Meditations for Queer Femmes – Situated

I almost didn’t buy the ratty copy of Stanley Kunitz’s book when I saw it at the book sale, but good sense caught up with me and it is now a treasured addition to our library. I almost skimmed over the essay on Walt Whitman when I opened the book recently, but managed to settle down enough to begin to absorb some of Kunitz’s wisdom, and through him, the raw energy, wisdom and love of Whitman. For example, Kunitz quotes Whitman, writing soon after the assassination of Lincoln:

Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness of heart than at present, and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us . . . We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout . . . The depravity of the business classes of our country is not less than has been supposed, but infinitely greater. The official services of America, national, state, and municipal, in all their branches and departments, except the judiciary, are saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood, maladministration; and the judiciary is tainted. The great cities reek with respectable as much as non-respectable robbery and scoundrelism . . . The best class we show is but a mob of fashionably dress’d speculators and vulgarians . . . I say that our New World democracy . . . is, so far, an almost complete failure . . .

How delightful and satisfying, these words from a queer predecessor; how thought-provoking and how close to my own feelings about the time I’m living in! And how close I came to completely missing this delight and satisfaction due to my compulsive hurrying, my not feeling situated in my life and the flow of my life, due to not remembering what my relationship with books and words is. Due to not remembering who I am.

My contretemps with Kunitz’s book and words also got me thinking about how easy it is for me to brush aside my own intuition about what will nurture and uphold me. I get so caught up in hurrying on to the next thing that I can barely manage to take in, let alone process and enjoy, what is right in front of me. FOMA* has always been part of human experience, I’m sure, but now it’s worse than ever because of all our devices moving with such speed that no one can possibly keep up. Even – perhaps especially – on those devices, we clickety-click through thousands (millions?) of pieces of information, never ever giving our brains, hearts and souls a chance to catch up, to ponder, wonder, analyze, connect to our own lives in any meaningful way, in a way that has any depth or chance of longevity. The advertising world figured this one out a long time ago, that humans are challenged by the ability to imagine more more more and that a “never satisfied” condition can be nurtured and encouraged for financial gain.

Dear femme sisters, a moment. The stars and the planets are aligned, you are walking in a holy place, what surrounds you surrounds no one else in exactly the same way, being alive here and now in this essence and assurance is your gift and sacred duty. Today, remember one amazing thing about yourself. Take pleasure in one astounding event, place, person, poem, insight, in the way that you and only you can love into being. Be still. Be grateful. Inhale the aroma. Delight in the music. Situate yourself there.

The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,

            The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into

a new tongue.

*Fear of Missing Out

All Walt Whitman quoted in the essay, “At the Tomb of Walt Whitman” in Next-to-Last Things: New Poems and Essays, by Stanley Kunitz, The Atlantic Monthly Press, NY, 1985.

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 April 1, 2019 at 5:52 AM  Leave a Comment  
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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 — Insufficient

We are desperately trying to make our abusers love and accept us when they do not love and accept us, when they do not love and accept us without them doing their work, and you can’t do their work for them. I don’t care how much you want to love them into being. They have to do their own work, and so you have to really insist upon only living within the vibration of love. Love that changes, love that confronts, love that holds you, love that allows you to make mistakes but only within love. –Re. angel Kyodo williams, Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation.

How do we queer femmes make sense of our wounds? The daily micro- and not-so-micro-aggressions, the generational trauma of queers in general and queer femmes specifically? How many of us grapple with multiple layers of rejection, ignorance, outright violence – physical and mental – from our families of origin, our ethnic and racial cultures, the white supremacist powers that be, and even, poignantly and heartbreakingly, from other queers?

In Episode 101 of Star Trek Voyager, Seven of Nine begins to hear the voices of people who had been her victims when she was part of the ruthless Borg Collective, you know, the ones who say menacingly, “You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.” Seven of Nine was herself a victim of the Borg, assimilated as a child. She has been liberated by the intrepid crew of Voyager, and is trying to learn how to be herself, to be an individual. To connect with a group of people out of love, loyalty, and inclination rather than force. As a Borg drone, Seven believed herself to be perfect; the Collective changed her body with Borg technology and when she was working in tandem with millions of beings in order to achieve the subjugation of all sentient species it certainly must have been a pretty big rush. Up until now, Seven has regretted her liberation and mourned being severed from the perfection of the Borg. She finds life on Voyager clumsy and annoying. “Insufficient!” she often raps out, finding fault with just about everything. Now, faced with the pain of all those victims, she in turn begins to feel her own pain. She sees that, despite its appeal, the perfection she still strives for could never help her weather this level of woundedness: the realization that she was and is a victim, a victim who went on to cause immense harm to others.

Like Seven of Nine, we queer femmes are victims of the greater culture. Yearning for perfection – or acceptance, anyway — we may try as hard as we can, day after day, to get things right, to be exemplary, to do our part. “If they just see how much work I’m doing,” we may think, “they’ll have to respect me!” We don’t do this work to harm others, of course, and yet, we may very well be causing harm to ourselves. We can find spaces in which we are welcome, where we appear to be loved, but so often it is conditional: as long as we are satisfied with what the status quo has to give, we are welcome. As long as we do as they do, we are loved. Insufficient!

In the end, Seven comes through this very challenging time with the help of her friends and colleagues aboard Voyager, in all their imperfection. She is allowed space, time, assistance and encouragement to begin asking and finding answers to those questions that are the birthright of every one of us: who am I? how do I best express myself? how do I live a life that is genuine and useful and satisfying? who are my friends, lovers, colleagues – the folks who see me for who I really am and who love and accept me, who are not put off by my imperfections, my differences, my quirks and queerness, who are able to hold my entire self?

As much as we queer femmes may desperately hope that our jobs, our places of worship, our neighborhoods, schools, friends, and families see us in our queer wholeness, this is so often not the case. We may feel stuck where we are, willing to put up with what we have because it’s better than a knuckle sandwich (as my Grandpa Doc used to joke). As Rev. angel Kyodo williams says, however, might we put our hard work into finding community where we are truly valued, where we can truly flourish? Where the love we get and the love we give is sufficient, is far more than sufficient?

May we find these healing, challenging, beneficial communities. May we embrace one another without condition. May we flower.

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.