Tag Archives: femme

do femmes get to be comfortable?

young woman/girl in a red tshirt looking through a view master toygood morning and happy Wednesday — what’s rustling around under the skin of your morning dreams today?

I’m thinking these days about what it takes for us to be comfortable in our skin, to be comfortable in our selves. There have been years when I felt like I would never be ok, in the world, just as I am, that I’d always be performing some version of myself in order just to engage with other human beings. Does that make sense? But I just came from the 2012 Femme Conference, where I had a very different experience of girlness/femaleness, community, and ease.

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femme shame

graffiti-esque image of a big girl in strapless top dancing, wrists blossoming with pink ribbons...

(Isn't this hot?! Click on the image for more of LibDescent's photostream!)

Being back from tour requires a kind of re-entry –it’s, yes, a bumpy ride. I can’t wait to tell you all about these last 10 days on the road in the Southeast with Body Heat!

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A gorgeous ERC last night! There was cuckolding & an orgy & the truth about strapping on in the stories that folks read, plus so much more. Hot hot stories, tender stories, revelations, wantings, loss, fear, ache, plaster. Honest. We meet every fourth Wednesday of the month at the Center for Sex and Culture for the Erotic Reading Circle, and I’d love to see you out sometime soon!

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I don’t have a lot of time to blog this morning because I’ve been notebooking (well, journaling into the computer, which has gotten easier over time, with practice, more like handwriting into my spiral-bound notebook) about shame. Femme shame, in particular. Internalized femme shame, somehow distinct from internalized misogyny, the stuff inside that calls me stupid, ridiculous, craven, painted, slutty (and more, and worse, though all that is really bad enough) for wanting to be a visible girl, a feminine woman, someone with curves, shape, adornment, someone desirable. Particularly desirable, in my case, to butches (and yes, babe, to  a particular butch), from whom I am so very different in presentation. Do you know what I mean? I mean the stuff that says, when my feet ache after 6 hours on a plane because I’m wearing tight tall peep-toe heels instead of flip flops or sneakers, What in the hell is the matter with you? You’re breaking yourself just because you want hir to find you sexy? Because my answer is yes. And because I want the girls to find me sexy, too.

At the end of my writing this morning, I thought, I need to spend more time with, create more time for, my femme friends at home. On tour, we get to admire one another 24-7, we get to make admiring comments about one another’s just about everything. And we get to talk honestly, ask honest questions about Do you really think this looks good? How can I make this piece of clothing work? What do you mean I can wear skinny jeans? We did that with each other this tour, got so honest with it, got to offer up to one another the particular cadences of our own places of shame (well, let me not name that for others — at least, I know this is true for me), and here these women who I so admire and can get jealous of for their confidence, their style, their power, they met these tender places with care, a kind of cradling,

And that’s one of the reasons I love Tour, and why I crash when it’s over. Yesterday I wore a short skirt, tall boots, flowy shirt, to work, and not one person exclaimed. Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but the fact is that, on tour, we get to be one another’s cheering sections, we get to be the people who go gaga for one another, we get to gush with a particularly (I’ll say it) femme desire, pushing one another up and up as we admire and adore one another. And when it’s over, I miss it — not from a vanity place, no, but from a connection place; it’s not a safe thing we’re doing in the world, being visible girls/feminine women, and it’s necessary to surround ourselves with the voices of those who adore us, and whom, too, we can adore right back, who tell us that yes, we are right to want to claim our beauty, our gorgeousness, our ferocity. So yes, I miss it when tour is over and I move back into silence, back onto the concrete streets where women are trained not to make eye contact with one another, where the butches slide their eyes away from me, where the eye contact I can make is with men who just want to offer something lewd — moving back from open roads, thick green encampments surrounding us, daring conversation, owning my own artistry to these silent grey carpeted cubes, the hum of fluorescent lights, the tick of keys beneath my fingers pus(h)ing out dry database requests instead of conversations about desire, something stickier, something wet.

There’s more to say about all this, but I need to get ready for work. Still, here’s a call to my local femme friends: let’s get together soon, ok? I need you.

And yes, a write, a possible write: what’s the name of the shame you or your character are wrangling with right now? Want to take a few minutes, 10 or 15, and let yourself find some words for its shape? Do you see it connected to other shames, or as the flipside to some other feeling/desire?

Your words are so important, and I’m so grateful for them, for you, for you, for you.

who taught him how to walk in high heels

graffiti of legs wearing tall heels, with the words, "if you wear 5" heels, you shouldn't have to pay for your meals!"

(click on the image to see more of Maya Shimizu's photos!)

I would like to still be asleep this morning. Some mornings are like that.

