Long Live the Butch: Leslie Feinberg & the Trans Day of Remembrance

leslieI sit in shock at my desk, though I knew it was coming, knew Leslie Feinberg was sick, and know how deadly lyme disease can be is.

I sit feeling the shock of grief: Leslie Feinberg died this past weekend.

And today is the Trans Day of Remembrance, and that of itself gets me all weepy about all of those we’ve lost, all the hate, all the fear, and how far we have left to go. It makes me think about “butch flight” and the relationships between butch identity and transmasculine identity. It gets me thinking of my lineage, the legacy I am a part of, and where I came from.

For me, Leslie’s book Stone Butch Blues invented butch identity. If I had the word before the book, it was only as a slur, only as something nobody should want to be. If I had the word before Jess’s story and her tortured restraint of passionate love, it was only used to describe ugly women, unattractive and unwanted. It wasn’t until I read Stone Butch Blues that I realized it described me.

I’m not sure I wanted it to, but I knew that it did. That book made me feel exposed, like someone had found me out. Vulnerable, like someone could come along and pluck my heart from my unguarded chest to do with as they pleased. But also, strangely, it made me feel powerful. I could feel the power that came from being butch, the paradox of growing up a girl and then becoming the suited partner of a beautiful woman, the torture of being such a social outcast, and the deep craving hunger for being accepted.

“My life, forever changed because of Stone Butch Blues. And Leslie Feinberg.”
—Felice Shays
I wasn’t even 20 when I read it, wasn’t identifying as butch yet myself, though I was starting to realize that was growing in me. I was barely out as queer. I recognized myself so much in that book that I hid it in the back of my bookshelf and didn’t pick it up again for almost ten years.

But it is potent, and it seeped into me. It inescapably linked the words butch and stone, and for years I thought that being stone was the only way to be butch. It still feels like the butch/femme culture overly values stone in butches, that the stone—by which I mean, not receiving sexual touch—is one of the measures of the amount of gender dysphoria felt, and therefore the more stone a butch feels, the more butch they are. There is so much belittling in queer culture about masculine-presenting folks who want to be touched in bed, or—gasp!—are bottoms, and they are so often chided for not being a “real butch.”

I have been fighting fighting fighting this for years, both as a queer cultural community wound and internalized in my own body.

I have heard so many butches cite this book as their coming out root, as finally recognizing who they are by reading Jess’s story (Leslie’s story), and so many femmes cite this book as finally feeling like they could be queer and crave a masculine partner, or that it’s the “heartbreaking holy grail of butch perspective.” They have told me they see themselves in Theresa’s butch devotion. For so many of us, Feinberg’s book made our secret budding desires make sense.

“Were it not for Stone Butch Blues, I’d still be stranded on a lonely island of inexplicable gender and sexuality. Many of us would.”— Tara Hardy
Stone Butch Blues came out in 1993, but was set in the 1960s, and I wonder if it wasn’t one of the major seeds which planted 1960s butch/femme nostalgia into our heads while so many of us were coming out in the 1990s. It contributed to how we crave the supposedly thriving butch/femme culture of yore.

I understand being nostalgic for a time that is now romanticized—not only in queer culture but in butch/femme lore and history. Beyond that, it is romanticized in the larger US culture as well, as it is the time post-WWII where this country was thriving, and idealized visions were planted in our collective (un)consciousness. But I also want to remember that while it might seem like butches come from that time, and thrived in that time, what we have now—and the myriad gender identity, expression, and presentation options available to us—is much improved.

“Losing Leslie Feinberg is a gut blow. Hir work has been instrumental in my own life, & the lives of so many queer & trans folks.” — Corey Alexander
Because here’s the thing: There are a lot of problems with those idealized versions of butch/femme relationships. A lot of problems. Beyond the linking of stoneness with butchness, there is an overvaluing of queer masculinity and undervaluing of femininity. This isn’t just in Stone Butch Blues, though it is there—it is all over mainstream culture, and we queers haven’t escaped it: it has permeated queer culture to the core. It has at times felt present even in the articles I’ve read about Leslie Feinberg’s death, where her partner, poet Minnie Bruce Pratt, has often been skipped over. The scholars I know who are studying femmes have a hard time locating them in queer archives, and have often best identified them by looking for their more visible butch partners. This is not good. This is a version of butch that puts femmes as an accessory, as a tool to validate and enhance butch masculinity.

I adore the butch/femme culture. As someone who highly identifies as a femme-oriented butch who is currently dating a trans boy, I adore it even more, and as I have a bit more distance now that I’m a little bit outside of it, I see copious places where the butch/femme culture reinforces the cultural binary gender roles, where it pigeonholes people into boxes of expectation, where people are shaved down to fit labels and not the other way around.

Stone Butch Blues may have invented butch identity for the current queer cultural movements, but we need a reinvention.

We need the new butch.

We need a butch identity where the masculine gender role is criticized and reinvented to include access to all aspects of emotionality, psychology, caretaking, feeling, hobbies, interests, and play.

We need a butch identity where we actively work toward undoing the racist culture that keeps people of color oppressed, their voices marginalized, and their bodies under attack. We need a butch identity which recognizes that butch has been historically a white identity, and that radical queer masculinity looks differently in other cultural contexts.

We need a butch identity where any kind of surgery and hormone taking and body modification is acceptable, supported, and celebrated without commentary on how we knew that butch was “trans all along” or that they are “betraying their womanhood” or teased, “another one bites the dust.”

We need a butch identity where the identity expands to fit who those claiming it, rather than those claiming it shrinking to fit inside of it.

We need a butch identity where it is okay to transition. We need a butch identity where it is okay to wear a dress. We need a butch identity where “butch” is just the starting point of the conversation, and where nobody assumes they know anything about you just because they know you are butch.

We need a butch identity that doesn’t assume topping and dominance as the norm, and that doesn’t put down butches who bottom, who receive touch, who submit beautifully and skillfully and with agency, who crave giving over, who crave being owned. We need a butch identity that doesn’t assume femme partnership as the norm, and that recognizes butches loving butches as a real and valid desire.

We need a butch identity that sees femmes as more than accessories, and that values femininity as solid, legitimate, and radical. We need a butch identity that doesn’t joke that femmes are having “a butch moment” if they fix something or play sports or act tough.

We need a butch identity that embraces the myriad mashup versions of in-between genders, of genderqueerness, male feminity, fagginess, swishiness, and fabulousness. We need a butch identity that rocks glitter and leggings without shame, that encourages purses and boas, and that never makes fun of someone’s “girly drink” or pink button down shirt.

We need new butch icons, we need new butch events. We need to show up at events where butch and femme genders are celebrated and made visible (there are many already out there! Go to them! Participate!). We need to stop prioritizing and privileging masculine versions of queerness. We need to read femme authors like Minnie Bruce Pratt (seriously, have you read S/he? It is one of my top 5 of all time, it’s stunning), we need to work on dismantling white privilege. We need to read trans women like Julia Serano and Janet Mock, we need to listen to Laverne Cox, we need to listen to Ceyenne Doroshow and watch things like the Red Umbrella Project documentary about sex workers, we need to keep refining our activism, we need to work on our own privilege, we need to stay alive.

We need new butch clothes, despite Saint Harridan and Tomboy Tailors and all the other dozen (more?) creators of clothes for dapper queers that have popped up in the last few years, not because we don’t look good in those (damn, we do) but because most of those are suit-and-tie shops, and there are so many more ways to be butch than with a suit-and-tie. Let’s reinvent dapper fashion, let’s never be limited by the narrow masculine options that have existed so far, let’s go farther, let’s have it all.

Even as attached as I am to the word “butch,” we probably need new words. Language evolves as we do. We may even end up turning butch over for some new way to talk about the in-between space we occupy, that tortured passionate place of wanting, that marginalized place of vision and truth.

As much as I would like butch to thrive and live forever, and as invested as I am in this identity, it has roots in dangerous masculine and white culture. I see so much fear that butches are “a dying breed” or that butch/femme culture is dying. I still think it isn’t—Long live the butch!—but if it is, perhaps it is at least a tiny bit in part because we are in a queer culture now that is working to decenter masculinity and whiteness. Perhaps when we fear we are losing butches or losing butch/femme, we are really losing the cultural way we have privileged masculinity and butchness. Perhaps along with this reinvention, we are losing the huge amount of body shame we are forced to carry as butches. Perhaps we are losing the social ostracization that came with butch masculinity and femme femininity.

Perhaps we are moving toward something new, and even better.

I wish we had our own words to describe ourselves to connect us. I don’t want another label. I just wish we had words so pretty we’d go out of our way to say them out loud.” —Jess, p254 in Stone Butch Blues

Fantasy, Gardens, & Politics of Butch Identity in April’s Book Roundup

Late. Because April was somehow nutso. Traveling to Seattle plus my birthday plus the boy’s birthday plus IMsL plus the Gender Book launch party at the CSC plus I took a temporary social media consulting gig plus it’s SPRING plus we took a swing class plus the new venture (now called Body Trust) had a strategic planning retreat and officially launched www.bodytrustcircle.com and the August Portals of Pleasure retreat and that took so much time and energy and planning. Also I am this close to having a space to do bodywork in San Francisco and I’m really excited to gear up for more one-on-one sessions.

