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“I have wanted to find you, to tell you that I am here to invite you to remember me or add your own unique experiences to our common purpose, our collective tale. To come home with me. To join me in changing the world.”
–Amber Hollibaugh, “My Dangerous Desires”
In 2013, I was lucky enough to see the Heels on Wheels Glitter Roadshow at Sole Space in Oakland. I’d gone to support my femme community, and I was also hoping to reconnect with some of the glitter femmes I’d met at FemmeCon 2012 in Baltimore, where, despite some location failures, I’d been blown away by femmes literally taking over the conference hotel.
I remember walking down a narrow hallway to my room, and hearing a femme yell, “No, that’s just not true. An all-white leopard print suit is not too much.” I fell in love. I could write pages and pages (and in fact have written pages and pages) about my own femme coming out story, my own femme love letters, how femme saved me so so many times. But the stories in the anthology Glitter & Grit are both mine and not mine. And that is heart shattering. But the epigraph, the quote from Amber Hollibaugh above that starts the book, says it all: add to our collective tale.
The essays and performance pieces in this anthology do just that: add to a collective tale while remaining essentially singular—femme is multi-faceted, they say. Femme is hard, and soft. Femme is survival and nurture. Femme is so, so many things. Narratives like these are not only urgently important in a world that refuses to honor femme identities, but also within queer communities, helping to tear down the systemic oppression that can sometimes get brought in from the outside world. This anthology is call out, call in, get down, get up. As wild, untamed pony as femme identity itself.
Damien Lux writes in the introduction to the text (as well as the origin and etymology of how Heels on Wheels began):
The truth is: you can’t buy this kind of interaction. You can’t throw a bunch of money into a void and expect authenticity to emerge. It was because we came from a hungry place that we got fed. It was because we dared to live our dreams, legitimize ourselves as artists, and dive into the communities we knew were out there, that we got to do so: no dads, no masters, no waiting for permission.
That hunger, and the subsequent being fed, is palpable and powerful. Andrea Glik writes:
This is the moment. This is the moment when everything comes together and I make sense. On this block, in this bar, in this world. This is the moment when the magic begins.” Writes Kama La Mackerel, “I invoke the women and femmes of history, those who suffered, those who died, those who lived, those who fought, and those who resisted—
Writes Alex Cafarelli:
our formula was water plus blood plus cunt
sometimes there were witnesses
sometimes we were safe
we cut grief out of our bones against the iron in our blood
the 2 of us with 6 genders each all tangled up in 3 years of scalpels
bleeding offerings to black dirt and golden sand
Sometimes we were safe; sometimes there were witnesses. All of the stories, poems, plays, and songs in this book are a place to be safe, a place to have witness. A place so desperately needed by queer community and femmes alike. Read this, even if you don’t identify with femme—because it will make you grateful. Because it will make you whole. Because it will tell a story.
Glitter & Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy
Edited by Damien Luxe, Heather María Ács and Sabina Ibarrola
Paperback, 9780448484136, 350 pp.