Meditation for Queer Femmes: On Being Grown Up

“No one ever prepared me for it…or for the experience of feeling different even though you don’t appear different to other people.”* This is a gay male character speaking about being gay, but it could also specifically refer to the experience of many femmes who love butches.

Not only are we not prepared, we often don’t know what’s wrong with us. We may go decades trying to fit in to the straight world; after all, we look the part, don’t we? Over and over, we search for a partner whose masculinity awakens our hearts and bodies. Over and over, if our search is limited to cis men, we are disappointed, and in being disappointed, so often blame ourselves. We watch our straight female friends fall in and out of love, finally settling on a man who fulfills them. Without community, guidance, role models, room in which to move and experiment and become more fully ourselves, often our only recourse is to assign the fault of our own lack of romantic fulfillment to bad luck and personal failure.

How many of us are still waiting to grow up? Even those of us who came to their femme identity as a younger person were denied a chance to fully explore the wide world of sexuality, either because we felt compelled to grasp our identity close as a talisman, as protection, or because it was not safe, or both. For a young person bursting with hormones and curiosity, being expected to explore your sexuality with, say, the only other two out kids in your high school, is limiting, to say the least.

And then, once we’re busily out in the world, away from high school at last, it can be so easy to set our femme aside for a moment so we can do our other work: daughter, teacher, leader, parent. Perennially marginalized and infantilized, queers of all kinds struggle with “being grownup”, and we femmes occupy a unique place in that struggle. This is not simply about “putting on your big girl panties” but a much graver, deeper task of allowing yourself to be an adult, despite the myriad forces, historical and present, shrilling at you that you’re a child, pathological, unclean, undeveloped, immature and selfish.

Grown ups – healthy grown ups – gain strength and peace from incorporating their sexualities inextricably with their daily lives. In order to do this, we femmes of all ages need to know each other. We need to see each other at all different stages of life, to understand the many, many ways we can flourish and become. We must open a conversation with each other, mentor each other, tell our stories and make femme-only space. We must find each other.

Who are your femme mentors? Who are your femme sisters? Who are you, sweet, grown up femme?

*Hugh Paris, a character in Michael Nava’s first mystery, The Little Death.

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.

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