Meditations for Queer Femmes What Is Femme?

In the 1935 novel, A Scarlet Pansy by Robert Scully, the pansy protagonist, Fay Etrange, encounters “an anomalous-looking masculine woman, Miss Bull-Mawgan, and her inseparable friend, Elsie Dike”. My heart leapt, and then sank again when the author writes (on p. 99), “Elsie always kept close to her friend for fear that some of the money would be spent on another one”. Oh, yeah, keep telling yourself that, I thought. Keep telling yourself that Elsie is just a user, has found herself a sweet meal-ticket. She couldn’t possibly be attracted to that abomination. Oh, no! There could never, ever, be such a thing as a female who prefers female masculinity over male masculinity. It goes against the order of things, don’t you know. Even Fay Etrange, the most feminine of fairies, can see that! Where there is no penis, there can be no genuine (healthy, normal, real, etc.) sexuality.

As regular readers of this blog may know, my friend Constance is in the habit of politely inquiring of likely passers by if they identify as butch/femme. Sometimes they do, and are happy to chat. Sometimes they get huffy, and declaim self-righteously, “No labels!” Speaking of labels, Tex and I routinely get called, “Ladies”, something most of our butch/femme couple friends are familiar with and something that is particularly frustrating in a place like Ptown, where you would think other queers would be aware enough to go for the less gendered “folks” or “people”, especially if one of the “ladies” is wearing distinctly masculine clothing. At a recent Femme Klatsch, one of the participants started out saying, “I’m not sure I belong here…” and ended the evening having enjoyed herself immensely. “Femme” comes in and out of focus: is it a role? a label? an insult? a passing trend? an embarrassment? a weakness? a joke? something we shouldn’t mention in polite company?

Like any identity, femme is infinite. What kind of femme are you? Who are your femme role models? What nurtures your femme? These are questions we ask at Femme Klatsch, and the answers are as varied as the participants. While femme may not click for the vast majority of people, that doesn’t mean we femmes should follow their lead. What nurtures my femme? Not taking my unique, beautiful, complex, thrilling, delicious sexuality for granted, nor allowing others to ignore or denigrate it.

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was a fabulous straight femme, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

Published in: on July 24, 2017 at 11:26 AM  Comments (2)  
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Meditation for Queer Femmes: Be Very Queer

It is astounding to me how many of the artists and writers I was exposed to as a child were queer or had queer sensibilities. Tove Jansson; Louise Fitzhugh; William Sleator (I just found out he was raised in the St. Louis suburb where I grew up!); Harper Lee; Thomas M. Disch; Samuel L. Delany; Queen; David Bowie; Buffy Sainte-Marie; the Smothers Brothers; Christopher Isherwood; Joanna Russ; Susie Orbach; George Takei; Maurice Sendac; Mr. Rogers. Many more that I’m not remembering.

These were the authors and artists from whom I was receiving information about creativity, imagination, how to live a good life. I was deriving intense enjoyment from them, grappling, in their company, with increasingly urgent questions about what it means to be human and female. Some of them were out, I learn now, a hundred and two years later, but then, as a child and teen and young adult and even into my 30s, I did not have access to that information, nor did I know that an artist or author could be queer and also be trusted with the big questions addressed by art and literature. I didn’t know this because the importance of queerness in art had been discounted and/or hidden from me by the straight conspiracy to predate on queer creativity without acknowledging queer lives. It didn’t help that my father, who adored science fiction and good literature, art and poetry, and who was my creative role model, enjoyed this art by queers despite the fact they were queer, rather than being able to have an expansive enough understanding of the intertwining of creativity and personhood to actually hold up the art as being wonderful in large part because of the artist’s queerness.

