Meditations for Queer Femmes – Our Cherished and Neglected Gifts

For me, creativity is paramount. I am an acolyte and a worshiper of creativity. It was a beautiful moment when I realized that my creativity permeates everything I do, that it’s not just for my writing. This freed me up and helped me understand that I haven’t been wasting my time when I’m not able to write; I’ve still been accessing a bubbling well of creativity, a well that will never run dry.

However, even though, like love, creativity is unlimited, what I have trouble remembering is that I have my own physical, emotional and spiritual limits. If I spend hours and hours dreaming up more and more exciting and unique projects for my students, I go to bed never having touched the YA manuscript that is waiting patiently for me. If I can remember to trust that my creativity will be with me when I’m teaching, which it pretty much always is, then even the most mundane lesson will become exciting and useful, and the energy I still have can be used on my most cherished and neglected gift, writing.

“Why do I run from what I love the most?” Tex lamented to me the other day. She’s been drawing and painting again, something she’s always loved but had neglected for many years. “So why is it so difficult to just draw?” I don’t really know, but it’s certainly something I ask about my own writing. Is it that I’m afraid I’ll fail? That it will suck me in and I’ll never want to do anything else?

Perhaps it has something to do with being someone, like Tex, who is blessed with multiple interests, especially when some of those interests, like teaching or organizing, are rewarded so tangibly in that I’m paid for my work or I can see the results of organizing an event for young queer people very clearly and right away.

Not so much with writing. It’s hard, it’s lonely, and a lot has to be taken on faith: I truly believe that there are readers out there who feel a little less alone because they read one of my stories and felt a connection, but it’s unlikely I’ll ever really know the exact impact of my work.

A lot of the time, my many interests feel like noisy fledglings, all demanding to be fed. It’s exhausting! If I take on the role of mama bird, I can never settle down, since if I stop stuffing worms down the babies, they might die. But hold on, maybe that’s the wrong metaphor. Gems. What about gems? Gems never stop shining, even if they get buried in the dirt for a while. And even if you never go back to them, someone else might dig them up later and they will shine for that person just as much as they ever did for you. And if the other babies aren’t going to die, why can’t this harried mama bird choose to surrender to the love of her life? Choose to drink those deeper draughts that nourish the more complex and difficult creative work of writing?

I wonder, femme sisters, what is your cherished and neglected gift? Whatever it is, would you, for me, brush off the dirt, give it a little shine with your sleeve, and hold it up to the sunlight so that we might all bathe in the radiance?

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.”)

 

Published in: on October 29, 2018 at 4:26 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes – Always Being Everything

Women’s Week in Provincetown, MA is always a highlight of my year. One of the highlights of this year’s Women’s Week was Mimi Gonzalez’s writing workshop. One beautiful sunny morning, we met in the parlor at Roux, a lesbian-owned inn on Bradford St.. There were about 10 of us, including the owners of Roux themselves. Mimi started out by welcoming us, letting us know that she wanted to create safe space for us to be in community, and that she was offering this workshop in that spirit, passing on love she herself received in her recently-completed MFA program.

Quoting the gospel of Thomas, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you,” Mimi asked us to give ourselves the gift of being present, of bringing forth, especially if we’ve denied this impulse in the past. Then we did a free-write responding to the prompt of centering yourself in space, landing in your body, where you are right now, and how you feel. We were asked to keep the pen moving on the paper for five minutes.

Sisters. Five minutes. In just five minutes, I brought forth so much. An excerpt:

The sun on our backs coming into this orange room onto Mimi’s beautiful curly hair and I am here with someone from the publishing panel and a femme colleague and my friend from the Fun Run and am I here as a writer or as a teacher? Observing Mimi’s generous, lovely, sweet presence as she welcomes and loves us into this space – can I just be a writer? Do I always have to be everything – writer, activist, teacher, editor, professional queer? Can I give myself the gift of coming right into my writer’s soul and the soul of my writing – what I have been praying for?

