A Little Bit About Butch Voices, Butch Nation, and “Masculine of Center”

August 11, 2011  |  essays, on butches

So, a group of folks who were on the Butch Voices board have broken off and created a new organization, Butch Nation. If you keep up with this kind of drama news, you probably have heard about it. See the press release Butch Nation released, Butch Voices press about it, Sasha T. Goldberg’s letter about what happened, and an interview with Krys Freeman on Velvetpark.

I’ve been asked for my thoughts on what’s going on by a few folks. To be honest, I’m not sure what I think exactly. My understanding, based on reading those links above (and more), is that it is a) partially a personal rift, based on who knows what, and b) partially an issue of semantics, about the terms “masculine of center” and “butch” specifically. I can’t really speak to what’s happened personally between the groups—I don’t know, I wasn’t there, and for the most part, I’m not that interested. I mean, my wish is for us all to get along, but people have different ideas about how to run things, and it’s ever possible for rifts to arise when working closely with anyone (in fact, it’s nearly inevitable).

So I don’t know what to say about that part. But I can speak to the semantics, and my opinion about these (incredibly loaded) terms.

(While fully acknowledging that words are powerful, and the right word is incredibly important, and identity is complicated, I also think it isn’t worth the community rifts, and I’m not eager to get involved in the nitpicking of the argument. Still, I’m putting forth my two cents.)

The word “masculine of center:”

My understanding is that the Butch Voices revised mission statement includes this word as an umbrella term, to encompass a myriad of identities. Also from the mission statement: “Masculine of center (MoC) is a term, coined by B. Cole of the Brown Boi Project, that recognizes the breadth and depth of identity for lesbian/queer/ womyn who tilt toward the masculine side of the gender scale and includes a wide range of identities such as butch, stud, aggressive/AG, dom, macha, tomboi, trans-masculine etc.”

The term is meant to be more inclusive than a term like “butch,” which is loaded for many people, and which has historically been predominantly adopted by white folks.

This isn’t the first term to come around that has attempted to encompass these many masculine queer identities—remember transmasculine? That was a hot one for a year or so there, but was declared too problematic to keep using, particularly in the ways that it wasn’t inclusive enough of trans women.

Maybe this begs the question of whether or not an umbrella term is necessary at all. As someone who writes about this stuff frequently, my opinion is that yes, it is important to have a term. Not only that, but it’s important to see the connections between us, to look at the places where we overlap, and to use those to build bridges and build stronger community activism and connection around our shared oppression. Because all of us within these individual identities, we may or may not date the same type of person, we may or may not have the same spiritual beliefs, we may or may not identify as feminist, we may or may not wear the same type of underwear, but there is something that unites us: our masculinity.

(I would argue that our masculinity is intentional, though I know there’s some disagreements about that. I’ve also heard, lately, people arguing that they are “butch women,” and therefore “not masculine,” but I’d like to challenge that there is a fundamental difference between male and masculine, and that a woman can be masculine and still be women.)

Having something to unite us is powerful, and most of the words that this world has come up with to use as an umbrella term haven’t been far-fetched and uniting enough. Is this term? I don’t know. Personally, I like the term “masculine of center.” I wouldn’t use it in a sentence to describe myself, like I wouldn’t introduce myself by saying, “I identify as masculine of center,” but I would absolutely say that I identify as butch and that I believe butch falls under that umbrella, just like it is a sort of trans-ish identity, sometimes, for me, as well. I wouldn’t correct someone if they said I was masculine of center. I also don’t tend to identify myself as a “lesbian,” I’m much more likely to call myself a dyke, or, even more so, queer, but I wouldn’t correct someone if they called me that. It’s not my identity word of choice, but it is accurate.

Holding so tight to one singular identity word and no others gets us into such rigid places. When one word and only one word is an accurate description of one’s self, then of course a larger umbrella term will feel bad. And of course one will only feel good about being connected to and associated with other people who identify with that term. The problem is, I think, that the term itself is just a starting place. It’s just the thing that starts these deeper, elevated conversations, the invitation to say, “Okay, what does that mean for you? How did you come to that word, that identity? How does that identity play out in your daily life?”

Because, like Dacia reminded me when we talked about this last week, the map is not the territory. Even if we have mapped something out with language, what matters is the application to our daily, minute-by-minute lives. And what matters is, to me, the connections that we make, the interconnectivity we find with others who are struggling through similar issues that we are, and what we do about it to move ourselves forward.