At the time, there just wasn’t the language for bringing queerness into the conversation, or enough incentive to try and find ways to talk about art created by non-straights. Tove Jannson’s books about the Moomintrolls were a touchstone of my growing up and my entire family read them over and over, referred to them constantly (as in, “Oh, don’t be such a fillyjonk!” and “Nake no totice!”) and basically absorbed them into the very fiber of our beings. I don’t suppose I knew Tove was a dyke until my 30s, and when I found out I was both utterly delighted and completely furious that this information had been withheld from me. I wish I had known as a child that so many of the reasons my quirky family loved the books were because they were written by a lesbian, and a lesbian has different ideas about gender and sexuality than a straight woman. This is freeing for everybody, not just baby queers. There is a central heterosexual couple in the Moomintrolls – Moominpapa and Moominmama – but none of the other characters or couples are particularly gender conforming, expect perhaps the Snork Maiden, who might also be read as femme, come to think of it. And there’s a totally fabulous butch, fyi: Too-ticky, who lives on her own out in the boathouse and who wears a fetching striped jersey and tam-o’-shanter and who was modeled after Tove’s partner, Tuulikki “Tooti” Pietilä, and don’t you think this butch-lovin’ femme would have benefitted from knowing that as a wee sprite? Don’t you think seeing this picture might have had a positive effect, even then? (Scroll down, after you’ve admired the handsom Too-Ticky!)

Because it’s not just teens who need to be able to see fully out adult queers engaged in making queer art, who need models of grown queers so that they can imagine themselves as adults. It’s children and even toddlers, who benefit from knowing that there are more ways of loving each other than the straight model which is rammed down their throats the minute they appear on earth and get the pink or the blue, the teasing about boyfriends and girlfriends, and yes, this begins immediately, just take a look at pictures of newborns and listen to parents talking about their infants.

Just as butches must answer truthfully and with love the innocent questions about their gender from young children, so must we femmes be open about our sexuality and our non-straight lives. I know it can be easier not to say anything, to let it slide – it can be really embarrassing talking to kids about sexuality and sexual behavior — but it is a particular queer femme responsibility to find ways to talk about our queer femme lives to children because many of us are so easily read as straight. To step up and give children language they can use, as well. The way I explained butch/femme to my kids when I began to date butches was something like: I’m a girl who looks like a girl and I like girls who look like boys. It was a start, anyway. The language got more complex as the kids got older, but the bottom line was that we began to have ways of talking about non-straight sexuality, which, thank goodness! huzzah! is so much more complicated than “some boys like boys and some girls like girls”.

The queer sensibility I intuited from queer artists as a child has been and is deeply meaningful to my queer life, but I do mourn that I had to work so hard at it. Even now, although there has been progress, queer artists are not at all out from under the “despite of” mentality in the creative world. Or they’re magical unicorns, one of a kind, genre or one-note-Sallys (because who needs more than a couple of works about queers – been there, done that!), strident, boring, didactic, limited, unnecessary.

Fuck that. Queer culture and art is lifesaving. We queer adults — writers, readers, artists, lovers of art — must never forget it.

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was a fabulous straight femme, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

Femme Friday — Kitten LaRue

Goodness, what a fine and happy time I had at Kitten and Lou’s “Holier Than Thou” show the other night! I was not raised in any religion, but I did have my heart broken by the UUs as an adult, and that is extremely mild given how toxic and death-dealing organized religion is and has been to queers. To so deftly examine such a huge, fraught topic through an extremely queer lens, using generosity, love and some serious hot and nasty, is truly a gift beyond compare. I am left with great admiration for Kitten’s dedication, creativity, skill and sheer fabulousness, and for her willingness to queerly and bravely use her art to address the biggest and most complex issues, not just to condemn, but also to heal.

Deep gratitude to Kitten for her high femme genius!

I asked Kitten to talk about performance and femme, and this is what she told me:

Thoughts on performing femme-ness in my work:

I believe that presenting and performing femininity is a radical act, now more than ever. In this current political climate, reclaiming and presenting the exaggerated trappings of high femme glamour on stage (big wigs, big lashes, high heels, sequins, and glitter) as a source of power, self-examination, and a way to subvert the male gaze has felt like a form of revolt for me….a revolt against the current administration and culture which views women as objects to be controlled, and a climate that makes all humans that present femme feel unsafe and less powerful.