So I didn’t read as much this month. Or at least it feels like that—my GoodReads account reports 8 titles, which is about as much as other months.

rightbrainI picked up and read the Right Brain Business Plan book by Jennifer Lee a few months ago as part of my personal study through the queer creative business group I’m involved in, and found it useful. I picked it up again because the author was on Creative Live doing the Right Brain Business Plan workshop for three days, and I tuned in to it mostly in the background as I was working, but I’d go back and forth to the exercises as I was getting other things done. It was great to think hard about some of the business plan things and I do like her approach.


blue I’ve heard a lot about the film adaptation of the graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Color, but I hadn’t heard as much about the book. I picked it up from the library as an ebook, which was interesting, to read a graphic novel on my iPad, and it worked pretty well. (Also I love the library!) I had heard a lot about the extensive 10 minute lesbian sex scene (“there’s rimming!”) but I also heard it was a) depressing and b) kinda by or for straight people, and not particularly by and for queer people, so I haven’t rushed to see it. I’d be curious to, now that I’ve read the book. Mostly I was really struck by how immensely fucking tortured the coming out process was/is for this particular young lesbian protagonist living in France. I am so lucky to have a supportive family, and have prioritized queerness in my life and thus lived entrenched in queer communities, so I have never experienced it so torturesome … but I do understand that people still go through that kind of process. It was a good reminder to me of the emotional depths that can happen in an identity formation, but also part of me, while reading, was more like, “Really? This seems awfully over-exaggerated.” I’d be curious what the relationship is of the story to the author—I don’t think it’s memoir.



edible The Edible Garden came from Cleis’s life imprint, Viva. Now that I actually have a backyard (first time in my adult life!) I am pretty excited to try to grow some stuff. Preferably some food stuff. So I’ve been doing a little bit of garden tending, getting it ready to plant, and this month kicked into for reals spring gear, so rife and I stepped it up a bit. We planted kale, cherry tomatoes, some spring onions, sugar snap peas, and a few other things.



growgreat I liked looking through The Edible Garden—and the other one, Grow Great Grub—but it didn’t have all that much useful information in it. For example, some bird keeps eating our sugar snap pea leaves and tops, but neither book said anything about how to keep pests from eating your delicious food. They are both more inspiration than practical advice, and while I still appreciate the pretty pictures and the inspiration to go dig outside, I am starting to get to the point where I need the reality advice part even more. Which is kind of a neat sign! Grow Great Grub came to me as a holiday gift from my aunt (via my Amazon wishlist).



pregnant I read the graphic memoir Pregnant Butch by AK Summers this month. I heard about it through a Lambda Literary review and was intrigued. I think it’s worth reading, but to be honest I was less interested in the pregnancy part than I was in the extensive commentary about butch identity, and sometimes the extensive commentary about butch identity was infuriating, heartbreaking, or depressing. The author—who I assume is the same as the protagonist, Teek, though their names are slightly different—is a bit older than me, maybe 10 years even, so they come from a slightly different generation of butches, and the content about younger butches being extinct, butch flight, and the prevalence of butches transitioning to men was hard to read. At one point Teek explicitly referred to herself as—and drew herself as—a dinosaur. It bugs me to see butch being presented as an antique, out-of-fashion, and outdated identity—I really don’t think it is. But then again, I kind of straddle the old school butch generation and the younger trans- and genderqueer-inclusive crowds, and kind of always have. But I don’t see butch disappearing! I do see it changing, revisioning, but I don’t think it’s as gone as is sometimes portrayed. I also think butch flight is a bit of a myth—but I do understand that there is more of a prevalence of previously-identified-as-masculine-of-center-women transitioning to men. (There are at least five people on my Facebook feed going through the early stages of transitioning right now.) I have lots and lots to say about that topic, but that’s all I’ll say for right now. I took some notes and hope to expand my ideas into more essays later. Or maybe a book.

chaosstars I didn’t finish The Chaos of Stars. It’s kind of that YA fantasy/myth genre that I sometimes devour, but I didn’t get too deep into this one so I put it down after my standard try (of 65 pages, which is 100 minus my age, which is a rule I learned from Seattle librarian extraordinaire Nancy Pearl). The whole thing was full of Egyptian mythologies with a curious modern twist, which I was totally intrigued by but then couldn’t follow very well. If you’re into Egyptian mythologies, perhaps it’d be easier to get into.


loveglobal I didn’t finish Love in the Time of Global Warming either. I love love love the Weetzie Bat books, and I have read a handful of Francesca Lia Block’s other novels and find them engaging and fun, so I thought she’d be a good one to pick up while I keep flexing my reading chops. I have a hard time with world-building sometimes though, and I didn’t get very deep in to this one. I think the biggest problem was that it became due at the library, but I certainly could’ve renewed it. It just didn’t grip me.



mermaid Michelle Tea’s newest novel, Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, however—THAT gripped me. I read it fast, in just a few days, and I got really into it. I love the protagonist, love the girl power, love the pass-out game, love the symbols that thread through it. When I went back out into the world for a run the day after I finished it, I looked at flocks of pigeons very differently. It ends on a cliffhanger, which is a perfect way for the first of a 3-part book series to end, and I can’t wait to read the others.


Gender, Poetry, and Smut: Current Recommended Reads

I have stacks of books on my lists to tell y’all about, and so many other things to write to you about that I often don’t update you with what I’m reading. But, I know some of y’all are book nerds, so here ya go. Some beginnings of my attempt to get through this backlog.

And hey, who knows, maybe it’ll be a perfect last-minute dark-time-of-the-year holiday gift for somebody.

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Butch Geography by Stacey Waite (Tupelo Press). A poetry collection … I read the review over on Lambda Literary and ran out to snag my own copy. It really is as beautiful as the review says. Waite writes with precise language and beautiful turns of phrase and enjambment about gender, navigating the world as a masculine of center person, and love. If you’re into gender and butch things and poetic words, this is for you.

Troubling the Line: Trans & Genderqueer Poetics TC Tolbert & Tim Trace Peterson (Nightboat Press). This anthology includes a wide range of poets, some examples of their work, and some statements (“poetics”) of their purpose and intentions behind their poetry. I find those essays in particular so compelling. The whole thing strikes me as very academic, so there is a lot of theory and big, fancy words that I feel like I could squint and strain to understand but I just kind of don’t bother (unless, you know, I really want to), but even so, I love reading the words and seeing two of my favorite genres—genderqueer theory and poetry—come together. Fascinating—and, as far as I know, the only book of its kind.

Poets include Samuel Ace, Julian Talamantez Brolaski, Micha Cardenas, kari edwards, Duriel Harris, Joy Ladin, Dawn Lundy Martin, Eileen Myles, Trish Salah, Max Wolf Valerio, John Wieners, Kit Yan, and more.

Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive By Julia Serano (Seal Press). I’ve said for years that I consider Serano’s first book, Whipping Girl, required reading, and this, her sophomore publication, is likewise just as essential. Feminist and queer movements can be so exclusive, can reproduce all sorts of misogyny, racism, transphobia, transmisogyny, classism, and dozens more -isms—I have experienced and witnessed so much of that first-hand, and it frustrates me, as someone who is deeply committed to feminist and queer movements. And yet … sometimes I have no idea what to do about it. Serano puts forth all kinds of theories and concepts that I really like—the first one that comes to mind is explaining feminism through the concept of double standards. Keep up with Serano through her blog, where she’s got information about book signings and readings, and where she’s been posting excerpts and definitions of terms she coined or is using extensively in this book. It’ll give you a good sense of the tone and concepts included in Excluded (see what I did there? Ha ha!).

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Best Bondage Erotica 2014 edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Cleis Press). Oh! It looks like this is technically released January 1st, though I did just see that Rachel received her box of copies to send out to Amazon reviewers (get in touch with her and get a copy of the book in exchange for writing it up on Amazon!). I’m not sure what the last Best Bondage Erotica collection was that I read … maybe I haven’t read any of them? I’ll be honest, I’m not very into bondage—but that’s partly why I absolutely loved Laura Antoniou’s introduction to this book, which basically said, “Uh, I’m not that into bondage.” Hah! Cracked me up, and also, I identify with that. “I’m much more into power,” Antoniou writes. Yeah, me too. And yet … and yet. She goes on to explain the value of these stories, and I admit they kept me turning pages. I particularly loved Kathleen Delaney-Adams story “Tart Cherry,” but that’s because I am a sucker for a kinky femme bottom who knows what she wants. Still, it’s beautifully written and sweet and dirty, and it stood out.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2014, edited by Kathleen Warnock (Cleis Press). There was a bit of news about this year’s BLE collection, and while I have a lot of questions and confusion and thoughts from that article, I don’t really need to go into that here. I mean, I am kind of the lesbian erotica cheerleader (despite having complicated relationships with both the words “lesbian” and “erotica”). But still, I come back to BLE year after year, I submit my stories, and I always, always look forward to reading it. This year, the story I submitted is the kick-off piece, the first one in the book (thrilling!), and I was lucky enough to be part of the release party here in San Francisco and hear almost ten of the stories read aloud. I think this year’s is a good collection, well-written and well collected, though there aren’t very many stories in here that I’ll be going back to for jerk-off material, mostly because they aren’t Daddy/girl or heavy BDSM based (which tends to be what I seek out these days—I know, SHOCKER). Still, Cheryl Dunye & Sarah Schulman’s script for the full length campy porn Mommy is Coming is included, and that’s fascinating.

Actually, speaking of Mommy is Coming, here’s the trailer:

Um yeah. Definitely recommend that one.

Aaaand that concludes this current book round-up! What have you been reading lately? Anything good to recommend?

The Great Reader Mini-Interview, part two

What is your relationship to sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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My favorite part is probably the porn. My least favorite is probably the personal relationship stuff; it’s interesting but also cringeworthy and full of secondhand embarrassment, at least for me, and makes me shout “WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT” at the screen a lot.

—jay, http://www.twitter.com/jswaggerbk

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I most enjoy the smart and progressive gender theory. I love the ways Sinclair moves the conversation forward, and remains open to all ways of knowing. I also enjoy the erotica, a lot. I would also be interested in an exploration of the “butch bottom” — my partner would probably fall into that category, and I’m interested in teasing out the less obvious relationships between gender and power there.

—rachel, http://www.bellybuttongazing.blogspot.com

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I wish you would do more of exactly what it is that you are doing. I know that some of your readers have been sending you messages saying that they miss Kristen, or that they wish you would do more of this or more of that. But all I wish is that you keep writing what you want to write. It’s that which shows me your true colours, and its that which is real. SO very real about you that keeps me grounded in my shoes, in my reality, in my concepts of what Butch is. Of what Queer is. Of what Love is and what power is. The fact that you have remained true to yourself. The fact that you have listened to your heart, despite the whispers and the judgements; you are still moving in YOUR direction, and that’s fucking hot. That’s power, that’s taking the time that you have on this planet and making the most of it by not wasting it on doing what others want you to do. You follow your heart, and that, to me, is truth.

