Meditations for Queer Femmes — The Road to Femme

Tex and I saw “Fun Home” this weekend. It was incredibly moving to witness queer story so impeccably presented with such talent and love. The two of us held hands, quite misty, as Small Alison sang “Ring of Keys”, a song celebrating that moment when a young queer spots an adult queer and realizes that she is not alone in the world. Recognizes herself. Carly Gold, playing Small Alison, is a wonderful actor, portraying that pivotal moment with such ebullient joy. It was deeply satisfying.

Later, though, I got to thinking. When or how does this happen for femmes? Our role models are almost always straight women; I think of my grandmother, my aunt, a college roommate. But that powerful zing of connection, “Hello! I’m like you! You’re like me!” that “There I am!” moment may very well not be part of our childhood experience, and even if we do briefly experience queer connection, we are so very good at denying it, trying, in our isolation and confusion, to make it fit into a heterosexual mold.

In Lee Lynch’s story, “Cannon Street,” the little butch protagonist meets an adult femme and experiences some of her first sexual feelings. If we are a femme who is romantically attracted to butches, we, too, might feel sexual stirrings if we ever have the luck of glimpsing an adult butch out in public or of having a crush on a tomboy. But even those feelings can be pretty difficult to interpret. As my straight college roommate encouraged me to do, we might think of them as just a wrong turn having to do with an excess of hormones and horniness. Not to mention the fact that this connection is sexuality-based, which is important, of course, but is only one part of a fuller femme identity.

Every one of us queer femmes is so different. Some of us are expert at constructing an identity. “Maybe we’ve never seen one that could be us yet,” writes Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha in her poem “femmes are film stars”. “but we make her up,” she continues, “we make her up outta thin air; outta brilliance and ass.” Others of us, more timid and cautious like myself, need books and all kinds of other bolstering and specific examples in order to find, let alone progress on, the road to femme.

If our femme role models are all straight, as they are likely to be, then they actually aren’t role models. They might be great at teaching us how to put on eye makeup or choose an outfit, they might love us to bits, we might need them desperately, but in the end, they can actually be obstacles on the road to femme.

At a recent Femme Klatsch, we discussed ways of being out as queer femmes. I like to wear my Femme Show t-shirt; another femme always makes sure to be sporting a rainbow somewhere; all of us are as out as we possibly can be, at all times.

Being visibly queer for we femmes is certainly not as self-evident as it is for butches or more androgynous lesbians, but it is so incredibly important, for our own self worth, for queer femme community, and for the next generation whose paths we will certainly cross.

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.

 

 

Femme Friday – Andi Schwartz

Toronto-based femme, Andi Schwartz, is an academic, a poet, a journalist and a fur baby mama (their names are Franny and Zooey, ‘cause I know you want to know!). In her paper, “Critical Blogging: Constructing Femmescapes Online,” she says, “that femmes politicize online space by using blogs as tools to engage in identity production, community building, and political theorizing.” Hey, FUCK YEAH!!! Among other writing, she has two gorgeous poems in Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s “hard femme poetics: a poetic anthology of femme literary brilliance” and truly one of the best blog names ever: Emotionally Nauseous.

Deep gratitude to Andi Schwartz!

It is important to understand femme blogging as political because it disrupts notions of what is considered political, who gets to participate, and who gets to decide. If femmes are excluded or face oppression in more traditional forms of political resistance, then they might forever be excluded from political discourse. If we shift our ideas around what is political and what is resistance, and where and how this all happens, we see a broader range of femme political participation. This combats stereotypes of the passive, apolitical, dependent femme, and helps to reconstruct femme as powerful and agentic. Changing how we view “politics” and “the political” means changing how we view femme. This nuanced view of politics and political activity can also be applied to communities who experience barriers to other forms of political participation that get minimized by the term “slacktivist,” including youth, people with disabilities, people of colour, and undocumented immigrants, permanent residents, or others with restrictive citizenship status. These ideas must be challenged so that marginalized communities’ resistance and theorizing can be recognized, valued, and utilized to create more nuanced and inclusive politics.

–Andi Schwartz, “Critical Blogging: Constructing Femmescapes Online” in ADA: A Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology, #9

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com.

 

Femme Shark Friday – Fuck Yeah! We are all Femme Sharks!

Deep gratitude to all the femme sharks, to Leah, to Zuleikha, and to you and you and you and you!

