Meditations for Queer Femmes – Your Family Heirloom

We queers have such complicated relationships with our families. There’s full-on rejection, full-on idealization and “I’ll do anything to keep the love” and everything in-between. I’m talking about families across the board here, of origin and chosen. How many of us queer femmes dated boys and men because our families of origin expected it? How many of us queer femmes de-girlied ourselves when we (finally) came out because our new queer family expected it? Then one day, if we’re lucky, another dyke tells us she likes it when we wear lipstick. Maybe we have enough courage to tell her we like it when she wears lipstick, too, or we buy her a tie for her birthday “just for fun” and shit gets way more real all of a sudden. Or we might realize our single aunt, the one who moved away to a big city or to a remote farm and who has always been spoken of with scorn or pity or both, is actually twice family and has a rich and rewarding life. Information about her real life may have been unavailable to us as children, but it is waiting for us now if we just reach out.

Humans love knowing where we come from, where certain traits, tendencies, gifts and hurdles might have their origin. Who in our families (all our families) might have worked out a thing or two concerning life’s great questions.

I started thinking about family heirlooms after reading a passage by Chögyam Trungpa in his book, Crazy Wisdom. The passage is about hopelessness, which I think ends up actually being about hope, or anyway, about accepting that life can be really hard right at the same time that it is full of sweetness and wonder. In Al-Anon, they talk about “the gift of desperation” that brings someone to this under-the-radar (at least it was for me) spiritual program. And it’s true, because as much as I hate alcoholism and addiction and how they’ve hurt so many people I love including myself, I’m incredibly grateful that I’m learning to stop spending all my time drilling down on the negatives and being miserable. Instead, I’m finding the strength, support and love to be able recalibrate and refocus. Human experience is big. There are so many ways of being in the world.

Our family heirlooms – because there are so many once we direct our attention there – are solid reminders of our humanity in all its rainbow glory. I remember and draw sustenance from the way my Gramps took care of kids in his rural school district during the Depression, feeding them from his garden, buying one young man a suit so he could graduate high school with dignity; from the cheerful example of Grandmimi, who lit up her small Iowa town organizing and including and fully participating in just about everything; how my parents quietly reached out to neighbors and taught me that one little act of kindness and community ripples outward; how John Preston and Joan Nestle got together to edit Sister and Brother: Lesbians and Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together and model deep queer community by linking their disparate queer worlds; by the way Lee Lynch lovingly wrote and wrote and wrote and continues to write about butches and femmes; how so many queers over the ages managed to leave us their priceless stories – a few who have touched my life over the years (there are so many!): Miss Ann Lister, Quentin Crisp, Anonymous, Amber Hollibaugh, Audre Lourde, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Leslie Feinberg, Richard Rodriguez, Felice Picano, Chrystos, Mary Renault, Tove Jansson, Becky Birtha, Mark Merlis, Samuel Steward, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, James Baldwin, and I could go on for pages…

I am bolstered and inspired in who I am and who I strive to by these many, many family heirlooms.

Dear queer femme sisters, spend a moment today in gratitude for your families and what they have bequeathed to you.

 

The passage that inspired this Meditation:

Student: When you talk about hopelessness, the whole thing seems totally depressing. And it seems you could very well be overwhelmed by that depression to the point where you just retreat into a shell or insanity.

 Trungpa Rinpoche: It’s up to you. It’s completely up to you. That’s the whole point.

 S: Is there anything –

 TR: You see, the whole point is that I’m not manufacturing an absolute model of hopelessness with complete and delicately worked-out patterns of all kinds, presenting it to you, and asking you to work on that. Your goodness, your hopelessness, is the only model there is. If I manufactured something, it would be just a trick, unrealistic. Rather, it’s your hopelessness, it’s your world, your family heirloom, your inheritance. That hopelessness comes in your existence, your psychology. It’s a matter of bringing it out as it is. But it’s still hopeless. As hopeful as you might try to make it, it’s still hopeless, and I can’t reshape it, remodel it, or refinish it at all. It’s not like a political candidate going on television, where people powder his face and put lipstick on his mouth to make him presentable. One cannot do that. In this case it’s hopeless; it’s absolutely hopeless. You have to do it in your own way.

