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.