I know identity politics are incredibly loaded—fuck, the words I call myself have been vastly important to me, I’m not trying to belittle that struggle. It is huge. The act of naming one’s self, especially in the face of oppression and marginalization, is complicated and powerful. I just hope that we can have more looseness in some of these discussions, as they go forward.

One more thing about masculine of center … I’ve read a few places, in response to this Butch Voices/Butch Nation stuff, that the word “masculine of center” reinforces the binary, and that gender is more complex than a linear spectrum, etc etc.

Funny, I never think of “masculine of center” as implying a linear, 2D scale, with masculine on one side and feminine on the other. All sorts of shapes have centers, and I tend to think of the gender map as a 3D circle, a galaxy even (though that is much harder to map), or perhaps a shorthand of a 2D circle if I’m trying to simplify it a little more.

I ran across this on Tumblr not too long ago, and it’s stuck with me:

From the creator:

Because it’s already established, I have put F, standing for Feminine gender, as red, and M, standing for Masculine gender, as blue. Going nicely with the pansexual flag colours, I have put O for Other gender (though part of me feels I should have put Third gender) as yellow. … Each gender/colour fades down to centre, where I have put A for Agender. …

With this wheel, you can say “I am somewhere between masculine and other, but it’s not a really gendered gender” and it makes sense, because you point at light green (which looks like turquoise, but this was the best wheel I found). You can say “If I’m anything, I’m feminine” and it makes sense, because you point at light pink.

And bigender? Sometimes *here* and sometimes *here*. Genderqueer is anything that isn’t red or blue, I think.

I think there are more genders than just this, but I also think it’s a pretty good place to start. Definitely a vast improvement from the linear spectrum, and I like the idea of all those gradient colors.

So my point, if I have one, is that I like the word “masculine of center,” and I think it’s useful for trying to unite many, many folks who struggle with a masculine identity in the queer worlds. As I’m continuing to be a part of building a better understanding of female masculinity and butch identity in this world, I think it is incredibly important to be talking to other people who have overlapping or complimentary experiences to my own, and to swap theories and survival tactics, to share war stories over beers, to have some respite before we go back and fight the good fights.

I believe the folks behind Butch Voices are doing an incredible job at being inclusive, open, and transparent in their vastly difficult task of bringing together dozens of identities to connect and unite in these conferences. I haven’t been to the national conference yet, but I’m very much looking forward to it next week, and as someone who has spoken quite a bit with Joe LeBlanc and other BV core members, and who was part of the Butch Voices NYC committee last year, and who this year has been volunteering as part of the national web team, I have some knowledge of how this organization is being run, and it seems professional, open, and excellent.

That’s not to say that, if I knew more of the details about what’s going on, I might not have some critical feedback, but it seems clear that they are doing their best, and I’m impressed with what’s happening.

I hope this conversation will continue next week, and I imagine it will. Perhaps as I learn more I’ll have more to share with you all about what I think and what’s going on. Meanwhile, I feel open and curious about these conversations, and interested in finding out more ways to have better, and deeper, connection, and elevated discussions around all of our identities, singular and collectively.

 


20 Comments


  1. That graphic is really awesome. I had a flash of wishing the colors were named, like on a paint chip strip, to help me articulate the variety of pale purple that speaks to me, but then remembered the actual point of your post and the destructive tendencies of labels…

  2. nice essay. i agree about the importance of self-naming and the healthiness of not getting too rigid to the point you feel you-aren’t-calling-me-what-i-want-therefore-you-devalue-me

    or even worse you-don’t-like-the-term-i-like-therefore-you-devalue-me

    whenever i see these kinds of conflicts in our community, i always think wouldn’t this righteous indignation (even when it is truly righteous) find a better target against sexism/racism/transphobia/homophobia in the larger world?

  3. I think, personally, it is too soon for me to feel comfortable being re-integrated into a single umbrella term. I spent almost a decade trying to feel like I belonged somewhere in a trans* spectrum, and it wasn’t until I moved away from the idea of a spectrum or gender-centric masculinity that I found “butch” and started meeting other people I felt I was akin to.
    It is certainly useful to talk about the real similarities that people of very different experiences can have. I would prefer an approach that embraced a wider variety of experiences, rather than ignored the very real differences that do exist. The same reason that “butch” doesn’t work for everyone is the reason that I don’t think we should be attempting to consolidate these experiences under a single label.