You and I went through a breakup at the same time. I found that your silence matched my silence and i never once questioned it. When you finally found words again I felt them with you. and I found myself speaking to you through the screen consoling, and sharing my experiences. I wanted to tell you that we would be ok. That even though things ended perhaps under different circumstances, we were feeling the same pain, the same stages of denial and rejection and loss, and I felt like you brought me home a lot. But I also felt like I wanted to bring you home with me too. It was therapeutic and it helped me out a lot.

—EK, http://instagram.com/ek_bo

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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It’s ok to be gay, go to church, believe in God, and live in the South all at the same time! I’ve been attracted to women since I was 4 years old. My first two kisses were girls! In South East Texas however, being gay isn’t even an option. I just thought I could easily appreciate another woman’s beauty. No one speaks about being gay. Thank you for putting out such straight forward information. I love that there is no beating around the bush on your site. Thank you for being a proud, intelligent, gay woman and not hiding it.

—Julie May Richardson, http://instagram.com/julie321

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I would tell my younger self to stop worrying about what everyone else is going to think, and say, and whisper behind your back and to just go flirt with girls already.

—Sara, http://somekindofsexy.tumblr.com

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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I can’t narrow done one source but I can give you a genre: books. I read everything I can get my hands on. Right now I’m interested in the Invisible Femme problem. Since I happen to be one.

—Michelle

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Probably reading Butch is A Noun, S. Bear Bergman. As stupid as it sounds, I didn’t really ‘get’ that there were other people that felt like me. But if I can slide another thing in, it’s been kind of amazing to find the web presence of butches, dappers, and all the other words that confuse me. Tumblrs, blogs, twitter accounts; it’s illuminating to think that I’m not weird. Finding a community of similar folks has actually really helped with my confidence.

—Zoe, http://dapperirishdyke.wordpress.com/

Anything else to add?

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Femmes have been my salvation. There have been 2 femmes who made me whole again. After being abused by my mother for years about my gender, I shut down. hiding even inside the lesbian community. These femmes brought me out with their wisdom and sight, their ability to see me and respond to me. I was lesbian for a long time but never fully me until I embraced and lived my Butch life.

— sumner, https://twitter.com/Butchkind

Ask Mr. Sexsmith Anything: What words compliment a butch lover?

coaching-buttonDear Mr. Sexsmith,

My butch lover refers to me as gorgeous, luscious, beautiful… [but] I just don’t think those kind of descriptive words work for her. What would you suggest? Thanks!

— Sho

Dear Sho,

My personal favorites?

Handsome.
Strong.
Sexy.
Gorgeous.
Hunky.
Powerful.

Some more ideas?

Striking. Charming. Dazzling. Gentleman. Stud(ly). Rough. Tough. Hero(ic). Attractive. Big.

And, do delve a little deeper:

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling someone masculine gorgeous or beautiful or any of those words. (I don’t know if I’d use “luscious” … not sure what it is exactly, maybe it implies curviness to me, and it wouldn’t resonate if someone used that for me. But I can think of some very luscious butches who would probably like that word used to describe them, so don’t take my preference as the norm.) I think we separate complimentary words by gender, and while many people have certain resonances with certain words regardless of their gender identity—and I think those should be respected, and it doesn’t really matter if the words someone likes happen to all fall in one generally gendered category or not—I think it’s good to take a look at why some of them resonate over others, and whether that’s personal preference or cultural habit.

I remember reading somewhere that “men want to be powerful, women want to be beautiful,” and while I think there’s some heteronormative/patriarchal/misogynistic deconstruction that should probably happen around that idea, I also think it is largely true and reproduced in this culture. And, I think we tend to compliment along those lines when we’re talking about complimenting someone feminine verses complimenting someone masculine. So first of all, women are powerful and beautiful, men are beautiful and powerful, genderqueer and trans and butch and femme folks are powerful and beautiful, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being both. In fact, I think it’s a radical act a) to recognize that our gender roles operate by trying to keep men striving for power and women striving for beauty, which reinforces the kyriarchy, and b) to intentionally break those gender roles by complimenting people for the incredible, sparkly, dazzling things that we notice them doing, by which we are touched and changed.

I think this topic of complimentary words warrants a fascinating conversation between partners. E.g., “Hey, when I use words like attractive and sexy and beautiful when I describe you, do you like that? What kinds of words do you like to be called? Are there words that I call you that sometimes bug you? Isn’t it interesting that certain words are reserved for femininity and others for masculinity? Would it feel strange if I called you pretty/strong/luscious/my hero?”

Brainstorm. Make a list. Do some google searches. Ask around to your friends next time you’re out and about and see what kind of lists they make of compliments for their girlfriends/boifriends/partners. Go back to your partner and try out some of those words, see what the response is. Maybe they just don’t like their body to be talked about or commented upon, even if you are in awe of their gorgeousness and want to tell them so every day. Maybe they like certain words to be used and they just don’t know why, but it makes more sense and resonates deeper. That’s okay. Listen to each other.

I like to use words that have the intended effect, and if I intend one thing and they take it another way, it isn’t actually effective, even if I intend it to be so. And regardless of gender identity, I like to call people what they want to be called.

Would y’all like to weigh in on other complimentary words for butches (or for anyone, for that matter)? What words do you call your butch lover? What words have you found that butches like to be called? What compliments stick?

Review: Jam Body Tank, aka Compression Tank, aka Faux-Binder

jamrws01-tank_1Rounderwear contacted me offering products for review, and while their bubble-butt gay boy underwear is pretty cute, I wasn’t sure it was for me exactly. Then, the Body Tank sections caught my eye, and I requested to take a look at the Jam Body Tank.

Glad I did. I’ve worn it frequently since it arrived.

I really don’t like full-on compression shirts. They make it hard for me to breathe. They knock the wind outta me after walking a block or two, or up one flight of stairs. They shove my chest up into my collarbone and sometimes make me feel like my neck isn’t free enough, like I’m suffocating. They make my stomach feel all weird (and some other digestion things you probably don’t want to know about). I don’t like the feeling of wearing one.

I sure do like how my silhouette looks when I do, however.

So, I picked up a “muscle shirt” a while ago, which is basically a regular tee shirt on top and then an elastic band that covers the stomach, and I wear that over my usual binder (aka sports bra—my current pick being Enell) when I want to have a smoother silhouette, or when I want to wear a button-down. It’s not as intense as my compression shirt, but it still makes a difference.

This Jam Body Tank is a lot like that, except instead of being half-shirt half-elastic, it’s all elastic. It’s a lot more comfortable than a compression shirt, but it’s not quite as effective. It doesn’t create the same straight(er) lines that a compression shirt does, but it does still help, AND I can breathe! Yes!

Here’s the description from the Rounderwear site:

Seamless compression tank that provides back support and definition to the muscles. Its detailed design and construction help pull back the shoulders, straighten the back and slim down the waist.

92% Polyamide Sorbtek 8% Elastane

• Improves shape and posture
• Slims down
• Reduces back pain
• Controls body temperature
• Machine wash

I don’t feel it pulling back the shoulders or straightening my back, but maybe I already have good posture? Kind of doubt it, since I’ve got a long history of shoulder trouble. I also haven’t noticed any sort of “body temperature” control, but maybe it knows something I don’t.

What does seem to be true is that it “provides support” and “improves shape” and “slims down.” Basically, it’s Spanx for men. And butches, and whomever might want to slim down their curves into a more linear shape.

I’m very glad to have something other than that compression shirt to wear to “slim down” my shape and make it a bit more masculine, especially for long conference days like I had this past weekend. Wearing the compression shirt for a whole day (or two or four days in a row) is hard on my body. I’m glad for the chance to review it, I didn’t realize products like these are out there and I’m going to keep an eye out for more like this.

Exploring Gender Through Photos: The new headshots by Meg Allen

I had some new headshots taken, with the aim to actually capture some joy and pleasure and fun, instead of someone who has “been through the ringer” and “in the wars”. I’m spending a lot of time thinking about my business and what I’m doing and how I’m representing myself, in no small part thanks to the Catalyst Conference I attended in DC in March and Barbara Carrellas’s Urban Tantra training for sexuality professionals.

BD Swain (who is a butch kinky erotica writer—if you aren’t following her blog, you should be) hooked me up with Meg Allen, whose portraits immediately resonated with me. Meg is also working on a portrait project she’s calling BUTCH which features—wait for it—masculine of center folks.

Working with Meg and talking about photographing butch identity, what makes it different than photographing other gender presentations, how to encourage butches to feel more at home in our bodies through photography, and a dozen other things, made me think about all the other butch portrait projects that have been popping up lately, like BUTCH: Not like the other girls by SD Holman and the Butch/Femme Photo Project by Wendi Kali. I’m starting to put together a panel for the BUTCH Voices conference that is full of photographers of butches and I want to address exactly those questions.

BUTCH Voices call for proposals is open, by the way! Submit art, workshops, lectures, panels, or performance ideas before June 1.

I know for me, having my photograph taken changed significantly after I came to a butch identity. I actually started liking how I looked in photos. I actually kind of recognized myself. I spent some years obsessively taking self-portraits, from 1997 to about 2002, and maintaining personal photo blogs online, and one of the major reasons for that was experimenting with visual representations and markers of gender. After I came to a butch identity that I was pretty solid and comfortable with, somewhere in 2001 or so, I took fewer and fewer self-portraits and felt much more at ease having my photo taken by others. Having professional photos of me taken, starting in about 2006, has continued me on that journey of finding myself through visual representation and continuing to feel comfortable with the way that I look, my gender, and my body.

Which is yet another reason why I started craving new headshots for the summer. I want it to reflect where I am, and how I feel about myself and my work. They needed to be updated.

Here’s about 30 of my favorites from the shoot. I’m still experimenting with which will be my new avatar for Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and for the sidebar and my about pages, so I might pick one and then change it up in a week or so, test some of them out.

If you can’t see the photos, here’s a link to the full set on Flickr.