VIVA LA FEMME! 

 

 

KLR:SinInLinen:DeborahSpencer.jpegKitten&Lou:EliSchmidt:Sailors:jpeg.jpegKLR:markmitchell:nybf.jpg

About Kitten LaRue:

“Polished, clever, and glamorous…” (Dita Von Teese)

“Kitten LaRue is like the Patti Smith of Seattle burlesque.” (Burlesque Seattle

Press)

“Seattle’s biggest contribution to burlesque since Gypsy Rose

Lee” (Seattlest)

“She’s an independent creative force and a woman of multiple pioneering

talents” (Burlesque Seattle Press)

 

Kitten LaRue is the Artistic Director, Producer, Choreographer, and a starring

member of Seattle’s critically acclaimed burlesque supertroupe, THE ATOMIC

BOMBSHELLS, and one half of celesbian dancing duo, Kitten N’ Lou, winners of

Burlesque Hall of Fame’s “Most Comedic” title, and voted the #1 Burlesque

Performers in the world (Burlesque Top 50). As an original member of New

Orleans’ legendary Shim Sham Revue, Kitten has been at the forefront of the

international Burlesque scene since 2001, featured in numerous U.S and

international media, including Bust magazine, GQ magazine, USA Today, Tease!

magazine, MTV.com, Seattle Magazine, Emmy-winning series Full Focus, The

Craig Kilbourne Show, The Discovery Channel, Chase Jarvis’ Seattle 100, and

was featured on the cover of The Stranger and Boston Spirit Magazine. Most

recently Kitten appeared on PBS dancing with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett for

their Cheek To Cheek Live concert.

 

At the helm of THE ATOMIC BOMBSHELLS, Kitten has produced and toured to

packed theaters in the U.S., China, and Europe, was a headlining performer at

The Burlesque Hall of Fame’s Legends showcase, has shared the stage with

such luminaries as Dita Von Teese, Tura Satana, and Lady Gaga, and continues

to produce wildly successful events all over the Northwest and abroad, including

The historic Moore theater in Seattle, a sold-out headlining spot at the

Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival, and a yearly summer residency in

Provincetown, MA. Kitten LaRue has also made her Off-Broadway debut at Ars

Nova in NYC, and produced an Australian tour with The Atomic Bombshells in

2015.

 

Kitten LaRue is also 1/3 of powerhouse homo-fabulous production trio

DeLouRue Presents (FREEDOM FANTASIA, Homo For The Holidays, PARTY

SCHMARTY) with Lou Henry Hoover and BenDeLaCreme, and is the creator of

the now-legendary Seattle club event TRAINWRECK.

http://www.kittenlarue.com

http://www.theatomicbombshells.com

https://www.facebook.com/kitten.larue

 

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

 

 

 

 

Meditations for Queer Femmes: Remembering

Yesterday, Tex and I were chatting with our landlord here in Ptown, and the subject of caretaking elderly parents came up. We told him about moving my folks from their house three years ago when my dad was in a health crisis.

“We had two and a half weeks to move them and put their house on the market, and their 40 years of collecting books and objets d’art from all over the world didn’t make our job any easier,” said Tex.

“We got rid of so much so quickly,” I chimed in. “Some of it I regret, but it’s ok. I still have it in my head.”

I meant that I have memories of the way my mother carefully annotated and filed informative and edifying articles from wildlife magazines, or the way my father put his book collection together: Extreme Sports; Extreme Living; Extreme Exploring; every single Stephan King book ever written; first editions of books by every member of the St. Louis Mafia; Beat Poetry, etc., and that those memories are rather nice ones. Our landlord surprised me by making a little moue of sympathy, expressive and dear as only a kind and lovely gay man can make it, and I realized that, for him, having all that stuff in his head would not be rather nice.