–Crazy Wisdom by Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala, 2001

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

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.”)

 

 

Meditations for Queer Femmes – Lay It Down

I recently began attending Al-Anon meetings due to the struggles of one of our sons with drugs and alcohol. It’s been an incredibly volatile time for me emotionally. While I am so grateful to be able to find loving help, I am devastated by the implications of my femme ass sitting in meeting after meeting: my baby is in trouble; my baby is in trouble.

In one of the meetings, someone said, “I think Al-Anon works for all isms.” Heterosexism, too? I wonder… Along with feeling powerless over substances, I for sure feel powerless over homophobia and every form of industrialized oppression out there. Talk about something being bigger than me! Talk about something causing my life to become unmanageable! Talk about it being way too much for me on my own. Love may be love, but it’s not always – or ever? – enough, and it certainly wasn’t enough for my observant, creative, deep-feeling child not to internalize the cultural and social toxins to very bad effect. And really, are any of us undamaged?

Right after Trump was elected, my butch, Tex, attended a conference where Ayanna Pressley was the keynote speaker. In 2009, Ayanna was the first woman of color to be elected to the Boston City Council. At the conference, she spoke about how she managed to re-enter the fray, every blessed day: every morning she prays and meditates, and every Sunday she goes to church. She urged the shocked and mourning audience to embrace a spiritual practice, to find some way of laying things down. When Tex thanked her for her words later, she asked if she could give her a hug. Of course, Tex said yes, and it was a very sweet hug; a generous and loving gift. We agreed that Ayanna recognized that my butch husband, like herself, is a visible target for bigots, and is someone in need of comfort and love.

We queer femmes are not always visible targets of homophobia, but we are harmed just as deeply by the hate. When we are assumed participants in foul talk or behavior, when we are ignored, when our lives are presumed to be “queer lite” or some kind of experiment or joke, our souls take a hit. Over and over.

I was born in 1962, and in my heart, I am still a hippy child, and my spirituality has to do with nature, natural systems, warm fuzzies, and community. Alas, my intellect, formed in the “nothin’ matters and what if it did” 80s, fights me every step of the way on this. How and when can I lower my cynical shields to find the Bigger that Ayanna spoke about and wished for my butch, that Al-Anon names “Higher Power” and “the God as you understand Him”?

I don’t exactly know, and perhaps you don’t either, sweet femme sisters. Or perhaps you do, and you find solace in a queer femme spiritual practice that blesses you and those around you. For me, in the way of these things, as I try and stay open to what I need, I just came across this quote by the artist Mark Adams: “Our encounters with nature – and animals in particular – reveal in us a rootlessness that is essentially human. Ecologists say that nature is partitioned into niches, roles that each animal or plant is born to fulfill – not exactly a purpose, but a kind of appropriateness for each life in nature. For us, this is a source of envy and awe. Catbirds, bees, toads – they call and navigate with certainty while we spin in bewilderment.”

I’m beginning to understand that it’s ok to recognize the spin. It’s ok to say, “I am so fucking bewildered!” It’s ok to lay it down, even if you don’t know exactly where and how. It’s ok to ask for help, even if you don’t believe in anything other than pain. If that’s all that’s been real to you. All and every one of these things and more are ok, because that is how we begin to heal.

May you continue to heal today. May you allow yourself to dip a toe or throw yourself bodily into the flow of love and spirit and now and art and be. May you find comfort, even if it’s just a glimmer in the corner of your eye. It is there. You are whole. You are beautiful. You are not alone.

Lay it down.

Every Monday, 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.

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.”)