Here’s the other thing about these photos: they look like me. They don’t really look like “Sinclair,” they don’t look like some persona I’m putting on, they look like me, how I look on a pretty much daily basis, how I look when I’m hanging out with friends or teaching a workshop. Maybe if I would’ve dressed up more that would be different? Maybe it’s the sweater over the polo, too casual for this shoot somehow.

Not that that’s a bad thing, exactly. I am aiming for more integration. The difference between me and my “Sinclair” persona/character gets thinner and thinner. It’s just kind of … odd. Unexpected. Interesting.

What do you think? Which ones are your favorites? Any advice for headshots or representing my work?

“Conversations Build Communities”: BUTCH Voices To Hold 3rd Biennial National Conference in Oakland August 15-18, 2013

BUTCH Voices is still looking for volunteers for the Steering Committee, Board, and some sub-committees if you’re interested in helping make the 2013 conference run. It’s great experience and a great way to build and deepen community. Check out the job descriptions and opportunities available.

flyer2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY

Contact: Sinclair Sexsmith
Media representative, BUTCH Voices
+1 (917) 475-6316
sinclair@butchvoices.com

“Conversations Build Communities”:
BUTCH Voices To Hold 3rd Biennial National Conference in Oakland August 15-18, 2013

February 26, 2013

Oakland, CA – The BUTCH Voices 3rd biennial National Conference will take place in Oakland, CA at the Oakland Marriott City Center August 15-18, 2013. The BUTCH Voices Board and Steering Committee are excited to continue our core initiatives: focusing on community building, social and economic justice, and physical and mental health.

The mission of BUTCH Voices is to enhance and sustain the well-being of all women, female-bodied, and trans-identified individuals who are Masculine of Center.*  We achieve this by providing programs that build community, positive visibility and empower us to advocate for our whole selves inclusive of and beyond our gender identity and sexual orientation. Our community is vast and growing and we have many identifications that resemble what the world knows as our “butchness.” We recognize our diversity as having a foundation rooted in butch heritage. We welcome the on-going development of movements intentionally and critically inclusive of our gender variant community. BUTCH Voices is a social justice organization that is race and gender inclusive, pro-womanist and feminist.

The official conference theme is “Conversations Build Communities,” which is an extension of our off-year regional Community Conversation gatherings. We have had Community Conversations in Boston and San Francisco, and in March in Seattle. There are gatherings in progress for Dallas, New York, Toronto, and others TBA. These community conversations in local cities will continue to encourage the elevation of discussion around these identities leading up to the national conference.

“The conference will be an amazing event for masculine of center folks and our allies to convene nationally and discuss issues relevant to our lives today, share our stories, network, attend workshops, sessions, social events, and performances,” said Board Chair and Founder Joe LeBlanc. “It’s an incredible opportunity to come together and be a part of the larger conversation, and witness the myriad of masculine identities.  It is life changing for so many of us to attend a gathering of this size, and take these conversations, resources, and connections back home to our local communities and beyond.”

A call for workshop presenters, performers, artists, and other contributors for the national conference will be announced soon. The BUTCH Voices Board is still seeking more members for the national conference Steering Committee, which will help produce and oversee the conference. If you’re interested, visit http://www.butchvoices.com/opportunities-available-with-butch-voices/ to view the opportunities available with BUTCH Voices and get in touch.

Subscribe to the BUTCH Voices newsletter online at BUTCHVoices.com to stay informed of the future conference announcements.

Further inquiries can be sent to Sinclair Sexsmith, Media Board Chair, at Sinclair@BUTCHVoices.com

* 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.

# # #

Opportunities with the BUTCH Voices Media Team

In addition to teaching workshops and traveling everywhere, one of my other major jobs recently has been working as the Media Chair on the board of BUTCH Voices, gearing up for the 2013 national conference. It’s starting to pick up—we’ve got a lot of stuff going on, and there will just be more between here & the conference.

Most notably, the BUTCH Voices website has a facelift!

Doesn’t it look great? I wish I’d taken a full-screen screenshot of the old website, it looks so different. I’m now the web editor there, and still looking for folks to work with me on the Media Team. I’m really excited about the conference and this is a unique opportunity to work behind the scenes to make it happen, and gain some experience and expertise in the web and media fields.

Media Team (Reports to the Media Chair)

Benefits include: cultivating butch community, discounted entrance into the BUTCH Voices 2013 National Conference in August, service to your community, volunteer time, media experience of all kinds (social media, web content management, print media), working directly with Sinclair, and more!

You should be: masculine of center identified, trans-positive, coming from an anti-oppression framework; have some time to volunteer, self-motivated, able to work on tight deadlines, have a reliable computer & internet access where you can stay in touch at least on a weekly basis.

Tasks include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Responsible for completing tasks relating to the website, social media (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc), newsletter
  • Design components for print and web using BUTCH Voices branding standard colors, fonts, and logos
  • Respond promptly and keep in contact
  • Available for last-minute tasks and able to complete assignments within 24-48 hours
  • Timely and efficient, hard working, able to take direction and ask for clarification, able to work in a team environment digitally from a home office
  • Reliable internet access, computer access; some HTML skills, WordPress, CMS, text editing, Photoshop, and graphic design skills are a plus
  • Keen eye for detail

Interested? Contact me, sinclair@butchvoices.com, with your resume and a few brief paragraphs about why you’d like the job and what you can offer. I’m excited to get this team going, to practice my management skills, and to make the BUTCH Voices 2013 conference excellent.

Beauty and the BUTCH: BUTCH Voices Benefit in San Francisco

Oh, San Francisco.

Why you gotta be so cool? I am having trouble enough keeping our relationship long-distance. And now, this …

I can’t be there this time, but please, please, go for me and have an amazing time.

Beauty and the BUTCH: A 2012 BUTCH Voices Benefit

You are invited to indulge in an evening of deliciously BUTCH revelry… Bask in the decadent sights, bold sounds and the brilliant energy of everything BEAUTIFULLY BUTCH*! The mystique and myth are nothing compared to the raw beauty of butch truth…

Saturday September 15th, 2012
7:00pm – Midnight

at The City of Refuge UCC
1025 Howard Street – SF CA
$5-15 sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds

7:00pm – Doors Open
7:30pm – Butch Briefs Part Deux – a Mini Film Festival
8:00pm – Beauty and the Butch Live Performances and Fashion Show
9:00pm – Butch Ball with DJs JacATac, Black and Ryan

FOR ADVANCED TICKETS
RSVP HERE: http://beautyandthebutch.eventbrite.com/

BUTCH ATTIRE defies simple elegance… we have a swagger all our own that many have tried to duplicate but few have achieved

BUTCH ART breathes a magnificently unique masculine
mixture of the sacred and the profane into what is much more than a label… it is an experience

BUTCH MUSIC gives us all permission to dig deep into our spirits and howl our TRUTH, our TENDERNESS, our unabashed BRAVERY and our brash movement without boundaries!

Updates from BUTCH Voices: Events, Open Positions, Call for Bloggers

So maybe you’ve heard, but I’ve got an exciting (official) announcement: I’m on the board of BUTCH Voices working up to the 2013 National Conference as Media Chair. This is my second board position and I’m really excited to work with this organization. I don’t know if I’ve ever attended a conference as diverse as BUTCH Voices, both in race and in ability and class and culture and perspective and all sorts of other things, and I’m thrilled to be part of the team.

We’ve got a lot of exciting things in the works between now and the 2013 National Conference (which will be in August in Oakland, exact dates TBA). We won’t have Regional Conferences this year like we did in 2011, but we are working on some Community Conversations, which will be gatherings for folks who want to come together and discuss butch and masculine of center identities, and conclude with some sort of party. The first scheduled is in San Francisco on September 15th and more details on that will come soon (the organizers are still looking for folks interested in performing, entertaining, or donating raffle prizes).

We also have some open positions on the board, steering committee, programming committee, and media team, and I’m looking for bloggers who are interested in posting or cross-posting to the BUTCHVoices.com blog. Want to get involved with that? Email me, sinclair@butchvoices.com.

I’ll also be helping to put on the New York City Community Conversation, so if you’re interested in being involved with that—performing, donating raffle prizes, etc—let me know.

Here’s the whole of the newsletter. Subscribe here and be the first to receive the next newsletter.

    BUTCH Voices Summer 2012 Newsletter

    Greetings, BUTCH Voices attendees, participants, presenters, lovers, allies, sponsors, and more!

    You haven’t heard much from us since the 2011 National Conference in Oakland, but we’re beginning to get our ties out and polish up the wingtips so we can hve some exciting events and productivity between now and our 2013 National Conference.

    In this (new!) BUTCH Voices newsletter, you will find:

  • BUTCH Voices Organization updates
  • Open positions
  • Community Conversations in 2012/2013
  • Call for Contributors: butchvoices.com
  • The 2013 Conference

BUTCH Voices Organization Updates

First, because obviously you’re dying to know, here’s what’s new at BUTCH Voices!

We have a revised board, consisting of:

Joe LeBlanc – Board Chair
Mary Stockton – Finance Chair
Redwolf Painter – Strategic Impact Chair
Sinclair Sexsmith – Media Chair
Adriana Batista – Resource Development Chair

We held our 2012 board retreat in April in Oakland, and in it we solidified our goals for 2012 and 2013, which include adding some organizational structure, getting our media plan going, and working on events for our off-year (more on that later). We are still looking to add a Member At Large to our board, and various other positions to the Steering Committee (more details about our open positions below).

We are also excited to announce that we have a new Advisory Board, which consists of people who have been super supportive and involved in varying capacities with the work here at BUTCH Voices in the past. They are joining us in an official advisory capacity for the organization and our communities at large.

Advisory Board members:
Krys Freeman
Q Ragsdale
Sharon Bridgforth
Rajkumari Neogy
Tobi Hill-Meyer
Jun-Fung Chueh-Mejia
Ryann Holmes
B. Cole
D’Lo

Read their full bios here on the BUTCHVoices.com site.

And of course, we are moving forward with the ultimate goal of organizing the BUTCH Voices National Conference in 2013, which will take place in August in Oakland. We are still solidifying the exact date and location, but you will be the first to know!