And so I started thinking about memories. Whether they burden or uplift. Why the ones that float to the surface do so and what it means to have forgotten so many other moments. Every time I pass a certain house in our suburban town, for example, I remember that it was where Seth was first given candy. The elderly lady who did the deed couldn’t believe our toddler had been so deprived. I had been trying so hard to keep him pure and healthy, delay sugar pollution as long as possible. It’s a memory that brings up conflicted feelings, to say the least. Is that when his difficult path began? Is that where I definitively failed him as a parent, something that informed the rest of his childhood in some deep and negative fashion? I pass that house almost every day! I would certainly be much better served by a daily remembering of something else about Seth’s toddlerhood, something wonderful, dear, deeply positive, but it’s the candy that haunts me and connects me to present-day difficulties.

I also, of course, carry many memories pertaining directly to my queer femme journey. Like the Candy House, so many of them continue to deliver the sting of the initial reaction I had to the event in question: the time a butch was deathly rude to me at a Butch Femme Bash and Tex nearly had to duel him at dawn; the time, or rather times, other queers have spoken harshly, dismissively, angrily about femme identity; the absolutely horrible time I left a straight female friend in danger with a man who had given us both a lift hitchhiking. It’s all very well for me to try and comfort myself by saying I truly did not understand what was going on due to my naiveté, extreme youth, and the queerness that I wouldn’t be able to recognize for years and years; the memory still gnaws at me whenever I think of it.

Memories are memories of memories, a member of our Historical Queer Book Group recently told us whilst we were discussing Hothead Paison, a work that brought up a lot of memories for those of us of a certain age. It’s a comment Tex has been repeating, as it blew her mind. And if memories are memories of memories, and it makes sense to me that they are, then perhaps we’re remembering emotional responses even more than the events in question, emotional responses that continue to inform our lives currently, whether positively or negatively.

The butch I dated before I fell head over heels for Tex had a deep resentment of femmes, and told me several awful stories about how femmes had fucked her over. Hearing her speak like that about femmes made me feel anxious, wary of her, and somewhat uncertain of my own actions, especially since I was just coming into my femme again after a very difficult lesbian divorce. At the same time, this butch seriously turned me out, bringing me back into my body, making love to my curves and stretch marks and shy places and utterly glorifying my newly awaked femme.

Any leader or teacher understands the influence one negative or hostile person can have on any given group of people. If allowed to do so, that person will suck all the air out of the room, bring in angry and contentious energy, and force the group to go in unhealthy directions, just like that, in the blink of an eye. It takes a skilled leader to prevent a counter-productive free-for-all when that pollution is unleashed.

We know that memories of abuse and trauma can live in our bodies. What about positive, loving memories? Don’t they also live in our bodies, couldn’t we invite them to be more present and curative? I believe this is the purpose of the before-bed exercise where you write 100 positive things you remember about the day: the moonlight on the water; the cute Italian greyhound named Gia and her two cute daddies; kissing Tex on Commercial Street; the dyke server at brunch who called me “baby”; overhearing a young gay man say to his companions, “Oh, girl, they were canoodling so hard!” And that’s just five!

It is particularly important in this time of hostility and violence, to remember queer and positive events that are connected to loving queer energy. Long-ago touches from your first queer lover. The way your best friend hugged you when you came out. The excitement of finding out a long-dead relative was queer, and that her journals are just sitting there, up in the attic of your grandmother’s house. A look, a wink, a sistering; the time at the Not Another Fucking Lesbo Potluck you all got to laughing so hard that one of you let out the mother of all farts and that made everyone laugh even harder.

Bring up queer events from your queer lives and revel in the emotional sustenance.

Gird yourself with your own queer history. Hold up the queer humor and kindness you’ve been lucky enough to receive. Open yourselves to memories of queer family. Use your skills.

Reach back and remember.

