Meditations for Queer Femmes — Looking for Femme

In the haiku spirit of my dear friend Bill over at View From the Mantelpiece, here are a few queer femme musings in an era where the term FEMME has been popping up everywhere, even on mall t-shirts.

are you a real femme?

everyone has been asking

lovers and others

 

define femme for me

I can’t tell you where to look

or who really knows

 

my femme or your femme

our heartbeats so out of synch

periodically

 

the question lingered

answers came sporadically

femme growing older

 

unraveling femme

like a tisket a tasket

go deeper, go hard

 

funny you should ask

in the 90s I was so

cock sure of my femme

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.”)

 

 

 

Femme Friday – Ali Sands

I came across Ali Sands’ I Know Who You Are, But What Am I? A Partner’s Perspective on Transgender Love when I was browsing in Womencrafts in Provincetown last week. When I read on the back that this is Ali’s “memoir of finding her way through a labyrinth of changing identity from married heterosexual woman to lesbian lover to queer femme” I knew I had to have it!

Deep gratitude to Ali for her extreme generosity in sharing her story of loving her sweetheart through many changes, and for finding, reveling in and staying true to her own queer femme spirit.

(In this excerpt, from June 23, 2007, a young woman has just approached Ali, asking her about her sexuality, wondering if she’s straight now that she’s with a heterosexual trans man.)

            “Do you base your sexual identity on who you are dating?” I gently inquired. She pondered my question.

            “Well,” she said, “I guess not, but I thought I was a lesbian. Now it turns out I’m seeing a guy and I don’t even know what to tell all my friends and family anymore. My lesbian friends think I’m a sellout for seeing this trans guy, but I have really strong feelings for him and I’m just so confused!” she stated honestly. “You see” she continued “when we first got together he thought he was a lesbian too. Now that he has come out as transgender I don’t know what to think.” The pain was so evident in her young face and I felt immediately inadequate to be handing out trans-lover advice even at this stage in the process.

            “Well,” I began, “I can tell you this much about myself. As far as sexual identity goes I identify as queer. Part of this comes from being with Rhys over the last four and a half years. I am not queer because I am with Rhys and he is transgender, I am queer because I feel I could be in love with any individual, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.”

            WHOA. Did that statement of confidence just come out of my confused head? Perhaps I’ll be okay after all. What’s really beautiful is that each time I’m given an opportunity to explain or defend my relationship with Rhys, it brings about a clarity for myself that I didn’t previously have. This young woman desperately wanted me to give her a magic answer to her own questions of sexual identity, yet I knew that giving her any such thing would be a lie. In this situation I deferred to my role as the parent of my two adult children. I tried to convey to her the confidence that her answers are only for her to find.

–I Know Who You Are, But What Am I? A Partner’s Perspective on Transgender Love by Ali Sands, Transgress Press, Oakland, CA, 2016.

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story!

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 – Political Femme

Earlier this month, we had our February Femme Klatsch. We met at the mall, in a sprawling restaurant, six femmes from all different walks of life sitting together in a cone of femme space. Femme Klatsch was born through a collaboration with my sister femme, Liz, as both of us were craving regular femme community, especially now when there is so much anger and fear. Not only that, we wanted a place where we could focus in on topics relevant to our queer femme lives. It would be easy to sit together in femme love and chat about outfits, children, work, partners, dating, food, or what have you, and there is much healing and laughter in such casual femme-only events. Liz and I, however, have the goal of opening up space where we queer femmes can discuss and share our femme experiences; where we can delve more deeply into what it means to be queer femmes. One of the ways we encourage this is to have a collection of questions to jump-start discussion. At our last Klatsch, the question picked was, “How did you come out as femme?”

