Symposium #1: What is Butch?
The Butch Lab Symposium is meant to be a cross between a blog carnival and a link round-up, where whoever wants to chimes in on a particular topic around butch identity and we all have a conversation.
I strongly urge all the folks who participated in this to: a) re-post this roundup, in whole or part (I can provide the HTML if you’d like, contact me); and b) to comment on as many of the contributions as you can. Seriously, challenge yourself to read every single one and comment. Think about what is different or the same from your definition. Make note of a line that made you go “hmmmm,” or “yeah, that!” and tell them.
So, because this was the first Symposium, I figured we should start out with the basics. To get all of us on the same page, to come up with a common language and definition and structure for talking about this stuff. I’d really like to continue elevating the discussion around butch identity through this project, and this is part of that, to really dig our hands into the deep stuff and see what we come up with.
So the first topic was: What is butch? How do you define butch? What do you love about it? What does it mean to you?
Thirteen bloggers wrote in, four of them not butch identified but are interested in this work.
Ulla writes on Boxer Shorts & Bras:
I am a butch woman, a butch lesbian, a butch dyke – so my interpretation of butch stems directly from that. Beyond that though, butch is an adjective I use to describe the way I look, the way I walk. For me it’s about style, not gender. It’s the hipster jeans, the sneakers, the wallet chain, the watch, the heavy silver rings, the fact that I wear men’s clothing but refuse to accept masculinity and femininity as my gender labels. It’s my reclaiming of stuff that society says is just for boys and men. It’s liberation. It’s boxer shorts and bras.
Kyle at Butchtastic:
I love the word butch, it looks and feels exactly the way it should: tough, masculine, a little hard. For me, ‘butch’ evokes images of blue jeans and leather jackets, sturdy footwear and strong hands. ’Butch’ is strong, handsome, capable, ready to help, there to back up a friend or a stranger in need. And while I realize it’s not true for all who embrace the term, for me, butch is all the great things about being a woman, wrapped in the great things about being a man.
Holden from Packing Vocals:
I love taking what I perceive to be the best bits of masculinity and putting them into practice, such as chivalry and courteousness. I love opening doors, carrying bags, being called a gent and generally attempting to display as many ‘old fashioned’ good manners as possible. I also love the clothes and accessories, suits, ties, cufflinks, waistcoats etc. It’s all of that which makes the blood in my veins run thicker and stronger.
Roxy at Uncommon Curiosity writes about butch from the perspective of loving someone butch:
Butch is that red-and-white, candy-striped, aftershave-and-razor hair cut, the hand you wish you dared reach out to feel those strong, ripped shoulders, that neck that slides up, close-cropped, under the fabric, like she was born with that cap on, like they were made for each other, lookin out at the world like it’s one big fight or maybe just last night’s lay. The way she shines those boots that have known the ground, walked miles outside this town, out of her house and never looking back, marching and dancing with her girl, but always easy, hips that were built to press up close when her girl sways and leans her head back, stretching out her neck, long and graceful, inviting her inside.
G at Can I Help You Sir:
Being a butch is complex, and I dig it. When I think about what I love about being a butch, it’s easy to think tactically – “What things do I do that make me a butch?” I shave my face and wear my ball cap backward when I watch sports and love manual labor and open doors for my date, but anyone can do that. I went a step further and thought, “How do those things make me feel?” (Ew, feelings!) I can tell you this: I know what my life felt like before and after I came out as a butch, and the difference in my comfort level is astounding.
Victoria Oldham wrote at The Musings of a Lesbian Writer:
I am a femme. To me, butch is the other half of my equation. … There’s a swagger, a sureness, a sense of yeah, that’s who I am, so what? to her walk. A sense of comfort in her own body, of knowing who she is and what she wants out of life. A defiance of pronouns. An ability to take up space like a man, without every having to be one. She is in-between and everything, all at once.
EST from A Lesbian Christian writes:
Though it might be how others identify butch individuals, for me butch has very little to do with clothes and hair. Butch is an attitude. I think above all Butch means embracing your protective instincts. Holding a door open for a woman…or a man. Standing up for others who can’t stand up for themselves. Butch means not being afraid to get dirty especially when others are involved.