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was a fabulous straight femme, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

Femme Friday – Dorothy Allison

I heard Dorothy Allison read from Bastard Out of Carolina way back in the day at the late-lamented feminist bookstore, New Words in Inman Square, Cambridge, MA. I already owned her previous books, The Women Who Hate Me and Trash. It was wonderful to hear her speak about writing as a queer person, at a time when I was only newly out and wondering how that was going to work with my newly-minted MFA in Creative Writing. It was wonderful to hear her read her queer story. Her femme story.

Rae Theodore over at The Flannel Files just posted about an adorable encounter with Dorothy on an Olivia Cruise, reminding me that Dorothy has been on my Femme Friday list for some time and this Friday is all hers!

Deep gratitude to Dorothy for writing her own truths in stories, essays, poems and novels and for so tenaciously championing the power of all queer story.

      (Since yours truly is in Provincetown, the oldest continuously operating art colony in the US as well as one of the only culturally queer places I’ve ever been, it seems like the below is a good sample of Dorothy’s work to feature.)

The first painting I every saw up close was at a Baptist church when I was seven years old. It was a few weeks before my mama was to be baptized. From it, I took the notion that art should surprise and astonish, and hopefully make you think something you had not thought until you saw it. The painting was a mural of Jesus at the Jordan River done on the wall behind the baptismal font. The font itself was a remarkable creation – a swimming pool with one glass side set into the wall above and behind the pulpit so that ordinarily you could not tell the font was there, seeing only the painting of Jesus. When the tank was flooded with water, little lights along the bottom came on, and anyone who stepped down the steps seemed to be walking past Jesus himself and descending into the Jordan River. Watching baptisms in that tank was like watching movies at the drive-in, my cousins had told me. From the moment the deacon walked us around the church, I knew what my cousin had meant. I could not take my eyes off the painting or the glass-fronted tank. It looked every moment as if Jesus were about to come alive, as if he were about to step out onto the water of the river. I think the way I stared at the painting made the deacon nervous.

            The deacon boasted to my mama that there was nothing like that baptismal font in the whole state of South Carolina. It had been designed, he told her, by a nephew of the minister – a boy who had gone on to build a shopping center out in New Mexico. My mama was not sure that someone who built shopping centers was the kind of person who should have been designing baptismal fonts, and she was even more uncertain about the steep steps by Jesus’ left hip. She asked the man to let her practice going up and down, but he warned her it would be different once the water poured in.

            “It’s quite safe, though,” he told her. “The water will hold you up. You won’t fall.”

            I kept my attention on the painting of Jesus. He was much larger than I was, a little bit more than life-size, but the thick layer of shellac applied to protect the image acted like a magnifying glass, making him seem larger still. It was Jesus himself that fascinated me, though. He was all rouged and pale and pouty as Elvis Presley. This was not my idea of the son of God, but I liked it. I liked it a lot.

            “Jesus looks like a girl,” I told my mama.

            She looked up at the painted face. A little blush appeared on her cheekbones, and she looked as if she would have smiled if the deacon were not frowning so determinedly. “It’s just the eyelashes,” she said. The deacon nodded. They climbed back up the stairs. I stepped over close to Jesus and put my hand on the painted robe. The painting was sweaty and cool, slightly oily under my fingers.

 –“This is Our World” by Dorothy Allison; first appeared in the 1998 issue of DoubleTake

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

Meditations for Queer Femmes — Calling on Queer Femme Company

Since arriving in Provincetown a few days ago for rest and renewal and the first real vacation Tex has had all year, both she and I have found our tolerance for straight people has taken a serious nosedive. Straight people in Provincetown can come in a variety of flavors, but most of them seem to expect queers to be, if not thrilled that they’ve chosen to partake of Ptown’s pleasures, at least polite. Straight people are used to queers being polite to them. We want what they have, after all – you know, marriage and normalcy which only they can confer — and also, queers so often take it upon themselves to model what a truly “all are welcome” society might look like by lavishing generosity, time and energy on straight people who drift in and out of their lives. The trouble is, as Tex and I discussed on the beach last night, trying not to see the straight couple making out in the gentle evening wavelets, most straight people only know how to take and never give. They actually seem to believe that taking from us is something that we desire and that we should be grateful for. And then they move on, leaving us exhausted and drained and most detrimentally, with little to no energy for exploring and living with integrity our own queer lives. Whatever those may look like, and that’s hard to know, given that we’re almost only ever in straight culture.

