Coming out is such an intensely personal decision, since being queer is somewhat of a seemingly mutable way of being different. (“Passing” as straight is easier for some than others, and it is often tied to gender presentation.) I thought in honor of the occasion, and the fact that I told this story to my friends Jenna and Rick at my Epic High Holiday Shabbat dinner on Friday, I would share it here!
I Promise My Personal Tragedy Will Not Interfere with My Ability to Do Good Hair: Remembering Amanda Arkansassy
I try like hell to take care of myself. I try like hell to model self care for the corner of the internet where people pay attention to what I say. When I’m modeling self care, I am saying “This is how I am staying alive today.” Because self care is vital and survival is vital.
I met Bryn almost ten years ago at a Mixer party (I think that’s what it was called) at Levi Braslow’s loft apartment. I thought she was a cisfemme who was really into conventionally masculine trans guys but it turned out she was trans. It took me a few weeks, she told me and laughed at me. She also didn’t tell me she was HIV positive until years after we met (she got progressively more out about it). She moved from rural Ohio to Michigan to New York City, if I’m remembering the whole trajectory. Even though she was from Ohio she was in rural Appalachia and definitely identified strongly with my West Virginia loves. She was queer country, through and through.
Bryn was slow to get to know. I was in the phase of my life when we met (around 26/27) that I was quick to make friends. If I thought you were awesome I would trust you right away. She was more like a cat who comes into the room you’re hanging out in, scopes it out, but it takes a long time to hang out and chill. We talked about that, years later, when I realized that my overly trusting nature was getting me fucked over by people. She and I agreed there was probably a healthy middle between her inclination and mine. I wonder if that shifted for her?
I knew instinctively that I was wrong for hiding my arms. It was uncomfortable and annoying and I wanted to feel the freedom of my skinny counterparts. I had a couple of tank tops as layering pieces and I started to open myself up to the idea of wearing them, and set a goal to be wearing them outside by the next year. I wasn’t sure exactly how, but I was going to do it.
If you want to do things differently, you need only set your mind to it. If you’ve been spending your summers all bottled up under hoodies or wearing pants even though you would be way more comfortable in shorts, you can move past your fear and shame and start being more confident.
But instead of streaming I grabbed a book and put on some Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. And instead of reading I started daydreaming (this is why I am such a slow reader). I was thinking about what home means, especially what it means to me these days.
I had an incredible experience at the Queer and Trans conference I presented and performed at Swarthmore College last weekend. (More on that later.) There was a workshop given by Mia Mingus and Stacy Milbern that has totally reshaped how I think about home. They have a blog about their experience moving together from different locations in the South to their new shared home in Berkeley, CA. They are two queer disabled diasporic Korean women of color and there is an incredible amount of thought and intention behind their home and their shared values. In addition to an incredible primer on dis/ability justice, what it means to create truly accessible space, crossing the boundaries between different kinds of dis/ability, they also showed us in a truly intimate setting–their home–how they are re-imagining how they and the collective “we” support liberation.
At the Femme Family meeting on Tuesday, in the middle of a terrible heat wave hitting NYC, our go-around topic was “Describe your inner body temperature.” Mine was the rage of a Disney villain. A fat one. (In the words of Dave End*, “Never fuck with a witch who puts on lipstick with a shrimp.”) I get heat sick pretty easily and almost fainted during yoga on Monday, so by day 3 of the heat storm I was so grumpy. So grumpy that I barely put on clothes. I picked out the thing that felt the least like wearing clothes that I could.
How can a meeting with such empowering Femmes not raise my spirits? On my way home I realized how grateful I was to have done so much work over the last 11 years to unlearn the body shame that would have, otherwise, kept me hot and miserable and covered up in layers upon layers of clothes trying to hide my body. Feeling good about my body and sexuality is so much more comfortable, both literally and figuratively.
So this goes out to all of the amazing people in my life, who taught me early on the joy and value of loving yourself and moving in your body in ways that make you feel good.
When I talk about fashion it is generally with an eye towards Femmes for obvious reasons. Butch fashion has been a topic of conversation recently as the Re/Dress Shop Girls & The Femme Family are prepping for the upcoming Sartorial Summer: A Butch Fashion Show*.
In celebration of Butch Fashion Week in Brooklyn**, I present unto you, gentle readers of all gender presentations, the fashion items of the more masculine flavor that I enjoy a great deal. Both in a purely platonic allies-in-fashion-greatness way and also in a subtle lay down for any future suitors doing research.
The format we took was to have a pot luck brunch, a no latecomers policy, and opened it to Self-identified Femmes and Femme Questioning folks. I highly recommend doing this in your town! We got some new people who hadn’t been to a Femme Family event before and it was really a heartwarming and great way to meet people and learn about ourselves and our identities.
It’s hard to actually make resolutions for a lot of people, because those set you up to fail. I am really goal-oriented and once I realized that my Revolutions have to actually be attainable, I have had some great success with my New Year’s Revolutions. The key is to make them intentional and realistic.
I also have news for you–Femme does not automatically equal high maintenance.** Most of the powerhouse Femmes I know are, in fact, pretty self-sustaining. The most high maintenance thing about going out with us is scheduling dates!
Dating situations have been broken off with me and many friends before because the person “Just doesn’t date Femmes”. Often this is accompanied by an explanation that Femme is high maintenance and they don’t have those kinds of resources to date a Femme.
Historically I’ve always accepted that, too. You can’t do anything about someone’s preference for or against Femmes. And I am certainly not going to argue myself into someone’s bed–I don’t chase once I get “No”. I gave that up many years ago. The “Yes, no, yes, no” game is something straight girls are taught to play and I don’t do that.
But frankly, “I don’t date Femmes” is a flimsy excuse and used far too often as something to hide behind when the true reason is something different.
Femme Family NYC is ever so proud to announce our Femme Coming Out zine. It includes work from 20 femme contributors ranging from poets, activists, illustrators, photographers, performance artists, musicians, students and more! We’re also sending all proceeds from the sale of this zine to The Femme Collective, to help fundraise towards the next Femme Conference!
Contents include prose, personal narrative, poetry, illustrations, love letters to lost Femme friends, photography and more!
Hello to you! I am performing and producing a bunch of really unique and fun shows this month! I am also celebrating my 31st birthday at the December 17th show (my actual birthday is Christmas Eve–Jesus has always made scheduling a party very challenging). So if you’re around please come! I would love to take a family photo with you in the queer family photo booth!!