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.

Femme Friday – Femmes in Literature, Mary Llewellyn from The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

“All my life,” says Mary to Stephen, “I’ve been waiting for something.”

To me, this is a quintessential femme statement, or rather, the statement of a femme who responds sexually and romantically to butches and fucking finally gets to meet one. Brave, tough Mary, who has worked with Stephen tirelessly driving ambulances during the First World War. Mary, the orphan, Mary the true and loyal lover. Perhaps because she has so much less to lose – no Morton, no ice queen bitch mother, no horses, no family name – she is much more radical than Stephen, unwilling to accept the lot of the invert in the tortured, noble fashion of her lover. She insists they be around other queers, queers Stephen regards as almost entirely degenerate while Mary has a more compassionate and worldly view. Stephen’s limited understanding of Mary as a pure innocent drives her into poorer and poorer behavior, culminating in an act of supremely craven betrayal.

We had to wait for novelists like Sarah Waters, Isabel Miller and Ellen Galford for happier endings for our fictional historical ancestors, but Mary (and Angela and possibly even Puddle) live and breathe as historical femmes and give us a window into the lives of those ancestors.

Deep gratitude to Radclyffe Hall for loving Mary Llewellyn onto the page!

 

Mary said: “All my life, I’ve been waiting for something.”

            “What was it, my dear?’ Stephen asked her gently.

            And Mary answered: “I’ve been waiting for you, and it’s seemed such a dreadful long time, Stephen.”

            The barely healed wound across Stephen’s check flushed darkly, for what could she find to answer?

            “For me?” she stammered.

            Mary nodded gravely: “Yes, for you. I’ve always been waiting for you: and after the war you’ll send me away.” Then she suddenly caught hold of Stephen’s sleeve: “Let me come with you – don’t send me away, I want to be near you….I can’t explain…but I only want to be near you, Stephen. Stephen – say you won’t send me away….”

            Stephen’s hand closed over the Croix de Guerre, but the metal of valour felt cold her her fingers; dead and cold it felt at that moment, as the courage that had set it upon her breast. She stared straight ahead of her into the sunset, trembling because of what she would answer.

            Then she said very slowly: “After the war – no, I won’t send you away from me, Mary.”

 

 Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!