I know that my queer femme soul is both inspired and harmed by the anger I carry towards straight people. I am inspired to voice ideas and, if I’m lucky, solutions for myself and for other queers as we attempt to swim with the straights. I am harmed by undying anger, that flares up and has unfortunate consequences. That makes me feel mean and small-spirited and that, ironically, hampers my ability to enjoy being in one of the few places on earth where the culture is about as queer as it can be and where I am so incredibly lucky to be spending time.

Dear, queer femme sisters, I do not have an answer for this anger thing.

I need you to talk to me about what you think and what you do.

Who and what are your supports when you are in the heights of fury?

How do you keep your queer femme soul from being wounded and bled out?

Speak to me, darlings, bolster me with your words.

Out here on the tip of the land, I need your queer femme company.

Every Monday (Tuesday, or even Wednesday!), I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was a fabulous straight femme, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

 

Published in: on July 5, 2017 at 8:28 PM  Comments (2)  
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Femme Friday — Lesléa Newman

Many of you may know Lesléa (pronounced Lez-LEE-uh) Newman as the author of Heather Has Two Mommies, but she is also a big ol’ femme who has been in the public eye for many years, writing, speaking, mentoring and just generally being visible as heck. With 70 books under her bodice, there’s a lot to read by this fabulous femme, but my favorites are two of her books from the 90s: Out of the Closet and Nothing to Wear and Little Butch Book. I also love and appreciate The Femme Mystique which she edited in 1995. What are your favorites?

Deep gratitude to Lesléa!

When I sent out a call for manuscripts for The Femme Mystique, I got hundreds of replies. Some women shared my story of being a femme until adolescence, only to give it up and then take it back again. Other women wrote about being tomboys and not discovering their femme side until later in life. I heard from femme tops, femme bottoms, high femmes, ultrafemmes, femmes who sleep with other femmes, femme-on-the-street-butch-in-the-sheets femmes, furious femmes, future femmes, and forever femmes.

 Many femmes wrote about the frustration of being perceived as heterosexual, both in the straight world and in the lesbian community. Many femmes wrote about the pain of unhappy childhoods, unlike many butches who knew from an early age why they felt different. Many femmes wrote about the rage they feel when they are assumed by straight and gay people alike to be “just another pretty face.” And many femmes wrote about the joys of being femme, the sheer pleasures of our sensuality and sexuality that make it all worthwhile.

 Here are our stories. It is my hope that this book will offer an understanding of the many ways there are to be femme. I thank Sasha Alyson for entrusting me with this project and all the women who sent me their poems, essays, photographs, and stories. I would also like to thank all the femmes who came before me, gracing the world with their beauty and their bravery. And to all the femmes who come after me, I say this: each femme has her own mystique. Find yours, and never let anyone take it away from you.

Lesléa Newman, June 1995, The Femme Mystique

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

 

 

                                                                                            

                                                                                               


 

Inspiration and Connection vs. Appropriation — Meditations for Queer Femmes

I am not unaware that there is something potentially naff about me, middle-aged white femme, running around town in my mini van, aka The Femmemobile, blasting Shai’s “Blackface” album and really fucking getting into it. Usually, the title song makes me tear up, in fact, despite how many times I’ve heard it. I just relate so whole-heartedly to its message of self-acceptance, love, and the importance of art. I am comforted and inspired by it.