As my femme sisters spoke about coming into their femme identities, something new about my own femme identity began to coalesce; something about politics. I couldn’t quite articulate it just then, but now I can say that my claiming femme couldn’t happen for me until I was able to situate my politics in femme and my femme in my politics. For me, if it’s not about understanding and fighting systems of oppression, I don’t want to go. As a hard-core 70s feminist, I had quite a difficult time copping to acting “girly” – like letting my butch date open the door for me or pay for dinner – until I was able to understand that allowing a butch to care for me in this way was actually spitting in the face of patriarchy, exactly what I was doing when not allowing straight men to give me the “little lady” treatment. I had to come to understand that femme could include every aspect of the way I see the world through social justice lenses. I think one reason I wasn’t able to come out for so long as femme, one reason I thought femme could be discarded when I met and fell in love with a “regulah” lesbian, was because I had yet to find examples of how my radical politics could fit into what felt like, at the time, a sexual preference (my attraction to butches). I thought my politics would transform and inform my sexual and love relationships, no matter who I was with, and, of course, to some extent, that is true. But I am a femme who loves butches – loving butches is an integral part of my being femme – and it wasn’t until I was able to situate my politics in my particular way of being femme that I was able to claim queer femme as my identity. And then, oh glory, I could begin to discover who I really was instead of who I thought I was supposed to be or who I was pretending to be. Could, in fact, do nothing other.

My story and yours may intersect in some parts, diverge widely in others, but each is beautiful and rich and inspiring. There are so many millions of ways to be femme!

Today, take time to honor your femme story, alone or with one or more other femmes. I hope you will find something new, an insight or a different way of interpreting a familiar incident or memory. That you will hold your femme story, in all it’s imperfect perfection, and cherish it and know it is still unfolding. This complex, complicated, splendiferous being that you are: fully human, fully femme, fully you.

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.”)

 

 

Femme Friday – YOU, Gosh Darn It!

Ok, people, how many times do I have to say it? I WANT TO FEATURE YOU!

I want to share the love by introducing as many femmes as possible here, so there is a place for us to celebrate and honor each other. So that other femmes out there have a place to go when they start to wonder: What does it look like to live a femme life? Who are the other femmes alive right now? Who are the femmes from history? Who are my younger and elder sisters, aunts, grandmothers, foremothers?

I don’t want to guilt you, I want to invite you: if you are willing and able to introduce yourself just a little, and maybe offer a few thoughts for a Femme Friday post, that would be so fucking femmetastic!

Below is a step-by-step, but you can send whatever you’d like, as long as you’re centering it on Being Femme. Living Femme. Loving Femme. Femme Love Heal World!

Deep gratitude to all the femmes in the world, and that includes YOU!

For Femme Friday:

Very short bio. This could be anything!  Example: The Total Femme is a typewriter whompin’, card catalogue lovin’ white girl from back in the day, and I yearn for a time before the covers of trade paperbacks were all squidgy.

Answer one or more of the following questions (these are just examples – anything you’d like to talk about is fine, as long as it has to do with being femme!):

How did you come out as femme?

What does femme mean to you?

Who are your femme role models and why?

Do you feel invisible? Why or why not?

What do you do to nourish your femme?

Is femme a role or lifestyle? Why or why not?

Do you have femme friends? Do you all agree on what “femme” means?

What is your favorite femme art or literature?

Who or what inspires you?

AND/OR

Include artwork, prose, poetry or anything else you’d like to share with an audience of other femmes for our edification, celebration, amusement, etc.

Email me with questions or just send your contribution right along to: thetotalfemme@gmail.com. I can’t wait to hear from you! Oh! You could also recommend other femmes to me, both real people and characters in literature or the media. That would be fun!! Thank you, sweet sisters!

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story!

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.”)

Femme Friday – Me and You, the Femmes We Are

I began the journey to the femme I am when I read The Persistent Desire, when I read Stone Butch Blues. I knew I was a butch-loving femme right then, as those stories went straight into my soul.

When did you know? How did femme knowledge come to you? Was it when you read the Femme Shark Manifesto? How do you define “femme”? How do you spell it? How did you become the femme you are?

Does femme help you orient your life? Like a north star, a beating pulse, a bubbling spring? Does it show you what direction to go in?

What does femme mean to you?

The femme I am has everything I read and observe swirling around in my head as I try to make sense of what it means to be alive right now, to be queer, to be turning 56, to be the parent of adult children, the femme wife of my butch husband, the middle-aged daughter of old parents, observing my children mature, my husband sometimes creep, sometimes leap into her wisdom, and my parents inhabit the outer reaches of old age with grace, anger, humor and bluff.

The femme I am is a mentor to queer youth, an elder, even, a femme of a certain age.

Who is watching your femme, drawing sustenance from you? Who needs you? Who do you need?

The femme I am is often lonely for community. The femme I am is both safe and unsafe. The femme I am wonders what rights look like when they’re not just stuff the status quo has, but are actually about true equity for all living beings. The femme I am seeks comfort in sometimes healthy, sometimes unhealthy ways.

