The iconic Amy Winehouse performing “Valerie.” Swoon.
I wrote this post to honor the legendary Liz Taylor, my femme style icon.
I think the first time I “got” femme was when I saw Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Looking drop-dead gorgeous in her clingy slip, Maggie fights with Brick about their living arrangements and hisses, “I’m not living with you. We occupy the same cage that’s all!” Me-YOW! La Liz could deliver a line like nobody’s business.
When I was in my twenties I couldn’t imagine ever being as sexy and femme as Elizabeth Taylor–or even on the same planet as her. (If Kitty Kelley is right that ET is “the last star,” then actually no one is on the same planet as Liz.) Watching her old films, I was intrigued by her seductive combination of vulnerability and strength–and those legendary violet eyes. (I want violet eyes!!!) Taylor is iconic for me not only because of her beauty and style, but also because of her resilience and willingness to admit her imperfections. My favorite Elizabeth Taylor quote? “The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
Without a doubt, the actress’s most inspiring virtue was her passionate AIDS advocacy, which began in the early days of the pandemic when public figures (including President Reagan) failed to speak out or act to help people who were infected and desperately needed treatments. (Actually, Reagan did ultimately give one speech about AIDS in 1987, prompted in part by Taylor’s personal plea.) Deeply compassionate, Taylor fought against discrimination and for the lives and dignity of people with HIV and AIDS. She was a champion for AIDS research and prevention, becoming the national chair of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and leading a global fundraising effort that has raised more than $233 million.
Here are two great ways to honor Taylor’s legacy of activism and continue the fight against HIV and AIDS:
- Support the Scientists Fighting HIV: amfAR is one of the world’s largest organizations dedicated to funding the “foot soldiers” on the frontlines of HIV and AIDS research, putting money into finding new and innovative treatments—and an eventual cure—for HIV and AIDS.
- Help People Living With HIV and AIDS: The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation has donated more than $12 million to organizations helping prevent the spread of the disease. Its grants go to groups working directly to help patients and to those living with HIV and AIDS.
Elizabeth Taylor died on March 23 of congestive heart failure. She was 79.
The life of the glitterati may be exhausting, but I’m never too tired to pull out my glitter eye liner and ring in the new year in style. I know I’ve been scarce lately (it’s the fierce fatigue, I swear) but I really do miss you, my darlings. Sending you new year’s kisses and femmetastic wishes for a sublime 2011!
“Daddy warned me about men and alcohol. But he never warned me about women and cocaine.” –Tallulah Bankhead
Dahlings, send a video of yourself doing your best Tallulah Bankhead impersonation for a chance to win a trip for 2 to NY, tickets to see Looped on Broadway, a backstage visit with Valerie Harper, two nights stay at the fabulous and legendary Algonquin Hotel, and more! I’ve stayed at the Algonquin and can attest to its fabulousity.
Here’s another of my favorite Tallulah quotes for inspiration:
“I’ll come and make love to you at five o’clock. If I’m late start without me.”
THE SCOOP ON GETTING LOOPED:
Hello darlings, I’m back from my vacay just in time for my one-year blogiversary! Van and I had a great time on our cruise and also enjoyed ourselves at the gorgeous Mayfair Hotel in Miami, which was wonderful despite the heat.
Just how much fun did we have? On the cruise I discovered that minibar bottles of Absolut are an excellent remedy for puffy eyes. Chilled bottles should be applied directly to the eyelid for maximum benefit. Unfortunately, Van snapped several incriminating photos of me while I was testing my new beauty treatment. Note to self: destroy evidence of debauchery tout suite.
Perhaps it was all the fabulous mojitos, but I seem to have left my brain somewhere in the Bahamas. So in honor of my blogiversary (and, let’s face it, because I am incapable of composing something new), I’m sharing with you my inaugural post. Kisses to you, my sublime readers!
“What Does a Lesbian Look Like?” by Sublimefemme, August 17, 2008
I’ve always loved discovering that beautiful, glamorous women are queer because it’s such a delightful surprise. I certainly think that femmes are “real” lesbians, but even I find that my gaydar is based on stereotypes most of the time. In an effort to challenge these stereotypes, I offer up this iconic image of Greta Garbo, which asks (but does not answer) the question, “what does a lesbian look like?”
