Meditations for Queer Femmes – Seeing Femme

I’m old enough to remember being stunned with delight to see k.d. lang getting a shave on the cover of Vanity Fair, lo, these many years ago, and am still riding high on the thrill of Lena Waithe’s gorgeous cover feature in the same mag just recently. Go, queer representation!


I have been thinking about audience. When a butch is on the cover of a big ladies’ magazine, what is the message? Who is that cover talking to? We butch-loving femmes can certainly groove on it and squirrel our well-thumbed copy carefully away as a treasured keepsake, but are we included in the gambit? Do we even want to be?

I am grateful for and in awe of show business butches like k.d. and Lena, whose perseverance and incredible talent are epic. They deserve every bit of cover time and everything else they get for their work and their dedication to their art.

In addition, I know that k.d. and Lena are being their authentic queer selves in the artistic milieu that they love. It is inspiring and fabulous and it gives me strength and hope, and I believe k.d. and Lena are speaking to me and to other queers, as well.

However, I don’t believe mainstream media is thinking about me at all. Mainstream media is only ever thinking about and talking to its market audience: straight people.

It would certainly be exciting to see a femme on the cover of some magazine you flip through at the supermarket check out counter, but you know what? That might entail some explanation on the part of the magazine. It would certainly require a more nuanced understanding of the fact that there’s more than one kind of queer, and would mean giving up relying on a shorthand representation of queerness, where butches and effeminate gay men are always doing the heavy lifting. I’m not holding my breath, and at this point, I’m not even interested in taking on that battle, because mainstream media is not my friend. Never has been.

Queer femmes are constantly being told by straight people and even by other queers that we don’t look gay. What does it mean to look gay? Are there rules? How many of us queer femmes went androgynous or even butch when we first came out because that’s what we thought we were supposed to do in order to signal to other queers we were now part of the club? How many of us now dye our hair purple or make a point to always wear some kind of queer marker like rainbow jewelry or a gay t-shirt or buttons and still get pegged as straight every day, every day? How many of us continue to feel isolated and freaky and, miserably, can’t even recognize each other?

The skanky hands of the Media Man are not going to hand us deliverance, beautiful queer femme sisters. We must talk to each other, make art for each other, be visible in any way we can and open ourselves to queer femme community, and queer community in general, where we can explore our full selves. Be fully femme. Be fully queer. Only we can define that, through exploration and community and self love.

Today, I invite you to gaze with love upon each other. To gaze with love upon your unbelievably queer self in the mirror. Find each other, celebrate each other. Revel in the nuance, the infinite variations on the queer theme that we know in our own queer femme lives. Let those revels radiate outward and inward, nurturing your heart and mine.

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.”)