Open Positions

The BUTCH Voices Board of Directors are currently looking for volunteers to add to the BUTCH Voices Board, the National Conference Steering Committee and Subcommittees.   If you’re looking to volunteer time on a ongoing basis and want a specific role on the team, we have a few that are open.  Priority will be given to folks identifying with the butch, stud, masculine of center identities, but allies should also feel free to apply.  All positions are unpaid and volunteer based.

Two BUTCH Voices Board positions currently open:  Secretary and Member at Large. Multiple BUTCH Voices National Steering Committee positions currently open, including: Performance Chair and Co-CoordinatorSponsor/Vendor Chair and Co-Coordinator, and Media Coordinator. We are currently also seeking volunteers for a Media Team for communications and online projects, and Programming Committee.

For detailed descriptions of the open positions, and for information about how to send your resume to BUTCH Voices, see http://www.BUTCHVoices.com/opportunities-available-with-butch-voices/

Community Conversations

BUTCH Voices is excited to announce that during our off-year, 2012, we will be holding regional “Community Conversations” in various cities around the United States and Canada to promote connection, elevation of conversation, and community building for masculine of center folks and our allies.

We are aiming to hold Community Conversations possibly in, though not limited to, the following cities: Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, Portland OR, San Diego, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Oakland, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Vancouver BC, and Toronto. We are currently moving forward with Seattle and New York City in fall 2012, and we will get those dates to you just as soon as we can. We hope other cities will soon follow!

SAN FRANCISCO has already been announced: Save the date! September 15th 2012 will be a Community Conversation and afterparty, Beauty and the BUTCH, featuring entertainment, fashion, and a raffle with many exciting prizes. More details on the BUTCH Voices website.

Topics will be generated by the individual groups who attend, and we expect regional differences to affect which subjects, philosophies, and concerns each group will focus on. We expect 20-50 people attending each Community Conversation gathering, and we hope to encourage conversation, connection, and networking as we gear up for next year’s 2013 BUTCH Voices National Conference. The Community Conversations will also serve as fundraisers for BUTCH Voices, and funds will be split between local organizers to assist their attendance at the National BUTCH Voices conference and with BUTCH Voices National.

If you are interested in being involved in hosting, fundraising, or coordinating a Community Conversation in your city, contact BUTCH Voices outreach at volunteers@butchvoices.com.

In August 2013, BUTCH Voices will present our third bi-annual national conference located in Oakland, CA, exact dates TBA.

Call for Contributors – BUTCHVoices.com

BUTCH Voices is seeking writers, bloggers, vloggers, photographers, and multi-media generators to contribute to www.butchvoices.com. Posts are ideally 500-750 words, 5 photographs, or one video with short description. Content should include something about masculine of center identity in any capacity, be it promotion for an art project, musings, or calls for contributions or collaborations. Contributions are unpaid but do you will receive a byline, which includes a one-line bio, link to your project, exposure to our thousands of followers, and our gratitude. Content may be cross-posted and do not have to be new, so long as they are relevant to masculine of center identities, adhere to our mission statement, and follow anti-oppression fundamentals. Contact Sinclair, media chair of the Butch Voices board, sinclair@butchvoices.com for more information. If you are interested in contributing, send Sinclair one sample works, your one-line bio, and your any relevant links to your work.

The 2013 BUTCH Voices National Conference

… is in progress! We are securing a venue and exact dates in August, 2013, even as you read this. For now, keep it in mind and plan to be in Oakland to join hundreds of masculine of center folks and our allies to continue discussing, connecting, playing, partying, philosophizing, laughing, and crying together.

Thank you for your ongoing support and contributions to BUTCH Voices!

Sincerely,

Joe, Mary, Wolf, Adriana, and Sinclair
The 2013 BUTCH Voices Board

In addition to wanting bloggers for the BUTCH Voices website, I’m also looking for a Media Team that will work under me:

Media Team’s tasks (Reports to the Media Chair)

  • Responsible for completing tasks relating to the website, social media (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc), newsletter
  • Design components for print and web using BUTCH Voices branding standard colors, fonts, and logos
  • Respond promptly and keep in contact
  • Available for last-minute tasks and able to complete assignments within 24-48 hours
  • Timely and efficient, hard working, able to take direction and ask for clarification, able to work in a team environment digitally from a home office
  • Reliable internet access, computer access; some HTML skills, WordPress, CMS, text editing,
    Photoshop, and graphic design skills are a plus.
  • Keen eye for detail

Interested? Want to work with me for a year? Want to learn what I know about running a community website, butch identity, outreach, and communications? Want to take part in forming the 2013 BUTCH Voices National Conference? I’m looking for some committed, smart, flexible folks who are interested in contributing—get in touch with me at sinclair@butchvoices.com.

I am excited about this trajectory for BUTCH Voices, and thrilled to be part of it.

Reconciling the Identities of Feminist & Butch Top

Queer Memoir: Butch/Stud Through the Years was fucking EPIC on Friday night, and I’m so honored and thrilled to have been there and to be a part of it. There was the story of the kid’s game “hide and go get it” in Kentucky! There was the revelation of belonging somewhere and that “here take a sticker” moment—”because even though you’re in New York City, you might still be isolated.” There were discussions about feminist topping! There was deep appreciation for butch friends and community and support! There was a fucking marriage proposal!

This is the piece I read, slightly updated from the December 2009 version, about reconciling the identities of feminist and butch top, and what it means to be a masculine person who is also dominant. It is relevant as ever and I still struggle with the intersection of these identities. I have a lot more to say about it, and reading this piece again made me think about what I’d add and what more there is to say, so I’m working on it. Meanwhile, here’s the text of what I read.


A few years ago, a girl I dated wanted me to slap her. To hit her face. She asked for it specifically, I still remember the conversation on the subway and the precise way that she looked over at me and said, I want you to hit me. Something big swelled in me and I wanted to, I wanted to feel the sting of impact on my palm and see her recoil, to do it again before she was ready, to push something so sensational onto her experience that she was jolted to the edges of her skin and had to feel, to feel herself, to feel me, to be fully present.

This girl and I had already done some other light percussion play, using my hand, or even a paddle, me hitting her ass and thighs, the fleshy parts that I couldn’t possibly do damage to beyond some light bruising. She liked it, we both did. It made sense to escalate, at the time, to something new; we were deepening both our romantic relationship – our trust in each other – and our power dynamic, and it was time to push a little, to see where we could go.

I was terrified. After she asked, after we talked about it extensively, I even tried, a few times, when we were in bed and she said, hit me, now, please, and I couldn’t, I’d bring my hand up and chicken out.

I was terrified of what it would mean for me, as a masculine person, as a butch, to be more dominating in bed. To like it. To like to cause someone pain. To like to cause a woman pain. To hit someone in the face. To hit a woman in the face, to sexualize that act and that power dynamic specifically.

I was paralyzed by that terror – I wanted to do it, the idea, the very thought of it, the discussions with her, turned me on, the girl I was dating wanted me to do it, but I couldn’t.

Beyond wanting to do it, this was the kind of sex act that was in the sex life I was dreaming of having. This was what haunted my fantasies and what I looked for in porn that I watched and erotica that I read. And I was on a very serious quest to figure out how to have the sex that I wanted. I’d just gotten out of a bed-death relationship. I was committed to studying sex hard, to figuring out: what I wanted, how to get what I wanted, how to build a relationship with that as an element, how to maintain something sane and hot over a long period of time. That’s precisely why I started Sugarbutch.

I now know that I’m a sadist, and a top. That means I like to dominate. And already there are conclusions being drawn by some of you out there who think well of course you like to dominate, you’re masculine, and that’s prescribed for you or in other words you misogynistic asshole, I already knew you were one of “those” butches who needs to make up for your inadequacies by dominating women. Because that’s what we think, isn’t it? Maybe not consciously, but a little bit, somewhere in our brains, we associate these particular identity alignments – butch equals masculine equals top equals dominating equals men’s prescribed gender role. We’re relieved when they line up how we think they will, or maybe we are challenged and uncomfortable – though perhaps in a stimulated way – when they misalign.

There’s something supposedly anti-feminist about wanting to dominate. There’s something in the feminist rhetoric which says we are all equal especially in bed, so that means I-do-you-you-do-me, or that means we have sex neither above nor below each other, and with no reproduced heteronormative misogynistic patriarchal power dynamic.

But I didn’t want that. I’d had that, with other girlfriends, but it didn’t keep things hot enough to sustain a relationship. And secretly, I wanted to top and control and hit and demean and humiliate and restrain and force and take.

Power dynamic theory—stick with me for just a paragraph here—has many similarities to gender theory. Like the gender identities of butch and femme are not reproductions but pastiche copies at best of prescribed societal gender roles, putting on and taking off power roles in power sex play is a pastiche reproduction of power in our lives, of which there are thousands of examples of interaction on a daily basis. And when we can put on and take off these roles intentionally, the act of adopting becomes further proof that the power positioning in our lives is not inherent, or “real,” or immobile, or prescribed, or “normal,” but part of a hierarchical society of social power that can be deconstructed. In that, we can more easily have more power and control in the beneficial ways, and less power and control in destructive ways, as we play with it and engage with it.

As in my experience with coming to a butch gender identity, when I finally came to a power identity that really deeply aligned with something inside me that just clicked and make sense, I felt like I was coming home to myself in a way I hadn’t experienced previously. Through my personality and tendencies and psychology I have my own set of quirks and workings and functions, and for whatever reason, it makes a lot of sense to me to let out some of my power and control issues in the bedroom by being dominating. It is deeply satisfying the way a glorious meal or a delicious book is satisfying, one of my life’s greatest pleasures. I’m not sure I understand why I like what I like, but what I like does not harm others, and is consensual, and I know myself well enough to accept what I like as what I like – and to let that be a simple truth.

How did this change for me? What happened between the time when I was terrified to slap a girl in the face and today, now, where I am fairly comfortable in my identity as a top, and even as a sadist, as someone who enjoys causing extreme sensation (aka hurting) someone else?