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Body Heat begins this Saturday in Atlanta! People, this show is going to be gorgeous — with a line-up like this, how could it be anything but amazing: kathleen delaney, the Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins, Gigi Frost & Alex Cafarelli — these are high femme powerhouses!  I’m so honored to get to join them. Every year, I learn more and more about what’s possible for me as a queer femme dyke when I join up with the women on tour, and I come home a bit more open, a bit more solid in my skin and self, walking a bit taller, feeling that much more complicated, and thus more comfortable, in this queer femininity.

I’ve told you what Body Heat is, right? “Body Heat is a national touring collective of fierce Queer Femme porn/erotic authors, performers, poets, and dancers who offer a sizzling two hour performance, as well as a variety of workshops on sex and gender and erotic writing.” That is, Body Heat is a tour that showcases queer femme desire — what’s not revolutionary about that?

Here’s where to find the Heat this time around: We’ll be in ATL on Saturday, 4/16 at The Eyedrum – held @ The Goat Farm (with special guests Phoenicia Phoenixyz Battle & Margaret Cho!!), and then we move on out on Monday, 4/18, to Huntsville, AL — come find us at the Flying Monkey Art Theater. On the 19th we get to visit the Little Hamilton Collective (1318 Little Hamilton Street) in Nashville, TN, and on Wednesday the 20th we go to Planet Ida in Dowelltown, TN. Next, we’ll be at the Get Down in Asheville, NC, on Thursday, 4/21, and then on Friday we hit the Pinhook in Durham! After all that traveling around, we’ll head back to Atlanta for a Saturday afternoon workshop and show at Charis Books (and we’ll be joined again by special guest Phoenicia Phoenixyz Battle) — then there’s rumored to be a special house party somewhere on Saturday night!

Watch the Body Heat FB page for all the details, and please come out and say hello!

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I haven’t shared a workshop write in awhile! Here’s a prompt and a write from Saturday’s Writing the Flood workshop.

Here’s the prompt: write down seven things that you or your character have forgotten. Then choose one (or let one choose you) and write.

And this is my response to that prompt:

Who taught him how to walk in high heels? His mother certainly never expected to have to put a line of tape down on the hard wood floor of their dusty living room and present her boy with that information: Put high heel pumps on this way, hold the sole in your one hand and press the show onto the opposite foot, or with platforms, if they have buckle, press your legs together and lean your knees to one side, swishing your skirt or the bell bottoms of your jeans out of the way so you can see to do up the strap. Then stand tall, see, shift your center of gravity some, lean back onto them — like that — good! And now its one foot in front of the other, directly in front, honey, and let your hips go — good, just let your hips go.

He wonders if even girls got that kind of instruction — it was the 70s, after all, and his mother was more after cork-soled comfort than platform boots by the time he started marveling through her closet after school, the days he got home so far before her, the days his name was latch key. He doesn’t remember how he learned this precious thing, this thing that separates the men from the boys, this thing that sail-sells his faggot flag high and free. He had no Queens to teach him and he doesn’t remember especially examining how the rich, trashy ladies on Dallas shifted their bodies when their feet were pitched forward in stilettos. Somehow, the knowledge got in, like somehow he got himself inside a fine leather bustier and a short denum skirt, like he got himself inside words like Darlin and Mary, like he got himself inside another boy’s drawers.

He knows not all the fairyu boyes, the girly men, like to put their weight inside sequins and feminiity, but he does — and he doesn’t remember when it landed clear as a furled fake eyelash that this made him no less of a man, but he carries that knowing in his bones like he carries the knowing how to let his hip, his hips, his hips shift easy like balls of butter in their sockets when he’s wielding a pair of high heels through a room full of wringing wet men, and this knowing his momma doesn’t know she gave him is what will save his life.

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Thank you for all the things you learned that no one thought to teach you, and how you share that with others in so many different ways. Thank you for that wisdom and generosity. Thank you, today, yesterday, tomorrow, for your words.

we’re ok / we’re not ok

graffiti of 2 blue and purple birds on a wireThere are days when this phrase flints itself against me, inside the emptiness, inside the loss, all through my body: I’m not ok, I’m not ok, I’m not ok. And what my conscious mind thinks is about how desperately I want to be able to be public with how I’m doing, how I’m sad or angry or lost, how much I miss my family, how broken I feel in that moment, how not put-together and fine.

And then there’s the other side of “I’m not ok,” which is, I’m not safe, I’m not a good person, I’m not someone you want to know or be around. Like something about the very essence of me is not all right. What if I let that feeling fly whenever it pushed through me? What if I let it out of my mouth and fingers?

When I don’t, what I get left with is the hangover from the stuffing down, the hangover from hiding (from) my not-okayness, my humanness. The stiffness and achiness in my shoulders, where I hold the rage, in my throat, where I swallow all my words.