Where do you find comfort? What are your femme theories, your femme art, your femme work? What is femme to you – a side dish, the main dish, the dessert? Who can you talk to about femme? Who is interested? Who thinks it’s sexy and endlessly, deliciously, entertaining? What have you learned about femme that is so precious, so profound?

As I grow older, femme, my femme, expands and deepens and becomes more complex, holding worlds and worlds. The femme I am contains multitudes.

Does the femme you are sustain you? What are your latest theories about femme? Your discoveries and intuitions? What makes you laugh and shout with joy?

The longer we are femme, the more we discover. Femme will never get used up; we just keep finding out more about it.

And so here we go, sweet femme sisters! Into 2018, full of femme love and power.

You and me.

Me and you.

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story!

Meditations for Queer Femmes – Walking on Sand

I walked on the beach a lot when we were in Provincetown recently. It was cold and windy but the light, as always, was effulgent. Looking down, there are stones of all colors, shells, crab limbs dropped by sea birds, seaweed, bits of trash, including pieces of broken glass that need to cook a lot longer before they get to call themselves seaglass. Looking up, there’s that light and the ocean moving.

It’s not that easy to walk on sand. You have to use your core, and even if you do, it makes you sore in muscles you don’t usually think about. A wave might soak your shoe. But every time I started to feel tired or think it might be better to take my walk on the street, I realized that I was smiling and that really, I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Maybe something about the bracing difficulty of walking, something about the beauty and the wind and the uncooked seaglass – I don’t know what it was, but out there on the beach I found myself mulling over identity. If you think you know what someone’s identity means, it’s easy to ignore the reality of their life. Example: the many people, straight and otherwise, who refer to Tex as my “wife”. They know I’m gay, they know I’m married, so obviously, the person I’m married to is my wife. As misassumptions go, it’s not the worst one ever; nor is it the end of the world when the two of us are referred to as “ladies”, but it’s irksome. One reason for this is that if people think they know your identity, it can give them license to ignore what that identity actually means to you. It is a false sense of knowing that can close them off to the rewards of keeping an open heart and taking on the challenge of observing, asking and stepping into the unknown. It is a reminder to me when I find myself making assumptions about what someone’s identity may imply.

When first I found my femme, I was uncertain, so I clung to what I thought were requirements. I bemoaned the fact I couldn’t walk in heels due to physical issues, that I wasn’t a high femme, or what I thought a high femme was supposed to look and act like. Happily, those moments passed with minimal damage and I have since learned many enlightening lessons about myself and about other femmes. Queer femme feels so roomy to me now. So much still to explore, because identity is always moving, always revealing more. I’m so curious, so grateful, so inspired by queer femme.

Queer femme sisters, love yourselves this week. Love yourselves by making time to walk on the beach or in the woods or by water of any kind, where you can let your thoughts drift and touch on things sublime.

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 November 28, 2017 at 3:31 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Femme Friday – Susanna, “Hell yeah queer femme!”

Susanna and I met at the Dyke March some time back, and had a great time talking femme and beyond. We have continued to run into each other over the years at all the best queer places, and I am loving getting to know her and making femme community together!

Deep gratitude to Susanna for her life-long feminism, her willingness to embrace the freedom of femme, and her generosity in sharing her queer femme wisdom with us here.

I claimed “femme” for myself a little more than 10 years ago, in my early thirties. I had come out as a dyke ten years before that, and had been a feminist since about the third grade when I was so fired up about the ERA that I started a girls’ rights club and went around wearing  button that said “64 cents” or whatever pittance women were earning for every white man’s dollar at that point (today it’s  79 for all women combined, 60 cents for Black women and 55 cents for Latinas ::growl:: ).

At 30 or so, I was thrilled to be queer but felt the “femme” label was somehow a diminutive of or a backing off from “woman,” a word whose under-use I still think betrays widespread misogyny. “Femme,” at that point, felt limited or constraining, a containment of the possibilities I had learned “woman” held.

It’s funny because now “femme” feels the opposite. Now, “femme” signifies to me simultaneous queerness and femininity, the power of “woman” I learned from feminism, combined with the edge of queer, the refusal to accept unquestioningly the received constraints of sex and gender.

