Tag Archives: queer

let it into the light

National Coming Out Day logo: Keith Haring image of a figure emerging, jubilant, from a closet doorGood morning good morning — is it Tuesday where you are? Here, it’s a Tuesday, quiet so far, dark. I’m having green tea with tulsi and mint, and there’s a candle lit in a tall jar — the flame is popping in the wax as air bubbles emerge, I think, and it feels like the flame is talking to me.

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Sent out the writing ourselves whole October newsletter yesterday — there are a whole lot of new writing opportunities coming up in the new year! We’re launching Bayview Writers, a general-topic writing workshop for Marin — women’s group on Tuesday mornings in Tiburon, and an open group on Wednesday evenings in San Rafael. Also coming in January: Dive Deep, an advanced workshop for folks who are ready to dive deep into a writing project. Please let me know if you’d like to learn more about any of the writing opportunities coming up!

Plus, don’t forget that October’s Writing the Flood meets this coming Saturday! We’ll be in Berkeley this time around — I’d love to write with you there.

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Yes, it’s National Coming Out Day in the US (linking to the wikipedia site rather than the official HRC page — when did this get to be an HRC-sponsored event?)– how are you marking this day? Is it a matter of coming out as gay/queer/SGL, or allowing some other part of yourself to emerge into the light?

The quote that I am the most fond of is this one, attributed to Albert Camus: Liberty is the right not to lie. We are most free, I believe, when we are free to tell our truths — our full truths, our complicated truths.

Coming out, as many of us know, is a never-ending process. Because we live in a hetero-centrist culture, those of us who are queer or otherwise non-heterosexual will be constantly provided opportunities to correct assumptions made about us by straight friends and family. However, we will also consistently run into folks in our own community who make assumptions about us based on their own understandings or experience of our identity labels: this presents us with further coming-out opportunities. We get to practice, endlessly, telling the truths about our lives, if we wish to. It’s kind of a gift.

(Of course, it can get kind of annoying, too. Just once, I’d like for someone I meet (in a non-gay context) to assume that I’m queer: even when I was a butch/boy, folks tended to assume that I had a husband attached to that wedding ring or reference to ‘partner.’ Really? I’d ask myself, looking in the mirror. Really? Not that boyfriend was outside the realm of my affectional possibility — but I just wanted folks to make a different assumption about me sometimes.)

Maybe you feel like you’re done already, if you’ve come out. You live your life as an out gay person, everyone in your family knows, everyone at work knows, everyone at the bocce court and at the softball field knows. Right on. Now, what’s the next layer of truth-telling that you can do? Do folks make assumptions about you based on your gender presentation, based on the short-hand label you offer to them as a representation of yourself: do they think they know you because they hold lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, trans, same-gender loving in their hands and in front of their eyes when they look at you? How can you be more honest with them? What do those words mean for you, really? Are there folks in your own community who continue to assume that because you’re a butch lesbian, you’re only into femmes, or folks who think that because you’re a gay man, you must not care about intimacy? Do you let yourself be led in any way by the bullshit stereotypes that have attached themselves to our labels (by necessity, I know, but still, they tether us in and away from one another)?

Here’s my own (ongoing) coming out: I’m a queer cisgendered woman who used to identify as butch and bisexual, who surfs around the Kinsey scale over the course of any given month from about a 3 to a 5.5; I’m theoretically poly but have always been monogamous in practice (if you don’t include my primary relationship with the written word); I’m an incest survivor, a tomboy (definitely) femme (maybe) switch, an erotica writer. There are some truths I’m not sharing here, because I’m ashamed to (but that’s a truth, too, isn’t it?).

I believe in coming out (I came out in the 90s, after all), and then I believe in telling the truth about what the words we use to come out really mean — how they unfurl into our real, lived lives. If everyone already knows you’re a big old homosexual or queer, why not take some time today to write about or talk about some aspect of your life that most folks don’t know, or to challenge assumptions that folks make about you because they know that you’re a big ol’ homo?

This is the prompt for today, then: Write the next layer of your *or your character’s) coming out: ok, so you’re gay. What does that mean? How does it feel in your body, on your skin, in community, in the world? What does queer, bi, SGL look like in your life? How are you different from the mainstream assumptions that get made about your identity? What are the complications, the contradictions?