We know that in our culture, women showing rage is not ok. We’re supposed to be good and quiet, cry if we’re upset, laugh a lot otherwise and make other people comfortable. Wanting to be other than that is not ok. Wanting to feel all of our bodies is not ok. Wanting people to take care of their shit is not ok (that’s supposed to be part of our job), wanting to scream or cry in public or wherever is not ok. Wanting to not be safe, to be a danger, is definitely not ok.

There’s a  place that can get unlocked in me, that I still carry from those years back, a huge thick of hopelessness. Hopelessness is ok for women, isn’t it? When it moves out to consume me, I am reminded (“reminded”) that nothing will ever be ok, that no place in the world is safe, that my aches and hollows are meant to be, are built into my system now, are left for me to hold and cradle and love (like a woman does all her babies, right?).

(But isn’t it a radically honest thing to attend to and hold all the parts of ourselves, even, especially, the messiest ones?)

I want to tell you about stone butch and incest survivor femme, stone femme, and when I open my mouth, all the words get clotted beneath the thick mass that lives in the low part of my throat, all those years of unspokens, all those years of holding back, don’t offend, don’t upset, you want people to think you’re ok. I want to tell you about how many different ways stone can melt, transform, unfold, unfurl — and, too, how many different ways it sets inside the body, how it roots in conversation, in distrust, in fear. How our histories, our daily realities, take up residence in our right now and remind us that we are not ok, we are never ok, even (especially!) with this person here who sees our scars and tells us they love them, even with this person who runs their hand over our hardest places and offers to love us anyway, even with the someone who told us we could tell them anything, and then stayed after we did, holding what has damaged us, what could damage us still. I want to tell you about triggeredness that inflames another’s triggers, about days spent throbbing from the deepest wounds getting reopened, about how very common this all is and yet how intimate, individual, personal, just-us it feels. I want to tell you about the tremendous grace required and revealed when we meet each other anyway, when we continue to love each other anyway, not in spite of or because, but with and through.

There’s so much more I want from this writing right now — it needs to be an essay, not a blog post. I want to tell you about all the different ways, shapes, forms that “not ok” takes — what does that mean? I’m trying to learn my own not-okayness, meet those selves that carry my rage, my inappropriate responses, my cattiness, my too big strengths and desires and hungers. I want to tell you about butch strength and femme huger and femme strength and butch hunger. I want to tell you how tired I am of femme-girl-woman being relegated to the hungry open mouth, and I want to tell you about the resilience of allowing oneself to know and speak one’s appetites.

I’ve been rereading Stone Butch Blues, because I’m still searching for old-school femme voices through the mouths of butches: where is the femme’s novel, the book about about pushing through the struggle to live a full life while loving butches? Where are words of femmes who stood their ground, took up space in bars and at women’s/feminist meetings, had to rage on both sides, had so little room to blossom completely, (just as their lovers had so little room to blossom completely), who never disappeared into shadows or straight life? Where are those words, describing how femmes made a life for themselves with partners who needed them to melt stone, and who carried stones of their own, so often untended to? I need that history. I guess I need to know this work leads somewhere. I need to see how my foremothers stood their own ground, raised their voices and energies for their own needs, took care of their power in a community that just saw them as girls, as T&A. Or is that only now? Is that only me? Where are those words? Still stuck in so many of our throats.

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Let’s do this:  Make a list entitled, It’s not ok for me to…. Let yourself write down 10 things that it’s not ok for you or your character to want or think or feel. Then read through your list, and mark one or two that have a lot of energy for you, for whatever reason.

Begin writing with one of those items, only change the first part of the sentence to read, Today, I… (Today, she/he/ze, Today, you…)– and then the words from your list. Write it out as if it happened, with as much detail as you want. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want to go!

Thank you for the ways you are honest about your okayness — even in the deepest inside places of your own amazing self. Thank you for your words.

using doorways

woman in doorway, hair wrapped, holding bread in her hand, maybe chewingGood morning! Short short post today (since yesterday’s was so long!)– just a prompt and a question:

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Question: Where is the femme Stone Butch Blues?

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Prompt: Spend a moment or so with the image to the right — notice what questions, what voices, what sounds start to arise as you study this picture. What’s just happened here? What’s about to happen? Do you think there’s a question she’s thinking about? Do you think there’s a question she’s not asking? Take 10 or 15 minutes, and let yourself  begin writing with whatever comes up for you in response to the photo. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go! Share any pieces here that you wish, in the comments…

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This is the prayer I have for today: thank you, thank you, thank you.

I wear myself differently now

drawing of a fist, tattoed wrist, thumb over fingers, and the thumb has a long red nailThis morning is a sleep-in, catch-up-a-little-bit morning — tomorrow morning at this time I’ll be on a plane to the east coast.

Last night was wonderful dinner with a good friend for me and the Mr. — thanks, Cayenne, for the delicious meal and wonderful company!