After a lifetime as an anxious person who historically has been oriented toward learning the unwritten (and sometimes nonexistent) rules and following them, the lesson I’m learning from femme is that I can break or bend the rules to create greater possibility and freedoms in my life. This lesson started in the realm of fashion, when I would ponder the appropriateness of going somewhere looking like something—and decide I could do whatever the fuck I wanted. Wear makeup? Yeah! I’m a queer femme! Go without makeup? Yeah! I’m a queer femme! Tight jeans to work? Ditto.  Combine leopard leggings and a plaid flannel? Hell yeah queer femme!

This lesson is proving to have multiple applications in the non-fashion realms of my life. Career wise, for at least a decade I’ve had jobs that required me to know with authority. This is both a pleasure and a torment for the anxiety prone perfectionist—but my “hell yeah queer femme” approach has helped me lighten up, and realize that I can not-know without putting myself at risk. More than that, I’ve learned the place of not knowing sometimes results in the best thinking/collaboration/movement. The workplace equivalent of matching plaid and leopard print, if you will.

In the realm of sex, love and romance, the lessons of femme have l been multiplied by the lessons of poly and kink: Ask for what you want; if you don’t get it deal with it like a grown up; learn to recognize both limits and abundance. For me, here too there had been a proliferation of possibilities as I’ve embraced femme— lovers and playmates from across the gender spectrum, into all sorts of things I may have longed secretly for but never dreamed I’d get to try. Today, I get to love and play and flirt like never before. And when things are especially sexy, deep, soul-moving, or even  awkward and mismatched, I get to grin and say to myself, “Hell yeah queer femme .”

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

 

Femme Friday: Femme Klatsch! with Liz

Femme Klatsch is a new feature, where queer femmes chat with one another on all themes femme. Sweet femme sisters – chime in!

 What does femme mean to you?

Who are your femme role models?

How did you find your femme?

and today’s question:

Can you talk about how your understanding of “femme” has evolved over the years?

Deep gratitude to Liz for this gorgeous and generous queer femme reflection!

Plenty Queer Enough

“Lez!” It’s 1972 and I’m in junior high. As most of us know from experience, when bullies taunt you, they fuck with your name. With a name like Liz, getting “Lez!” hissed at you in the halls is surely cliché standard. Especially when it’s 1972 and you’re a baby femme who passes. I didn’t know the word; but I could tell it was something really bad.

It’s 1975: I’m in high school and someone snarls “Lez” at me in the halls. I read the thrilling new Ms. Magazine, I know what “feminist” means, I know what “lez” means, and I no longer think it’s something bad. But I wonder, do they know something I don’t? Am I one? I decide to look into it. I have, after all, met one “self-avowed” lesbian. She’s older, out of high school, and we volunteer at a hotline on weekends. I scrutinize her. She’s assertive, androgynous and seems to know a lot. Not like me at all, offbeat girly girl that I am. In fact, she’s the total opposite. Guess I’m not one.

Also, if I was a lesbian, wouldn’t I most likely be in love with my best friend? Isn’t that what “women loving women” is all about? It sounds lovely. Sweet. I almost wish I was one. I try to picture falling in love with my best girlfriend and draw a blank. Nothing. I know I’m not a lesbian.

1982: I’ve graduated art school, I’m working, and I’m in an all-girl punk band. By now, I’ve met more lesbians. In fact, nearly all my friends are lesbians. It seems natural. It is natural. I come out! But not as a lesbian after all. I’m a newly-minted bisexual. I quickly seek and find my first girlfriend, and she’s assertive, androgynous, and seems to know a lot. As I model my new vintage black leather jacket for her, she sadly informs me that it’s a “femme” jacket. “Femme”: I don’t know the word, but I can tell it’s something bad. I’m embarrassed. I wear it anyway. I do like it a lot. (After a long night of clubbing with a friend, I lose the femme jacket and replace it the very next day with a standard issue motorcycle jacket, which I own to this day.)

1989: I fall head over combat boots in love with a strikingly handsome, tall, dark-haired dyke who is assertive, tough, artlessly sincere, and is so far beyond androgynous that “masculine” can’t begin to describe her. When I bravely show up in a modest black vintage dress for our formal date, she gasps in awe. I’m speechless, gazing at her in her crisp black tux, the first time I’ve ever seen such a bold statement of serious female masculinity. She nearly trips over herself to open the door of her freshly-washed, robin’s egg blue truck for me. I’m over the moon, discombobulated, and on entirely unfamiliar terrain.