Wendi at A Stranger in This Place:
No matter how much I am against putting myself in a box by claiming the title of ‘butch’, I have learned to be much more ok with it after attending the conference and talking to others about the term and what it means to them. You see, the thing about words and titles is that you can mold and define them for yourself. … I am just me. A boots, jeans and t-shirt wearing, motorcycle riding, butch lesbian with a buzz cut. I like to think of myself as mostly a guy but I’m not. I’m a woman.
Jenni from Butch.org writes:
Having grown up as a gender non-conforming child, and navigating life as a gender-trans adult, my butch identity has been a way of naming myself and proclaiming who I am — so that I might embrace these qualities and think of myself as a hero instead of an awkward, self-conscious mistake of nature.
Ali at Made of Words doesn’t identify as butch, but chimes in:
I think you’re butch if you feel butch. I don’t think you need to claim the title every day. I think short hair my be a visual clue, but long hair doesn’t exclude you. I think gender identity and butch can be completely separated from each other, that it’s just an adjective for power, pants-wearing, and planning really great dates. For being swanky and taking care of yourself and being unafraid to get dirty. For occasionally getting “Sir” on the street, either accidentally or intentionally.
Jolie writes at This Side of Changed:
Butch is an adjective. Butch is a noun. Butch is a compliment, an acknowledgement, a performance, an attitude. Butch is an insult, an attack, an assault. It’s flattering and pejorative and honest and undeniable. Butch is a body born female and worn male. Butch is a title. One that must be first accepted, then adopted, and finally fulfilled. … Butch is the strength to grow up female and then choose for yourself – it is the strength to walk out the door every single day looking like everything you shouldn’t and making it work.
Lesbian Dad (Polly) writes over at Lesbian Dad:
Whether or not “butch” is the first term I find myself using to describe my gender, it is an umbrella I find shelter under. At the Butch Voices conference my breath was taken away: a room after room, hallway after hallway of people like me. I’ve got years of familiarity at being called “sir” (“six of one, half dozen of the other,” I usually reply, with a smile and a hop of the eyebrows); I am resigned to forever fluster/ disorient/ alarm women in public restrooms (at forty some-odd, I still avert my gaze and head for stall or sink, in mute attempt to convey I’m “just here to pee, ma’am; just here to pee”). Yet being surrounded by so many mannish women showed me how inured I am to aloneness in public.
Sinclair (um that would be me) over on Sugarbutch Chronicles:
So here’s what butch is, for me: Permission. Permission to be myself, that little solid stardust shiny nugget I feel somewhere in my core, like a diamond lodged between L5 and L4 of the lumbar spine vertebrae. Permission to wear what I like, to love who I desire, to play how I crave, to decorate and adorn my body how I choose. To experience all the things this world has to offer, without guilt or obligation, but with curiosity and an open heart and experimental hands. Permission to be right where I’m at, regardless of whether that’s where I was yesterday. Permission to explore and seek pleasure, to connect and create friction, to question and make change. Permission to be exactly who I am, doing exactly what I’m doing, to have bright burning faith that everything I do works toward the greatest liberation for everyone, as much as possible, all the time, in all ways.
Here’s a list of all the posts by link, if you’d like to copy & paste it onto your own blog.
- Ulla from Boxer Shorts & Bras
- Kyle from Butchtastic
- Holden from Packing Vocals
- Roxy from Uncommon Curiosity
- G from Can I Help You Sir
- Victoria from The Musings of a Lesbian Writer
- EST from A Lesbian Christian
- Wendi from A Stranger in This Place
- Jenni from Butch.org
- Ali from Made of Words
- Jolie from This Side of Changed
- Polly from Lesbian Dad
- Sinclair from Sugarbutch Chronicles
The next Symposium topic will be announced soon.
- Symposium #1: What is Butch? | Butch Lab « This Side of Changed
- Butch Lab Symposium Number One Made Of Words | Made Of Words
- Butch Lab Symposium #1 – What is Butch? « Uncommon Curiosity
- Butch Lab Symposium#1 | Packing Vocals – The Holdall
- Baba is butch at Lesbian Dad
- Butch Labs First Symposium « On Being Butch
- Butch Symposium #1 Update | The Musings of a Lesbian Writer
- butch, identity & a little catchup-ketchup « lesbian neurotica
- Butch Lab Symposium #2: Butch Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions « How To Be Butch