FEMME SHARKS DON’T EAT OUR OWN.
FEMME SHARKS LIKE TO EAT THOUGH
FEMME SHARKS RECOGNIZE THAT FEMMES COME IN ALL KINDS OF SIZES AND EACH KIND IS LUSCIOUS. WE WORK TOWARDS LOVING OUR CURVY, FAT, SKINNY, SUPERSIZE, THICK, DISABLED, BLACK AND BROWN FINE-ASS BODIES EVERY DAY. WE REALIZE THAT LOVING OURSELVES IN A RACIST/SEXIST/HOMO/TRANSPHOBIC/ABLIST/CLASSIST SYSTEM IS AN EVERY DAY ACT OF WAR AGAINST THAT SYSTEM.
FEMME SHARKS DON’T THINK ANOREXIA IS CUTE.
WE THINK EATING A BIG-ASS MEAL IS SEXY.
WE SAY SCREW “HEIGHT WEIGHT PROPORTIONATE PLEASE” IN CRAIGSLIST WOMEN SEEKING WOMEN ADS AND IN LIFE.

WE HAVE BIG MOUTHS AND WE KNOW HOW TO USE
THEM. DON’T FUCK WITH US! ASK US IF WE WANT TO FUCK THOUGH !

FEMME SHARKS WILL RECLAIM THE POWER AND DIGNITY OF FEMALENESS BY ANY MEANS NECCESARY.
WE’RE GIRLS BLOWN UP, TURNED INSIDE OUT AND REMIXED.

FEMME SHARKS ARE OVER WHITE QUEERS OBLIVIOUSNESS TO QUEER OF COLOR, TWO SPIRIT AND TRANS OF COLOR LIVES.
WE KNOW THAT WE ARE A CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
WE’RE OVER WHITE FEMMES AND BUTCHES WHO THINK THAT FEMME ONLY COMES IN THE COLOR OF BARBIE.
WE’RE OVER BUTCHES AND BOYS AND OTHER FEMMES TELLING US WHAT WE NEED TO DO, WEAR OR BE IN ORDER TO BE “REALLY FEMME.”

FEMME SHARKS RECOGNIZE THAT FEMMES, BUTCHES, GENDERQUEER AND TRANS PEOPLE
HAVE BEEN IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR SINCE FOREVER.
THAT BEFORE COLONIZATION WE WERE SEEN AS SACRED
AND WE WERE SOME OF THE FIRST FOLKS MOST VIOLENTLY ATTACKED
WHEN OUR LANDS WERE INVADED AND COLONIZED.
FEMME SHARKS WON’T REST UNTIL WE RECLAIM OUR POSITIONS
AS BELOVED FAMILY WITHIN OUR COMMUNITIES.

FEMME SHARKS AREN’T JUST DIMEPIECES AND TROPHY WIVES
FUCK THAT!
WE MIGHT BE YOUR GIRL,
BUT WE’RE OUR OWN FEMMES.
WE RECOGNIZE THAT FEMMES ARE LEADERS OF OUR COMMUNITIES.
WE HOLD IT DOWN, CALM YOUR TEARS, ORGANIZE THE RALLY, VISIT YOU IN JAIL, GET CHILDCARE HOOKED UP, LOAN YOU TWENTY DOLLARS.
FEMMES ARE WELDERS, AFTERSCHOOL TEACHERS, ABORTION CLINIC WORKERS, STRIPPERS, WRITERS, FACTORY WORKERS, MOMS, REVOLUTIONARIES DEDICATED TO TAKING THE SYSTEM THE HELL DOWN SO WE CAN BE FREE!

FEMMES ARE LEADERS IN TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS/ DEFENDING OUR QUEER AND TRANS OF COLOR COMMUNITIES.
WE USED OUR STILETTOS AS WEAPONS AT STONEWALL.
WE WERE THE TRANSWOMEN WHO FOUGHT BACK AT THE COMPTON
CAFETERIA
WE’RE THE GIRLS WHO STARE DOWN ASSHOLES STARING AT OUR LOVERS AND FRIENDS ON THE SUBWAY.
WE WALK EACH OTHER HOME
ACT CRAZY ON THE BUS TO GET ASSHOLES TO MOVE AWAY
AND KNOW HOW TO BREAK SOMEONE’S LEGS
WE SHARE WHAT WE KNOW.

FEMME SHARKS STAND UP FOR THE NEW JERSEY FOUR AND EVERY OTHER QUEER AND TRANS PERSON OF COLOR IN THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX FOR DEFENDING OUR LIVES.
WE BELIEVE IN SELF-DEFENSE AND SELF-DETIRMINATION.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A RIGHT TO DEFEND OURSELVES AND OUR COMMUNITIES
AGAINST ANY KIND OF ATTACK-
FROM ASSHOLES ON THE STREET
TO RACIST WHITE CLUB OWNERS WHO WANT THREE PIECES OF ID
TO FOLKS WHO INSIST THAT WE’RE STRAIGHT.
TO PEOPLE WHO TAKE OUR LAND.