    Especially since “masculine of center” doesn’t include anything about queer sexuality. To me, my lesbianism is inseparable from my gender identity. I know that this is not the case for probably most people (that is often a main part of Gender 101, after all), but for me the two are intertwined. It is something I expect when I hear “butch” that gets lost in translation.

  4. I think the main problem with the adoption of MoC is the erasure of butch from the first line of the mission statement. I also don’t understand why the organizers want to have a conference called BUTCH Voices if they consider the term butch so loaded and painful. It’s nonsensical.

    I think the more important issue, though, is the refusal by the board to include “feminist” in the mission statement and the decision by the board not to address concerns of ageism and misogyny. That is the larger problem. I am looking forward to what Butch Nation will have to offer.

  5. I don’t know for sure, because I haven’t been part of the background of any of these conversations, but I imagine part of why “butch” was removed from the first line of the mission statement (though IS included in the mission statement later! and remains in the conference’s title! by which I would argue that there is no erasure of butchness or butch identity) and the reason “feminism” was edited was because of an intention to include people of color, many of whom do not identify as butch and many of whom see feminism as part of colonialism and very white & western.

    I’m not sure they consider butch to be “loaded and painful,” but I can see how it would possibly put off certain groups that this conference is deliberately trying to bring together. That’s my guess, anyway.

    I definitely think there is room for more than one national butch organization in this country, and I’m curious what Butch Nation will organize. I think more conversation is a good thing. I hope it can be done without being either/or and pitting the two organizations against each other. Hopefully the competition will keep both organizations reaching and striving and achieving, and serving as many people as possible in elevating the discussions around these identities.

  6. thanks for offering a bit of out-of-the-fray sharing and reflection…
    especially the ‘map is not the territory’ reminder.
    may we all find compassion and continued resilience in our need to feel known, inside and in relation, and access the ability to be at dynamic peace with the process.

  7. Sadly there has still been no real conversation to address concerns over misogyny and ageism, just a brushing off of the issue. That is extremely troubling to me. I think it’s a conversation that must be had.

    And re: Butch Nation, from Sasha’s blog today:

    BUTCH NATION: October 26th-28th, 2012.

    Butch Nation Presents: A Weekend of Butch Culture and Community.

    Join us in California in the Fall of 2012, Oct. 26th-28th. Nationally known Butch speakers, scholars, and community activists will address the State of the Butch Union. The weekend will include workshops, conversations, music, art, literature, and performance. Butch Nation welcomes all who identify as Butch, and our Allies.

    In Butch Solidarity,
    The Butch Nation Founding Committee

  8. From founder Joe LeBlanc:
    As an organization, we decided that “masculine of center” lacked the stigma and wounds that so many of us associate with having been called terms like “butch” or “aggressive” or “stud” in a derogatory manner.  We stand by this and believe that the term can and will only begin to carry wounds and stigmatize others if we allow it to; if our personal biases recreate cycles of oppression and “othering…”
    If you click on Butch Voices press and click on Joe’s statement you will find this. Sounds to me like they do, in fact, find butch to be too loaded and painful. I am not sure why they don’t change the name of the conference then. It is this sort of talking out of both sides of their collective mouths that makes me think there was not a lot of careful thought out into the revision of the mission. Perhaps this controversy will spur some reconsideration.

  9. Also I wanted to note that I doubt when people hear masculine of center they envision the color coded circle shape of genders. I think because of how we have been conditioned around gender it does call to mind more of a hierarchy, line, binary etc. I still don’t get what is “center.” what is more discouraging is how privileged this fight feels. The workshop offerings still pn the whole feel much more about exploring butch or MoC identities and less about salient issues. As someone who works with mostly poor queer and trans youth of color, butch vs MoC are not what informs their realities. They are being targeted by police because of their gender non conformity, and mistreated in shelters because they are butch, and dropping out of school because they are not safe. I say this not to create an oppression Olympics but to express frustration at the profound disconnect. I wish we’d get a little more real.

