Meditations for Queer Femmes — The Road to Femme

Tex and I saw “Fun Home” this weekend. It was incredibly moving to witness queer story so impeccably presented with such talent and love. The two of us held hands, quite misty, as Small Alison sang “Ring of Keys”, a song celebrating that moment when a young queer spots an adult queer and realizes that she is not alone in the world. Recognizes herself. Carly Gold, playing Small Alison, is a wonderful actor, portraying that pivotal moment with such ebullient joy. It was deeply satisfying.

Later, though, I got to thinking. When or how does this happen for femmes? Our role models are almost always straight women; I think of my grandmother, my aunt, a college roommate. But that powerful zing of connection, “Hello! I’m like you! You’re like me!” that “There I am!” moment may very well not be part of our childhood experience, and even if we do briefly experience queer connection, we are so very good at denying it, trying, in our isolation and confusion, to make it fit into a heterosexual mold.

In Lee Lynch’s story, “Cannon Street,” the little butch protagonist meets an adult femme and experiences some of her first sexual feelings. If we are a femme who is romantically attracted to butches, we, too, might feel sexual stirrings if we ever have the luck of glimpsing an adult butch out in public or of having a crush on a tomboy. But even those feelings can be pretty difficult to interpret. As my straight college roommate encouraged me to do, we might think of them as just a wrong turn having to do with an excess of hormones and horniness. Not to mention the fact that this connection is sexuality-based, which is important, of course, but is only one part of a fuller femme identity.

Every one of us queer femmes is so different. Some of us are expert at constructing an identity. “Maybe we’ve never seen one that could be us yet,” writes Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha in her poem “femmes are film stars”. “but we make her up,” she continues, “we make her up outta thin air; outta brilliance and ass.” Others of us, more timid and cautious like myself, need books and all kinds of other bolstering and specific examples in order to find, let alone progress on, the road to femme.

If our femme role models are all straight, as they are likely to be, then they actually aren’t role models. They might be great at teaching us how to put on eye makeup or choose an outfit, they might love us to bits, we might need them desperately, but in the end, they can actually be obstacles on the road to femme.

At a recent Femme Klatsch, we discussed ways of being out as queer femmes. I like to wear my Femme Show t-shirt; another femme always makes sure to be sporting a rainbow somewhere; all of us are as out as we possibly can be, at all times.

Being visibly queer for we femmes is certainly not as self-evident as it is for butches or more androgynous lesbians, but it is so incredibly important, for our own self worth, for queer femme community, and for the next generation whose paths we will certainly cross.

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 – Andi Schwartz

Toronto-based femme, Andi Schwartz, is an academic, a poet, a journalist and a fur baby mama (their names are Franny and Zooey, ‘cause I know you want to know!). In her paper, “Critical Blogging: Constructing Femmescapes Online,” she says, “that femmes politicize online space by using blogs as tools to engage in identity production, community building, and political theorizing.” Hey, FUCK YEAH!!! Among other writing, she has two gorgeous poems in Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s “hard femme poetics: a poetic anthology of femme literary brilliance” and truly one of the best blog names ever: Emotionally Nauseous.

Deep gratitude to Andi Schwartz!

It is important to understand femme blogging as political because it disrupts notions of what is considered political, who gets to participate, and who gets to decide. If femmes are excluded or face oppression in more traditional forms of political resistance, then they might forever be excluded from political discourse. If we shift our ideas around what is political and what is resistance, and where and how this all happens, we see a broader range of femme political participation. This combats stereotypes of the passive, apolitical, dependent femme, and helps to reconstruct femme as powerful and agentic. Changing how we view “politics” and “the political” means changing how we view femme. This nuanced view of politics and political activity can also be applied to communities who experience barriers to other forms of political participation that get minimized by the term “slacktivist,” including youth, people with disabilities, people of colour, and undocumented immigrants, permanent residents, or others with restrictive citizenship status. These ideas must be challenged so that marginalized communities’ resistance and theorizing can be recognized, valued, and utilized to create more nuanced and inclusive politics.

–Andi Schwartz, “Critical Blogging: Constructing Femmescapes Online” in ADA: A Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology, #9

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

 

Pingy-Dingy Wednesday — Anne-Christine D’Adesky and SIGNIFIED

Just finished reading her book, The Pox Lover: An Activist’s Decade in New York and Paris, which is a satisfyingly dyke-y and deeply healing companion read to the book we’re talking about tonight in Queer Book Group, David France’s How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS.

Anne-Christine is so smart and caring and understanding of history and intersecting oppressions, and, like me, is constantly struggling with two siren calls: that of art and that of activism. Her wonderful quote about the pull between activism and art, “I’m called to action and distraction,” is one of my new favorite mantras. And I can’t resist another quote: “AIDS has drawn a line in the sand in my life. I find it difficult, in a time of such suffering, watching so many friends die of go blind like Johnny without a cure in sight, to step away from reporting on this disease, or the next protest; to take the time and internal space I really need to develop my creative writing. I feel too pulled. We need to witness and we need to act, says Lévy. I agree. But Sontag’s right, too: art amid atrocity is an act of witness and its own call to action. So I have to find the way to do both.”

