Femme Friday – The Femme in the Picture

This year at our annual SAGE Table, we asked participants to send in pictures so we could have a slide show. There were some really cute ones, of kids at the Drag Prom, family shots, dykes with their pets, and more. Throughout the evening, though, I kept an eye on one particular black and white photo, probably from the 1950s. In it, a butch/femme couple faces the camera straight on, not really smiling, but looking pretty satisfied with themselves.

Last night’s beautiful photo reminded me of other old pictures of queer folks from the past. In these photos, queer story shines out at us, still brilliant, but also so mysterious. What were those daily lives like, after the camera snapped and time continued on its way? I especially love coming across old pictures where there is a femme, like the one last night. I always wonder, who was she? How did she experience herself as a lover, a partner, a participant in a life she was almost certainly not expected or raised to live? What did she call herself? What did she call her lover? How did they talk about who they were and what they did together?

I imagine she was sometimes, maybe often, angry at the isolation, the cruel messages from family and society. I bet she got pissed off at her butch here and again, who would have had her own struggles. And I also see joy in those old pictures. Defiance, a cheeky “we’re getting away with something and you can’t stop us” attitude that I recognize. The way it all falls into place as you find yourself, body and soul, in the arms of the kind of person all those men never were and never could be and then that person revs up your turn-on higher than it’s ever been revved before.

Did the femme in the picture think about how precious she and her queer friends and lovers were? Did she know, in her femme heart, how much a part of nature her queerness was? Like Anna in The Well of Loneliness, did she make every effort to embrace and find beauty in the hidden world she now had access to?

We know so many sad stories, the drinking, the violence, both within the queer community and coming from straight people, the isolation, mental and physical illness brought on or made worse by the ravages of oppression, but that wasn’t everybody’s life every single minute of every single day.

When I look at her smiling or hugging her butch or cutting up with friends in wild costumes or kissing the head of her little dog, I want to allow the femme in the picture to have had a full, complex life. Not just a trajectory of grief, and “oh it must have been so hard back then aren’t you glad we live now and there’s equal marriage.”

The femme in the picture certainly had her sorrows, but I know in my own queer femme heart that she also had sweet get-togethers with friends she loved, good relations with at least some of her family members, acceptance into a community where she was appreciated and seen for who she was. Oh, and didn’t she have a whole lot of mind-blowing sex, honey baby? She did, of course she did.

Deep gratitude to the femme in the picture. Her life is an integral part of the queer femme history that blesses and informs our present-day queer femme lives. 

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! New Femme Friday feature for fall 2018: Books from which queer femmes can draw inspiration. What are your trusted sources of light and love? Please share!

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)



Published in: on November 9, 2018 at 5:17 PM  Comments (5)  
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