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.