In this photograph, Garbo’s face might be described as “a pool to swim in” (to borrow from the critic David Thompson). Although part of me just wants to swoon over this sculptural face, what especially interests me is how it highlights some of the embodied contradictions of femme identity. There is certainly something overly precious about this image–if we are to appreciate its aesthetic we must surrender to Garbo’s cool and androgynous eroticism, which is dependent upon being idealized, deified and mystified. And yet, although she was called the Divine Garbo, her beauty is distinctly human in its fragility. Her persona is so seductive and haunting because it is both fragile and strong, veiled and expressive, distant and intimate, masculine and feminine.
These contradictions are what I love about Garbo. Parker Tyler famously reminds us that “Garbo ‘got into drag’ whenever she took some heavy glamour part, whenever she melted in or out of a man’s arms, whenever she simply let that heavenly-flexed neck…bear the weight of her thrown back head… How resplendent seems the art of acting! It is all impersonation, whether the sex underneath is true or not.” In short, Garbo performs queer femininity as drag, and in so doing calls into question what we thought we knew about the look (and act) of lesbian gender.
I just came across a terrific new article on queer politics by one of my femme idols, Amber Hollibaugh. I wholeheartedly agree with her about the importance of moving beyond identity politics and fighting for an inclusive vision of freedom and social justice rather than the narrower agendas typically associated with mainstream movements for LGBTI rights. Her argument is worth considering in light of this fall’s National Equality March, a gay rights event scheduled for Oct. 11 in Washington DC. Check out Amber’s article below and let me know what you think!
Going for Broke by Amber Hollibaugh August 8, 2009
From: Z Net – The Spirit Of Resistance Lives http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/22253
In the early days of the epidemic, gay men and a few lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists gathered together in cities across the U.S. to seriously discuss what we would do if our government decided to require mandatory HIV testing. If people were found to be positive, would they be sent to a detainment camp? Would our sero-status be branded on our bodies?
This wasn’t a paranoid conversation among a tiny number of wild-eyed queers; rather, it arose as an urgent and serious discussion in direct response to the increasingly evident fear, hatred, and rising levels of brutality directed against people with HIV and AIDS in this country.
That is the history which eventually gave birth to the LGBTI Health Summits. Those were the conversations many of us in this room—including Eric Rofes, who dreamed this into being—were part of. And that history is a critical marker of the extraordinary distance we have traveled, as well as a painful reminder of how much more remains to be done.
It is why I want to talk to you today, in a different way, about vision. I could name the issues I see occupying us for the next 10, 20 or 30 years—the specific work I think most crucial to pushing our agendas forward. I could give you my list: universal health care; rebuilding a social safety net for all the people in this country by daring to re-establish the basic assumption that we are all interconnected and that we are all responsible for each other’s well-being and safety, that the fabric of our society is no stronger than its weakest link, that caring for one another is our sacred human duty. There are more.
Instead, though, I want to go in another direction, one that is not so issue-specific, so bullet-pointed. Because, before any LGBTI movement for health and wellness can determine the queer agenda for the next 10, 20 or 30 years, a deeper set of questions must be answered. These questions lie at the center of who we are; and the answers we provide will also furnish the pivot and the engine for our progress.
The two questions I begin with are these:
For what purpose, and to what end?
And: Am I willing to be an “equal” in an unequal world?
In other words: Am I willing to give someone else up, desert and abandon them, in order to attain some aspect of seeming equality or freedom? What price am I willing to pay to be given a slice of the pie, to be asked to sit at the table?
Here is what these questions mean to me, and why I ask them first.
One: Opportunities to advance our equality often look enticing at the outset. They seem to afford the potential for important advancement or breakthrough. But to ask why we are seeking to move in a particular direction, and where that might leave us when we get there, means that we are not automatically acting on opportunities offered by someone else. It means that we are trying to think through all the ramifications of what we choose to fight for, in all of its complexity; we are trying to understand what some of the unintentional consequences might be. Commitment to a broader, longer-term vision might force us to face the underside of what we dream for—that potential set of results which, on further consideration, might put us in greater danger and make us more vulnerable.