It was Tex who pointed out to me that I’m always working. It just never occurred to me that taking notes on books and newspaper articles, analyzing movies and tv shows, jotting down things heard on the radio that connect to projects I’m working on, or may work on in the future, was work. It’s just how I do, how I relate to the world. But it is work, and it can also get in the way – ok, it almost always gets in the way – of relaxing, just being, just experiencing. One more email, one more note, one more intense discussion about my theory on this or that public figure or movie… This happens so frequently that Tex asked to implement a No Intense Discussions First Thing in the Morning rule so she could get out the door to work in good trim, and I do my best to comply, despite being READY TO ROCK when I wake up, partly due to not being able to turn off my brain.

I would not be surprised if many of you, my queer femme sisters, sometimes find yourselves in a similar dilemma, especially about the more quiet parts of your natures, say, the part of you that would like to finally plant something in that sweet patch of earth outside, or take time to learn more about the utterly amazing horseshoe crabs, or write or draw or just sit and be for land’s sake – anything that requires shutting off the busy and drawing down deep on the soul.

Busy is rewarded, and queers seem to be particularly prone, thank you homophobia, heterosexism, misogyny and all your foul relatives. We feel the pull to provide, model, mentor, teach, accompany, rescue, proclaim, produce, react, educate, and on and on, when maybe, just maybe, all of that could be accomplished in dropping everything but one thing. Not forever, not for always, but for sometimes. Can you give yourself the now-and-again gift of “just” being a gardener? A lover? A poet? If so, the energy that is flittery and far-flung, your precious, unique, amazing femme energy, will pool and thicken, turn rich, potent, delicious. Don’t think product; think connection. Connection to systems of love, bolstering them rather than armoring up and fighting systems of oppression. Of course we need to do both. But personally, I spend almost all of my time on the latter instead of the former, when I am beginning to understand that the former is the one that can really fuel revolution.

My darlings, today honor your revolutionary femme energy with the soul-nourishing freedom to be still. Go deep. Be and be and be just one thing today.

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 – Your Family Heirloom

We queers have such complicated relationships with our families. There’s full-on rejection, full-on idealization and “I’ll do anything to keep the love” and everything in-between. I’m talking about families across the board here, of origin and chosen. How many of us queer femmes dated boys and men because our families of origin expected it? How many of us queer femmes de-girlied ourselves when we (finally) came out because our new queer family expected it? Then one day, if we’re lucky, another dyke tells us she likes it when we wear lipstick. Maybe we have enough courage to tell her we like it when she wears lipstick, too, or we buy her a tie for her birthday “just for fun” and shit gets way more real all of a sudden. Or we might realize our single aunt, the one who moved away to a big city or to a remote farm and who has always been spoken of with scorn or pity or both, is actually twice family and has a rich and rewarding life. Information about her real life may have been unavailable to us as children, but it is waiting for us now if we just reach out.

Humans love knowing where we come from, where certain traits, tendencies, gifts and hurdles might have their origin. Who in our families (all our families) might have worked out a thing or two concerning life’s great questions.

I started thinking about family heirlooms after reading a passage by Chögyam Trungpa in his book, Crazy Wisdom. The passage is about hopelessness, which I think ends up actually being about hope, or anyway, about accepting that life can be really hard right at the same time that it is full of sweetness and wonder. In Al-Anon, they talk about “the gift of desperation” that brings someone to this under-the-radar (at least it was for me) spiritual program. And it’s true, because as much as I hate alcoholism and addiction and how they’ve hurt so many people I love including myself, I’m incredibly grateful that I’m learning to stop spending all my time drilling down on the negatives and being miserable. Instead, I’m finding the strength, support and love to be able recalibrate and refocus. Human experience is big. There are so many ways of being in the world.