If you identify as straight, tell us about that, too: how are you different from the mainstream assumptions that get made about straight folks? Where are your complications and contradictions? Let’s get messy with these identities, with these coming out stories.

What else might you (or your character) be wanting to come out about? Maybe there’s a part of yourself that has nothing to do with your sexuality at all, but that wants, finally, to be shared. Write about that part, if you want — the parts that cut or that survive, the parts that have to do with an eating disorder, with multiple small ones inside, with a secret love of flame. Maybe there are other parts — you’ve started going to church, you’ve taken up knitting, you’re exploring the family tree you thought you’d written off forever. Whatever part of yourself that’s been kept secret, kept in a closet, kept in the dark, whatever part that’s ready for some light, let it down on the page today. Let some of the light, stuff, into the dark, too. Give yourself 10 minutes — and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for your generosity, the brave and complicated truths that you hold in your skin and tendon and bones. Thank you for the places you’ve protected by keeping them secret as long as needed; and thank you for the ways you let them into the sun and rich loam at the right time. Thank you for your words.

all of our body can hold different parts of our stories

graffiti, wheat pasted maybe, of a young male deer beneath a green treeI got up extra early today to do my morning pages, before coming to the computer.  Maybe it will have been a good idea, but right now I’m tired and would like more sleep. Yesterday was a very quiet day — perfect. No time on the computer — 2 old movies (a Doris Day & a Katherine Hepburn) and 1 more recent, Hook. A day for baking, for reading in the sun, for cafe writing.

Two nights ago, when we got home from dinner with Alex after Body Empathy, there were at least two deer nested down back beneath the big tree directly in front of the carport. We tiptoed out of the car, lugging bags of stuff, materials, workshop business and food, and said hello to them and told them how pretty they were. They kept their eyes on us, ears up, watching, but didn’t move. The bigger one didn’t move, the mama maybe — the smaller, behind, she’d stood by the time we were done unloading. Yesterday afternoon I wandered back to where they’d been, wanted to see the outlines of bellies on the ground, in a pile of leaves maybe, but all I saw were the small hoofprints all around the back area where the giant pile of leaves used to be. Maybe they were snacking on new blackberry cane growth, or maybe there was something good in the neighbor’s compost pile. I knew they might come up to the house and push their heads to the tomato plant I’ve got that’s going crazy now, suddenly flowering and budding, growing tall and almost wild — I knew they might come up and get a taste, since F! has seen their footprints in my lettuce pots behind the fence! It’s ok, though. They can have some and can leave me some. I’ve heard their feet clacking on the sidewalk, those dark hooves striking sharp and simple, like it’s a normal sound, deerhooves in my ears. They won me over.


It was a beautiful Body Empathy workshop on Saturday, all of us risking that slow possibility of being in our bodies. We started off a little discombobulated, got to be imperfect, because no one was there to open the church for us, & thus our meeting space, until 9:30 — which was when we were supposed to be getting started! We’d invited folks to start arriving at 9:30 so they could get breakfast and settle in, but those who arrived at 9:30 got to help us set up (thank you!) or got to wander a bit around the bowels of First Congo, checking out what was new and fresh in progressive christianity. After the coffee pot wouldn’t work and the stovetop wouldn’t come on, finally we got things together (many thanks to the Mr. Fresh! who went out for a box of Peets!) and moved into some gentle and poweful work. Thanks to all who were there, and, too, to my amazing co-facilitator, Alex Cafarelli, who reminds me often how ok it can be to be in these bodies we carry around with us, even it it’s not ok sometimes. this morning I’m doing some stretching, some spinning, that gentle loving kindness movement that Alex offered to us, as though we deserve to love and be loved by and in our bodies. And we do.

These were two of the quotes I handed out on Saturday, with our guidelines & practices:

I write to understand as much as to be understood. Literature is an act of conscience. It is up to us to rebuild with memories, with ruins, and with moments of grace.
—Elie Wiesel

I love the body.  Flesh is so honest, and organs do not lie.
—Terri Guillemets

Organs do not lie. What does that mean? I appreciate the opportunity, the invitation, to consider. This quote reminded me, while we were doing our work on Saturday, of Nancy Mellon, who I had the chance to meet at the last Power of Words conference. Nancy writes and works with the idea of storytelling as a healing art, and wrote a book called Body Eloquence: The Power of Myth and Story to Awaken the Body’s Energies — she talks about the information our organs hold, our inside parts hold, and how we can access those stories and truths. She’s an amazing storyteller, had us all completely transfixed in the Haybarn there on the Goddard campus, as we waited to hear what the lungs could do, what the blood knows, what our small intestine can tell us.