WE REMEMBER OUR DEAD- SAKIA GUNN, GWEN ARAUJO, AND MANY OTHER QUEER AND TRANS POC WHO DIED BECAUSE OF RACIST, HOMO/TRANSPHOBIC VIOLENCE
NOT AS A POLITICAL STATEMENT
BUT AS WOMEN WE LOVED IN REAL LIFE
WOMEN WHO COULD’VE BEEN US OR OUR LOVES.

WE ARE NOT GOING TO BE LEFT OUT OF “THE STRUGGLE.”
NOT THIS TIME.
WE’RE NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE.

FEMMES GODDAMN WELL KNOW HOW TO STRAP IT ON, CHANGE THE OIL IN THE CAR AND PUT UP SHELVES.
WE CAN DO ANY GODDAMN THING WE WANT!
THAT’S WHY WE’RE FEMME SHARKS!
FEMME IS NOT THE SAME THING AS BEING OUR MOMS
FEMMES ARE BEAUTIFUL AND STRONG WHEN WE BOTTOM
AND WE’RE HOT AS HELL WHEN WE TOP
OUR BOTTOMING AND TOPPPING ARE BOTH GIFTS TO BE MET WITH RESPECT.
WHEN WE TAKE OUR LOVERS FIST ALL THE WAY INSIDE
ASK FOR WHAT WE WANT
BE THE BEST DIRTY GIRL
OR MAKE OUR LOVERS FLIP
WE’RE A FUCKING MIRACLE.
IN THE WORDS OF JILL SCOTT, “YOU GOTTA DO RIGHT BY ME. IT’S MANDATORY, BABY.”

FEMME SHARKS SHOP AT ROSS, FOXY LADY, VALUE VILLAGE, THE HM $5 RACK, TORRID AND THE DOLLAR STORE , AND KNOW HOW TO SHOPLIFT
WE CONCOCT BRILLIANT STRATEGIES TO LOOK FINE
ON TEN DOLLARS OR LESS.
WE’RE ONLY “INVISIBLE” IF YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO LOOK FOR US.

WE TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER
RECOGNIZE THAT FEMMES ARE EACH OTHERS’ WEALTH
HOS BEFORE BROS, ALWAYS!
FEMME SOLIDARITY AND LOVE FOR EACH OTHER
IS A REVOLUTIONARY FORCE
WE BELIEVE IN GIRLS LOVING GIRLS, RESPECTING EACH OTHER’S BRILLIANCE
NOT FIGHTING OVER BOIS OR BUTCHES
NOT TRYING TO BE THE ALPHA FEMME
WE’RE ANTI-DRAMA
BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF COMMUNITIES THAT HEAL HURT, APOLOGIZE, LISTEN TO EACH OTHER AND MAKE THINGS RIGHT.
WE BELIEVE IN BUILDING OUR QTPOC COMMUNITIES STRONG

FEMME SHARKS WERE THERE WHEN FRIDA KAHLO HOOKED UP WITH HER
GIRLFRIENDS
WHEN JOAN NESTLE, CHRYSTOS, JEWELLE GOMEZ, ALEXIS DE VEUX, SYLVIA RIVERA, DOROTHY ALLISON, MINNIE BRUCE PRATT AND AMBER HOLLIBAUGH MADE QUEER FEMME HISTORY
WHEN ZAPATISTA WOMEN HOOKED UP
WHEN OUR COUSINS WERE MAKING OUT IN THE WOMEN’S SECTION OF THE MASJID
WHEN OUR GRANDMAS AND QUEER AUNTIES SNUCK OUT AT NIGHT
DIDN’T GET MARRIED TIL LATE- OR AT ALL
HAS A BEST GIRLFRIEND
AND STOOD UP FOR HER
FEMME SHARKS WERE THERE.

FEMME SHARKS ARE IN THE BODIES OF COUNTLESS SEX WORKERS, NEIGHBORDS AND LADIES WAITING FOR THE BUS AND IN THE LINEUP AT CENTURY 21.
AT RIIS BEACH, FUNKASIA, LOVERGIRL NYC, BUTTA, MANGO, MANHATTAN’S, DESILICIOUS, AND BIBI!
FEMME SHARKS LIVE ON THE REZ, IN CAPETOWN, NEWARK, OAKLAND!!!!!, THE SOUTH SIDE, NEW ORLEANS, COLOMBO, JUAREZ AND BROOKLYN SUBURBIA, THE FARM, AND LITTLE SMALL TOWNS.
WE’RE IN FOSTER CARE, THE PSYCH WARD, JUVIE, AND ABOUT TO BE EVICTED.