Little by little, I had lovers who pushed me, lovers who were more experienced as bottoms than I was as a top, lovers who wanted more from me and who could take more than I was able to give who made enough space for me to walk into a bigger version of myself and occupy it, try it on.

I did come to a reconciliation with my feminist self and my top self. Phrases like men should not hurt women or rather masculine people should not hurt feminine people, or even more broadly that people should not hit each other and violence is bad bad bad … I had accepted those phrases as Ultimate Truths, and I started to understand deeper the ways that sensation was not violence, and hitting was a way to be sparked into the present moment, to release whatever our musculature was holding onto, and to deepen trust between people and in a relationship.

I didn’t realize how little trust I had in others until I started playing deeper with BDSM. Because I would tell myself, it’s okay, she wants to do it, but then I would think, does she really? Maybe she wants to because I want to. Maybe she wants to because society tells her she should want to. Maybe she wants to for fucked-up reasons, like she thinks it’s okay for her to feel humiliated and less than me because of her own internalized misogyny … but that was me not trusting that what she said was true. That she wanted me to hit her face. And that was me, further controlling both myself, her, and our relationship, in unhealthy ways, because I didn’t trust her.

This was an issue of agency, in feminist terms – my not trusting my lover to communicate with me what she wanted, to explain to me how far I could go, and my not trusting that she would let me know if I was going too far or too hard, either with her physical communication or her words or both, was me not trusting in the agency of my lover. I have to trust that she will tell me, she will let me know, if I am going too far. And I have to listen, apologize, understand what I did, and trust that she will accept that it was an accident, a mistake, and that I’ll do whatever she needs to feel safe again.

When I started playing out my control issues in BDSM, in the bedroom, in sex play, the control issues I had in my relationships began to heal.

In learning my way into being a top, I had many, many conversations about consent and intention and communication, I talked to my lovers when things broke down or didn’t seem to work and I learned more about my own tendencies when things went well. I figured out that sometimes, it was really hard for me to be with someone who bottomed so well, and who I trusted so deeply, that I did harder, scarier, bigger things with them that took me even deeper into my topping and dominance and sadism and power, and sometimes that meant I needed to be comforted afterward, to be told I liked that, and that wasn’t too much, and you didn’t hurt me, and that was what I wanted and thank you. Hearing those things is always a relief.

(I give good aftercare too, of course. But top aftercare is less common in the BDSM world – we don’t frequently talk about the toll it takes for the dominant to dominate.)

I practiced, a lot, to be bold and trusting through my topping. I tried scary things and it turned out they weren’t so scary, they were in fact incredibly hot. I got to know myself, and I learned more about the things I wanted to play with, and I talked to smart people whose experiences were similar to what I was going through and who assured me it was possible to come out the other side of it a masculine, queer, butch, sadistic, feminist top.

Queer Memoir: Butch/Stud Through the Years in NYC Next Week

Since I haven’t been able to get a calendar update up on Sugarbutch the last two months in a row (!), I’m throwing up this event info individually instead so you can know what I’m up to.

Much of my college workshop traveling is done, but I’ll still be traveling a bit this summer, attending a few different leather gatherings and heading to Atlanta and hopefully Chicago to do readings for Say Please.

There are some great events in New York City that I’m taking part in, too! Hope to see you there.

Queer Memoir: Butch/Stud Through the Years
Friday June 8th, 8 PM
Queers for Economic Justice
147 W. 24th St., 4th Floor,
New York, NY 10011
5-10 bucks no one turned away
RSVP/More info/Updates on facebook

Queer Memoir: New York’s award-winning LGBT storytelling series is breaking their usual “no shows in the summer” tradition in order to produce this special event. We’ll be hearing stories from butch/stud identified people of different queer generations, including a special reading from West Coast’s Jeanne Cordova and her award-winning memoir, When We Were Outlaws.

With
JEANNE CORDOVA
LEA ROBINSON
SINCLAIR SEXSMITH
RYANN MAKENZI HOLMES
JAY TOOLE
HOSTED BY KELLI DUNHAM

“10 Hottest Butches of 2011″ & the End of the Butch Lab Project

So this happened:

What? Thank you, brand new Advocate website SheWired! I’m honored you noticed my little Top Hot Butches project and I’m thrilled to be mentioned in this list. It’s a great list, too—check it out.

I’ve been debating for months how to tell you that the Butch Lab project is over. I have started mock interviews with myself about it, I’ve written rants in my journal. I want to put up a splash page over there, but to be honest—ha—it doesn’t get enough visitors for that to be actually noticed.

And that’s why the project is stopping. It never really got off the ground.

That could be because I didn’t throw enough energy over there, and if I had the time and energy to maintain another blog, maybe it’d grow into something. I can’t really expect it to jump into some big deal thing right away—but I guess I did, given the intensity of Top Hot Butches. Butch Lab never got the media attention, and that’s in part because Top Hot Butches had all that controversy and oh my god don’t we queers love controversy, especially when we know better than whoever is doing the stupid thing of insulting someone’s identity. The thing is, I took all of that feedback, scoured it, and spent months working on Butch Lab, incorporating all the feedback, and then it felt like it launched to silence. Sure, there have been many loving & supportive emails and many great comments about what the site has meant and how great it’s been to see all the mini-interviews (all of that is archived under on butches here on Sugarbutch, fyi), but it wasn’t really enough.

Beyond that, my life has moved more and more offline, teaching classes and leading workshops and organizing in-person events, and I just don’t have the time in front of the computer to hype butch-related things that perhaps I would’ve had a few years ago.

So, for all of these reasons, Butch Lab is closing. It’ll be up through the domain’s expiration in fall 2012, and I’ll be leaving Top Hot Butches up. When I made that decision, I wanted to continue doing the Symposium (writing prompts about butch identity and a blog carnival/roundup) and the mini-interviews, though I haven’t done that yet. I’d like to, perhaps I still will. I’ll add it to my 2012 Sugarbutch goals and see what I can do to make it happen.

Thanks, everyone, for being so supportive of both of those projects. Time to move on to more things, I guess.

Ask Me Anything! No Really

I’m starting to write a new column on SexIs Magazine, this time it’s an advice column called Mr. Sexsmith Says. The first one came out today, about stone identity and butches, and they’ll be published every other week.

I have a pretty decent stack of index cards from my workshops, as well as some unanswered questions from emails and from the Ask Me Anything Sugarbutch anniversary thread, so I already do have a lot of fodder for this new column.

However! I still get questions pretty frequently, and now that I have a place to put them, I invite you to ask me about things you’d like to know. No seriously, ask away. I can’t promise to answer all of them—I have no idea if I’ll get two or two hundred, so you know, I’ll have to do some experimenting here—but I will do my best.

So now there’s a sugarbutch.net/ask-me-anything URL, and a place specifically to submit questions. Please feel free to ask away.

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

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.

What’s Happening in August

Holy crap, there’s a lot going on this month.

Events with Mr. Sexsmith

Tuesday, August 16th, 8-10pmCock Confidence workshopCamouflage sex toy shop in Santa Cruz, CA

Wednesday, August 17th, 8-10pmCock Confidence workshopGood Vibrations, San Francisco, CA

Date TBACock Confidence workshop at the Butch Voices conferenceOakland, CA

Date TBAOwning Your Birthday Suit: Embodiment for Masculine of Center Folks, co-presented with Amy Butcher, at the Butch Voices conferenceOakland, CA

Sunday, August 21Spoken word performance at the Butch Voices conference. More information TBAOakland, CA

Events in New York City You Shouldn’t Miss

Thursday, August 4 , 8pmRed Umbrella Diaries, www.redumbrellaproject.comHappy Ending, 302 Broome Street between Forsyth and Eldridge, Manhattan, NY

Friday, August 5, 9:30pmBUTCH BURLESQUE: AN EVENING OF SWAGGER. Co-curated and hosted by Victoria Libertore and Lea Robinson. Lineup: Moe Angelos (Five Lesbian Brothers), Crystal Balls, Drae Campbell (Miss LEZ 2011), Molly Equalty Dykeman, Luscious von Dykester with music by Tina Richerson, Jessica Lurie Alto AND Butch Burlesque students making their debut: Kestryl Cael, Prince Kim & Slapshot N. Tickle.

Come see these butches and friends strut their stuff with the bravado and swagger only Dixon Place is hot enough to handle. Hot, queer women flirtin’, titilatin’ and takin’ it off with the originality and swagga only a butch can pull off. As Jace Everett says, “We wanna do bad things with you.”

HOT! Festival at Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street, between Rivington and Delancey. Tickets: $15 in advance/ $18 at the door. Student/Senior $12 in advance/$15 at the door.

Sunday, August 14th, 10pmThe Femme Show comes to NYC! Guest Artists: The Crimson Kitty and others TBA.

The Femme Show is queer art for queer people, with a variety of diverse perspectives on queer femininity that can be thoughtful, sad, funny, sexy, and fun. On their August East Coast tour, a stellar cast will bring The Femme Show’s unique perspective on femininity, gender, queerness and sexuality to cities throughout the Northeast. Now in it’s fifth year, The Femme Show uses dance, burlesque, drag, spoken word, puppets, and more to give audiences new ways and new reasons to think about gender, femininity, and desire.

Wow Cafe Theater, 59-61 East 4th Street, the Fourth Floor, $12 at the door

Saturday, August 27th, 10pmSubmit Party, submitparty.com, a BDSM play party for women and trans folks onlyBrooklyn, NY. For exact location call 718.789.4053 or
email Red@submitparty.com

I am now booking fall events for colleges and traveling nationally. I’m heading to Dark Odyssey Summer Camp in September, and looking to visit Chicago, Milwaukee, Seattle, and others in the near future. My schedule is kept up on mrsexsmith.com/appearances if you want to see if I’m coming your way.

If you’re interested in bringing me to your town or college, check out what S. Bear Bergman wrote: Bear’s Guide to Getting the Artists You Want. It’s got some great tips for how to fundraise and make an offer to bring the people you admire to come do some custom work just for you & your friends. (Hint, hint.)

