Femme Friday – Me and You, the Femmes We Are

I began the journey to the femme I am when I read The Persistent Desire, when I read Stone Butch Blues. I knew I was a butch-loving femme right then, as those stories went straight into my soul.

When did you know? How did femme knowledge come to you? Was it when you read the Femme Shark Manifesto? How do you define “femme”? How do you spell it? How did you become the femme you are?

Does femme help you orient your life? Like a north star, a beating pulse, a bubbling spring? Does it show you what direction to go in?

What does femme mean to you?

The femme I am has everything I read and observe swirling around in my head as I try to make sense of what it means to be alive right now, to be queer, to be turning 56, to be the parent of adult children, the femme wife of my butch husband, the middle-aged daughter of old parents, observing my children mature, my husband sometimes creep, sometimes leap into her wisdom, and my parents inhabit the outer reaches of old age with grace, anger, humor and bluff.

The femme I am is a mentor to queer youth, an elder, even, a femme of a certain age.

Who is watching your femme, drawing sustenance from you? Who needs you? Who do you need?

The femme I am is often lonely for community. The femme I am is both safe and unsafe. The femme I am wonders what rights look like when they’re not just stuff the status quo has, but are actually about true equity for all living beings. The femme I am seeks comfort in sometimes healthy, sometimes unhealthy ways.

Where do you find comfort? What are your femme theories, your femme art, your femme work? What is femme to you – a side dish, the main dish, the dessert? Who can you talk to about femme? Who is interested? Who thinks it’s sexy and endlessly, deliciously, entertaining? What have you learned about femme that is so precious, so profound?

As I grow older, femme, my femme, expands and deepens and becomes more complex, holding worlds and worlds. The femme I am contains multitudes.

Does the femme you are sustain you? What are your latest theories about femme? Your discoveries and intuitions? What makes you laugh and shout with joy?

The longer we are femme, the more we discover. Femme will never get used up; we just keep finding out more about it.

And so here we go, sweet femme sisters! Into 2018, full of femme love and power.

You and me.

Me and you.

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story!

Pingy-Dingy Wednesday – Lucy Allen and “Reading Medieval Books”

Oh, to have been in London last week in order to attend the talk by Lucy Allen, “Queerly Invisible, Female Desire in Medieval England! “I argue,” says this queer medievalist, “that in some of the most popular literature of the period, we can see the details we glean from the historical evidence magnified and intensified to form a rich seam of innuendo concerning female same-sex desire and its often strange and unfamiliar manifestations. This, in turn, sheds light on our own preconceptions as scholars of historical sexual desire, and especially on our own sense of what is and is not ‘queer history’.” Oooh, doesn’t that sound like soooo much fun??

For more, see her gorgeous blog, Reading Medieval Books, and her latest post on this subject, “’Queerly Invisible’: Medieval and Modern Fictions of Lesbianism”.

Lucy Allen, you get one pingy-dingy! Thank you for fossicking about in the Way Back Then as well as the Here We Are Now to get us thinking about silences, invisibilities, assumptions, exaggerations, certainties and uncertainties when it comes to images of same-sex desire.

Reading Medieval Books

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 – FEMME LOVE HEAL WORLD

In honor of the Scandinavian side of my family and to accommodate a custody schedule, here at the Total Femme’s house, we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. This Dec. 24, for the first time in a few years, everyone was front and center, in good health, and capable of enjoying each other’s company. Glorious!

Inspired by my friend Miel’s way with ritual and intent, I rode the good vibes and came up with a family ceremony that I know we’ll do again next year. It was short and sweet and a little last minute, but the power of love was with us, and even my cynical old grump of a father joined in with only one small grumble.

For the ritual, I spoke briefly about the Winter Solstice, and read the poem “Thank You, Fog” by W.H. Auden. Then we went around the circle and each offered up a wish for the world.

We wished that there be more quiet, that communities devastated by drug cartels in Mexico be healed, that the earth be healed by understanding how we’re all connected, by getting rid of pollution, by getting rid of the Trump administration and by rejecting the western notion of progress.

We each said how we would manifest the energy to address those issues in 2018. We promised to do more educating of ourselves and others, to be good role models, to unplug and slow down, to be aware and to help where we can.

We each chose a charity for an end-of-the-year donation and spoke briefly of the work of the organizations and why it’s important to us: Youth on Fire, The Center for Coastal Studies, Animals Asia, Arlington Eats, Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network and Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project.

The ritual was calming and bonding. It was so lovely!

Below, I offer a femme version of this ritual to you, sweet femme sisters, as we ride out the last bits of 2017 and get gussied up to meet the new year.

We need each other, we must connect and share our wisdom.

I love you.


FEMME LOVE HEAL WORLD – a femme ritual to be done at the New Year, or any time it’s needed

This can be done by a femme alone, or in a group of femmes, and you can tailor things to meet your own needs.

You can open with a poem, preferably by a queer poet. There are so many to chose from! “To Martha: A New Year” by Audre Lorde is a beautiful one…

On a piece of paper, write down the answer to the question: What is your wish for the world?

If you’re in a group, fold up the paper and put it in a bowl/hat/basket; each femme picks one (switch it up if you pick your own). If you’re alone, just speak your answer out loud, maybe looking into the mirror or up into the sky.

Go around the circle and ask each femme to read the question and respond to it by saying, “I will manifest femme energy to address this issue by _______________________.”

Everyone responds, “So mote it be.”