Neither of us knows much about the terms “butch” and “femme”, but we dance the steps as if we are born to it. Which, of course, we are. I never look at a man again. (A cis-guy, that is.)

1993: This butch and I have broken up. I’m wrecked. I’m thoroughly devastated. I drag myself through life for a year. I remind myself we had so little in common; we communicated so differently; we wanted completely different things. So why was I so crazy in love with her? Why did I want her so much? Was there anything for me to learn from all this misery? Stunningly, mercifully, Joan Nestle explains me to myself in The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader, published that year. Still grieving my lost love, I begin to understand.

Joan Nestle shows me who I am: a femme. A queer femme, plenty queer enough, descended from a long line of proud strong femmes. I discover I have fore-queers! And I learn that my lost love was a big ol’ Butch with a capital B. I discover I’m a femme who needs, requires, must have a butch. A femme with a voracious appetite for butch. Reading Joan Nestle, I feel the awe I had experienced when I put on my first pair of eyeglasses: the world became jarringly clear in a way I could never have imagined.

(Later, I learn that not all femmes want butches. That’s fine too, though I admit it surprises me, and to this day I don’t understand how any femme can resist a hot butch.)

It’s 1995. 1999. 2008. The years go by, and though I can appreciate being femme, I often wish I could de-program the part of me that lights up for butches only. If there were only a potion, a program, a partial lobotomy! Everything is so much easier with my feminine friends. As a femme, it seems I find little in common with most of the butches I’ve met, besides being queer. I try dating a wonderful femme, and I’m ashamed of myself for not responding one iota to her beauty. I feel like a bad queer. I tone down my femme. I lower my expectations. But I need butches.

And frankly, if you’re single, it really sucks if you’re only attracted to about 1/10 of 1% of the population. So I specialize in settling for the Fine For Now girlfriend, because a good butch, or any butch, is hard to find. I have lots of fun, and lots of heartache. When I fall off the horse, I get right back on again. It’s ok, I tell myself; I never wanted to get married anyway. But breaking up is hard to do. Miserable, actually! And I seem to do it every 2 or 3 years. For 20 years. Until……

2012: It’s a summer evening, and I’m wearing a pretty dress and shiny red shoes. I’ve grown out my curly hair. I’m no longer playing neutral. I look up to see the most dashingly handsome butch; or guy? No, she’s butch. She stands before me, sharply trimmed salt and pepper-hair, sporting an orange plaid shirt, and she breaks into the shiniest grin I’ve ever seen. I will soon discover she’s brilliant and funny, and she’s so masculine that she will soon go by “transbutch”. She will adore my femmeness and require it like I’ll need her butchness. But more that that, we will fit together in all the other ways I had only recently dared hope for. This lifelong semi-single femme meets her butch match at last! I can’t make her my husbutch fast enough.

My femme identity blossoms wildly. I revel in it, no longer seeing my butch-loving orientation as a curse, and I rarely try to fit in with the gender neutral queer majority. Being femme is way more fun than ever.

How did this happen? If I had read this when I was younger and single, I’d probably be thinking sourly, “Well, aren’t you just the lucky one! What a cliché ending!” But sister femmes, I’m living proof that it can happen, not “when you least expect it” as I’ve been smugly told: but when you most expect it. I made a decision to expect the best; the best one for me. I found great power in discovering, then embracing, and finally expressing my full femme identity, and all of my Liz-ness, and then I expected someone else to “get” me, too. I felt relief in quitting the well-worn path of dumbing down my particular brand of femmeness in exchange for maximum social approval. Suddenly, luck happens! Dearest femme sisters, the femme journey is never dull, is it?

Liz Bailey

PS: I love the auto-correct for “femmeness”: famines; fameless; feminisms; feminists; filminess! It’s a found poem!

Every Friday, The Total Femme showcases a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Femme Friday — Queer Femme Rising! An Interview with Sable Twilight

Sable and I met in the Radical Faerie Heart Circle at Creating Change, where we shared such lovely moments together. I am so thrilled to welcome her to Femme Friday, and am moved and inspired by her responses sparked by the following interview questions:

 “When first I found femme, I…” (thank you, Radical Faerie Heart Circle, where we were asked to complete the sentence, “When first I found a faerie…)

 Can you talk about how your understanding of “femme” has evolved over the years?

