Meditations for Queer Femmes – Sanctuary of Empathy

After an Al-Anon meeting recently, I found myself rather forcefully welcoming a newcomer. On the one hand, I remember being a newcomer and I wanted her to feel seen and heard. On the other hand, I was a hot mess myself that day, and really didn’t have anything at all to give. I watched, not able to stop myself, as I went into my caretaker role, going overboard on giving her information, not grounded in my body, my energy jitzy and floating. The problem isn’t that I’m not a good caretaker, because I am; the problem was not knowing that right then, I had nothing to give and it would have been a better welcome for her if I’d just smiled and gone on my way. The truth was, I needed caretaking myself, which is why I was at a meeting.

I’ve always prided myself on being a good friend. As an only child, I became skilled at being friends with all kinds of people, even with kids who didn’t like each other but who were friends with me. I saw myself as a good listener, a problem solver, a wise advice giver. If I couldn’t have siblings, at least I could attract people to me who might fill that void.

As a grown-up queer femme, I retain many of those same ideas about myself and work hard to make queer community – this blog included. My heart’s desire is to be able to be here for every queer who is hurting, who needs company, who feels alone. But I can go so far down the line of being understanding and sympathetic that I forget to pay attention to myself and my own needs. I get off on being the one everyone can depend on…until I tank, which inevitably happens, and then I’m left without much resource, since I’ve trained my friends and colleagues to believe that I’m all good and don’t need a hand.

We all need a hand.

In her brilliant book, The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love, Sonya Renee Taylor says, “It is through our own transformed relationship with our bodies that we become champions for other bodies on our planet.” I must continue to transform my relationship with my body, my heart, my desires, my energy – all of it. If I am not right with myself – starting with my precious and beautiful body – I am not going to be able to do much for you, at least not something that includes the dimension of justice, which is what all loving relationships must possess in order to thrive and bring more love into the world. I can never offer you the sanctuary of empathy, no matter how much I long to do so, if I have not built it up around myself.

For about two years, every day, I read Swami Paramananda’s Book of Daily Thoughts and Prayers. It was a great exercise in my spiritual search for teachers and wisdom, and I learned so much. Although in the end I realized that the Swami’s path is not for me, I retain gratitude for his work and I absolutely love some of his prayers, many of which were of huge comfort to me during some very dark nights.

Sweet femme sisters, take care of yourselves. Seek wisdom with an open heart, seek support with humility. I know you love your families, your butches, your sweethearts, your babies and your friends and colleagues. But don’t run yourselves down until you have nothing left. Don’t forget that they love you, as well, if you will let them. Make room for them to show you that love. Ask for that love. Ask for support. Allow yourself to rest. Be good and loving to yourselves.

That is how our sacred femme work begins.

Oh Thou Effulgent Spirit,

Shed Thy radiance on my heart and mind

Fill my being with Thy divine light

That it may shine in all my thoughts and actions

And bring brightness in other lives

Surround me with Thy protecting love and Thy abiding peace

–Swami Paramananda, the reading for March 20 in Book of Daily Thoughts and

            Prayers, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, 1977

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.”)



Meditations for Queer Femmes — Do For

We queer femmes are good at seeing where a little love can be slipped in. We know how to stroke, we know how to comfort, interpret, sweeten, smooth over, slick on the lube, turn the frown upside down. It’s a skill we’re proud of and justly so.

This life-giving and affirming thing that we do is all about caregiving, and as such, is seen as the purview of females. Anything having to do with women is pretty much always overlooked and denigrated by the culture at large, given that our culture’s beating heart is largely fueled by misogyny. And just like that, our precious art of love is twisted and tarnished.

Worst of all, our queer femme magic can start to seem like a burden. The feminine has a history of being spat upon not only by straight society, but by other queers. Ask any sissy. Ask Mattilda Berstein Sycamore, or better yet, read her book Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?. Ask any queer femme.

When you are good at something that doesn’t get recognized, that is actively devalued by all and sundry, you lose track of its importance. You yourself might begin to run it down, drowning as we all are in noxious messages from the odious status quo.

Have you lost track of your own genius? Are you buried in so many “have to’s” “shoulds” and “baby can you’s” that you are bowed down and about to collapse? Until you can’t let anything sweet into your own body and soul because everyone just expects you to do for because that’s what they’re used to? Let’s stop here for a moment and breathe.

Hey! Wouldn’t it be nice if queer femmes had the equivalent of a Mother’s Day, so there would be at least some semblance of the rest of the world taking notice of our brilliance and hard work?

Today is Queer Femme Day. I see how you do for others, queer femme sisters. I see how your art and words and presence and sense of humor and creativity and sense of outrage and keen observational power and bravery and staying put and going the queer femme distance make life better for the whole world. I see how you persist and persevere and I see how you hide your pain, swallow disappointment, and sometimes turn things in on yourselves.