Anne-Christine and SIGNIFIED, you get one pingy-dingy! Thank you for the Lesbian Avengers, merci mille fois for loving the Seine, thank you for this beautiful book and pour tout ce que tu fait!

SIGNIFIED: Anne-Christine d’Adesky

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 — Liminal

At the Asian grocery store recently, I spotted and immediately bought a bag of the lovely autumnal rice I learned about when I lived in Japan as a young woman. I can’t remember how to say the name of this particular rice in Japanese, but I remember that it’s a transitional food, that you eat it when the weather is beginning to cool: it’s not white rice, for the hot months, nor brown rice, for winter, but somewhere inbetween.

The small domestic triumph of identifying and bringing home the delicious half-and-half rice to feed my butch and myself made me think about how my queer femme experience powers my understanding of the world around me and that I see things others don’t, interpret situations very differently from straight people and even differently from other queers.

The resurgence of this old, half-forgotten rice knowledge, made me remember that, as queer femmes, we have the ability, stemming from our queer lives, our woundedness, our ferocious insistence on love, to step across thresholds others don’t even notice. To catch sight something beautiful from the corner of our eye and turn our full attention there. We needn’t follow the straight path nor conform to arid interpretations of propriety and common sense.

Queer femmes commandeer the controls and the train jumps the tracks to an otherwhere, where every body is a good body, where everybody gets to be exactly who they are and where the “who” is endless and endlessly fascinating, entertaining, and smack dab in the middle of the natural systems of which humans are but one small part.

Queer femmes notice what others don’t and when we are listened to, when we are called for so that we may share our queer femme wisdom – a wisdom like no other – then oppressions are challenged, begin to wither, and everyone’s hearts are lifted.

Rather than wishing to be given a place at the table, let us queer femmes aspire to leading the diners over the threshold and into the woods. Rather than ignoring or dismissing our wild and glittering whimsies, let us recognize them for the core wisdoms that they are.

We queer femmes who live in the inbetween are experts in flattening the box. Today, remember the authority of our powerful experience here where the status quo becomes filmy and queerer possibilities become visible.

Today, remember the strength we queer femmes garner from being outsiders, dwellers of liminal spaces.

Today, dear femmes, celebrate being that queer.

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.

 

 

 

Published in: on October 23, 2017 at 3:43 PM  Comments (2)  
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Femme Friday — Wegan

Wegan is two cutie-pie femmes, Whitney and Megan, who blog together at What Wegan Did Next, survived a 5-year long distance relationship together (hey! that sounds familiar, ‘cause me and Tex did, too!), were numbah 26 last year on the Diva Power List, have a dating site, Find Femmes, and by golly, are about to get married! Congrats, Wegan! May you have many, many happy years in love, lust, and femme power!

Aaaaand, that’s not all! Megan has a kick-ass article on femme invisibility at The Huffington Post, and to combat this scourge, Wegan started a campaign, Femme Visibility!

 Deep gratitude to Wegan for their love of femmes and their determination to show the world that we are not fucking invisible!

We suffer from femme invisibility. We mainly slip under the radars of both straight and gay people. For example, I used to go out gay clubbing twice a week whilst at university (the majority of my friends were gay males), and it was very hard for me to find a lady when out because 1) other lesbians most likely assumed I was straight or a “fag hag,” and 2) I assumed the majority of pretty ladies in the club were straight or fag hags. See the dilemma? I often felt that flashing a neon sign proclaiming “Yes, I am gay” would help. I’ve also observed the frequency of couplings of femmes with butch lesbians; it seems far rarer to see a femme/femme couple. I’ve toyed with the idea of ditching my heels, dress, and lipstick for a polo shirt, jeans, and Converse sneakers for a night out, just to see what would happen, but I just couldn’t do it. Luckily, I ended up meeting my lovely other half online, and three years later we are engaged.

–Megan Evans, Huffpost Blog                                                                                                 1/28/2012

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess (or two!). I want to feature you! Email me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me feature your beautiful, unique, femme story!

 

 

 

 

Pingy-Dingy Wednesday – Arti over at InterACT: “Not all intersex people are the same”

At the Creating Change conference this past January, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a workshop put on by InterACT. They did an amazing job educating the workshop participants, and I came away greatly inspired and energized. I am so grateful for their work and generosity.

Arti over at InterAct, you get one pingy-dingy, for bravely and kindly sharing your experience and for not hiding the beautiful person that you are!

https://interactadvocates.org/not-all-intersex-people-are-the-same/

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 October 18, 2017 at 4:36 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes — In Provincetown Last Week

In Provincetown last week, we took part in the 2017 Women’s Week, and oh, the glory of it all!

In Provincetown last week, the local paper had a story about the hijinks lesbians used to get up to back in the day, including a Halloween prank that involved a blonde called Trashette getting her butt whipped “with a couple of adorable little apartment sized whips” and then being faux branded on her leather-clad ass by a group of randy dykes.