  10. I’ve also been asked to express an opinion, or my observations, on the Butch voices vs. Butch Nation rift. Like you, I see it as largely a semantic issue, but with a lot of heavy emotional meaning for those involved. I’ve also wondered about the internal, personal differences that aren’t being discussed.

    I am also more interested in overlap and similarities, and how we can come together as a community to support each other, thank nitpicking over differences. Differences are the spice to our communal stew. I’m also with you on the notion that choosing a masculine presentation, as female-bodied people, is a very intentional and radical choice. I’ve been mulling this a lot while getting my Intentional Masculinity workshop ready for Butch Voices. And I heartily agree that to be masculine is not necessarily to be male. You can certainly be masculine and female identified, and/or to express traditionally masculine traits while looking traditionally female. There is an infinite number of ways to combine gender expression and appearance which I think is fascinating and contributes to the richness of our community.

    (And then you say the very same thing about ‘lesbian’ vs. dyke or queer and I think to myself, is it any wonder we get along so well? Heh )

    I am very much in favor of a bigger tent in terms of who gets to enjoy the rewards of the community, however, I do understand that as we we make the definitions of who belongs wider, there can be feelings of marginalization in groups who feel they are the core of the community. There are pluses and minuses to this bigger tent.

    I think the conversations around identity, inclusion, community membership, etc., are extremely important and I don’t see them ever reaching a point of complete agreement for all. That’s not cynicism, that’s my realistic view of humans. I will say that as these conversations continue, I’d really like to see more of a sense of talking within a community, with an effort to keep the community intact, rather than the ‘.. and now I’m taking my toys and leaving’ messages I’ve seen around this issue.

    No matter what our differences are, there is so much more we have in common and so much to gain by working together.

    Thank you for writing this, Sin, and now I guess I have drafted my post on the topic, too. Thanks for helping me kick that wheel in motion.

    Looking forward to seeing you later this week, my friend, hope we get a chance to hang out a bit.

  11. I definitely understand the rationale behind wanting a different umbrella term to replace “butch”, and could get behind a discussion of what would be a good substitute. I have issues with “masculine-of-center”, though. The reason is simple: I am a butch woman who isn’t masculine. I know lots of women, butch and otherwise, who are masculine, I realize it’s true for a lot of folks, and that is totally cool – but it isn’t true for me. Trying to figure out where I “fit” on the “spectrum” of masculine/feminine makes me confused and uncomfortable, and I have no real connection to either term. The fact that “masculine” is synonymous with “butch” in much of the discourse around butchness is actually what kept me from coming out as a butch for a long time, and is still keeping me from getting taken seriously as one, which kind of sucks.

    That’s just my experience; I do know people who have had similar issues (and some who have had corresponding femme/feminine confusion), but I have no idea how many people feel this way. But I do think it’s worthwhile considering what *other* people might get excluded by a term meant to promote inclusiveness.

    Also, I’m still very much a baby butch, and am kind of curious as to whether my experience *is* common. Is this something you’ve come across? Butches who aren’t masculine, butches who are feminine, butches who don’t exist on the same plane as those words?

    • Ungeheuer— That is interesting. I have met other folks who identify as butch but not as masculine, though they have mostly been (much) older than I am, not usually new to the identity. I’m curious, what is butch to you, then? I’m not sure I understand what it would be without the masculinity, because that is so wrapped up in what my definition of butch is. But I’m game to have that idea expanded. I’ll keep asking around about that at Butch Voices, too, and see what other kind of information I can bring back about it.

  12. Dear Sinclair,

    I came across your writing when Kyle linked Big Tent Blues to my blog; thank you for your words, and for adding to the conversation.

    I was disheartened, however, to read your introduction of, “If you keep up with this kind of drama [crossed out] news, you probably have heard about it.” Perhaps this was just an attempt at some variety of humor–but as three out of five Founders of Butch Nation were chosen by you for your own Top 100 Butch Academics, Intellectuals, and Activists list on Butch Lab, it surprised me. I would hope that we might be given more credit for critical thought, Sinclair.

    At any rate, I am not sure if you have had a chance to read the now-extensive dialogue and commentary on my posts, or on the posts of Butch Nation–the issues are so much larger than just “masculine of center.” To sum it up, I am re-posting a response that I wrote to Lex, which I think best now encapsulates what might be considered the root of the root.

    I look forward to more of this important dialogue, and send my best.

    Sasha.