 Do you see femmes as being able to contribute something unique in this time of upheaval, danger and protest?

 Who are your femme role models?

Deep gratitude to Sable Twilight for these illuminating words!

 I am Sable. Sometimes Sable Twilight. A queer, femme, trans woman in Denver, Colorado. I currently work as a program manager for the transgender programmers a local LGBTQIA+ community center in fair sized Midwestern city Some of the additional identities I hold are white, middle class, temporarily able-bodied, born in the United States, college educated, mid-forties, and with English as my first language. And these are the lenses of understanding and relationship from which I approach my understanding of femme.

When asked to write about myself for Femme Friday, I was not sure how to approach it. While I had thought and read a bit about femme in terms of activism, visibility, and political, social, and spiritual dynamics, I had never really given voice or word for to how having a femme identity relates directly to me. I think, in a lot of ways, femme invisibility has been so strong, so powerful that it has been invisible even to myself for much of my life.

I think I have actively identifying as femme for about six years now, though reflecting back, I can see signs where I have always been femme. I consider myself more of a business femme, casual femme, witchy femme, and occasional pajama femme than high femme. I think one of the most empowering things I have done for myself, in relation to my femme identity, was to recognize how femme can manifest in many different ways and in many different dynamics. Initially when I started thinking of myself as femme, I would compare myself to other people I identified as femme. And I would often judge myself a bit harshly for not having enough of what I perceived as the femme trappings. Eventually I came to realize that, for me at least, femme was more about a relationship with myself, the world, and the universe. For me, femme about fluidity: in my relationships, in my identity, in just about everything. I think that is what makes femme such a challenging to define, because it can be such a fluid and unique for each person.

For me, my femme identity is as much a spiritual one as expressive one. As part of this acceptance of the diversity and fluidity of femme, I have sought to understand it’s diversity and fluidity in the universe and in the divinities I work with. As well as the above social identities, I do identify as a seidr worker, volva, energy worker and as such I have been feeling for a while there is sort of energetic shift I have been feeling in the world, a sort of rising femme energy. I have at times call it Queer Femme Rising, in recognition of the Queer Masculine or Homme energy which I saw developing from the queer (both literally and figuratively) creative movement of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. In a similar vein, I have seen this slow manifestation and growth of a femme dynamic manifesting in the world in an ever-growing manner.

As I have been working through my own connection of my femme identity and how it relates to my spiritual path, I have been working through some of the ancestral and cultural trauma embedded within the femme experience. I have been examining the intersection of femme oppression, cissexism and transphobia, queerphobia, capitalism, colonialism, racism and white supremacy, and xenophobia as sort of an extension of a core anti-femme need for rigidness and absolutism. I have begun to understand how femme passion and sexuality, youth and aging, the womb and death, nature itself have been perceived as this uncomfortable threat to the dynamics of patriarchy, control, and exploitation.

I think femme and the sacred femme and the queer femme have a lot to offer during this time of turmoil. They empower and inspire an embracing of change and diversity. And I think from that embracing of diversity opens the possibility for understanding the world and finding new path. For me, femme inspires a certain sense of hope and deep down caring, compassion, and love for the world, as well as a recognition for the need for action.

I think one of the biggest challenges femmes face is femme invisibility. We are everywhere but sometimes is it difficult to recognize one another. This is of the reasons I have been looking at the concept of the femme spiral. As told to me by a femme friend, this is the idea of putting some form of spiral based art, such as a tattoo, on the inside right wrist. The idea is it become a means of recognition which honors the diversity of our experiences as well as the often-cyclical nature of our existences.

I think it is important we stop harming each other. Stop committing lateral violence on one another. And to recognize we are all carrying within us generations of collective trauma. I feel the greatest and most damaging harm committed to us through the burning times and colonization was the internalization of the oppressor and then using that internalized force to regulate and oppress one another. It is time we start to heal our wounds and reclaim our internal power.

I have so many femme role models. They range across the femme spectrum – the high femmes, the punk and working class femmes, the corporate femmes, the Goths, the pajama femmes, the hidden femmes and the public femmes, the queer femmes, the femmes who embody their identities as an act of femme resistance. Even those most handsome of dapper gender queer, trans masculine, and non-binary femmes. They all inspire me and empower me when I allow myself to honor and recognize them.

