Meditations for Queer Femmes – Seeing Femme

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

And.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)

 

 

 

 

 

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 – Femme Agenda

I just finished reading Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division – the Inside Story of the First Openly Gay Pop-Punk Band by sister-Midwesterner Jon Ginoli. I had a little trepidation that his story would be a painful onslaught of drugs and self-abuse, hopefully with a happy ending like in Godspeed, written by his contemporary, Lynn Breedlove of Tribe 8, the first out dyke punk band. (Big femme love to you, Unka Lynnee! I’ve read Godspeed twice!) Instead, Jon sticks doggedly to the point of his book: there was no gay male pop-punk band, so he started one. A and then B.

“That I’m here at all writing this still astounds me,” he says in the last chapter of the book “I actually got to live out my rock and roll dreams. Perhaps some people’s dreams would have been grander, for greater stardom or riches, but part of me is still that kid from Peoria – a place of more modest hopes and ambitions. For a long time I felt that I had something to contribute to the culture at large, like a lot of people do. I feel lucky that I was able to actually make that mark, because many who try don’t succeed. From a young age I had a vague sense of wanting to achieve something, so there’s a sense of relief too, that I haven’t wasted my time and effort.”

In order to further my queer femme agenda, I need utterly queer stories like Jon’s.

His story inspires me because I, too, want to know that following my queer femme heart makes an impact. My efforts don’t include jolly perks like being asked to sign fans’ dicks or singing songs about being the buttfuckers of rock and roll who want to sock it to your hole, but I have gotten to hang out with members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, read my queer chapter book to local fourth graders, sit and have heart-to-hearts with queer, questioning and ally youth, bond with other femmes and so much more. These things feed my queer femme soul.

Some might say that Jon doesn’t tell the whole story in his memoir; for example, he doesn’t go into much detail about his experience with ACT UP or talk all that much about substance abuse or ditch too much dirt on other musicians, but that’s what I love. This is a story about making queer art happen come hell or high water. I appreciate the clear focus on that aspect of Pansy Division: he is satisfied with his work.

I know I’m not the only queer to struggle with not being able to see my strengths fully. Buffeted by heterosexual forces and misogyny and all the rest of it, it can be so hard to be able to clearly understand the impact of your efforts.

Last night, my kids told me they didn’t believe in New Year’s resolutions or taking time to regroup and recharge – you should always be doing that, they told me. Still and all, January is a nice time to put some good queer femme intention into the world, to interrupt the het narrative, to take a breath and not be in such a hurry for the Next. And in this time of frenzied divisiveness, to find encouragement and be heartened by the lives of other queers whose generosity and dedication have brought more bent energy into the world.

Part of my femme agenda in 2018 is to pay closer attention to what I like to do and what I’m good at and how I can use those to queer things up. To continue to champion queer femme and make room for our stories, but to also find love and gather courage from other queers. To take my own work as seriously as I take the work of other queers; to be as generous as I can in my own unique bit of the universe.

Dearest, queerest femme sisters: who and what inspires you in your Femme Agenda? What do you do in order to queerly rest and queerly sock it to us? Whatever it is, I wish you fortitude and every blessing as this new year begins. Your stories inspire me.

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.

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“Fem in a Black Leather Jacket” by Pansy Division

Meditations for Queer Femmes — Queer Femme Body

How often we are told in words and examples and unspoken disapproval from all quarters that the site of wrongness is always in the body. I love Queer Fat Femme’s joyous statement, “Every body is a good body” because it gives a big middle finger to that evil message, and positions us on a path of self-love. Points to the real culprit: a culture that has swallowed ideas like, “The body is a machine,” “The body is a source of foulness,” “The body is to be controlled by any means necessary.”

When a femme friend and I read The Well of Loneliness together, we were struck by how much Stephen loves her physical body when she’s young: “She discovered her body for a thing to be cherished, a thing of real value since its strength could rejoice her; and young though she was she cared for her body with great diligence, bathing it night and morning in dull tepid water – cold baths were forbidden, and hot baths, she had heard, sometimes weakened the muscles.” She doesn’t begin that long descent into self-loathing until she encounters the “civilized” view that the body is gross, sex is gross, and anything other than het sex and presentation is beyond gross. And we queer femmes, although perhaps less gender non-conforming than Stephen and her modern counterparts, are also betrayed and damaged by this entrenched yet deeply unnatural cultural hatred of the body. For girls, especially, this hatred works on us practically from infancy. We’re told we’re too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, that our bodies exude odors or grow hairs that are unacceptable. Most obscene of all, we’re taught that all these things are our fault, that they are entirely under our control, and if we don’t manage them, we are entirely to blame for being “fat”, “gross”, “smelly”, whatever it is. There’s a spray, a pill, a regimen, a procedure and a course of action for that, and if those things impact the amount of joy and spontaneity and growth of spirit in your life, then that’s too bad. At least you’ll know you’ve done your best to corral your body so that it doesn’t offend other people. As if striving to conform to the soul-crushing status quo is a good reason to expend precious life energy!

At the National Day of Mourning this year, we were told that not only do we need to decolonize our minds, we then need to indigenize them. What would this look like if we did this for our bodies, as well? If we really acted as if Every Body is a Good Body? How freeing for our spirits and minds if our bodies were treated kindly; if we took friendly interest in each other’s differences, if we allowed each body whatever it needed in order to feel comfortable and at ease, rather than forcing a one-size-fits-all straight jacket on everybody! If it was just taken as a fact of life that all bodies are unique, all bodies have their own specific ways of moving through the world, their fascinating needs and multi-faceted desires? Because guess what, that is a fact of life! And that we’re not separate from other bodies, of animals, plants, the earth: we’re all part of the same great patterns of life and death, and it’s all normal.

What do we celebrate about our queer femme bodies, what do we adore? How do we love our queer femme bodies, love with our queer femme bodies? Some of us may start by experiencing such relief that we do not need to package ourselves for the gaze of straight men. We please ourselves, clothe our queer femme bodies with the outfits and pizazz that bring our queer femme hearts pleasure. Through pain and ecstasy, we are never separate from our queer femme bodies, and the Western schools of thought encouraging us to view her as a machine or as irrelevant (“it’s the mind that counts!”) or as a foul burden we must drag around do us no favors. What if we didn’t have to spend so much time re-learning the love of our bodies? Because nobody is born hating themselves in that particular way. That is learned behavior and is imposed on all of us.

Whatever their shape, ability, age, state of health, location and size, our queer femme bodies are to be adorned, honored, loved and held up as the sacred manifestations of the life force that they truly are. Come, now, femme sisters, with your good, queer bodies, and join in with our brother Walt to sing of yourselves!

I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious,

Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy,

I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my faintest wish,

Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of

     friendship I take again. (Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”)

 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.