This is not the kind of local news we get here in our Boston suburb.

Today at QSA check in, the kids asked me if I wanted to share, so I told them about how Tex and I were in Provincetown last week for Women’s Week, our yearly delight. I told them about how being in Provincetown always astounds me because I can be fully who I am. They knew exactly what I meant. “You can be yourself without always being the science experiment!” one QSA member said. “You mean straight people can act like themselves all the time?? What??” We talked about how here, you’re “the gay one”, whereas in an all-queer culture, it starts with being queer and just goes deeper. Queer is the foundation but not the entirety.

In Provincetown last week, a butch/femme couple from Indiana came to our butch/femme pop up at the Harbor Lounge, and we had fun horrifying them with the prices of real estate (“$200,000 for a heated 2-car garage!” etc.), which, I think, made them feel pretty good about all the land and real estate they have back home, much less pricey, much more roomy. Not many other queers, though, no real queer community.

We are so lucky to be near enough to Provincetown and financially stable enough to get down there as often as we do. For health, happiness, and spreading the love, we constantly think about how to carry back the comfort and inspiration Provincetown’s queer culture affords us. It isn’t easy to be both generous and self-protective enough that you can gather around you a varied, loving friend and colleague group made up of people who can see you as a whole person, around whom you can let down your guard a bit and bust out.

In Provincetown last week, we bathed in the gorgeous light, took our queerness to new depths, and rededicated ourselves to art and community and open-hearted healing.

In Provincetown last week, I thought of you, femme sisters, wherever you may be, and I wished and still wish for your complex and unique femme selves to blossom and bloom to the oohs and ahs and endless appreciation of all who behold!

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 October 17, 2017 at 4:41 PM  Comments (2)  
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Femme Friday on a Saturday (Because I’m in Ptown at Women’s Week, Femme Sisters!!) — Kathleen, from Crybaby Butch

I gobbled up Judith Frank’s Crybaby Butch when it first came out in 2004. After we did her next novel, All I Love and Know, for queer book group, Tex and I read Crybaby Butch out loud to each other. They are both stunning novels, both well written and filled with deep, abiding love and understanding for queer people.

This Femme Friday, I am holding up Kathleen, who, among other things, has made a killer hangover cure since 1963, knits scarves and hats for the figurines of swans, frogs, gnomes, and Buddhas out in her yard, and whose socks were knocked off by Stone Butch Blues, which she read out loud to her butch, Chris.

Deep gratitude to Judith Frank for loving Kathleen onto the page and for her proper and deferential understanding that femmes always get the last word.

When Chris got home Wednesday, she found Dell and Kathleen in the living room, drinking beers and giggling over an old photo album. They had Oprah on the TV, with the sound off. Kathleen had taken a rare sick day, to spend the day with Dell. “Lord, this was some roll of film,” Kathleen called out. “Remember that one, honey, where you look great in every picture?

Chris approached and peered down at the pictures. They had taken that roll over a week of vacation, when a bunch of them had rented a cabin up in Wisconsin. There were some at the beach, some barbecuing in the yard, lots of group shots of lounging lesbians with beers in their hands, looking up at the camera through sunglasses. Everybody looked goofy in at least a few shots, caught chewing, or with their mouths slack, but not Chris. “Oh yeah,” Chris grinned. “Just goes to show you the power of a good haircut.

Kathleen and Dell looked at each other and cracked up.

“What?”

“We were just talking about butches and their hair,” Dell said, still giggling. She pointed to other butches in the pictures: Jo, Perry, Sue Black still cocky before she got messed up by the cops. “Man,” Dell said, “You guys are like old ladies that way, always with a hand up, patting or smoothing.”

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

Published in: on October 14, 2017 at 12:57 PM  Comments (4)  
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Pingy-Dingy Wednesday — Leah Vernon and Muslim Girl

In honor of Semiha and Songül, sweet friends from my little girl days in Turkey, who shared candied chickpeas with me, taught me Turkish hopscotch, and schooled me in Ramadan…

Leah Vernon and Muslim Girl, you get one pingy-dingy!

Thank you for putting it right out there where we can all benefit from your strength, wisdom, and fabulousness!

http://muslimgirl.com/45281/finally-noticed-uniqueness-asset/

I’m a typewriter whompin’, card catalogue lovin’ 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 October 11, 2017 at 9:45 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes — Have Enjoy

As an ESL teacher and lover of language, I am always on the lookout for those sublime moments when feeling and passion cut through the mundane rules of English and offer up profound teaching. Today, four meditation-worthy sayings that transcend English and cut right to the heart of joy.

Have enjoy. (said a sweet server at a Thai restaurant as she put our food on the table)

Fine good. (written all over the paper wrapping from a flower shop in Japan)

Better do. (from Japan, but I don’t remember the exact origin — maybe a t-shirt?)

and of course: Always go forward to tomorrow with hedgehog. (from a duffle bag, bought in Japan)

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.