme in her 40s can become a queer elder, whereas a straight elder won’t achieve that honor until their 70s or later. We queer femmes live through so much, walk through so much fire. How many of us had to make ourselves up “… out of brilliance and ass”, as Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha says in her poem, “Femmes are film stars”? Most of us had no femme sisters, no best femme friends. Our sexualities are counter culture and we flaunt and represent even when our straight age mates are perming their dyed hair and retreating into I’m-no-longer-sexually-active “sensible” clothing. We femmes fought so hard to find our heart’s delight – years and years, for some of us, not until post menopause, for some of us – and so we dash headlong into our joy, flaming, blooming, shouting. We are not invisible.

In John Preston’s novel, The Arena, initiates into the old-school world of power and submission become more sublimely human as they go ever deeper into serious explorations of their sexuality and true nature. We femmes, too, come into our power the more we understand and act on our own individual femme directives, the closer we come to our soul purpose. We femme angels, born to bless the world! What gifts do you offer to your family and community, dear femme sisters, simply by your fierce dedication to plumbing the delicious depths of your queer soul?

Every Monday, I will 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, Sassafras Lowry

Took the below right off hir website, cuz that’s the kind of day it’s been, but such such

Deep gratitude to Sassafrass Lowry!

  “Sassafras Lowrey got hir start writing as a straight-edge queer punk zinester in Portland, Oregon, and grew up to become the 2013 winner of the Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award.  Along the way, ze changed coasts, and genders.  Hir first book, the Kicked Out anthology, gathered voices of current and formerly homeless queer youth alongside policy makers and activists, and was honoured by the American Library Association and the Lambda Literary Foundation. Hir debut novel, Roving Pack chronicles the underground lives of gender-radical queer youth searching for identity, community, and belonging.  Roving Pack was honored  by the American Library Association and won a Rainbow Book Award for Transgender Fiction.   Sassafras is the editor of Leather Ever After, which received an Honorable Mention for the National Leather Association Writing Award.  Sassfaras’ newest novel Lost Boi is  American Library Association honored and  was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Transgender Fiction. Lost Boi is a queer/punk retelling of Peter Pan and was released from Arsenal Pulp Press in 2015.  For Christmas 2016 Sassafras is releasing a queer/leather novella titled A Little Queermas Carol now available for pre-order.

Hir work has received acknowledgement and awards from the Astraea Foundation Lesbian Writers Fund, Poets & Writers, and Queer Heroes of the Pacific Northwest.  Sassafras has toured widely, giving readings, workshops, and keynotes at colleges, conferences, bookstores, festivals, and squats ranging from Atlanta to Berlin to Oakland to Amsterdam.  Ze has contributed to numerous anthologies and publications. Sassafras lives and writes in Brooklyn with hir partner, two dogs of dramatically different sizes, two bossy cats, and a mostly feral kitten.”


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

Published in: on December 16, 2016 at 5:19 PM  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Meditation for Queer Femmes

We femmes who are romantically drawn to butches have a complicated relationship with masculinity. We may have dated men for years, yearning for a kind of masculinity men seemed to promise but could never deliver. What on earth is wrong? we wondered. Is it him? Me? When we finally find our way to butch lovers, we may be susceptible to sexist and even misogynistic treatment, all in the name of securing that particular kind of masculinity we yearn for. Our coping techniques, learned over the years in order to appease and placate men, may kick in, hindering our ability to stand up for ourselves. What on earth is wrong? we may wonder, feeling cowed and confused, unable to identify and communicate what we really need and believe.

It is not our job, as femmes, to tell any individual butch how to express their masculinity, although our generous hearts often embrace this task. We are on on our own journeys of self-discovery and must guard against toxic masculinity, misogyny and sexism, no matter the source. Or perhaps, we must be even more on guard when we are opening our hearts to butch lovers, who inspire such protective and loving behavior in us. A butch who can hear and act on real feedback from a femme about the nuances of their behavior will be a better person for it, but before we femmes are even able to offer up that feedback, we have to be clear about and situated in our own femininity. Our own queer femme femininity, from which we draw strength and wisdom, and which blazes like a queer north star, rising, rising.

Every Monday, I will 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 December 13, 2016 at 4:32 PM  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Femme Friday, Liz Nania

“Step, step, rock step! Great! Very good! You’re all looking wonderful!” That’s femme dance instructor, Liz Nania, wearing a portable mic and her rainbow Hilary shirt because she’s never giving up! She’s teaching the basic steps to swing dancing at December’s Swingtime, a monthly dance for queers. She is also founder and owner of OUT to Dance, and has been teaching all manner of folks to dance for over 25 years. The gift of a queer dance space with Swingtime – one of the longest running queer dances around – is beyond compare.

“This is a no-drama space,” she says to her dancing crowd of queers. “Dance with each other! We encourage you to switch partners and meet folks!” Post election, she says “We need to have fun together and we need to laugh.”

Liz is also a visual artist, whose media are painting, specifically in encaustic, and more recently, textile art. Savor her gorgeous work at www.liznania.com.

Deep gratitude to Liz Nania for making art, for keeping us dancing and laughing with each other!



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

(Femme Friday is one day late, due to my computer needing work. All better now!)

Published in: on December 10, 2016 at 5:03 PM  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Between Books

Every once in a while, I am briefly between books. I’ll finish what I was reading and go to the next one I have lined up but it may prove to be a dud. Or I just can’t decide what to read next (rare). And then I’ll be in a liminal, book-free zone.

Not to be reading a book is an unnatural place for me. I am unmoored and feel off-kilter. I don’t know what to do with my hands. I am used to having a story going at all times, one I can carry with me, literally, and return to whenever I like; one that I am usually thinking about, either actively or passively; one that compliments my daily concerns, gives me language, inspires my own writing.

Between books can feel harsh and lonely.

Is my reading a crutch? I have begun to think about it with more discernment, as opposed to when I was younger and it was just a given: I live. I read.

In the same way that I make more conscious decisions to give my attention and time mainly to queer authors, women authors, authors of color, I observe myself a little more: when do I pick up a book? Why?

I used to always read when I was waiting somewhere, even in line at the post office. Now I refrain, and try to observe and be where I am instead. It can be very rewarding, actually. Once when I was in line at the post office, I saw an older white man, rather trim, wearing turquoise hot pants that I am quite sure his wife wouldn’t have let him wear out of the house if she had known about it, but here he was, blithely taking care of some postal matters, legs much on view. And how glad I am that my nose wasn’t in a book that day! A rare treat, in this day and age, to see a straight man wearing hot pants!

Do I read too much? Sometimes I do a little food fast and I wonder if I should do a little book fast now and again. Allow my own thoughts to circulate without the focal point of a novel? Hmm.

The between-books wee taste of limbo is usually enough for me, though. I choose books over social media, movies, newspapers and magazines, tv and videos, online reading, pod casts, radio. Book information is the main information I choose to allow into my brain.

This period of life, my mid-50s, seems to be about going inward, offering up and concentrating on the insight and wisdom that’s been brewed up from all the previous years of gulping down information willy nilly. There’s an increased enjoyment, too, of say, really good genre tales, that comes about from having read so many bad ones in my life. Which in turn gives my own writing a boost or a twist or a depth.

I suppose if I wanted to be a Buddhist nun, I’d maybe have to give up novel reading because of it being so dear to me. My teacher would probably tell me that reading so much obscures clarity and hinders meditation and study.

But I don’t want to be a Buddhist nun, even though I do a lot of reading about Buddhism, so I’ll continue to read like the femme bookworm I am, fast, on fire, and with extreme dedication.

Published in: on December 7, 2016 at 11:56 AM  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,