Our family heirlooms – because there are so many once we direct our attention there – are solid reminders of our humanity in all its rainbow glory. I remember and draw sustenance from the way my Gramps took care of kids in his rural school district during the Depression, feeding them from his garden, buying one young man a suit so he could graduate high school with dignity; from the cheerful example of Grandmimi, who lit up her small Iowa town organizing and including and fully participating in just about everything; how my parents quietly reached out to neighbors and taught me that one little act of kindness and community ripples outward; how John Preston and Joan Nestle got together to edit Sister and Brother: Lesbians and Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together and model deep queer community by linking their disparate queer worlds; by the way Lee Lynch lovingly wrote and wrote and wrote and continues to write about butches and femmes; how so many queers over the ages managed to leave us their priceless stories – a few who have touched my life over the years (there are so many!): Miss Ann Lister, Quentin Crisp, Anonymous, Amber Hollibaugh, Audre Lourde, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Leslie Feinberg, Richard Rodriguez, Felice Picano, Chrystos, Mary Renault, Tove Jansson, Becky Birtha, Mark Merlis, Samuel Steward, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, James Baldwin, and I could go on for pages…

I am bolstered and inspired in who I am and who I strive to by these many, many family heirlooms.

Dear queer femme sisters, spend a moment today in gratitude for your families and what they have bequeathed to you.

 

The passage that inspired this Meditation:

Student: When you talk about hopelessness, the whole thing seems totally depressing. And it seems you could very well be overwhelmed by that depression to the point where you just retreat into a shell or insanity.

 Trungpa Rinpoche: It’s up to you. It’s completely up to you. That’s the whole point.

 S: Is there anything –

 TR: You see, the whole point is that I’m not manufacturing an absolute model of hopelessness with complete and delicately worked-out patterns of all kinds, presenting it to you, and asking you to work on that. Your goodness, your hopelessness, is the only model there is. If I manufactured something, it would be just a trick, unrealistic. Rather, it’s your hopelessness, it’s your world, your family heirloom, your inheritance. That hopelessness comes in your existence, your psychology. It’s a matter of bringing it out as it is. But it’s still hopeless. As hopeful as you might try to make it, it’s still hopeless, and I can’t reshape it, remodel it, or refinish it at all. It’s not like a political candidate going on television, where people powder his face and put lipstick on his mouth to make him presentable. One cannot do that. In this case it’s hopeless; it’s absolutely hopeless. You have to do it in your own way.

–Crazy Wisdom by Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala, 2001

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 – Mountain Lioness Prayer from Miel Rose

Today, sweet femme sisters, a beautiful uplift from Miel, whose writing, healing, and strong and inspiring presence is such a gift. At a recent “Naughty Femme Stories” at Womencrafts in Provincetown, I read this prayer to open and bless the space. Thank you and deep gratitude to you, Miel!

Bless Me, Mountain Lioness

May I stand whole unto myself

Beloved in all my parts

May the voice of authority I heed closest

Always be my own

Let my desire reside firmly in my heart

A compass to guide me down the Golden Path

When I feel caged and leashed by over acculturation

Let me take my inspiration from you

Knowing intrinsically that I am a creature of wilderness

And holding first and foremost

To myself.

With a heart overflowing

I thank you.

Miel Rose is a witch and healer living and practicing in Western, Mass. Check out her etsy store, Flame and Honeycomb: an eclectic line of magical offerings, including sacred votives, herbal skincare, magical honey sweetened chocolates, hand embroidered art pieces and more!

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 – FEMME VACKAY!

Beloveds, you may have noticed the spotty Total Femme action lately…and that is because yours truly needs some serious femme down time. Happily, that is in the stars, as tomorrow Tex and I are winging our way to Taos to visit her family for a couple of weeks. I’m having such a good time deciding what books to carry with me and the right combo of layers to pack and that is about all the responsibility I can handle just about now… I plan to go offline and off into Femme Relaxation Zone, you bettcha!

So let this Friday’s post be a reminder to all of us sweet femme darlings to care for ourselves in little and big ways to ensure that we can keep showing up healthy and ready to rock.

Deep gratitude to every queer who models self-care and who blesses the world with their health and well-being!

Never forget: FEMME LOVE HEAL WORLD

and that includes self-love!

I love you all, and will see you in a few.

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.”)

 

 

Published in: on July 6, 2018 at 9:25 AM  Comments (4)  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes – Wisdom Holders

I’m not sure where I came across this story, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. A great teacher has grown very old and is preparing to die. Her most devoted follower attends her in her last days, trying not to give in to the devastating sorrow she is navigating as she watches her guru fade. As the old woman lies very close to death, she beckons for her student to come closer and whispers, “You know how I was always eating peppermint candy to soothe my delicate stomach, even though sweets are strictly forbidden?” The younger woman nods; even now, she has a few of the medicinal lozenges in her pocket. The teacher lets out a weak but heartfelt cackle. “Well,” she whispers. “My stomach is like iron. I just ate those peppermints because I like them!”