What does it mean that all of our body can hold different parts of our stories, our lives, our histories, our truths? It’s scary to me, sometimes, this possibility — the fact that my organs (say, my liver, which I wrote about some this weekend) can hold some information about me feels outside my conscious control — and it is, at least in the way that my western logical ‘rational’ mind things about conscious control.

What does it mean that all of our body can hold different parts of our stories? It means that we are (still) whole — that our bodies know our truths, and that we can access those truths, through somatic work, through movement and dance, through art and creativity, through myriad right-brain activities, those ways of being and thinking that step gently and kindly around the rigid left brain that wants to think it has the exact right ways to know.

Thank you for your words, for the way you risk speaking without words, too, all the different ways you say, you listen, you witness and share.

Call for Papers – “Queer in the Clinic” (Special Issue of the Journal of Medical Humanities)

(pulled from the Lit-Med mailing list: http://groups.google.com/group/lit-med?hl=en)

Special Issue of the Journal of Medical Humanities: "Queer in the Clinic"
Guest Editors: Lance Wahlert and Autumn Fiester

We invite the submission of abstracts for a special issue of the Journal of Medical Humanities, which will consider queer perspectives on and queer
experiences in the clinic. While all professionals and patients face dilemmas within the medical sphere, for LGBTQ individuals the stakes are
especially pronounced and complicated. According to critical theorists like Michel Foucault and others, the clinic is an intensely problematic space for
queers because many of their identities and categories were born there. While debatable, such a historical and scholastic legacy hangs heavy over
our readings and renderings of gay and trans persons in the medical realm. Stated succinctly: Historically having been born out of medical pathology,
how do queer persons understand and even reconcile their relationships to the clinic today?

This special issue of the Journal of Medical Humanities will be concerned with the voices and perspectives of LGBTQ persons in the medical sphere –
the dilemmas they face in the clinic, the influences that sexuality and gender identity have on a person’s patient-hood, and the factors that
create distinctively queer perspectives on medicine

Some over-arching questions that inform this special issue include:
- What does the experience of being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex in a medical encounter look like – as either patient or
health-care provider?
- How do queer sexualities and gender identities factor into clinical relationships, the experience of being ill, and the negotiations for
treatment and care?
- Does a pervading heteronormativity impinge upon queer patients, their partners, families, caregivers, or health care providers?
- What does homophilic or queer-affirming clinical care look like?
- How do homosexuality and gender-nonconformity affect/effect some of the most vulnerable patient populations: children, adolescents, the elderly, and
the disabled?

Submissions are welcome in a wide range of scholastic and methodological forms for this special issue on "Queer in the Clinic," including:
- Literary analyses
- Historical and historiographical studies
- Philosophical interventions
- Visual and cinema studies projects
- Photojournalistic pieces
- Autobiographical memoirs
- Anthropological and sociological studies
- Bioethical commentaries
- Religious studies perspectives
- And artistic representations of queerness

Abstract submissions should be 1,000-1,500 words in length and are due by February 15, 2011. Abstracts should be submitted to:
It is anticipated that this special issue will be published in Spring/Summer 2012.

The Journal of Medical Humanities publishes original papers reflecting its broad perspective on interdisciplinary studies of medicine and medical
education. Research findings emerge from three areas of investigation: medical humanities, cultural studies, and pedagogy. Medical humanities
coverage includes literature, history, philosophy, and bioethics as well as areas of the social and behavioral sciences that have strong humanistic
traditions. Inquiries based on cultural studies may include multidisciplinary activities involving the humanities; women's,
African-American, and other critical studies; media studies and popular culture; and sociology and anthropology. Lastly, pedagogical perspectives
elucidate what and how knowledge is made and valued in medicine, how that knowledge is expressed and transmitted, and the ideological basis of medical

Coming up! Body Empathy on Sat, November 13

(Please help us pass the word!)