    Dear Lex,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and important contribution to the conversation.

    I must say that I very much agree with what you’ve said about value. I do believe that any successful, cohesive movement ought to be value based–which is exactly why so many of us have left ButchVoices. Because our values do not align.

    For me, values mean both what we claim to value, and, just as importantly–what actions enact value, in the verb form. For me, and for so many others now speaking out, we are talking about values and words like respect, integrity, transparency, feminism, women, inclusiveness, history, and the wisdom and experience that comes with age–and the actions that enact these values.

    And when so many women report the same experience–the experience of not being listened to, not being heard, not feeling respected, not feeling included, and being downright dismissed (whether in the literal sense, or in the act of not receiving responses to our many concerns about feminism, ageism, misogyny, and transparency over many years)–the verb form of how and what we value is clearly missing.

    Because none of us at Butch Nation are new at organizing, we all know strife, and we all know struggle. Because all of us are women, and many of us Butch women, we all know strife, and we all know struggle. Because some of us are women of color, and because some of us are Jews, and because we have different levels of ability, and because we span fifty years between our youngest and our eldest, and because we have walked in this world fighting for justice–we ask that you (and others) trust us when we say: The divides are not merely superficial.

    We do not ask that you (or any in the community) divide support; we invite you to an important and long-overdue dialogue. We also believe in abundance, and that each of us are able to spend our time and energy in communities that feel like home–that echo our values–in word, and in deed.

    For what it’s worth, I, too, believe that we can do better, and tried to create that “better” for years within the framework of ButchVoices. For what it’s worth, I also hope the commitment is to the values that terms like Butch embody. And, for what it’s worth, because embody is a verb–we are building a nation.

    Thank you again for the care that is so present in your words–I hope to cross paths along the way.

    All my best to you,
    Sasha.

  13. I was going to keep these thoughts to myself, and mulled over them a bit, but I see from some of the comments here that other people feel similarly to the way I do in some respects. So, I decided to go ahead and share them.

    I am really saddened by this change in the mission statement, for a couple of reasons.
    1 – A preference: I adore the word “Butch”. It is unique. It is an identity separate from masculinity, femininity, male or female. It applies across the board, but stands on its own. I’ve always thought it was an amazing word, used to describe an amazing group of people (both men and women by the way).

    2 – A fear: Without the specific use of the word “butch” in the mission statement, I’m afraid that fewer and fewer butch women will attend. Eventually the composition of the audience will change. It will become comprised more of those who identify as “masculine of center” and less and less attended by those who identify as “butch women”. With a different audience, the programming of the conference itself will then logically change to address the new audience, and then there really won’t be any Butch Voices involved at all.

    3 – An irritation (with a touch of feminism): It bothers me that we are reverting back to describing our woman-hood in terms of how much of a “man” we are (or are not). This is really difficult to explain in just a few simple sentences, but I guess that’s the gist of it right there. Butch was a term independent of “masculine” and “feminine” and a bit more friendly to those who don’t identify with the binary.

    I know that Sinclair’s opinion of this is different, and I think that opinion is very interesting – I just think that in *most* people’s minds – saying “masculine of center” DOES imply that there is a straight line, with a “center” and a masculine end and a feminine end. I don’t think that most people have that pretty little multi-colored graphic in their head.

    In this particular instance, using “masculine” in the mission statement appears to determinedly erase the GenderQueer community who choose not to identify on either ends of this spectrum.

    For these objections, I have to say, I have no problem with the INCLUSION of the term “masculine of center” but I wish the word “butch” had also been included.

    But then there’s this objection:
    Logistics: I object to the use of a term in a mission statement or any other document of outreach that needs to be defined using asterisks at the end of the document. In terms of mission statements, I’m more of the “keep it simple” mind.

    As always – just my opinion, of course. :)

  14. YES, Ungeheuer—I’m also a “baby butch” and feel very similarly, and I actually just spent way too long trying to write out exactly why MoC is so uncomfortable to me.

    I am starting to call myself “butch” because that seems to be what the other people I’ve encountered who feel something like I do call themselves. I never used to doubt I was female and should get female pronouns, but I’ve also always [wanted secondary sex characteristics|dressed in a way] that other people apparently call “male.”

