Meditations for Queer Femmes: No Straight Femmes


It’s morning in Sheffield, Iowa, sometime in the late 60s. I’m probably about 8, visiting for the summer. My grandmother is getting dressed in front of the big mirror in the bathroom. I’m sitting on the closed toilet, watching, because at my house, with my no-nonsense mom, nothing this exciting ever happens. Grandmimi pulls on pantyhose, a slip. Her skirt, the matching blouse. A pin, bracelet, her rings. She steps into her high, high heels. Fluffs up her hair, nails it with hairspray. Spritzes perfume. She uses an eyelash curler, mascara, powder, rouge. And finally, she untubes her red lipstick and deftly colors her lips. Now I’m standing next to her. She knows I’m down here, by her hip. She tears herself away from her fabulous reflection to swoop down in a cloud of perfume and hairspray for my morning kiss, full on the lips. Now I’m beautiful, too.

That is an excerpt from my piece, “Tamago”, in Wild Girls, Wild Nights: True Lesbian Sex Stories edited by Sacchi Green. I wanted to post it here because it goes a little way towards explaining why I used to say the below every Femme Friday:

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

I have to say, I never felt completely right about saying that Grandmimi was a straight femme (although I have no qualms about describing her as fabulous!), and I have been meaning to revisit this for some time. Recent conversations with femme friends both during and outside of Femme Klatsches, have made me understand how important it is to me to reserve the term “femme” as utterly queer, utterly unavailable to straight women.

I know that I used to confuse the two: straight women’s fabulous femininity and my own queer femme. I remember once at a secretarial luncheon, where I was the only queer, whipping out my lipstick and reapplying after the meal. Some of the women looked at me askance, and when I asked, murmured that it’s a bit rude to apply makeup at the table; better done in the powder room. Today, I would not care a titch about what straight women think is or is not proper. Back then, I thought, “Oh, I’m doing it wrong!”

I love how Maggie Cee articulates why she has reclaimed the spelling “fem” over “femme”:

I’ve recently decided to reclaim the older spelling of fem after seeing use of “femme” by straight cisgendered people explode in the past year.  I am all about an expansive definition of femme/fem across all kinds of people and bodies,  but I am not here for straight women appropriating a term with very specific queer meanings.

That’s it: “very specific queer meanings”, meanings we continue to reclaim, rediscover, invent and revel in. Straight feminine women may have influenced us, inspired us, loved us, been good friends, but they can not be femmes. Their relationship to femininity is and always will be different from ours. As for the spelling, I’m still mulling over what Maggie has to say about it. I like that it’s a French word (I still haven’t been able to find out what “femme” is in French, though!), because I love French, and I haven’t been exposed to the offensive appropriation of the word that she has, so I’m in a bit of a bubble. To be continued!

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.


What Do Femmes Do In Winter? — Meditations for Queer Femmes

The word in a newsletter from her CSA is “Farmers”, but her weary eyes see “What do Femmes do in Winter?”

We knit, we plan, we foment revolution.

We shovel snow in some parts of the world; in others, we plant our gardens and fan ourselves with that pretty fan from Japan someone gave us, the one that still smells a bit like sandalwood incense.

We read to our babies, to ourselves, to our butches. We chop firewood. We deal with frozen pipes. We bake.

We travel to the library, a play, a movie. We brave the weather to get to a friend’s birthday party, leaving our boots at the door ‘cause we brought our bunny slippers with us.

We deal with crises, we maintain, we get silly, we take long, hot baths.

Femmes in winter store up strength and knowledge and love so that when spring comes, we can peel off a few layers and let the sap rise.

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


Published in: on March 6, 2017 at 5:47 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditation for Queer Femmes

Generations work differently for queers. It’s interesting to think that a femme who comes out in later years may well have more in common with a femme 20 or more years her junior, one who had the resources and support to come out as a teen, than she does with a straight woman her own age. In the same way, a femme in her 40s can become a queer elder, whereas a straight elder won’t achieve that honor until their 70s or later. We queer femmes live through so much, walk through so much fire. How many of us had to make ourselves up “… out of brilliance and ass”, as Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha says in her poem, “Femmes are film stars”? Most of us had no femme sisters, no best femme friends. Our sexualities are counter culture and we flaunt and represent even when our straight age mates are perming their dyed hair and retreating into I’m-no-longer-sexually-active “sensible” clothing. We femmes fought so hard to find our heart’s delight – years and years, for some of us, not until post menopause, for some of us – and so we dash headlong into our joy, flaming, blooming, shouting. We are not invisible.

In John Preston’s novel, The Arena, initiates into the old-school world of power and submission become more sublimely human as they go ever deeper into serious explorations of their sexuality and true nature. We femmes, too, come into our power the more we understand and act on our own individual femme directives, the closer we come to our soul purpose. We femme angels, born to bless the world! What gifts do you offer to your family and community, dear femme sisters, simply by your fierce dedication to plumbing the delicious depths of your queer soul?

Every Monday, I will offer a Meditation for queer femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was a fabulous straight femme, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.