After all the femmes have spoken, you can burn the paper to release that energy into the world.

You can keep a record of your answers in order to revisit them the next time you do the ritual, or as a reminder to yourself when you’re feeling scattered. You can chose a charity for a donation, and educate the group of femmes about the work of the charity you chose.


Post here to share your wishes, how you’re manifesting femme energy, and your favorite charities! Share the femme love!!! I can’t wait to hear from you!

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 – Persistently Fem

I honestly don’t know how it happened, but this fem has been inside my house and has taken a picture of the books on my bookshelf! It’s true. I own and treasure every single one of these books, so either she’s been in my house, or she’s a long-lost fem sister…or both!

Persistently Fem generously gifts us with “the writings and musings of a high stone fem lesbian surviving the new century” and is a “blog where I can quietly be emotionally raw about all my most vulnerable spots: my stone fem identity, the butch-fem dynamic, butch love and my personal lesbian history & experience” (from “About” on the blog).

Deep gratitude to Persistently Fem for her staunch love and support of the butch-fem community, for speaking up about her stone fem experience and refusing to be erased, and for her excellent taste in literature!

And speaking of tasty, here’s a sumptiously delicious nip from her post, “Fine”, written back in the heat of the summer:

is there anything so fine on this fine earth as an older butch?

you’re irresistible. the way you smile, the way you cock your hips as you stand and the way you love, tender and rough, your fingertips and tongue skilled from years of practice. it is always you that catches my eye the most, the ones who’ve been around the block more times than the rest of us can count. who have fought and overcome and keep on fighting, who persist against the odds, and who bear the triumph and the tragedy of your lives so exquisitely in every careworn detail.

Fine”, Persistently Fem, July 26, 2017

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story!

Pingy-Dingy Wednesday – PandimoniYum and “Free Spirit Gathering 2010: Faery Women, Sacred Whores & Kiva”

I got to hang out with some Radical Faeries at the Creating Change conference in Philadelphia last January, and was thrilled to learn that there is definitely room for female faeries in a world I had thought to be mostly male. In fact, the love in that room full of faeries has sustained me on some queer molecular level ever since.

PandimoniYum, you get one pingy-dingy! Thank you for holding up the female faery and for sharing your journey.

Free Spirit Gathering 2010: Faery Women, Sacred Whores & Kiva

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 — What’s Underneath?

My sweet femme sister Liz just sent me a link to an article by Rebecca Reilly-Cooper called, “Gender is Not a Spectrum: The idea that ‘gender is a spectrum’ is supposed to set us free. But it is both illogical and politically troubling”. Just the title makes me rub my hands in anticipation – I do love me some theory! I also appreciate it when I can read a whole batch of different thoughts about a topic that is deeply important to me. It is almost as satisfying to read something smart and impassioned with which I disagree as it is to read something smart and impassioned which has me hopping about and shouting, “Hell yes!” Both help me put language to what I am feeling strongly in my body but can’t always talk about coherently.

In graduate school, back in those odd days before I knew I was queer, I was all of the time reading Literature. The turns of phrase, the voice, the details, the sweep and arc; all of these things occupied me greatly, and I was always comparing my own work to those Literary Writers, and seldom, ah darlings, seldom did I measure up. One day I was reading a collection of Ferrol Sams short stories. What a writer that man is! Gorgeous stuff. Except, um, what is this…one of the stories slowly revealed itself to be a hideous, foul and mean-spirited tract against people with AIDS and homosexuals in general. As it dawned on me that his talent was being used in this way, I felt physically ill. As pretty as he can make the language sound, I never read him again.

I also did and do engage in the slightly less highbrow activity of watching the odd television series, and you can certainly get shit on there, as we well know. I was enjoying the quite fluffy “Rosewood”, especially the subplot about his lesbian sister until…what’s this? The white girlfriend is tempted by a man? Kisses a man?? Calls of the fucking wedding???? Who is that unhinged femme shrieking at her television and scaring her nice straight suburban neighbors, not to mention the cat?

Just recently, however, I wondered if, rather than being straight up homophobic, this miserable “plot” twist had more to do with another agenda: calling out white people. The white woman’s family was horrible, and the white woman herself ended up being untrustworthy and without any backbone. Did one oppression get used – and sacrificed – in the interests of another? This thought doesn’t make the horrible homophobic decision of the people in charge of the show any sweeter, but it does make it more layered; more complicated.

What is underneath? I believe queer femmes have some magic in this arena. We are well positioned to be able to spy out the hidden meanings in things, like, let’s say, straight neighbors bearing gifts (aka: they’re so grateful to us for moving into the neighborhood because now their kids won’t grow up to be bigots!). We have queer femme x-ray vision that can cut through that bullshit, and not only that, we have recourse to address it. Look how many gifts we bring!

We queer chivalry. We unmoor misogyny. We spice up feminism. We queer queer. We foster nuance. These are all necessary in the strident adolescent culture we live in, where the status quo hides in the queerest, most liberal places (and certainly is in the media everywhere). Our magic and our senses of humor are so necessary in a culture where saying what the people who are your people are saying is more important than any kind of serious discussion where, heaven’s forefend, there might be dissenting voices.

Honor your gifts, queer femmes, and use them to queer the soup, trouble the discourse and spread loving, critical thought! That will go such a long way towards building true and solid community.

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 – 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!

*Could a femme please write that, please? And if you’ve already written it, could you please let me know??

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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