One personal reason I like this 90s R&B band so much is that my musical taste was deeply influenced by the fact that my high school was mostly black and I came of age listening to Sugarhill Gang and Parliament and Sly and the Family Stone, but I believe that queers in general and femmes in particular are extremely good at picking up on messages of life and love from other oppressed minority groups. It’s kind of like a superpower.

At its best, this queer superpower is connective rather than acquisitive. We intuitively lean into and appreciate the shared humanity of other folks outside of the mainstream who are punished for being different. Really, I think our superpower helps us understand and relate to all kinds of folks. As James Baldwin wrote, “It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

Certainly, we femmes are experts at finding comfort and power and love in the nooks and crannies of the world. Art from a great variety of cultures, most of which are not the one I grew up in, helps ground me and gives me inspiration and strength to be my most genuine self, and from there I make my own art.

I hope that my appreciation of art that is not culturally mine is and remains respectful and non-acquisitive. I hope my writing and organizing uplifts not only femmes and other queers, but also other folks who are loving and justice minded.

That the theme, as we used to say in literature class, is universal.

Every Monday (or Tuesday), I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was a fabulous straight femme, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

Published in: on June 27, 2017 at 5:40 PM  Comments (2)  
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Femme Friday — Millie, from Trumpet by Jackie Kay

Darlings, I did not reread this beautiful novel for this post, as I did not have time, but I started it again, and was immediately drawn back in to this compelling, queer story. What had stayed with me was the sweet, hot love between this white femme and her husband, a passing woman, the black jazz trumpeter, Joss Moody, who she meets in Glasgow in the 50s. Have any of you read Trumpet? Tell me, talk to me! And while you’re at it, do you have a favorite fictional femme?

Deep gratitude to Jackie Kay for writing truth about Millie for all of us.

       It is dark now outside. The streetlamps cast their yellow light on the streets. A lot of us leave The Wee Jazz Bar at the same time. We look like people that have just been created out of the night, people who have just landed on the planet all at once together with the same pioneering, fierce look on our faces. We move along in our long coats with the collars turned up. It is windy. The wind blows a can along the street. Tonight is the night. Joss holds my hand tight as if he’s protecting me from something.

            He walks me right to my door. He goes to kiss me on the cheek, but changes his mind and kisses me full on the mouth. He grabs me up in his arms, sweeping my face towards his. He pulls me closer against him till my feet almost rise from the ground. His breathing is fast, excited. I open my eyes and stare at him whilst he is kissing me. His eyes are tight shut. He says my name as he kisses me over and over again. I feel like I am dying. I take his hand and lead him up the stairs to my small flat. I hope Helen is sound asleep, tucked up in her little bed.

            But when we get up the stairs, everything changes. Joss doesn’t throw me on my bed like I am expecting. He paces the room. ‘Sit down,’ I say. “Make yourself at home.” I’ve gone all shy. The intimacy of my own bedroom has made strangers of both of us. He sits down on the edge of my bed looking terrible, troubled. ‘What is it, Joss, what’s the matter?’ There is something he has to tell me. Something he should have told me ages ago, months ago, but couldn’t. He was afraid that if I knew I would stop seeing him. I feel sick. ‘Knew what?’ My mind is racing. Maybe he’s married; maybe he’s got one of those men’s diseases; maybe he’s committed a crime. I don’t know what it can be. I catch myself in the mirror. My hair is all out of place; my eyes look as wild as his. I can tell it is something serious, but I try to laugh it off. I ruffle my hands through his hair and kiss his cheek. ‘It can’t be that bad,’ I say. ‘Nothing is when you are in love.’ It is the first time I have ever told him this. It makes him more unhappy. He actually looks like he is going to cry. He tells me he can’t see me any more, just like that. I don’t believe this is happening. The moon is full outside the window, gaping in. The night is a lie. I want to go to sleep. I want to stop him talking and climb into my bed with him and fall asleep in his arms. I don’t care what he has done. I don’t want to know what he has done. He is saying he is sorry. The big moon gawps at me. It is strangely excited. I feel as if my world is turning mad.