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Here’s a Thursday prompt for you — it’s an excerpt from Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands: The New Mestiza / La Frontera (Aunt Lute Books, 1999 (orig  published in 1987), p. 19). Let yourself read through the excerpt, and then take 10 minutes or 20 and write what comes up for you — a response, a story, a gratitude, an argument:

“There was a muchacha who lived near my house. La gente del pueblo talked about her being una de las otras, “of the Others.” They said that for six months she was a woman who had a vagina that bled once a month, and that for the other six months she was a man, had a penis and she peed standing up. they called her half and half, mita’ y mita‘, neither one nor the other but a strange doubling, a deviation of nature that horrified, a work of nature inverted. But there is a magic aspect in abnormality and so-called deformity. Maimed, mad, and sexually different people were believed to posess supernatural powers by primal cultures’ magico-religious thinking. For them, abnormality was the price a person had to pay for her or his inborn extraordinary gift.

There is something compelling about being both male and female, about having an entry into both worlds. Contrary to some psychiatric tenets, half and halfs are not suffering from a confusion of sexual identity, or even from a confusion of gender. What we are suffering from is an absolute despot duality that says we are able to be only one or the other. It claims that human nature is limited and cannot evolve into something better. But I, like other queer people, am two in one body, both male and female. I am the embodiment of the heiros gamos: the coming together of opposite qualities within.

Here is my response to this prompt, written during a Monday night Write Whole workshop, right after this year’s Femme Conference:

Four years ago, in 2006, even more in 2005, I was the peacock who stood up at the microphone yesterday, the one who said, “I’ve been living as a butch for 10 years, I’m only just now letting myself explore femininity again; every time you smile at me and welcome me as a girl (as a girl), I feel blessed.” She called herself a peacock. She wore a lush full-skirted green dress and a big flower in her short hair. I never would have read her as anything other than femme.  But 5 years ago, my life echoed her story, waking up just to look in the mirror to see if my hair had grown out yet, desperate     desperate    to refind the curves I had hidden from myself during my own 10 years of butchness. My body is no different from what it was then — I weight the same, have the same shape — but I wear myself differently now. Not just the clothes: myself. I wondered, yesterday, listening to her at the Femme Conference, wondered when it happened — when, finally, I nudged on over, comfortably, to the girl side of everyday again, when I could see not fraud in the mirror, but just me. I meant to find her, the peacock, and say, Me, too. Me, too. You’ll get there — wherever you want to get. We are each of us so much more than half and half — We each, Whitman, he said it, we contain multitudes. How is it that this time I felt comfortable in my femme skin? Five years of hard work, lots of writing and tears.

And there were absolutely patient and amazing friends who walked me through and into layer after layer of girlness, the parts I wanted again and, too, the parts I didn’t want and could finally turn away from. There were the Lost Grrls, those friends from way back who’d always been ‘problematizing’ girl just in the way we lived our lives, and my first femme love, Molly, who shows me all the ways. And then all the Dirty Ink-ers, who I was nearly ashamed to tell about my ‘transition’ because our group originally (way back in the beginning) was supposed to be just for butches — and then here I was becoming one more femme in the group, leaving RR as the one butch left. They met me beautifully, with good humor and suggestions, helping me learn makeup and how, again, to walk in high heels, how to occupy space in my writing and reading as a femme. They held doors within me and themselves open, ’til I could walk through, and I’m grateful. And Kathleen, who screamed in joy with me on the phone, who explained some femme rules that I didn’t want, which reminded me that I’d have as much to wrangle with in our communities’ definitions of femme as I had with our communities’ definitions of butch Oh no: there will be no rules for my femme. Kathleen is my femme mama, she was the one I ran to and rebelled against, the one, too, I call home.

(Note: Of course, in a short write, we don’t get the chance to finish, and so I don’t include all my femme role models in this piece, who include Sarah D, Alex, Vag, Meliza, Daphne, Cindy, my mom and sister, KFW, Tara H, Carol Queen, and so many more!)

Thanks, you, for your words today — for your hard work, for the space you make, too, for your resting and rejuvenation, for your play.

Three calls for submissions: Butch/Femme and BDSM writings!

Get that writing in, and pass the word!

1) Daddy’s Little Girl: Butch/Femme Erotica

2) Lesbian BDSM Erotica Anthology

3) Chorus: The Writing of Femmes, Butches and Transpeople

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Daddy’s Little Girl: Butch/Femme Erotica
Edited by D. L. King
To be published by Cleis Press
Deadline: January 15, 2011
Payment: $50 and 2 copies of the anthology

D. L. King is looking for your hottest butch/femme erotica.

What is it about a pretty girl in a tight skirt bent over to retrieve something she’s dropped? Or that hotter-than-hot butch, swaggering into the bar like she owns it, eyes undressing every pretty girl in the place?