I love this story for what it teaches: we are all human. No matter our status as great teachers, or great anyone, no matter our positions of power and knowledge in any discipline, there is a not a one of us who doesn’t have a few or more very human foibles. If the student in the story was at all tempted to deify her teacher once she was dead, she won’t be able to do it now, because the teacher left her with this priceless gift: I was just a person, and so are you.

I think most of us have a tendency to imagine that the people we look up to, from whom we gain inspiration, are somehow more elevated than we are. That their daily lives and private moments are free from odd habits; that their wisdom provides them with a shield from the little crotchets and weaknesses we all experience. And then when we find out that, say, our beloved religious figure relaxes by watching porn or that she lied about her credentials or background, we lose all respect for her. Even if her teachings had liberated us from despair – maybe especially if her teachings had liberated us from despair.

This demand for our leaders and teachers to be perfect just doesn’t do us any good. I wish our demand instead was for them to be perfectly human. To me, that would be the more nuanced, layered and powerful example. What if our most respected teachers said things like, “Look, I have a wicked temper I can’t always control, I fucked up a lot when I was younger and did things I still regret and I know a few things that I’d like to share that might be helpful to others.” or “I binge watch ridiculous reality shows while making myself sick on salt water taffy, and I am the Executive Director of a cutting-edge non-profit where I do incredibly complex, healing, beautiful thinking about climate change and it’s really making a difference.”

I’ve written before about how queers in general and queer femmes in particular often feel the pull to present to the world as if we have it all together. As if we are model femmes with much wisdom to offer to both other queers and to straight people, while secretly worrying that we are flawed and fakes because we actually don’t have it all together. And we’re afraid that if “they” saw our distinctly human side, that all would be lost. My dear femme sisters, I know this is a complicated subject, and we queer femmes must do whatever keeps us safe in this turbulent world, and if that means holding up a shield of Don’t Fuck With Me, whatever that looks like for you, I am behind you one hundred percent.

And I also implore you: when you look in the mirror, when you’re home alone, when you look in your heart and you see HUMAN HUMAN HUMAN flashing in rainbow colored neon, be of good cheer! Our most revered wisdom holders light up that very same sign, and you, queer femmes, you are wisdom holders. You hold queer femme wisdom in every molecule of your queer femme self, and I revere you and am so grateful to you. The world benefits from your passage here.

Human. Queer. Femme.

Unending wisdom.

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.”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on April 16, 2018 at 5:27 PM  Comments (2)  
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Monday Meditation – Queer Femme Healing

To alleviate various health issues attendant upon being middle-aged queers, Tex and I have recently embarked upon a Health Regimen of some magnitude. Ok, it’s the modern-day candida diet, which we both learned about a million years ago when it first made its appearance. Even back then, I knew the diet would probably be really healthy for me, but instead, I went with macrobiotics. Why? Because of community.

Macrobiotics had groups and workshops and cooking classes and other bright-eyed, judgmental people running around purporting to have solved ye ole healthy living dilemma (while secretly binging on forbidden foods and sneaking ciggies because if you had “pure blood” that was your prerogative…!). All candida had was a book.

I’m still a little worried about forging ahead with this diet (no potatoes! no corn! no sugar! no GLASS OF RED WINE!!), because food and community have always gone hand-in-hand for me, and, as suburban queers, Tex and I can already feel pretty isolated. I love communal meals, going out to eat with friends, whipping up a batch of my most excellent granola (no oats! no maple syrup!) and just generally eating as much of and whatever I like. See, I spent another million years working on resolving eating issues and body stuff and ha! Here I am back at the beginning again!

