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.”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meditations for Queer Femmes — In Provincetown Last Week

In Provincetown last week, we took part in the 2017 Women’s Week, and oh, the glory of it all!

In Provincetown last week, the local paper had a story about the hijinks lesbians used to get up to back in the day, including a Halloween prank that involved a blonde called Trashette getting her butt whipped “with a couple of adorable little apartment sized whips” and then being faux branded on her leather-clad ass by a group of randy dykes.

This is not the kind of local news we get here in our Boston suburb.

Today at QSA check in, the kids asked me if I wanted to share, so I told them about how Tex and I were in Provincetown last week for Women’s Week, our yearly delight. I told them about how being in Provincetown always astounds me because I can be fully who I am. They knew exactly what I meant. “You can be yourself without always being the science experiment!” one QSA member said. “You mean straight people can act like themselves all the time?? What??” We talked about how here, you’re “the gay one”, whereas in an all-queer culture, it starts with being queer and just goes deeper. Queer is the foundation but not the entirety.

In Provincetown last week, a butch/femme couple from Indiana came to our butch/femme pop up at the Harbor Lounge, and we had fun horrifying them with the prices of real estate (“$200,000 for a heated 2-car garage!” etc.), which, I think, made them feel pretty good about all the land and real estate they have back home, much less pricey, much more roomy. Not many other queers, though, no real queer community.

We are so lucky to be near enough to Provincetown and financially stable enough to get down there as often as we do. For health, happiness, and spreading the love, we constantly think about how to carry back the comfort and inspiration Provincetown’s queer culture affords us. It isn’t easy to be both generous and self-protective enough that you can gather around you a varied, loving friend and colleague group made up of people who can see you as a whole person, around whom you can let down your guard a bit and bust out.

In Provincetown last week, we bathed in the gorgeous light, took our queerness to new depths, and rededicated ourselves to art and community and open-hearted healing.

In Provincetown last week, I thought of you, femme sisters, wherever you may be, and I wished and still wish for your complex and unique femme selves to blossom and bloom to the oohs and ahs and endless appreciation of all who behold!

Every Monday (or Tuesday), 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.

 

Published in: on October 17, 2017 at 4:41 PM  Comments (2)  
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Making Queer Culture – Meditation for Queer Femmes

The presidency of Trump has given those of us who might have been in a gentle slumber an opportunity to wake up. We have always needed the shared strength of other queers, from the homophile movement to combatting indifference to our health concerns, especially in regards to AIDS. Not only do we need each other’s individual wisdom, humor and support, we need to be lifted up by our queer culture.

At the National Day of Mourning this year, several of the speakers shared stories about ancestors coming to them in dreams. That gift is only available when a people has deep, cellular knowledge of their own cultural heritage. We queers need the knowledge of our own queer cultural heritage. We need the strength that comes from knowing our own unique art and literature and humor and cuisine. We need the strength of our forebears as well as that of queers of all ages. Gathering our people around us to make and partake of queer culture will give us the strength we need.

So throw a themed dinner party. Start a queer salon. Request that your local library sponsor a queer book group (see Arlington, MA’s Robbins Library’s Queer Book Group for inspiration). Do a queer Feed and Read (a potluck combined with reading out loud together the queer story or novel or poetry of your choice). Invite other queers over to watch queer media and/or plan and execute political actions. Plan a femme fashion show or a butch/femme barbeque. A dance, a field trip, a writing group.

We cannot rely on the scraps thrown to us by straight culture, and we cannot afford to wait for better days, because the world needs our queer resistance right now.

We need our ancestors to come to us in dreams.

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 February 6, 2017 at 8:21 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Lay your sleeping head…

Yesterday at the homeschoolers QSA, we had our check in, as usual, and at one point, one of the members muttered that some people were saying that 2016 was a cursed year.

“Let’s go around and say some good things that happened, then,” I suggested.

So many good things! One member is excited to have graduated to pointe shoes; another that her 18th birthday was this year; a third that a lifelong dream to be in a Gilbert and Sullivan show had come true. As for me, it’s simple: this was the year I thought my mother was going to die, and she didn’t. At 85, she is perhaps a titch more forgetful than before, but her enthusiasm, curiosity and sense of humor about the world are back in force, and I am SO GRATEFUL!

This has been a hard year, though. My work with queer youth has acquired so much more urgency and weight, my desire for queer culture grows daily, both for them and for myself, I am needy, wacky, freaked out, beside myself and all betwixt and between.

In fact, such is my volatile post-election emotional state, that I burst into tears when I read in Lambda Literary that Michael Nava has just published a new mystery called Lay Your Sleeping Head. AND THE TITLE IS FROM AN AUDEN POEM! Oh, Michael! Oh, Wystan! Oh, beloveds!!!