    If I actually identified as male, I’d call myself a bit feminine of center. I’m metrosexual, cry at movies, like to talk about feelings, have non-masculine gestures and inflections, and do “girl-drag” on occasion. I am frequently mistaken for a gay man. I’m a girl on the inside, though not a feminine one. So saying I’m masculine just doesn’t make any sense to me, even if it’s objectively true. Even if I was a guy, I wouldn’t be extremely feminine. And as it is—masculine? feminine? as compared to what??

    And I don’t identify as male—I identify almost more strongly as not-male than I do as female. I feel worse about being perceived as male than I do about my body.

    It’s not that I don’t want to hang out with people who do call themselves masculine/MoC/transmasculine. I do! We have a lot in common, much more than we don’t. But there’s a severe lack of resources for people who identify as butch (I can count the butch vloggers on YouTube on one hand, and one of them is the disgustingly transphobic Dirt; there are hundreds if not thousands of transmasculine vloggers) and centering masculine/transmasculine people even more doesn’t help.

    Or maybe all of this not wanting to call myself masculine is internalized trans/homophobia. I don’t know. I wish I could talk to someone who’s been there, but it doesn’t seem to be possible even in my big, gay city. In fact, my big, gay city has a “transmasculine” support group that’s open to me but is in practice for people who are much more male-identified than I am. That’s exactly where I’m afraid Butch Voices is going. I hadn’t even had a chance to attend yet…. I’m also afraid that any group that defines itself as for-butches-but-different-from-BV is going to be more closely aligned with Dirt. While I hope my fears are unfounded, it’s all incredibly frustrating.

    Sorry for word-vomiting all over your comments page, Sinclair.

  15. Sinclair – Thanks for the reply. As for your question, I’m still very much in the process of figuring it out, so I might not have a concise answer to what, precisely, butch means to me yet. It’s an identity I’m growing into, feeling more and more like myself as I do. To me it’s heavily tied in with presentation and attitude – dapperness, badassery, and gallantry is what I aspire to – and with the ever-awesomely-fluid butch/femme (or butch/butch!) dynamics. I dig the idea of butch/femme as not necessarily dependent on, well, any other categories, as a thing in itself (though, of course, it’s cool if they are tied in with other identity stuff on an individual level).

    In the end, my negative experiences with the words “masculine” and “feminine” (being forcibly feminized, esp. as a kid, and being put down for my perceived masculinity) overshadow any potential connection I might have with them. And I don’t think this is a case of not calling a spade a spade, either – they’re just not the right terms for me, they don’t reflect any truth about me. And since butch, to me, is really about freedom of behavior and expression, I think I’m okay with that.

  16. Re: butch without masculinity?

    In a ’98 article published in butch/femme: Inside Lesbian Gender, Ann Cvetkovich argues in part that butchness (especially stone butchness) may be read just as well as a feminine gender as it is a masculine one. She draws on a poem by Lee Lynch from the ’92 Persistent Desire anthology, though Lynch deploys the term “womanly”–notably different from the “feminine” to which Cvetkovich annexes it. Lynch asks, “Who is more womanly / than the stone butch?” suggesting that the stone butch actually has a privileged access to womanliness; that the stone perhaps even out-womens other women.

    The question I was after when came across Lynch’s poem through Cvetkovich was this: “Can butchness constitute a revision of masculinity, or does it constitute a radical break from masculinity that renders it (butch) unrecognizable as such (as masculine)?” I tend to think of my own butchness as a species of masculinity, because I want it to be a revision of masculinity. But, for me, some kind of femininity or maybe strictly “womanliness” is always attached to my butchness, too. Sometimes I find that painful and frustrating, but now here’s the exciting part: it is precisely that tension in my butchness that (strictly speaking) deconstructs the binary of masculinity/femininity—that is, the tension shows that the exclusion of femininity from the territory of the masculine has always been what makes masculinity legible as masculinity. A butchness that suffers over this exclusion may be the only thing that can actually (re-)constitute masculinity according to some other logic than excluding and denigrating femininity.

  17. Hi Sinclair,

    I posted the following comment at 9:15am, and can see that posts made it on both before and after, so am wondering if this got stuck, or is being held? Wanted to send again (and also by email) to make sure and take part.

    All best,
    Sasha.

    Dear Sinclair,

    I came across your writing when Kyle linked Big Tent Blues to my blog; thank you for your words, and for adding to the conversation.