I’m thinking about authenticity, integrity and integration as I think about community. When I was so focused on body image, on loving my body, I ended up eating things that, on some level, I knew weren’t healthy for me. Why did having a healthy body image cancel out my being able to actually pay enough attention to said body to nourish it mindfully? Partly the consumerist, capitolist machine telling you “you deserve it”, “it” being whatever food or service being sold, partly the Western notion that you can control everything. I was so busy “conquering” body shame I didn’t have time to learn that it’s not really something you can conquer; really, it’s more like being neighbors with body shame, or even roommates – learning to get along together in a harmonious fashion, maybe ignore each other in a friendly way.

What is community? Do you have to share meals together? Food has been my go-to, but in the past, it turned into an emotional crutch, and something I used in unhealthy and even destructive ways. When I was in the macrobiotic community, for example, skinny and clear-eyed and perhaps healthy in my body, all I could do was obsess about food, which kept me from focusing on or benefiting from friendships and the joy to be had in getting together as a group of like-minded folks. How ironic and wonderful that physical health issues are now giving me the opportunity to focus on food in a healthy way, in the company of my dear Husband, for our enduring well-being. We are so much older and wiser and calmer now – we can do this! And when I really think about it, I have no doubt that our friends and the community we love won’t disappear because we’re not currently eating cookies. It’s deeper and way more layered than that.

We queer femmes deal with so much misogyny and homophobia and other oppressive bigotry that it is rare we escape unscathed, rare that we don’t spend a great deal of time trying all different kinds of ways to heal ourselves. This comes from such good intentions, but sometimes we end up neglecting one part of ourselves as we work so hard to heal another part. Throughout our lives, we do our best to negotiate the twisting paths leading to that authenticity, integration and integrity I was talking about earlier. The paths are rocky and steep and perhaps sometimes there is no path at all but the one you feel out, step by step.

Every time you take one of those precarious but healing steps, I hope you feel the love of queer femmes, past and present, who also took steps that uplift and inspire us. I hope you feel encouraged, accompanied and always, always at the heart of that queer femme community of fighters and lovers.

Sweet femme sisters, today I am honoring your drive to heal and be healthy and whole.

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.”)

 

Published in: on March 19, 2018 at 4:06 PM  Comments (2)  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes — The Dean of Femme

In one of those rather wonderful lesbian twists of fate, the Dean of Student Life at our younger son’s college is one of Tex’s ex-girlfriends. When we first figured this out, Tex remarked to me, “I’m into deans,” because another of her exes was a dean, too. I experienced a pang of loss at this, given that I abandoned my academic career many years ago. Angrily, I stomped my foot and hollered, “Well, I’m the DEAN OF FEMME!”

I was groomed my entire life to be an academic. Both my parents are full professors, as are my aunt and uncle; most of my relatives were teachers and educators of some kind or another. It took me years to recover when I ended up fleeing from the toxic atmosphere of my PhD program, as I thought I’d completely flopped in terms of family expectations. Happily, now I see how teaching manifests itself differently in my life – I am, after all, a tutor – and how my organizing is informed by what I know about academia. They weren’t a complete loss, after all, all those years of higher education, the end result was just a little different from what I’d been taught to believe was where I’d find the most satisfaction.

Queer femmes have also defied straight people’s expectations of them. We present feminine but we have removed ourselves from heteronormative society and behaviors. We are foreign bodies wrapped up in what might look like familiar trappings. We do not act like straight women because we are not straight. What we do with our feminine is nothing at all like what is expected. We have veered right off the straight path, the one we were taught would lead us to the most satisfaction.

Today, take a moment to think about all the places and times you disappointed your family or yourself by not doing what you thought you were supposed to do. Were your actions actually a way of saving your own life? Of taking yourself out of a toxic situation, where continuing would have smothered your awakening queer self? Stopped your femme from fully blossoming? Kept you from finding your own true queer femme path?

As painful as these times are, given that it’s never fun to disappoint those who love you, they are also the turning points where we choose our own integrity. Today, celebrate how far you’ve come and how strong you are. Rest for a moment in the fact that, even if you don’t know them personally, there are so many other queer femmes who are rooting for you and who also celebrate your queer femme journey.

I know I am and do.

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.”)

Published in: on January 22, 2018 at 3:13 PM  Comments (5)  
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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: 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!