The second question is terribly difficult. The question of “equality” is never simple, especially when what we are asked to give up in return doesn’t appear to be central to most of us. Gay men and lesbians were willing to fight for legislation that would protect sexual orientation, for example, but not gender identity. Later, we said to those of us who were gender nonconformists, we’ll include you next time. But we know those arguments all too well. We are all living with the consequences. And we will be trying to undo that strategy for many, many years to come. This is a perfect example of what appeared to be a short term advance that has created a long term wound.
Vision isn’t practical. Vision is fueled by the dreams we bring to our aspirations. Vision drives the urgency and passion behind those everyday steps we take in our fight for justice; it is the yet-to-be-feasible idea; it is the bold leap of heart and intellect into an unknown future. It is our stubborn refusal to give up the possibility of living in a world where human beings may dwell without penalty or punishment, without paying a horrible price for what they are and who they love.
Our answers to these questions will tell us much about the substance of our vision. They will tell us whether we have decided to put up a limited fight in a small world with a narrow plan designed to achieve a minuscule success, or whether we have decided to go for broke. We have a choice.
I am asking you to go for broke.
My plea to you, my personal insistence on this larger vision, has been framed by the forces that formed me, the difficult forces that shaped my life and that I choose to remember, never to forget. Those forces were not just difficult; they were profoundly dangerous. I’m not talking about romantic danger. I’m talking about the danger of growing up hungry and dirt poor. The danger of being a mixed-race child whose father and grandmother carried KKK branded on their bodies. The danger of being a sex worker. The danger of being considered abnormal, a sexual deviant, a pervert. And, after finally finding a social movement that was my freedom, the danger of being cast out, disowned, because I desired women who were butch, who often passed or lived as men, who were not gender-feminine. These were the women who blew me away with their touch, their power, their grace. But my desire for them meant that I was a high femme lesbian in a movement that would not accept this kind of queer desire; and so, I was in trouble again. That’s what I mean by dangerous. The kind of dangerous that is most terrifying because it threatens you in exactly the place where you have the most to lose, where you are most profoundly dispossessed.
And here is what I am asking you to consider today: What if we said we wanted everything, differently? What if we said that no one, not a single one of us, would get traded for socioeconomic access or the achievement of short-term legal goals? What if we began to really talk queer—beyond identity categories? What if we decided to build and lead a movement to transform this nation—a movement to make this country a global partner instead of a global bully? What if we claimed all of the following as queer:
What if we said universal health care was a queer issue?
What if we said that the enfranchisement of immigrants—those upon whom the economic future of the nation rests—was a queer issue?
What if we broadened the fight for marriage equality to include all the unique ways of partnering, creating families, building communities? What if we said that was a queer issue?
What if we said that desire, the erotic pulse, the intimate and essential transgression of sexuality, was not simply a queer issue but a human issue?
What if we said that aging was a queer issue? And that the agenda of the for-profit prison industrial complex—to build more geriatric prisons, and more state-of-the-art high-security prisons, and more and more and more and more prisons—was a queer issue?
What if we said to everyone: Join us. Dream with us. Dare with us. Go for broke. Change the world.
What if that was our vision?
Happy Independence Day, darlings.
I like fireworks as much as the next girl, but I’ve never been the flag-waving type and I don’t do parades unless they have leathermen in them. (You have to draw the line somewhere.) So sorry kids, there will be no patriotic pinups of girl-next-door beauties here today. Instead, I’m commemorating the holiday with a little bohemian flair!
Although an unlikely 4th of July pinup, Janis Joplin for me embodies an iconoclastic spirit that is truly revolutionary. As she sang, “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” It’s a compelling political philosophy if you think about it. We don’t need to become free, she seems to imply, but rather to remove the obstacles that keep us from realizing the freedom we already possess.
OK, maybe Janis is not saying that exactly, but I like to think it’s an extension of her message. 😉 What does freedom mean to you? How are you celebrating it?