"Dear Comrade Femme," is an advice column meets queer theory daydream meets insurrectionary love letter. With her toolkit (working-class roots, queer femme modality, a PhD, and a little magic), Comrade Femme responds to your questions about politics, sex, identity, feelings, work, family, friendship, astrology, and the intersections of them all. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org and put "Dear Comrade Femme" in the title. xo
Dear comrade femme,
I’m an anti-capitalist academic living in a Christian conservative state and I’m having trouble making new friends and also maintaining meaningful friendships with folks in my home state. I’m a tender-hearted libra, introvert, vegetarian, yoga teacher, and herbal witch and find it difficult both meeting new people and also letting go of my high expectations for people. With my friends back home, we might be able to agree on some issues of politics but then naturally I’m talking about over throwing the system and they’re turned off. Or they want to talk about really shallow small town gossip when I crave meaningful conversations. Do you think I’m being too judgmental and should work on my compassion for my old friends? I meet a lot of potential friends at my yoga studio who I’m able to talk to and they seem really cool but how do I ask them out on a friend date without being weird? What if I find out they’re not very radical and participate in body shaming or rape culture? Do I just walk away then? Any advice for meeting friends for someone who doesn’t drink and hates small talk?
Semi-alone in Texas
Dearest Semi-Alone in Texas,
You are indeed in a tough situation, but I have so much hope for you, my love. There are a number of issues emerging in your letter, and I want to make sure I tackle them all, so hang tight.
To start, I want you to know you’re not alone. I want you to know that you’re describing what so many of us feel when we embody lives that demand we confront our multitudes. We all, regardless of anything, contain fissures and splits; parts of our wholes that, at different times and places, feel disparate and conflicting. You have one leg in a past-life that is in many ways still your own, and one leg in a present life that does not feel quite right. Your heart and your brain, meanwhile, are wrestling with complicated reflection for what was, discontent for what is, and striving for what you know could be. Dear one, this is not uncommon. I too have felt the push and pull of past and present all mixed up with questions and disquietude. I too have felt the “If only x were here”’s and the “Why can’t I have y program in z location?” Nostalgia and the belief that my before’s are so much better than my present’s have been a consistent theme in my life.
I can give you three examples: the time I moved to Chicago from Cleveland; the time I moved to Minneapolis from Chicago; and the time I moved to Boston from Minneapolis. In each instance it took me at least a year to stop dwelling on the memories of my last home, and in each instance it was because I felt a loss of community from one place to the next. A loss of activist comrades, a loss of common ground. And those feelings would become increasingly more complex when I felt like I couldn’t rely on the bonds from each former-home to sustain me through the difficulty of adjusting. I too had realizations that perhaps some of my friendships couldn’t hold after all. It’s terribly lonely to uproot, sweet Libra, and yet, it can also be deeply rewarding. Becuase, clearly, I found similar bonds again and again. The home that felt like it wasn't became the home I missed in each new place.
I hope knowing you are not alone can provide some comfort, but I also want to address pragmatics for getting unstuck. First, you feel like you’re having trouble making your friends in your new (conservative Christian) home. But maybe there are some cool yogis, but also you don’t drink. Friend! This is not as bleak as it seems! I’m not going to sugar-coat it, making friends as an adult is not easy, and/yet/also, you have several things going for you.
At first it may seem like a dismal fate to have radical politics and be a witch in a conservative town, but I actually think one of the best parts of conservative towns is that people find their people and then hold-tight. If you are the minority in your politics, I can guarantee there is another anti-capitalist within a mile or two of you who is also wishing desperately that they had someone to talk, strategize, and dream with. This happened for me in the case of my grad program as well, where the University of Minnesota acted as a microcosm of a small village and I immediately searched for and found the other queers and Lefties; I imagine it could be the same for you. Those of us with particular non-mainstream passions--burning capitalism to the ground, while also being sure to smudge the wreckage with some healing leaves, for example--need each other. And throughout history, we have found each other.
How to find each other though? Well, the internet for starters. When I moved to Boston I Googled and Facebook’d several things until I found the groups that fit: boston marxists, boston black lives matter, boston witches, boston femmes, boston yogis who hate capitalism, boston prison abolition, boston bail fund...and so on. Some brought me to thriving Facebook pages with events and some came up blank, but it led me on a path that ultimately connected me to people I now have the pleasure of organizing with in various capacities. Now, Massachusetts is not Texas, but I am absolutely certain there is organizing happening in Texas, and enough searching will help you find it. And the good thing about most political groups is that meetings are sober spaces where you tackle big issues, not small talk.
So what to do about the potential friendships with the yogis and also your friends from back home? This is something I can also relate to pretty directly--I’m a queer communist who works for one of the richest, whitest, most corporate yoga chains in the country. (Probably the richest, whitest, and most corporate chain, tbh). The vast majority of the people I work with are very kind and wonderful people, but don’t share my politics nor my desire to critique the entire system that we all work under (although some of them do, and, yes, we found each other!). That said, my relationships with many of them have been truly enriching. I’ve learned that some people are excellent ears for hearing about interpersonal relationships, some are great for discussing music, and so on. These relationships--the one’s that we share with people who are seemingly incongruent with our interests--have value.
I mean, I get it. And I don't think it's you being judgmental to crave friends with like-minds---sometimes I only want to be around people who want to duiscss the Marxist critique of Bakunin's theory of collectivism and Kropotkin's theory of mutual aid. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But that’s not what being a revolutionary is about. Being a revolutionary is about being committed to justice and also recognizing what Avery Gordon (1997) calls the complex personhood of the people that make up our communities. And it would behoove us--as yogis, leftists, witches--to extend and open ourselves to engaging and being present with people at all levels of political consciousness. In fact, I would argue, it is our duty to engage and be present with people at all levels of political consciousness.
Just today I got an email from an ostensibly apolitical yoga teacher asking me where she should donate money, because she trusted my opinion on social justice orgs. I’ve also had teachers ask me about how to get more involved with activist work, for book recommendations, and so on. And it's not as if I stand on a soapbox at the yoga studio---but people get curious. So, be open to transformation. And I don’t mean just others’ being transformed by you (which will surely happen!), but also you by them.
Approach your friendships with the yogis and the friends from back home with kindness and without expectation. You will likely not learn more about formal anti-capitalist theory from these friendships, but you will learn how to be a compassionate friend and a humble organizer. And we could certainly use more humility and compassion in our movements.
Finally, (and I know you know this, sweet witch): cast some spells, call on your guides, make some magic. I admittedly know less about herbal work, but I am sure you have your rituals. For me, I vision board, burn candles and chant, and find the crystals I need most (perhaps, for you, some citrine for confidence to attend these meetings I trust you will eventually find?).
You’re in transition, and as a Libra, I know you don’t like the highs and lows. But tap into the balance of the shift. The moon is always whole, even when it is waxing and waning. I know that the ground, in these in-between spaces, feels hard to find, but I promise you it’s there--and, dear one, so are your people.