This week I had the immense pleasure of attending the Chicago stop of the Heels on Wheels Glitter Roadshow, a group of femme artists and activists from NYC spreading glittery love across the country. I should mention that I don’t normally go out on weeknights, especially not Thursday nights. My Thursday/Friday shifts are what I like to call my “clopen” shifts. Work until 8:30 pm Thursday night, be back at 7:30 am the next morning. It effectively exhausts me and quashes any hope of a social life on a regular basis. (Side note: Why do so many of the queer dance parties have to be on Thursday or Friday nights?!? Sorry, I’m just bitter.) So yeah, I tend to decline all invitations for Thursday night. But not this Thursday night.
A few weeks ago while reading a post on The Queer Fat Femme, I recognized a name. The face that went along with the name looked familiar as well. Heather Acs is a friend of the blog author and a queer femme performance artist in NYC. And when I read that post, I was 99.9% sure she was also the same Heather Acs I knew back in high school when we were both in a community theater play. (A play where, I might add, I met my very first girlfriend.) What are the odds, I thought, that another small town West Virginia girl would also grow up to be a fabulous femme who escaped to The Big City? When I found out that she was performing in the Heels on Wheels Roadshow and that said Roadshow would be stopping in Chicago, I was ready to sacrifice sleep in order to find out if this really was the person I was remembering.
The distance from NYC to Chicago is over 800 miles with West Virginia a little speck in between. Somehow the universe aligned itself in such a way that night that two Appalachian femmes hundreds of miles apart reconnected in a gay club in the Midwest. I approached Heather after her piece and said, “I don’t know if you even remember because it was over 15 years ago, but we were in a play together.” Her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, “Girl, I remember you! You had red hair!” (I did, indeed, have fiery red hair back then. I had a bit of a My So-Called Life obsession.) An abundance of hugging ensued with a break for tattoo appreciation. In addition to being femmes, we also both happen to have the state of our birth tattooed on our arms. And we both made it out. We Appalachians are a proud people but our home cannot hold some of us, so we escape to cities near or far to carve out new homes, places where we can shine freely. And shine we have.
I am so glad I went to see The Heels on Wheels show. It was an amazing display of the beauty, depth, passion and diversity of the queer femme community. The performers are artists and activists, teachers and healers, their pieces raw and funny and inspiring and emotional. It was amazing and therapeutic to celebrate each other, to feel embraced by kindred spirits. I urge fellow femmes to go if you have a chance, along with femme lovers, femme allies or even the femme curious. It will do your heart good, I promise.