When he published Rag and Bone in 2002, the 7th Henry Rios mystery novel, Nava said that it was the last one. No more Henry, no more gay life in L.A., no more nuanced, gorgeous, queer Latino mysteries. It was wrenching, the loss of a literary friend, but I respected Nava’s desire to move on to other things, and have been waiting for the right time to read his novel, The City of Palaces.

But now, I can re-read all 7 mysteries, starting with The Little Death, and when I get to the end, it won’t be the end! What a gift. And the poem, the poem. I’m working on memorizing it, and I type it for you here.

May our 2017 bring solace in the form of oodles and oodles of ever-lovin’ queer art!

Lay your sleeping head, my love,

Human on my faithless arm;

Time and fevers burn away

Individual beauty from

Thoughtful children, and the grave

Proves the child ephemeral:

But in my arms ‘til break of day

Let the living creature lie,

Mortal, guilty, but to me

The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:

To lovers as they lie upon

Her tolerant enchanted slope

In their ordinary swoon,

Grave the vision Venus sends

Of supernatural sympathy,

Universal love and hope;

While an abstract insight wakes

Among the glaciers and the rocks

The hermit’s sensual ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity

On the stroke of midnight pass

Like vibrations of a bell,

And fashionable madmen raise

Their pedantic boring cry:

Every farthing of the cost,

All the dreaded cards foretell,

Shall be paid, but from this night

Not a whisper, not a thought,

Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:

Let the winds of dawn that blow

Softly round your dreaming head

Such a day of sweetness show

Eye and knocking heart may bless,

Find the mortal world enough;

Noons of dryness see you fed

By the involuntary powers,

Nights of insult let you pass

Watched by every human love.

W.H. Auden, January, 1937

My People! My People! Sister Me!

While I am still in the throes of extreme embarrassment, I write this hasty post: just now at the grocery store, I noticed a cheerful young queer with a huge star tattooed on her elbow. Being in something of a cheerful mood myself, I said to her cheerfully, “You went a lot bigger than I did!” and showed her my own, much more modest star, on my wrist. We fell to chatting, and she showed me her most recent tattoo, then asked if I was going to get another. Did I say, “Yes, but I’m not sure what yet?” and leave it at that? No. I had to go into a whole description of Hot Head Paison, Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist and how I want to get her tattoo because it’s time for a little of that energy, know what I mean, know what I mean?

Tex would say, “Baby, remember, you don’t feel like it, but you’re middle aged and you’re a grown up, and young people are skittery and shy and don’t always understand that grown ups are actually people like themselves…” Plus, I’m usually around young queer people who get me and are, for the most part, fond of me. Anyway, this particular young person, instead of smiling and sistering me, (“sister”: when a queer out in public derives pleasure and joy from recognizing a sister queer and a certain happy look comes into their eyes and their shoulders relax and the two of you are free to engage in friendly queer-flavored banter) shuttered her face and gave me a neutral and vaguely alarmed glance. Dang it!

I’ve been thinking a lot about queer culture. How non-contiguous it is, how most of us, especially in the suburbs, don’t have access to it. There are no queer centers in this area, and we have found that offering queer-only space to queer youth is of interest to only a few, given that queer kids are told that they are “welcome” everywhere. At Queer Mystic, we’re beginning to work on a new model of support for queer youth: fostering queer culture with queers of all ages. Whether they are able to articulate it or not, we believe that queer youth need and benefit from queer culture: understanding queer history, meeting queer adults and elders and hearing their stories, participating in queer cultural events such as concerts, art exhibits, open mics, plays, etc. The more situated in your culture you become, and this is true for everyone, the more you are able to find yourself, the more you can rock your own power.

I am kind of laughing at myself right now, how I keep getting myself in embarrassing situations due to my undimmed expectations that all queers should sister each other, that they want to. I was reminding a straight friend yesterday that I’m really only about 24 in queer age, since that’s as long as I’ve been out, and so my queer sometimes may not seem to line up with my middle-aged face and body. I can be very enthusiastic!!! I hope that, after the shock wears off that a random middle aged lady said “homicidal lesbian terrorist” to her while she was just trying to stock the nut shelves, my young queer friend may come to enjoy the fact that another queer sistered her.

At the same grocery store just now, there was a butch femme couple, maybe 20 years older than me. I smiled and smiled at them, but unlike with the young queer and our tattoos, there was no easy way of making them see me as queer. If I’d been able to, though, I bet they would have sistered me.

Published in: on December 22, 2016 at 11:57 AM  Comments (1)  
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