WE ARE SURVIVORS WHO ARE MORE THAN WHAT WE SURVIVED.
WE ARE FIGURING OUT HOW TO HEAL
AND HOW TO MAKE IT SO THAT NO ONE
WILL HAVE TO SURVIVE SEXUAL VIOLENCE EVERY AGAIN.
WE BELIEVE IN THE TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF THE SYSTEM AS WE KNOW IT
TO MAKE SOMETHING MUCH MO BETTA
AND WE BELIEVE IN MAKING OUR OWN WAYS TO FIGHT AND RESIST
ON THE DAILY.

A FEMME SHARK IS ANY GIRL
WHO IS TOUGH, HUNGRY, FIGHTS FOR HERSELF AND HER FAM
AND IS WORKING ON BECOMCING THE KIND OF GIRL
WHO FINDS GOD IN HERSELF
AND LOVES HER FIERCELY

WE’RE YOUR BEST GIRLFRIEND AND YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE

LOVE AND RAGE
THE FEMME SHARKS

FEMME SHARKS ARE ON PATROL!
JOIN THE MOVEMENT! SHARK SHARK IT UP!

FOR MORE INFORMATION, EMAIL

THEFEMMESHARKS@GMAIL.COM

Written by Founding Femme Shark Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

The Femme Sharks are an idea that was dreamed up by SBBFFF (Slutty Brown Best Femme Friends Forever) Zuleikha Mahmood and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha in March of 2008, Oakland, CA.

This work is shared under a Creative Commons license- feel free to share if you give credit where cred is due.

Thank you to Bevin Branlandingham over at QueerFatFemme for reminding me about this femmepassioned manifesto! Bevin, your Femme Friday day will come!

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess (or a whole frenzy of Femme Sharks!). I want to feature you! Email me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me feature your beautiful, unique, femme story!

 

 

Meditation for Queer Femmes

Generations work differently for queers. It’s interesting to think that a femme who comes out in later years may well have more in common with a femme 20 or more years her junior, one who had the resources and support to come out as a teen, than she does with a straight woman her own age. In the same way, a femme in her 40s can become a queer elder, whereas a straight elder won’t achieve that honor until their 70s or later. We queer femmes live through so much, walk through so much fire. How many of us had to make ourselves up “… out of brilliance and ass”, as Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha says in her poem, “Femmes are film stars”? Most of us had no femme sisters, no best femme friends. Our sexualities are counter culture and we flaunt and represent even when our straight age mates are perming their dyed hair and retreating into I’m-no-longer-sexually-active “sensible” clothing. We femmes fought so hard to find our heart’s delight – years and years, for some of us, not until post menopause, for some of us – and so we dash headlong into our joy, flaming, blooming, shouting. We are not invisible.

In John Preston’s novel, The Arena, initiates into the old-school world of power and submission become more sublimely human as they go ever deeper into serious explorations of their sexuality and true nature. We femmes, too, come into our power the more we understand and act on our own individual femme directives, the closer we come to our soul purpose. We femme angels, born to bless the world! What gifts do you offer to your family and community, dear femme sisters, simply by your fierce dedication to plumbing the delicious depths of your queer soul?

Every Monday, I will 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: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer, sick, and disabled nonbinary femme writer and cultural worker of Burger/Tamil Sri Lankan and Irish/Roma ascent.

This generous, brilliant femme gifts the world with her wild and gorgeous prose and poetry, and well as editing, performing and doing social justice advocacy. She has been published in a whole bunch of anthologies like Femmethology and Octavia’s Brood and her own books include Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home and Lovecake. Please read more about this prolific, inspiring femme on her website, http://www.brownstargirl.org/, and whet your appetite for more of her essential queer art with the sample below.

Deep Gratitude to Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha!

 

Femmes are film stars

in the movies of our lives

Instead of dishwater we choose danger

grab belt buckles, smooth lip gloss

and make eye contact

We put Bollywood to shame

We’re the stars of our own danger-filled whirlwind

There are dramatic plot twists and more edge-of-the seat moments

than you can believe

and suspensions of disbelief?

Girl, you know we suspend disbelief

do shit ain’t nobody supposed to be able to pull off

We’re our own romantic epic

like Frida in Paris

Audre in Mexico

standing on two tree-trunk thighs

planted firm and swishing

When we’re girls and someone said diva

we breathed in that word

and it turned into a glimpse of a woman we saw once

on a multiplex screen

a beautiful lady

who shone in her skin

and rose out of it

Maybe it was our favorite aunty

or our mama when she was young

Maybe it was Frida or Rosario

Maybe we’ve never seen the one that could be us yet

but we make her up

we make her up outta thin air

outta brilliance and ass

from “femmes are film stars” by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Visible: A Femmethology Volume Two, edited by Jennifer Clare Burke

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

Published in: on December 2, 2016 at 2:51 PM  Comments (1)  
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