    I was disheartened, however, to read your introduction of, “If you keep up with this kind of drama [crossed out] news, you probably have heard about it.” Perhaps this was just an attempt at some variety of humor–but as three out of five Founders of Butch Nation were chosen by you for your own Top 100 Butch Academics, Intellectuals, and Activists list on Butch Lab, it surprised me. I would hope that we might be given more credit for critical thought, Sinclair.

    At any rate, I am not sure if you have had a chance to read the now-extensive dialogue and commentary on my posts, or on the posts of Butch Nation–the issues are so much larger than just “masculine of center.” To sum it up, I am re-posting a response that I wrote to Lex, which I think best now encapsulates what might be considered the root of the root.

    I look forward to more of this important dialogue, and send my best.

    Sasha.

    Dear Lex,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and important contribution to the conversation.

    I must say that I very much agree with what you’ve said about value. I do believe that any successful, cohesive movement ought to be value based–which is exactly why so many of us have left ButchVoices. Because our values do not align.

    For me, values mean both what we claim to value, and, just as importantly–what actions enact value, in the verb form. For me, and for so many others now speaking out, we are talking about values and words like respect, integrity, transparency, feminism, women, inclusiveness, history, and the wisdom and experience that comes with age–and the actions that enact these values.

    And when so many women report the same experience–the experience of not being listened to, not being heard, not feeling respected, not feeling included, and being downright dismissed (whether in the literal sense, or in the act of not receiving responses to our many concerns about feminism, ageism, misogyny, and transparency over many years)–the verb form of how and what we value is clearly missing.

    Because none of us at Butch Nation are new at organizing, we all know strife, and we all know struggle. Because all of us are women, and many of us Butch women, we all know strife, and we all know struggle. Because some of us are women of color, and because some of us are Jews, and because we have different levels of ability, and because we span fifty years between our youngest and our eldest, and because we have walked in this world fighting for justice–we ask that you (and others) trust us when we say: The divides are not merely superficial.

    We do not ask that you (or any in the community) divide support; we invite you to an important and long-overdue dialogue. We also believe in abundance, and that each of us are able to spend our time and energy in communities that feel like home–that echo our values–in word, and in deed.

    For what it’s worth, I, too, believe that we can do better, and tried to create that “better” for years within the framework of ButchVoices. For what it’s worth, I also hope the commitment is to the values that terms like Butch embody. And, for what it’s worth, because embody is a verb–we are building a nation.

    Thank you again for the care that is so present in your words–I hope to cross paths along the way.

    All my best to you,
    Sasha.

  18. Butch Nation has been tagged in a Facebook note authored by ButchVoices as of 7pm on Wednesday night where they state that they are calling a town hall meet up at their Conference. This meeting has been set for Friday at noon to talk about issues raised by Butch Nation’s press releases, and following writings. (See: http://www.sashatgoldberg.wordpress.com for full thread.)

    We also hear, via The Bay Area Reporter, that Butch Nation is invited. (See: http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=5980)

    In the Facebook note, Butch Voices claims to aim for a “respectful, hopeful and in-person community conversation.” However, we want to be clear. No one from ButchVoices has contacted or invited us directly by phone, email, or blog comment. (And hey, y’all have our contact information!)

    Butch Nation is hopeful that a dialog may take place, however none of us are able to attend a town hall meeting planned for a workday with less than thirty-six hours notice. The founders of Butch Nation have made plans to be in Oakland at the Marriott on Saturday and Sunday only, as was stated in the press release on July 26th, for our independent lunchtime sessions on woman-identified Butches, feminism, and masculinities. (Free and open to the public.)

    With the goal of “hearing each other” in a “community conversation” may we invite ButchVoices to move their town hall to Sunday, or hold a part two discussion on Sunday, when we can join you in this important dialog. Butch Nation’s workshop, “Exploring our Masculinities While Keeping our Feminisms,” will be over at 1:30 just as the BV Conference plenary begins at 1:30.

    If Butch Voices invites us to its plenary for a discussion, we will gladly attend. But we respectfully don’t want to interrupt BV Conference proceedings unless invited to participate. We fervently hope that any joint session, now or in the future, will be an honorable and potentially healing butch exploration of the issues of sexism, misogyny, ageism, and identity.

    Thank You,
    Butch Nation Founders

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