Do butches all worship at the alter of their femmes fatale; do little girls all have a need to serve their, big, strong daddies? Tell me about girls salivating at the sight of well-filled and packed jeans and bois dreaming of having a beautiful girl’s red lipstick smeared across their mouths.

Are all little girls good, or are some of them naughty? Do some butches need the discipline only their lady can provide? Tell me stories of daddies opening doors for their girls, feeding them morsels of the finest pâtes, cherishing and protecting them. Then tell me stories of sexy sirens, luring unsuspecting butches to their demise on rocky shores, hot, confident women in silk and lace during the day who will do anything to serve their daddy’s needs at night–anything.

Send me stories that are sweet, kinky, sexy, romantic and/or dangerous but most of all, send me stories that will singe my sheets. All characters must be at least 18.

Stories should be between 2,000 and 4,500 words, double-spaced, 12 pt Times New Roman or Courier New. Please indent the first line of each paragraph one-half inch and do not include extra lines between paragraphs. Please number your pages. No fancy fonts, no weird sizes, no bizarre formatting, no strange colors, please.

Send your story as a .doc (NOT .docx) attachment and include the title, pseudonym (if applicable) and your legal name and mailing address to butchfemme-antho@yahoo.com. Subject line should read: Submission: TITLE. Please include a bio of 50 words or less. Direct any questions to the same address. Original stories only. (If you are absolutely unable to send a .doc attachment, I will accept a .rtf.)

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Call for Submissions: Lesbian BDSM Erotica Anthology [Title Forthcoming]
To be published by Cleis Press in fall 2011
Editor Sinclair Sexsmith is looking for hot, sexy, well-written stories about kinky sex between queer women, from bondage scenarios to power play to role play to sadism and masochism to sensation play, for a new anthology of lesbian BDSM erotica. Looking for characters with a range of age, race, sexual experience, gender identity and gender expression: butch, femme, genderqueer, gender-non-conforming, dapper, and others will all be considered. Cis women, trans women, and genderqueer characters who identify with the lesbian community are welcome. Stories should have strong literary voice, characters, tension, and rising action. All characters must be over 18, prose only will be considered. For examples of what I am looking for, see Tristan Taormino’s collection Best Lesbian Bondage Erotica.
Deadline: January 1, 2011
How to submit: Send your story in a Times New Roman 12 point black font Word document (.doc) with pages numbered of 1,500 to 5,000 words to lesbianbdsmerotica@gmail.com. Double space the document and indent the first line of each paragraph. US grammar required. If you are using a pseudonym, provide your real name and be clear under which you would like to be published. Include your mailing address and a 50 words or less bio in the third person. Publisher has final approval over the manuscript.
About the editor: Sinclair Sexsmith runs the awardwinning personal online writing project Sugarbutch Chronicles: The Gender, and Relationship Adventures of a Kinky Queer Butch Top at sugarbutch.net. With work published in various anthologies, including the Best Lesbian Erotica series, Sometimes She Lets Me: Butch/Femme Erotica, and Visible: A Femmethology volume 2, Mr. Sexsmith also writes columns for online publications and facilitates workshops on sex, gender, and relationships. Find her full portfolio and schedule at http://www.mrsexsmith.com.

In case you want the link, and the call for submissions, there is also a website:http://lesbianbdsmerotica.wordpress.com/

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BFP Anthology: Call for Submissions

Chorus: The Writing of Femmes, Butches and Transpeople.
an anthology of writing from Femmes, Butches, Transfolks and Queers

Editor: Medusa

Submissions Deadline: December 1, 2010

Anticipated Publication Date: Early Spring 2011

Chorus: The Writing of Femmes, Butches and Transpeople, a forthcoming collection of writing voices from an array of Queer folks, aims to showcase the real ,radical, and retaliatory writing of Femmes, Butches, Transpeople, Queers, and other identities.

Show me your muse, your breakup poetry, your dirtiest smut, your deepest secrets, your short stories. I want your best words, the things you keep sacred when they reveal too much of yourself. Together, our voices will form a chorus of amazing story and song, amazing poetry, and our most magical words.

At this time, I am seeking written word only. Please do not sent photographs, drawings, or printed art. I will be doing a separate anthology for printed artwork at a later time due to printing requirements.

Submissions must be sent as Word Files with 12 point Times New Roman font. Work must be previously unpublished (unless you have written it here on ThePlanet). Fiction, memoir, and short stories must be less than 5000 words in length, typed double-spaced. You may submit up to 5 poems, short stories, essays, pieces of erotica.

Author maintains and controls the copyright of their essay and rights to republish their work in any publication.

By submitting work, you agree that Butchfemmeplanet.com, its owners, Moderators, and participants holds no responsibility for loss, damage, or harm to you or your work.