First Congregational Church of Oakland

2501 Harrison St.

Oakland, CA

No previous experience necessary! Pre-registration required. Fee: $50-100, sliding scale (Please check in with us if funds are an issue—payment plans are always possible, and we may be able to work out trades or other arrangements as well!) Register here — or write to jennifer@writingourselveswhole.org with any questions!

What if we could truly experience empathy for our bodies as they are – and then, by extension, for ourselves, as we are?

As queer, genderqueer & trans survivors with a wide array of backgrounds and identities in a sexuality-/gender-restrictive culture, our self-protective tendency can be to “check out” by detaching mind from body to such great degrees that it can be dangerous. Physical activity and writing are two ways to check back in with your embodied self.

With deep respect for the privacy and variety in our personal experience of gender expression and our individual histories, this workshop will create safe space for participants to embrace our bodies as they are, and to write the stories our bodies have been wishing to speak, while allowing possibility for the integration of identity and physical presence. Using brief writing exercises and low impact body mindfulness exercises derived from improvisational theater, Zen meditation practice, and the internal Chinese martial arts, participants will have the opportunity to fully embody our gender complexity in a healing and playful environment.

The exercises we practice can be easily incorporated into our daily lives and can enhance our ability to reflect mindfully on our experiences, while interacting with others from a place of self-acceptance, internal power, and confidence, as we move through the world as the fabulously feisty queer & gender warriors we are…

Your facilitators:

Alex Cafarelli is a Jewish genderqueer femme trauma survivor with a background of 17 years of martial arts training. Currently teaching body mindfulness classes in Oakland, Alex also works as a gardener specializing in drought-tolerant and edible landscapes, does Reiki/massage bodywork, and develops and leads element-based rituals to support women, queers, transfolk, and genderqueers in moving through transitions and healing from trauma. Contact Alex at petals_and_thorns@yahoo.com.

Jen Cross is a queer incest survivor and a widely-anthologized writer who has facilitated survivors and sexuality writing workshops since 2002. She offers two weekly AWA-method workshops (Write Whole: Survivors Write and Declaring Our Erotic) in San Francisco. Find out more about Jen at
writingourselveswhole.org or write her at jennifer@writingourselveswhole.org.

Body Heat: queer femme tour shows! this Friday and Saturday (1/29 and 1/30) in San Francisco!

The Center for Sex and Culture presents

a special SNEAK PREVIEW of BODY HEAT: a femme porn tour — 2010!

Sizzlin’ Fierce Fiery Queer Femme Porn – 2 Nights, 2 Different Shows! ***DO NOT MISS THIS EVENT!!!!!!!***

Friday, January 29 and Saturday, January 30
Cost $10.00 – $15.00 you pick :)
At the Center for Sex & Culture, 1519 Mission Street (between 11th and South Van Ness), San Francisco, CA 94103

Come to the Center for Sex and Culture for the one of these barely-legal Bay Area performances of the Body Heat: Femme Porn Tour. Each night will offer up decadent performances/readings by fierce local queer femme writers, performers and devastritixes!

These will be your only chances to catch Body Heat during this spring!

Both shows begin at 8pm SHARP, $10-$15 (help us fill the kitty for Body Heat’s 2010 cross-country tour!), no one turned away… FMI: http://www.myspace.com/femmeporntour

Friday, January 29th Performers:
Carol Queen
Kathleen Delaney
Jen Cross
Madison Young
Amelia Mae Paradise from Diamond Daggers

Saturday, January 30th Performers:
Shar Rednour
Daphne Gottlieb
Kathleen Delaney
Jen Cross
Alex Cafarelli
Lady Fantastique

Body Heat is a collective of fierce, sassy, irreverent Femme artists setting ablaze performance art communities and smashing Femme stereotypes. Porn, Kink, Smut, Erotica – Body Heat is not reclaiming our sex so much as OWNING it.

We will turn you on.

We will challenge all of your gender, sex, feminist, social, & political boundaries & assumptions.

We will entertain the hell out of you.

Mostly we will leave you panting, begging, dripping for more.



Center for Sex and Culture
1519 Mission St., bet 11th and So Van Ness, San Francisco!

the femmes of the Fall 09 Body Heat East Coast tour, tearing up the pool table in all the wrong ways...
fishnet knees, just before...