Last but not least, here’s my 2011 workshop offerings in a PDF so it is easy to download, you can also download my one sheet PDF or high res photos in my press kit). Get in touch if you’re interested in booking me, you can contact me directly—mrsexsmith(at)gmail—or my booking company, PhinLi, at bookings(at)phinli.com.

Gender Celebration Blog Carnival: Living Gender

Ellie Lumpesse has been curating a Gender Celebration Blog Carnival, and today’s my day to participate. The topic is “living gender.”

You can check out a few of the other participants, if you like: Curvaceous Dee wrote about what makes her a woman; Sexpert Jane Blow wrote about her perceived gender; Eusimto wrote about gender anarchy; Dangerous Lilly wrote about labels and being politically correct. Still to come are neamhspleachas and Ellie.

I hope this Gender Celebration Carnival will keep going! I think it could drum up some great conversation.

I don’t know when it happened exactly.

One day I just woke up and felt good in my skin. I went to my closet and felt good about the choices of clothing I had to offer. I dressed and looked in the mirror and I felt good about my reflection. I saw a photograph of myself and I smiled, and saw me.

It wasn’t always that way.

I didn’t used to recognize myself in photographs. I didn’t used to feel good about the pieces of clothing I would pull on to pull together an outfit. But somewhere along the way, things started shifting, and improved.

I probably can’t even put my finger on it. Not an exact date or time.

I remember when I threw out most of my clothes that were purchased in the girl’s department, going through my closet and my drawers with each piece: where did this one come from? This one? This one? and sifting them all into neat piles. I remember bringing home bags full of button-downs and polo shirts from the thrift store to try to rebuild some new version of me, some version that had swagger and dated girls and knew how to fuck. I remember buying three-packs of undershirts and three-packs of briefs and trying to figure out from the packaging what size I would be.

I remember trying on various versions of these in photo sets, self-portraits I would take of myself on my bed, against a wall, with an upturned lamp pointed at my face. Sometimes with a timer, sometimes from arm’s length. I have found folders and folders of these photos recently, with titles like “playing butch dressup” and “self butch” and “new clothes” and “wife beater a-shirt.” There were others: “lipstick” and “cat costume” and “corset” and “cleavage,” all carefully labeled in folders, back in the digital day before Picasa and iPhoto would keep everything organized for you.

But it wasn’t all about clothes and presentation.

They say there are many components to gender: chromosomes, genitals, hormones, external presentation, internal sense of self, and yes, of course, socialization and performance. Gender is not all of any of these things, it is not all performance, it is not all socialized. Some of it is innate. Some of it is about genitals. I believe there are many factors.

Gender is also about energy.

I remember studying some classmates in college: the way they sat, the way they held their pens, the way they slung their bookbags over their shoulders and defiantly walked out of the classroom door, shoulders back head high chin up. A little daring, a little rebellious. They sat with their legs open, taking up lots of space. I mimicked them. I practiced sliding low in a chair and splaying my knees.

I noticed that these people got lower grades than I did for doing the same work, because they were perceived to be not paying attention.

And then, when I started mimicking them daily, when my mimery became mine and became a slightly altered version of a copy of a copy of a copy, I started getting ignored by those same professors, started getting glossed over when my hand was up, started wondering why I wasn’t perceived as the straight-A front row apple-for-the-teacher student that I was.

Oh. Right. My gender.

But it wasn’t always like that. It was easier to recognize a straight-A student as a girl, apparently. My board shorts and polo shirts were not proper enough to be seen as part of academia, but my brain hadn’t changed. Curiouser and curiouser.

(That was workable, however. All it took was a few office hours visits with those professors and my participation in class looked much different.)

The other thing that changed was the girls. Suddenly I was visible, a catch, someone dateable. I had three dates in a week, once, in college, and my mind was a little bit boggled. (I didn’t sleep with any of them, or rather, none of them slept with me, but hey, at least I was getting out there! At least I was being noticed!)

I got a Facebook message from the mom of one of my childhood friends recently that said, “You look exactly the same.” I’m not sure what she meant by that, because to me I look so completely different. But I think she was trying to express some gender validation, some gender celebration, telling me that though my external appearance may seem radically different, that there was a similarity, a thread running through all of my life experiences that was me, at the core.

What I want to tell you is that now, I recognize myself in the mirror. Now, I don’t get up and obsess about gender before I even put on my clothes. Now, I get my hair cut every three weeks and keep it shorn tight in the back and on the sides. Now, I don’t debate if it’s a cliche to keep my hair short, I don’t wonder if perhaps I should grow it back out because lesbians should have options, I keep it short because I know I want to. I keep briefs in my underwear drawer because I know all the options, and those are what I like. I collect ties and cufflinks. I shop unapologetically in the men’s department and I don’t even know my sizes translated into women’s anymore: I’m 8 1/2, 34/30, M, 16. I feel handsome and beautiful and attractive and at peace with my body—at least, most of the time. It has taken time, I’m 32, but I don’t think about my own gender, and wonder what it would be like, living daily, if it felt comfortable, anymore.

Unsolicited Advice to a New Butch (aka The Butch Poem)

There is more to you than this identity. It makes everything make more sense, and without it you might be lost, but with it you are only ever on one path. You contain more multitudes than that.

Dance. Cook. Read. Make peace with your body. Look at the stars.

Don’t make everything about you. Willingly admit you are wrong, even if sometimes you know you are right. Eagerly say “I’m sorry.” Easily say “I love you,” but learn to recognize your own worth. Keep the borders of your kingdom well-watched and flexible. Keep your muscles flexible. Climb mountains. Pick wild flowers, even though they wilt. Because they wilt. Don’t let people make you wilt. That’s doesn’t have to have anything do with you. Listen to their stories. Remember that we yell because we do not feel heard.

Make a list of ways you feel heard.

Learn how to partner dance so you can make your partner look beautiful, spinning and open-mouth laughing on the dance floor. Cook. Read. Make peace with your body.

Elevate the discussions over brunch with your buddies and use them to try out your date outfits. Downgrade your tee shirts to workouts and loungewear and upgrade your presentation. Make a list of places you can wear your very best suit that are not weddings or funerals. If you don’t have a suit, invest in a suit. There’s a reason it’s a classic. It’s okay to get it at a thrift store. It’s okay to stop shopping at thrift stores now that you know how to use money. Practice rocking a tie on special occasions. Make a list of special occasions. Thursdays can count as special occasions.

Remember that your lover craves your skin and friction and kisses not despite but because of your masculinity.

Dance. Practice cooking at least one impressive date meal and, if you like watching them put something you made in their mouth, teach yourself more. Read. Make peace with your body.   

Get a traffic cop vest, because you are stuck directing and deflecting in the middle of the intersection between male and female, and though the fifty-car pileups have mostly ceased, though they have cleaned the rubble from the ditches, though the seasons have faded the bloodstains on the concrete, you are still there, in the middle, while a pickup truck brushes past close enough to touch the hairs on your calf and a Mazda full of machismo is threatening you from the window.

Know you can survive this. Your body crosses borders most of them never question.

Dance. Cook. Read books like Stone Butch Blues and Dagger and Butch is a Noun and learn where you came from. Learn who else is out there in the world with you. Suspend your own stories and practice seeing another’s perspective. Make peace with your body.

Learn to recognize femmes, even if you don’t date them. They recognize you. When a girl on the subway gives you The Eyes, she’s a femme. When the only straight girl in the dyke bar says she likes your tie, she’s a femme. When your waitress jumps in on your conversation with your buddies to ask “so what’s a good drag king troupe?”, she’s a femme.

But two femmes in bed are not just waiting for a butch to come along (necessarily), so don’t laugh when someone tells misogynistic jokes in bad taste. Be a gentleman. Practice the art of consensual chivalry, always be on time, and remember: it’s better to have a cock and not need it than to need a cock and not have it. Always be prepared. 

When the girl you thought you’d spend your life with leaves you, know you can survive this. Pour the whiskey down the drain, keep your stovetop spotless, and delete her number from your phone. Move your best friend up to her speed dial spot and call just to say hi. Cultivate your friendships before your breakups so you are not alone.

You are becoming more like yourself than you’ve ever been. Trust in your own deepest experience. Trust in your own evolutions.

Dance. Cook. Read. Make peace with the supposed conflict between your breasts, your inner folds, your monthly bleeding, and your cufflinks, your swagger, your monthly boy-cut #4 and the razor-shave on your neck. You possess this innate ability to contemplate apparent opposites and hold them both; to dance with two seemingly contradictory things simultaneously—a talent most people can never perfect. But you can. And you are not alone. These mentors, this legacy, this lineage, this heritage, this style—this is where you fit, this is where you are not dismissed, this is where you finally get kissed exactly how you’ve always wished.

This is the process of blooming into whatever multitudes you are at the core of your being.

Look at the stars. Remind yourself how small we all are, how big your life is, how many paths you are exploring. You can do more than survive this—you can thrive in this.

Mini Interview: Just Jess

Just Jess (From the Beaver Bunch)
mentor, vlogger, activist
www.youtube.com/user/beaverbunch, www.youtube.com/user/cautiousplay, @JessfromBB

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

I’m not sure that I identify with the word “butch”. I mean, people may see me as butch, but I wouldn’t say that I am. I absolutely love my butch sisters but I just don’t feel like it describes me the way that I see myself. I think that stems from the misconceptions that come with being labeled as butch. I don’t wear the pants always, nor do I want to. Although I do have a butch attitude… does that count?

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

I typically use “queer” to identify; sometimes I’ll go so far as to say genderqueer, but even that puts me in a box that I’m not completely sure of. Although I am sort of a guy and sort of a girl, so it does make sense. I’ve lived in and visited big cities and the queer/genderqueer communities are vastly different. I’ve felt more comfortable visiting Portland, OR than I’ve ever felt living in San Diego as a queer person and I’ve been here for almost five years.

When it comes down to it, I’m just a sensitive kid with a gang of bike tools and a love for romantic comedies. I’m just Jess. Mostly masculine on the outside and feminine at my core.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I would tell my younger self to be more open to gender and sexuality. I came out very early and immediately called myself a lesbian before I really knew what that would entail. I love women and enjoy being a woman, of course, but it took me several years to come into my own as queer and to not feel the need to identify as a lesbian. I just wish that I had given myself more of an opportunity to learn about who I was at an earlier age – it gets harder once you establish yourself within a community.