            I knock my night cream off my dresser. Something in me just blows. ‘You can’t do that,’ I tell him and I find myself hitting him on the chest, crying. He gets angry with himself. I can hear him swearing under his breath. Then I hear him saying, ‘Forgive me.’ And he gets up to go. But I can’t have that. I grab him and pull him back. He is taller than me. I can’t shake him with my full force. So I shout instead. I don’t care about waking anybody up. I scream at him, ‘An explanation, you owe me an explanation. What’s the matter with you? Are you sick? Have you killed somebody?’ The strange thing is he already feels like he belongs to me. My anger makes him mine. ‘You really want to know, don’t you,’ he says in a voice I can’t quite recognize. ‘You really want to know. I’ll show you then,’ he says. ‘I’ll show you what is the matter.’ He has a strange expression on his face, as if for a moment he is suspended, not quite himself.

            He takes off his blue jacket and throws it on my floor. He takes off his tie and throws that down too. His hands are trembling. I am trembling. I think maybe he’s changed his mind and he wants to make love. I think, shouldn’t he undress me first? I’m not sure. I try to remember what the couple of other boyfriends I’ve had have done. My mind goes blank. He is undoing the buttons of his shirt. He slows down now. Each button is undone so terribly slowly. Underneath the shirt is a T-shirt. He takes that off slowly too, lifting his arms up and pulling it from his waist over his head. He discards it. His eyes are determined. He looks at me the whole time. An odd look, challenging, almost aggressive – as if he is saying, ‘I told you so. I told you so.’ He pulls the next T-shirt over his head and throws that away too. He has another layer on underneath, a vest. His clothes are spreadeagled on my floor like the outline of a corpse in a move. The vest is stripped off as well. He looks a lot thinner now with all that off him. I’m excited watching this man undress for me. Underneath his vest are lost of bandages wrapped round and round his chest. He starts to undo them. I feel a wave of relief: to think all he is worried about is some scar he has. He should know my love goes deeper than a wound. ‘You don’t have to show me,’ I say. I feel suddenly full of compassion. ‘Did you have an accident? I don’t care about superficial things like that.’ I go towards him to embrace him. ‘I’m not finished,’ he says. He keeps unwrapping endless rolls of bandage. I am still holding out my hands when the first of his breasts reveals itself to me. Small, firm.

 –Trumpet by Jackie Kay, 1998

 Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

 

Published in: on June 23, 2017 at 5:17 PM  Comments (2)  
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A Vision — Meditations for Queer Femmes

We were packing up yesterday, after our anniversary weekend in Provincetown. We were dawdling, in no hurry to begin the drive back to our dreary Boston suburb. As I tidied (our landlord waives the cleaner’s fee if we leave things nice), I heard Tex call up to me. I got to the window just in time to see: an old person in a reclining wheelchair being pushed by a long tall leatherman, also old, wearing leather shorts, a leatherman cap, handcuffs hanging from his belt.

Tex nodded to the pair, then came upstairs to sit with me as I lost it. Those two unclenched something in me, love, hope, admiration.

“Talk about persistence!” I sobbed, and Tex said, “And insistence!”

Fierce femme sisters, persist in living your lives as your full queer selves.

Flag femme in all stages of life.

It doesn’t matter if you’re completely decked out like those brave Sunday Strollers, or if you wear it on the inside and proud, you darlings, you lovers, but wear it queer and wear it every fucking minute.

Before the election, we queers were teetering on the dangerous brink of assimilation. Now we are in danger of so much more hate and violence.

Show yourselves as complex, layered, divine beings, my queer femme enchanters.

Cast spells of connection among queers of all flavors.

We must be able to see our own diversity and gain inspiration from each other’s strength.

“I will never forget those two,” said Tex over supper. We were back in the burbs. Surrounded by straights.

We must never forget our true and queer natures.

Femme sirens, you must not.

I insist: You must not.

 Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was a fabulous straight femme, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.