Welcome to the Femmepire!
We’ve all been sold a big load of horseshit about who we need to be and how we need to live in order to be deemed worthy of love or acceptance or hell, even of being allowed to live at all. This is exponentially more the case the more intersections of marginalized identity we live at—for women, for queers, for Black folks and people of color, for trans folks, for disabled folks, for fat people, for neuroatypical folks, for the gender-nonconforming, for sex workers, for drug users, for immigrants and refugees, for anyone who’s been poor or in prison or lost their home or been on public assistance. The list goes on.
The horseshit tends to include stuff like being “nice” enough, being grateful enough (for…?), being compliant and obedient and not making too much of a fuss or making anyone too uncomfortable, not challenging the status quo too hard. Smile! Be civil! Dress appropriately! Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! Personal responsibility!
Well, fuck all that. Right in its fucking ear.
We go along with a lot of these things in order to stay safe in a world that likes to control us through violence and fear. There’s no shame in that. At the end of the day, the thing we need most is to stay alive and keep each other alive to see better days.
At the same time, one of the most radical things we can do is to embrace our authentic selves and live loudly, joyfully, radiantly. That’s what Diva Nations is all about.
“Use the sparkle to deliver the substance.” That’s the motto I adopted for my monthly storytelling show, Smut Slam DC. On its face, it’s a fun night out—a room full of beautiful sex-positive people, often-funny stories, sexy prizes, good company, a femme-cee (me) who’s dripping in sequins and wisecracks. That’s what gets people in the door. But once inside, they discover what’s beneath that shiny wrapping: Acceptance. Quality sex education. Advocacy with partner organizations championing reproductive and sex worker rights. The feeling of being not just validated but celebrated in their sexuality and gender identity. A safer space where who they are is loved and wanted and normal.
Everything I do is pretty sparkly. Burlesque shows and classes, butt sex workshops, urban fantasy novels, absurdist theater, love-life tarot readings, profanity-laced blog rants interspersed with ridiculous GIFs, Instagram streams of eccentric fatshion photos. Things that are fun, that are parties, that are escapism, that maybe seem kind of frivolous or just silly and weird.
It may not seem very political or serious. But what comes packaged in with it sure is. Body liberation, sexual freedom, queer and trans rights, representation in fiction, self-celebration and love, freedom, authenticity, and a fierce commitment to mutual care and community and a new world of equity and dignity for all—these are some of my most deeply-held values, and they drive everything that I do.
It’s okay if you take a burlesque class with me just because it sounds like fun. But you might also take it to heal your relationship with your body, or to take control of your sexuality, or to reinforce your right to bodily autonomy, or to explore your gender expression.
There’s nothing wrong with picking up one of my novels because it’s been a long week and you’re tired and you want to read a fun adventure romp with witches and magic and not have to think too hard. But you might reach for it because it’s comforting to see people like yourself in its pages, or because some part of you yearns toward the occult, or because I strive to be honest about things like poverty and depression in what I write.
I do a lot of different things. I thrive on variety. For a long time, it made it hard for me to describe who I am and what I do. I kind of wished I could just be one thing so it was easy to write my elevator pitch—“I’m an urban fantasy author with a feminist perspective” or “I’m a body-positive burlesque performer” or “I produce inclusive new theater” or “I’m a sex educator who believes in dignity and liberation for all”.
But what I finally realized is that my femmepire is “what I do and who I am”. Diva Nations is the sum total of my work, the sparkle that brings the substance, the many facets of the singular goal to seek out my rainbow family—the denizens of Diva Nations—and give you all lots of ways to live your joy and your weirdness and your beauty and your liberation. To join together with you to glitter up and grind the old world to dust under our platform boots and stiletto heels and bunny slippers as we dance and rant and rave a better world into existence.
When I first encountered Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol character Danny the Sentient Genderqueer Street, I felt like there was no better description of what I want to be when I grow up or what I want Diva Nations to be. Simultaneously global and local, a refuge for misfits and outcasts, full of twinkling lights and high-femme beauty, and featuring a Perpetual Cabaret where every day is a celebration.
Bona to vada, darlings!
“Ask for what you want” photos by Rebecca Rose Vassy
Stock photo of awesome elder by iStock
Image of Diva Darling by Shannon Wyss
Image from Pride celebration from Creative Commons on Flickr; text overlay by Rebecca Rose Vassy