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.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You should definitely buy this book if you want happy Queer stories; it just got released, and all profits go to support LGBTI youth services: https://www.amazon.com.au/Our-Happy-Hours-LGBT-Voices-ebook/dp/B076ZPDHJ3
    It’s not historical, but such a great snapshot of contemporary queer culture round the world, from various perspectives xO G (I have nothing to do with it, just enjoyed reading it!)

  2. This is great – thanks so much for the tip!! I was wondering what my butch hero Lee Lynch has been up to…I’ve missed her at Women’s Week in Provincetown the past couple of years! You are sweet to pass on the info! xottf

  3. 💪🏼💃🏻❤🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈


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