Send Submissions only (NO QUESTIONS) to butchfemmeplanet@gmail.com You MUST include your screen name, the name you want to accompany your pieces of writing, your phone number, email address, and a short bio that will appear in the book if your selection is chosen to be published.
Please put the title of your work and the word “CHORUS” in the subject line of the email. Please email each piece of writing separately.

Please ask questions in this thread that pertain to this process and I will do my best to answer them in a timely manner.

Our anthology will be professionally printed and published and will be available for sale on Amazon.com and through order at Barnes and Noble, as well as here on ButchFemmePlanet.com. It will feature a glossy front and back cover and an ISBN number.
The price of the anthology will be completely dependent on how many submissions we get.

Each person submitting pieces of writing who are chosen for publication will receive one free copy of the anthology. No other payment will be rendered.

I am VERY excited about this project and can’t wait to see what you all come up with! I hope that anyone who has ever wanted to see their writing in print will consider submitting for this process.

Good luck!

VozSutra: this is just the beginning

Hafiz poem written on a wall: "Even after all this time/The sun never says to the earth,/You owe Me.'//Look what happens with/A love like that,/It lights the Whole Sky"Good morning! Are you already drinking water, Bay Area readers?  Please stay hydrated — I can hardly believe how hot it got yesterday.  We did make it to the ocean, and I got to ride the rip current at Bolinas.

Today’s is supposed to be a VozSutra blog — the practice of voice.  This weekend I got to be with writers at the femme conference and spend a bit of time thinking about femme-survivorhood: what’s it mean to be a femmedyke who’s a survivor of sexual trauma?  How is our femme identity, our femme self, inflected by our survivor self?  How is our experience of being a survivor inflected by also being a queer femme? Enormous questions that could have essay- or book-length responses. We had time for one writing exercise, and someone suggested that I post some additional writing prompts here, so that we could continue our fierce work. I’ve got a bunch more prompts below.

First, I want to talk a bit about freewriting. Here’s something I wrote last year, for a presentation about transformative writing with survivors of sexual trauma at the Power of Words conference:

Want to write yourself whole? Pick up the pen and start now. Just let the words come. Don’t lift the pen up off the page, don’t censor, don’t make sense. Don’t stop to worry about whether your grammar works there or if you ought to use a comma or a semi-colon or if it’s time for a new paragraph. Give yourself these 5 minutes, maybe 15. Give yourself a lunch half-hour. Give yourself a morning hour, an evening hour, a weekend afternoon. Shut off the phone and turn away from the computer. Follow the flow, the pull of your writing. Set down in ink or pencil whatever words come up, non sequiturs and nonsense and to-do-list reminders alike, stories and complaints, wishes and dreams and frustrations and remembrances. Let it all come and comingle on your page. Let it flow through the boundaries and the bridges that we build within and around ourselves, the containments and separations, the work stuff and play stuff, the now stuff and then stuff. This writing is just for you. It doesn’t have to be shared or read aloud or posted anywhere, unless you want to do so.

Start it now. Do it again tomorrow. Keep up this pattern as many consecutive days as you want, over several years. Continue for a lifetime.

I’m just repeating what I’ve been told, what I’ve read, what’s worked for me. This is the kind of urging that Natalie Goldberg makes in Writing Down the Bones, that Anne Lamott sets before us in Bird by Bird, that Pat Schneider encourages in Writing Alone and With Others. Trusting yourself enough to write freely and broadly and openly and deeply—it creates change.

This kind of freewriting has introduced me to my thought patterns, allowed me to trace out language for experiences that I thought were unnamable, given me meditation and play time. And over time, I’ve learned again to trust whatever my writing wants me to put on the page, and then to share that new, raw, unedited stuff with other writers to revel in the surprise truths my pen leads me to and my peer writers help to highlight for me.

So — given that description and possibility, femme writers (and others!), here are some more ideas. For each one, give yourself 15 or 20 minutes to write –set a timer on your watch or stove or phone so that you can focus on the writing and not on checking the clock! (And listen: if you don’t have 15 minutes, give yourself 5 or 7. Lots can be done in that time.)

  • Write a love letter to your body, or to a specific part of your body; use the second person ‘you’ to talk directly to your body, if that works for you. The tone might be seductive, funny, apologetic, serious, adoring, sad, or all of the above and more!
  • Start your writing with the phrase “If I told you what I’m afraid to tell you …” or “These are the secrets of my body.” (If you find yourself getting stuck, switch from one to the other — or change the prompt in some way: if I told you what I’m not afraid to tell you. These aren’t the secrets of my body –)
  • Create a list of myths about survivors and then a list of myths about femmedykes.  Select one and write in response, or write about its opposite: “This is what they say about me/us, but I/we…”
  • Start with these fragments: I’m  supposed to want… / I’m not supposed to want…. Alternate between the two for a few minutes at the start of your write, and then follow your writing wherever it seems to want to go.
  • Begin with this question: What are the erotics of honesty? What happens when we are honest about what we desire (and I don’t mean just sexually) — even only with ourselves?

