Meditations for Queer Femmes — Where Do We See Each Other?

“One of our few (if only) seven-nights-a-week gay dance clubs is closing on September 16th,” writes Billy Masters in his 9/12/2018 column, which I read in Bay Windows. “Paradise in Cambridge (MA) has a special place in your beloved Billy’s heart. That was the first club that hired me to host a show – their Sweet 16th birthday party. Once I had a mike in my hand, there was no stopping me. And now, there’ll be no stopping me from saying we’ve brought this on ourselves. Support your gay businesses – or soon there won’t be any.”

And in her 1994 collection of sexy short stories, Behind Closed Doors (more on this book later!), Robbi Sommers writes “Whenever two lesbians find themselves alone in a group of straights, a magic camaraderie occurs. Sooner or later, they cross the room and strike up a conversation. It’s a basic lesbian phenomenon – strangers, ex-lovers, enemies. No matter how things were yesterday, in a straight environment, we gravitate.”

The times are changing, the face of homophobia is changing, queer culture has changed so rapidly that it seems we hardly know who each other is, we hardly know what it is we share and where in the hell we can have interesting and generative conversations with one another. We’re good at pointing out each other’s inconsistencies and hypocrisies, good at drilling down on our own identities and, especially the younger set, really good at finding each other online, but how else are we communicating with each other? What do we count on each other for? Expect from each other? What kind of help can we give each other? How do we show queer love and support across the board, to all the beautiful letters of the ever-expanding alphabet, in all walks of life and at all ages?

Answers to those questions seem heart-breakingly elusive at the present moment. Speaking with youth and individual queers around town, hearing about their daily compromises, losses, isolation, and challenges, usually directly related to homophobia and heterosexism, I often find myself wondering what the next iteration of queer community will be, sans places like the Paradise and sans the secret handshakes.

Visibility is an answer, of course it is, but what does that mean, exactly? I can remember when queer publications celebrated any representation of queerness, even if the queer character was a villain or a ludicrous, insulting stereotype. We spend so much time fighting for honest representation in popular culture, as if that’s the only place that matters. It matters, of course, but there’s a huge difference between seeing yourself (sort of) reflected in an ad for hard liquor and feeling a visceral connection to a little girl singing, “Ring of Keys”. That little girl – both the character and the artist who birthed her — experienced the incredible gift of an adult queer walking into her actual life. If we are lucky, something comparable happened in our lives, and we were blessed and healed by the experience. Seeing some semblance of queer on tv can also be powerful – I was just listening to the Butchies song where there’s mention of Ellen coming out, which is something none of us around then will ever forget – but it isn’t real in the way a human being you meet or even just glimpse is real. It isn’t real in the way a teacher, family friend, neighbor, or other member of the place where you live is real. It isn’t real in the way living, breathing, complicated and visible real-live queers are real.

On the cover of the latest  Advocate, one of the last standing queer publications, we see a sweet photograph of a group of young queers, illustrating the story, “The Kids Are All Right: 20 Years After Mathew Shepard’s Death, Today’s LGBTQ Youth are Living in a Very Different World”. Glaringly lacking is any representation of female masculinity. The lesbians (a couple) and the trans woman are very girly in the “traditional” sense of the word. I would be lying if I said this doesn’t upset me, but for the first time, I thought to turn my energy elsewhere. Rather than trying to kick ass by challenging the rapid and uncaring barrage of information, that information that is everywhere and nowhere, I am dedicating myself even more to my own queer art. Art is timeless and deep and meaningful in ways the artist sometimes doesn’t even understand herself. Art connects and teaches and sends out love, a steady heartbeat. You can come back to art again and again, finding new meaning, new inspiration. Art changes as you change. Art is always there for you.

As much organizing and activism I’ve done for the queer community, as proud of that as I am, I’m beginning to understand that, for me, the most radical and lasting gift I can offer up is my queer femme art. That to ignore that call – louder every minute — is to capitulate to the confusion and rage stirred up by constantly reacting.

Dear femme sisters, what are your gifts? How do you embrace them? How do you love them and nurture them?

Our gifts are unique. Sacred. Beautiful and varied. Each of you, my darlings, my miracles, each of you manifests your queer femme gifts like the goddesses you are. Each of you blesses the world.

This is how we carry queer community into the now.

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.”)