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.


for Liz

 Although the mean-spirited, straight, cis prurience of Diane Wood Middlebrook is the main thing that has stayed with me from her biography of Billy Tipton, I also remember the poignancy of how eager, shy and proud Billy was to finally have someone witness a queer life lived in so much secrecy. Billy can finally say to someone, “This is what I did; this is how I did it; these were my triumphs; these were my questions; these were times when I was lonely, troubled, didn’t know what to do, but somehow I got through…” In this case, Billy’s witness is cravenly untrustworthy, but at least she was a witness.

Yesterday, I kissed my sweet hubby goodbye at 4:30 am and watched as she was carried off in the cab for the first leg of her trip to Texas, where she will be keeping her mom company through hip surgery. Luckily, given I was immediately very lonely, I had a femme lunch scheduled with Liz Nania at my favorite queer café, the Diesel.

“Talk to me about queer culture,” Liz said. What a treat to get right into it with another femme artist, deep thinker and generous organizer of queer community who had just scored the cutest bag at a neighboring thrift store!

One of the things that surfaced in the following conversation was family. Running through queer history is the theme that we do our best to take care of each other, with whatever resources we have. I’m thinking Contact Dykes from Lesbian Connection; Houses in ballroom culture; rainbow flags, pinky rings, pierced ears and hankies and so many other signs and signals helping our people find each other. Finding each other, most of us know – especially those of us who’ve been around a while – is essential. Finding each other is life saving.

For several years, our library has run a Queer Book Group, a delicious mix of queers of all ages and so much fun that Tex and I recently started holding an offshoot at our house: Historical Queer Book Group. One of the core members of both groups is in her early 20s. When she emailed yesterday that she needed a temporary place to stay due to a break up, there was no hesitation from me or from the other home-owning dyke couple she’d reached out to: of course you can stay with us! We understood that her friends were unlikely to have room for a sudden guest. Here was a moment when we older queers could step in, be there in our successfully married, 30-years-down-the-line queer lives. And be there to witness.

So this morning, I got to talk literature over breakfast, and last night, I heard a little about the breakup and talked a little about my own experience in queer love and heartbreak.

“This is why I love the intergenerational part of QBG!” she said at one point.

My house guest is at work right now, and I’m working from home. Tonight we’ll meet up at QBG and then she’ll ride home with me in the Femmemobile.

I just know we’ll have a lot to talk about.




Aaaaand…I know you wanna know what we’ve read in QBG and HQBG! Here it is:


The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

The Faggots and Their Friends Between the Revolutions by Larry Mitchell

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde


QBG (a very partial list)

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie March

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Under the Udala Tree by Chinelo Okparanta





Published in: on March 29, 2017 at 12:26 PM  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

As Much Tongue As Possible

I don’t know a ton about Solstice celebrations, but I’m getting ready to cobble something together for tonight’s supper. Tex, Owen, Seth back from college, my mom, my dad and I will sit down with beeswax candles burning, bits of holly from our front yard bushes strewn about, and pretty white carnations in small vases here and there on the table. I’ve got in mind a reading about impermanence, transition, the more things change…

Tex and I are once again project managers of a move for my parents, this time from their rented house down the block to an assisted living unit. The facility is less than two years old and all the folks we’ve dealt with over there have been very kind and very helpful.

We’d been told not to wait until it was an emergency, and it isn’t an emergency, not quite, but my incredibly stoic mother is stressed more than I’ve ever seen her. It turns out my dad is getting more and more “grouchy”, as she put it, by which she means he’s refusing to do anything, won’t shower, and swears and is abusive to her when she tries to awaken him in the morning. Add to this mishegas about their cat (too boring to go into, but the cat is psycho and needs constant care), and she’s about ready to topple.

A friend of ours told us about an assisted living facility in town – her mother is there – and a unit just came up, not a moment too soon.

Last year at this time, we went as a family to a play at the high school, and my folks came to the Christmas Eve service I sing in. This year, not a chance. Not only is my father unable to track anything for that long, he’s got to be close to the bathroom or there might be calamity. Like watching a kitten grow, it’s been hard to notice how much more debilitated he’s become, but it is time, it is past time, to get them more support.

This morning, Tex took my mother over to the facility to look at the unit. It’s not perfect, and it’s quite small, but once they get in there, they’re first in line for other units that come up. And once in there, my mother can get up, go downstairs for a cup of tea and to read the paper, and someone else – a professional someone else – can deal with rousing my dad, helping him shower, getting him his breakfast. “Every single member of the staff has been trained on dementia,” the staff member who was showing them the unit told them. “There’s nothing we haven’t seen, and nothing we can’t handle.” Tex said my poor, wrought up mother’s whole body sagged with relief, and tears came to her eyes. The woman I have never seen cry except for at the bedside of her just-deceased father!

Tex said she told the staff member that my father had been a scholar of 17th century philosophy, had honed his mind his entire career, and that neither of them could have imagined that he would lose that mind, and that both of them were completely without recourse. “We will help you,” the kind staff member repeated, and Tex and I were both crying when she told me about it.

“You start to empathize a little too much,” a sweet gay man in Ptown told Tex when the two of them got to talking about elderly parents this fall (in the way you can get to talking with queer strangers in Ptown). “You start to imagine your body is going down, your mind is going – and that might happen, you will get old, but not yet, honey. Not yet!”

This morning, when Tex and my mom got back to their house, Tex and I were in the basement, assessing the books and file cabinets, figuring out what to move. Suddenly, Tex pulled me into a fierce hug and whispered, “We’ll get through this, baby, and it will help if we have as much tongue as possible!” Since then, we’ve been kissing in corners all day, in-between tears, in-between serious conversation.

My father slept until noon, then came out of the bedroom wearing the orange toque we gave him for his birthday, drew himself up, and asked, “Are we moving?”

I can’t imagine what the world is like for him now – a strange planet. He asked me at the library the other day if I was checking out books (I was returning them in the bin) and he couldn’t seem to remember what cds were, but he is being so brave. We’ve learned that he might not be able to remember details, but that he retains the emotions around things, so we are telling him that we love him, that this is to give his overwhelmed wife some relief, that it will be all right.

Next week, the two of them will be living in a new place, having to learn new routines, but safer and more cared for.

Tonight we’ll light candles and read together and share a meal, as we’ve done so many times since we had to move my folks here a year and a half ago.

Calling back the light. Celebrating the green. Loving each other.

Published in: on December 20, 2015 at 4:25 PM  Comments (3)  
Tags: , ,