This is just the beginning.  You can find prompts anywhere — respond to images, songs, dreams. Let yourself pick a book off the shelf, open to a random page, put your finger down, and then start writing from the word or phrase you fall upon.  Everything is a potential spark for your muse.

Please feel welcome to share your responses here!  You can share the writes you do in response to the exercises, or your feelings about/experiences with a particular prompt.

Thank you so much for reading, for writing, for doing the fierce work you do in the world —

people who hold your heart and meet you where you live

street art -- silhouette of woman raising her arm for hawk to land onGood morning — it’s a Tuesday. Today maybe we’ll go to the ocean.  It’s supposed to be hot hot hot again and so I can swim.

I want to write a bit more about the Femme Conference, about the struggle of being with all femmes, being in that girlfriend place that has been so missing most of my life, and how painful it is, what an awful ache.

Since Sunday, I’ve been feeling this kind of throbby warmth in the aftermath of the FemmeCon, like an afterglow. And here’s why, I think: last night, when I was writing about my own transition over the last 6 years, I recognized the breadth of my own femme support system, my circle of amazing femme friends and supporters (some of whom maybe I’m naming as honorary femmes), who’ve walked (with) me through this change from butch to femme, who walk with me as I keep on trying to find sure footing in this girlness:
The women from home: Molly, Juli, Carla, Lisa, Kathleen, my sister

the Dirty Inkers: Dorian, Naomi, Renee G (and not femme but of course Renee R, too, who was so supportive and present with my transition even though it meant she was the only butch left in Dirty Ink!)

The Body Heaters: Kathleen Delaney(again), Veronica Combs/Vixen Noir, Alex Cafarelli, Meliza Bañales, Vagina Jenkins, Leslie Freeman, Celestina Pearl, Nicky Click, Gigi Frost —

The sisterfemmefriends: Sarah Deragon, Tina D’Elia, Rachel Carroll, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
and more local femme role models/writer colleagues than I could name…

I’ve spent, maybe, too much of my life with books, with movies, with others’ stories of friends who show up for you when you’re sad, who open your blinds, who bring you back to life and bring you ice cream or Chinese noodles or a bottle of wine. I hear those stories when I’m at the femme conference, too, stories of bone friendship, friendships mourned over when they’re lost. I envy those stories: the girls who got together easily, or seemingly easily, who meet each other as girls/women/femmes/comrades/and something else, too. Who show up, answer phone calls, hold your secrets, give advice, argue and come back together again (or don’t). I mean people who hold your heart and meet you where you live, under your scars and surfaces, in all of your mess. People who you perform for, maybe, like we all perform all the time, but who can see your performances — can see the edges and the underneath, who know the backside of your smile and your rage.

The truth is I have been terrified to be so known. I am still. Friends know me better, differently, than lovers do.  Forever, it seems like forever, the people I could be close to, raw and honest with, were the people I was fucking or in a romantic relationship with. That’s an old story that I don’t want to tell it all again, but let’s just suffice it to say that that’s what my stepfather allowed: why would I spend time with anyone I wasn’t about to get into bed with? Friends were a threat to him, of course, and so he cut me out of that possibility. I had people I hung around with at school, lots of guys I liked and talked to, and some girls too and what I’m really trying to say here is that while I had people I spent time with, I walked around inside a wall. As soon as I left school, the wall came down and I was back inside my own personal hell.  We all had one, I know.

When you’re a teenager, you’re supposed to be learning how to relate to other people, how to be a friend and a community member — we learn about drama and interpersonal bad behavior in junior high and high school, but we also learn about solidarity and community and friendship — at least, ideally. Maybe lots of us don’t. I’m one of the don’ts, because I couldn’t. When you’re growing up in a controlling or abusive situation (I know many of you all know this already), you can’t let others in: You’re not allowed to. They’re ridiculed, threatened by the system you live within. In college, once I started trying to make strong emotional ties with folks outside my family, my stepfather threatened their lives — and so it becomes a matter of saving someone else, to disconnect from them. How could it not be easier, safer, then, finally, to be alone? I didn’t learn how to be a heart-friend, how to be that raw and vulnerable, how to see and be so seen.

This isn’t about not having connections with people, having love. It’s about something deeper. How much I missed that experience of best-friends, of endless phone conversations with someone who loved me not just because we were fucking, someone I could talk to about anything. I hated hearing anyone else talk about it. I didn’t want to know about your best friend: it was just a reminder that it wasn’t me, that that wasn’t a world I got to inhabit.