Today is Queer Femme Day. Say it with me, “Today is Queer Femme Day, and I am in the center of love, I am centered in love, I am loving myself and caring for myself and I am speaking up I am showing up here I am here I am here I am!”

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.






Meditations for Queer Femmes — Brilliant

For a really, really (and I mean really) long time, the light in the basement laundry nook was broken. Even though I went down there multiple times a day, early in the morning, in the evening and at night, we just never got around to tending to the light. I would forget about it, Tex would forget about it, and for a really, really really long time, I did laundry with little to no illumination.

Finally, the stars alligned, I managed to clear enough space in my brain and perhaps the Goddess gave me a bit of a kick in the butt to where I managed to call our electrician and she came over and fixed the light. It was amazing! I could see what I was doing!

Even now, though, I’ll go downstairs to do the laundry and start feeling my way around like Femme Magoo. Then I’ll suddenly remember that I can turn on the light, and…ah!

So many of us queer femmes can get to feeling incredibly isolated with our knowledge, our wounds, our desires, our work, our relationships, our families, and all the rest of it. It is a kind of unrelenting spiritual darkness. And while the dark certainly is a place for renewal, growth, and rest; a place where we can connect to spiritual mysteries, at a certain point, you have to let the sun in.

We can turn on the light for our queer femme souls by reaching out to each other. By insisting that others see us for who we are, by which I mean letting people know how we identify, even if you’re sure the person won’t get it. I mean, they can go home and look it up! We can relieve ourselves of the responsibility of educating straight people and even other queers. We can turn off our work brains and allow ourselves a little R and R. We can spend time with children, animals, out in nature, looking for silly and fun local events that honor food, community and the changing seasons. In this area that might include watching a 400-pound wheel of cheese go rolling by (The Cruocolo Cheese Parade of Concord, MA), a road trip to Orange, MA for the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival, or getting your butt over to Nantucket for the Cranberry Festival.

Queer femmes, burst forth like fireworks into the fall! Shine the light, turn on the light, be the light. Sparkle, glitter, flame. Laugh. Laugh some more.

You are so brilliant.

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.


Life is Full of Bananas

Last night, I picked Owen up at the airport, where he’d flown in after 10 days on a school trip to France. Senior Assassination had already been going since Sunday, so he had a lot of texting and catching up to do. Sure enough, he received recon from colleagues that his assassinator was waiting outside our house, squirt gun loaded. In order to help him stay alive, I let him out one street over, and he snuck into the house via back yards. When I pulled into the driveway, a wholesome young person popped out of the parked car to inquire politely if this was where Owen lived. I gave away nothing.

One of the things Owen brought home with him from France is a t-shirt that reads, “Life is full of bananas”. Now, ain’t that the truth? Owen deftly maneuvered a wonderfully satisfying stay in France, despite the casual homophobia of his host family and his not having packed enough layers for the damp and chilly French spring. Meanwhile, his older brother remains a ball of confusion, stressed to the max and wedded to the negative; wedded also to the coping mechanism of either no communication, or communication consisting of angry blaming of those who love him the most. Still and all, he seems to be making it through the second semester of his sophomore year of college and personally, I am trying to stick with the positive.

Tonight, I am slated to speak at Town Meeting about the proposed Rainbow Commission, which would be in charge of all things queer around town, something that has been a long time in the making, and for which I and many colleagues have worked diligently. I am definitely feeling good about this, but I am also feeling done. I’d much rather spend time on something that feels both selfish, in some ways, but really exciting and deeply necessary: building exactly the kind of femme community that I crave. Using my organizing skills to fulfill my very own needs. It’s not that a Rainbow Commission won’t make my life in town much, much better, it’s just that I am understanding that this is the time and the hour for me to apply my own creativity and energy to projects that directly feed my creativity and energy. I’m thinking exit strategy for my town organizing and I am inviting in new projects that are actually old projects whose time has come. Despite all our responsibilities with elder care and college kids, Tex and I know that this is the time where pulling out all the stops on our art, relationship, spirituality, and joy is indicated, no, required.

As Tex says, “That is what our parents and our children actually want for us, whether or not they can articulate it.”

So, dear readers, I will see you there, dans la vie, la vie plein de bananes.

This banana-filled week, please accept the above post as both Monday Meditation and Femme Friday. Next week we will resume our usual programming!

 And a shout out to Roda over at Growing Self for nominating The Total Femme for a Liebster Award! Thank you, Roda! I don’t have the bandwidth to continue on with the process, but I very much appreciate your support. Check out Roda’s joy-filled, blog, folks!