I do find a lot of everyday empowerment from the Goddess Freyja, who, for me, is a representation of fierce femme, empowered sexuality, internalized beauty, and shaper of one’s own world, path, and destiny. And Freyja is just one representation of femme empowerment. The power of the scared femme is transcendent in countless divinities, both cultural and personal, across time and cultures. Ultimate I seek to see each femme I meet one of my femme role models.

In between work and letting myself relax with the occasional video game (yes I am a proud gamer femme as well), I have been throwing myself into the online course “The Burning Times Never Ended: A Story of Disenchantment and Re-membering Resistance” (http://callingourselveshome.weebly.com/the-burning-times-never-ended-re-membering-resistance.html) as a way to reconnect with a queer femme past which forces of patriarch and capitalism tired eradicating. And as part of my own spiritual journey, I have working through the book “Lifting the Veil: A Witches’ Guide to Trance-Prophesy, Drawing Down the Moon, and Ecstatic Ritual” by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone. I enjoy watching Steven Universe, and I think it holds a lot of value in terms of representation and empowerment. I look forward to the next seasons of Sense8 and HerStory. For femme inspired musicians, I am most definitely a fan of Miranda Sex Garden, Siouxie and the Banshees, Sleater-Kinney, La Roux, Carina Round, Ayria, Sopor Aeternus & the Ensemble of Shadows, Jill Tracy, and so many other wonderful artists.

sable twilight

“Just on the border, Of your waking mind, There lies, Another plain, Where darkness and light are one, And as you tread the halls of sanity, You feel so glad to be, Unable to go beyond, I have a message, From another time…”

-ELO “Prologue” Time

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

Femme Friday – Femme Klatsch! With Constance Clare-Newman

Femme Klatsch is a new feature, where queer femmes chat with one another on all themes femme. Sweet femme sisters – chime in!

 What does femme mean to you?

Who are your femme role models?

How did you find your femme?

Today, we begin a conversation with Constance Clare-Newman

The Total Femme:

Can you talk about how your understanding of “femme” has evolved over the years?

Constance:

When I first accepted my femme identity I was so excited. Yay! I could admit to loving butches. They could admit to loving my femme being. It was San Francisco in the early 90’s and butch/femme love was being celebrated. So many butches and femmes out on the streets, that it almost seemed the norm. I think it has never been the norm in lesbian society, but during that brief butch/femme renaissance, we were the trend of the moment. We were leather dykes and activist dykes and corporate dykes. Working class or downwardly mobile (it was San Francisco), we femmes were girly in our tiny skirts with Doc Martens for day and shiny heels for night. Lots of cleavage and glitter or sleek in leather. Butches in their Dickies and chains with keys. Butches in biker jackets with stickers all over. Butches in suits and ties. Dressing up for each other and appreciating the Otherness. In love with the otherness, which had been hiding in lesbian circles for a while.

Some percentage of us lesbians have always been drawn to the difference butches and femmes love in each other. I’m sure since the time of Sappho, some of us have loved and been turned on by our similarities, and others by the differences. The particular way butches and femmes enchant each other with their differences is unique.

When I first came out, I loved butches and felt desired in a particular way by them, but felt ambivalent about the dynamic. In the 80’s, in my small town, no one talked about being butch or being “feminine” without a little derision. We were all supposed to be equal, and tender, and womyn-loving-womyn. While aspects of that were delightful, the overall desire to conform, so as to belong, certainly hampered my own deeper desires. Growing into my femme identity was something that came with little bits of acceptance over quite a long time. Of who I was as a child, as a young woman, as a lesbian who desired lesbians who were on the “butchy” side, to who I became as a femme clear about her need for a butch.

For me, that need is for a woman who looks like a guy, who has the emotional accessibility of “female,” and stands in her power as Top/Daddy/Dyke. Who loves and is enlivened by my sexy girly or elegant lady ways of looking and being. Who is empowered to be who she is in the world by my love, admiration, support, protection. Who responds to my femme sexuality with her butch sexuality, and nurtures our differences.

Lately, with gender blowing up in all our faces, I see lots of young people exploring non-binary ways of being. Still, whether in San Francisco, LA or Provincetown, I do see a percentage of young butches and femmes together in the mix. I don’t know how they identify today, but I do see them, openly drawn to each other’s difference and turned on by the unique frisson that has always been.

Deep gratitude to Constance for sharing her eloquent femme story!

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