Of course, the truth is, I’d been trained into my own sexual currency; but I didn’t know or believe in my worth as a friend. There’s been a process of unearthing, this letting myself be a friend I could believe in, because, for years, I was the friend you just had to let go of — don’t expect anything from me.  I might not always answer the phone.  I might disappear.  I might lie and hide from you.  My romantic relationship will always come before you. I might not open even though I will expect you to: and then I wondered why I felt so lonely.

Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve become aware that I have the friendships I’ve always wanted: thick-heart-risky-brave connections with women who make me want to be more and more honest and real. It’s terrifying: these are people I admire and ache for, who are smart and brave and risk-taking, who don’t have to choose me but do. But do. Complicated and imperfect; people I’ve gotten angry with and still loved with everything. How can this be?

There’s more here, but I’m going to stop with this: thank you.  I love you. I’m sorry. I’m working. I’m so grateful for you.

And thank you for being there, and for reading —

what resilience and growth look like

femme conference 2010 -- logo and dates! August 20-22 in OaklandGood morning!  Today is Friday and according to my post schedule-thinking that I did earlier this week, I should/could be talking about writing ourselves whole in general, as a business. WOW-biz or something. It’s going to be a quick post this morning, ’cause I’ve got to get in the shower and get ready for FemmeCon, though, so here’s what I want to say about the business of running a business — I can’t believe that it’s something I’m doing.

For many (many) years, my main work-related goal was to have the easiest possible taxes; my only goal was to be able to file a, what’s that called, an EZ form every April, or to not have to even file the form because I didn’t have anything new or interesting to tell the government about my financial situation.  Now I’ve got this thing that I’m doing for love and for part of my livelihood, and I’m working toward having it be all of my livelihood, this writing, workshopping and talking about all of it.

I’ve been in the midst of this organic growing process (or not growing so much, often), and this year I’ve taken a number of major leaps toward having writing ourselves whole be all of what I do with my work life/time: first, applying to Intersection for the Arts’ Incubator project — as a part of the Intersection Incubator, I get to be fiscally sponsored, which means I’m sort of in this excellent inbetween land of nonprofit and not, where I can have access to grants only available to nonprofits and can accept tax-deductible donations, and also continue to do other social entrepreneurial work, grassroots work — that is, not be tied to the nonprofit model. I’m grateful to Intersection for the opportunity to participate in this amazing program, and also to my friend and colleague and role model, Peggy Simmons of Green Windows Writing Groups as well, who investigated and participated in Intersection’s Incubator program first, and shares continually of her wisdom, her learning, her ideas.

The second thing that’s happening right now is that I’m asking for help. It’s not that I haven’t had a lot of help over the last eight years with these workshops — from workshop participants and friends and colleagues passing the word about the workshops, folks offering space to hold workshops in, making donations, coming out and helping to publicize fundraising events, sharing prompt ideas, and so much more. What’s happening now is a little bit different: I’ve hopped off the “I’m doing this all by myself” train. As I begin to work with Lou Vaile and with Jianda Monique (of SugarMama PR!), and possibly others too (!), I will have grown writing ourselves whole out past the bounds of my own, individual capacity — it’s going to be at a place where I can no longer return to doing all the work myself. (Note that I haven’t been doing all the work myself for awhile — My Mr. helps so much, even when I’m weird about it, and then there’s so much that’s just not getting done.) So that’s exciting and terrifying and I can’t wait and I also want to, a little part of me wants to, just go back to 8 years ago when there was just one workshop and I was just getting started and that’s all I was doing.  But that’s not the way the work works — humans grow and like to expand and learn. Here we go!

What else do I want to tell you?  Today I’m doing a workshop at FemmeCon for femme survivors called Wild Geese  — yep, after the poem by Mary Oliver. One of the things I hope we’ll get to explore is this intersection of identities: femininity (however we wear/live it) and survivor (however that rings true for us).  For me, these identities inflect each other powerfully, and an enormous part of my struggle with returning to/reclaiming a ‘girl’ identity was the fact that, for me, ‘girl’ was entirely born up with victim, vulnerable, powerless. My girl identity and my girl body (and I love that I think of  Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha‘s amazing piece, “gonna get my girl body back” in Brazen Femme, everytime I think the phrase ‘girl body’ now) has everything to do with my trauma, and so I didn’t want this girl body, and stepped into a butch-boy body for nearly a decade.  Not everyone, of course, takes the same path–today, together, we’ll get to think about how these pieces shape and influence each other, all the different ways femme resilience looks like.

And then Saturday’s the August Writing the Flood workshop — can’t wait for that one!  I’ve got new exercise ideas (thanks again to Peggy and others) and poems and and — will I get to write with you?

What’s resilience and growth look like for you today?  I’d love to know what you’re thinking about that —

Thank you so much for being there, for reading and for writing —