I would also tell myself to slow down a bit and be more present. I was sort of a crazy kid when I first came out, always running around looking for a cute girl to kiss. I guess some things never change :)

Lastly: I love butches and the history that comes with them. The struggles and triumphs hold a beautiful place in my heart. And thank you, Les Feinberg, your words are inspiration.

My Favorite Binder (More On Butch Bras)

A few weeks ago, Autostraddle wrote a long post on bras: What the F Should I Do With These Boobs?—particularly, bras for folks who don’t really want the standard lace-and-bows versions that are the most common at stores. They linked to one of my old posts, More On Butch Bras, where I talked about getting properly measured and how life-changing that was. I’d like to write more about that—and I still think everybody, EVERYBODY, should go get properly measured, because there actually is a difference between a 34D and a 36C, and if you say you wear either one, you are probably not wearing the most comfortable bra for you that you could.

That’s my size, by the way. Or rather, that’s the size I thought I was for a long time. Turns out I’m more of a 34DD, though right now, given the amount of biscuits I’ve consumed in the past year, I’m probably more like a 36DD. Knowing that helped—though that’s also assuming that you’re buying bras which have separate ribcage measurements and cup sizes, which sports bras generally don’t.

I resisted sports bras for a long time. I didn’t like the uni-boob look, something I finally identified as left over from my first girlfriend, who used to say that all the time (who has since transitioned and had top surgery, by the way, so I suppose found a solution for that). But when I started doing “drag nights” in college and wearing more button-downs, the advice from my friend was to wear a one-size-too-small sports bra as a binder, and that ace bandages were really not the way to go.

Still, it took a while before I went through my underwear drawer and got rid of ALL of my traditional back-clasp two-cupped bras in favor of more of a binder. I found this Adidas back-clasp sports bra that gave me enough of a bind, and quickly bought four of them, tossing everything else out.

These dozens of suggestions that Autostraddle posted are great, but for larger breasted folks like me, there was not a single bra on there that I would wear. Though perhaps that’s not so fair, really, because there’s only one that I really wear anyway: the Enell bra (you can get ‘em on Amazon too).

There is an Introduction to the Enell bra on YouTube, but it’s so cheesy that I can’t bear to embed it here. I will however embed the fitting and measuring video so you can see how to wear it:

It has significantly changed the way I look in shirts, and I have yet to find anything better. I used to have a size 1 that I would use for extra-tight binding and a size 2 that I wore for everyday stuff, but I can’t fit into the size 1 anymore. Hitting 30 really has changed my body, my metabolism. I’m trying to be more careful about what I eat and hope I can fit back into the size 1 someday … but that’s kind of another post.

Mini Interview: Jiz Lee

Porn star, JizLee.com, @jizlee, Facebook

Photo by Nikola Tamindzic (homeofthevain.com) for Fleshbot.

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

My relationship to the word “butch” was integral to my current identity as genderqueer. It’s a verb I like to visit now and then to describe my experiences within androgyny. My butch is generally easy-going, and brings me closest to my casual, gender-neutral life-style. Dress-up occasions tend to bring out the more flamboyant parts of myself, depending on the context, my butch helps me stand apart and express genderqueer visibility.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

Lately I have been enjoying the flexibility of the words genderqueer and queer. I feel like the fluid nature of identity can allow me to feel free and open with others about the complexities of my gender as well as the variations of my lovers’ genders. Also, I’m falling in love with the word “androgyne” again.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I wish I could teach my younger self about sex ed and open relationships, so that my younger self could not only be more responsible, but also help my peers around these issues. I don’t regret anything of course because it’s all added to who I am now, however I wonder what might have changed had I even known the difference between sex and gender as a youth. I’ve met some young adults who were raised in progressive educations and it is so wonderful to observe this openness. It makes me optimistic for a more sex-positive culture.

Returning from the Power, Surrender, and Intimacy Retreat

I’ve returned from retreat, a three-day workshop at Easton Mountain called Power, Surrender, and Intimacy (PSI) through the erotic energy school that I have studied with for more than ten years. I’m producing these workshops these days, as well as assisting, and while our numbers were a little bit low, the workshop was beautifully smooth and overall very successful. There are some shifts happening at the school, so I’m not sure how many more of these I will produce, but I’m really glad to have done this one.

Easton Mountain retreat center, aka gay sex camp, where the workshop was held

I’ve done PSI twice before, once as a participant in about 2002 and once as an assistant here in New York in about 2007. The first one I remember vividly—many of the different pieces of it—and I easily can point to that workshop weekend to say that that is when I discovered I was a top. The entire workshop centers around exploring dominance and submission, power and surrender. I found the surrender parts fairly easy but not particularly heated, and I was shocked to discover not only how I liked to be in charge, channeling power, but also that I had an inner sadist ready to be cultivated.

I couldn’t remember the second workshop very well. In the week up to this one I was trying to think of what I had taken away from it, what it had shifted for me, and as this weekend went on I realized that PSI was a huge tipping point in my study as an assistant, as a leader of this work and as someone who is able to hold, ground, and move erotic energy.

The difference between what I am capable of doing now and what I could do then is significant—I felt so connected, and so able to move the overwhelming emotion that came up for the entire group at various times. There were certainly moments where I nearly panicked with the expectation (that I set on myself, mostly) that I would be able to hold or move something, but generally when faced with that responsibility I could meet it gladly and capably.

The most significant moment of this was during two rituals on Sunday, when we started out with a wand of light tantric meditation (which I can’t seem to find any description of online) in order to raise some of our energies so we could go into the next ritual, which was transformative and about shadow, and very intense. The wand of light meditation starts at the root chakra and builds all the way up to the third eye, one chakra at a time, and I could feel it so intensely, especially toward the end, that I was kind of certain my head was going to come off as energy shot skyward and began exploding things.

I, as an assistant (and having had experienced this ritual before, which the other two assistants had not), was expected to go first in the second ritual. The facilitator described that we shouldn’t calculate what we were going to do, but that we would know it was time to come up when we felt a quickening. Oh, I felt it alright. I knew I had to go up there, and do something with this energy which was pulsing through my spine, but I wasn’t really sure what to do or how to do it.

Gravity by Nikki McClure. This image came to mind when I was trying to ground
I tried to describe it to another one of the assistants later. During the meditation part, I felt the energy rush up into me so intensely and come pouring out of the crown of my head that I layed down to get some better grounding, trying to remember that I was held by gravity, but even that didn’t work: instead of going up through my entire body, it started going from my root chakra through my pelvis and up into my cock, which became so incredibly erect and upright and felt like it was going to shoot off of me.

I sat back up, and tried to ground in other ways.

It dawned on me that this wand of light, this energetic connection to the earth, was there all the time, not just now—it’s something that I’ve dropped into numerous times at tantra workshops in recent years, and it always surprises me that it’s still there, and in fact it’s easier to access the next time around.

Realizing and deeply feeling this connection made me think of something another assistant had said on our ride up: that we are not living on the earth, but living in the earth, since the atmosphere is not actually part of space but part of our unique planet. We swim around in it. We would not survive outside of it. We are held upright to the earth by this magical gravity, but we are not separate. In fact, I felt like a puppet, like this wand of light was actually the earth creating me, coming up into me and animating me.

That is what I would have liked to express when I got up in front of the whole group to open the second ritual. But I couldn’t form words. As a writer and poet I find that extremely frustrating. The facilitator even asked: Are there words to go with this? I was shaking with every breath. Filling up with light and energy and then feeling it pour down my spine again as I breathed out, or pour up through the crown of my head. My hands jerked and felt electric.

“I feel like a column,” I managed to say. Really this energy felt penetrative. It felt like I was being fucked by spirit. It felt like it—and I—was rising out of the earth. It felt like the earth was using me to fuck the sky. I had no idea how to form words, it was all I could do to sit still and not explode.

“I don’t know if I can say more.”

And that was just about it. Three minutes were up, quickly, and I sat back down, unsure if my head was still attached. And then I started to panic. Oh fuck. What if I stay like this? What do I do with all of this energy? What is it going to do to me? It doesn’t seem to be working to just let it flow through me—and by “working” I mean it doesn’t seem to be calming me, but rather ramping me up. How do I calm this quickening? I have to work now, I have to assist and support others in their reveal, how am I going to do that?

Words from another facilitator came to mind: When you feel you can’t handle something, give it to the earth. She can handle anything. I would have tried anything right then. So I redirected all that energy that was coming up through me and thought of it pouring down into the ground, and immediately my head cleared. Immediately I felt so solid and stable and grounded. Immediately I no longer felt crazy but powerful, and powerfully alive.

The ritual poured through me, one person after another, and mostly I was so intensely connected and moved by it that tears just streamed down my cheeks for person after person, and I gave it all back to the earth. Help me hold this, thank you, thank you.

I feel like my reveal was sloppy, and that I was in a little bit of a state of panic when I went up there, but it’s clear that the energy was present and that I was a conduit for it. And the ritual happened, successfully, with the transformative energies we were seeking, so clearly something went right. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been able to see outside of myself a little better, and it’s clear to me that what I did was the only thing I could have done at that moment. Perhaps it’s the performer in me who would have liked to have a better translation of my experience into my expression. But I can—or will try—to let that tiny sliver of regret go, and to not let it drive me.

What I learned about grounding was powerful, and I think that will stick with me.

There were a couple other fascinating things I’d like to report to you about, though they were not workshop content so much as things around the workshop that came up, like the debate over where female ejaculate comes from (the urethra) and where it is stored (the paraurethral sponge, I discovered). And the conversations around female/feminine sources of power and how easily that power can be mistaken or misused as manipulation instead of power, and how that flavor of power is even encouraged to be manipulation in this culture. And the conversations about butch identity with the facilitator and the other assistant—how there is a constant butch scale in our heads which compares and contrasts us to each other, and fears that we are the least butch of the group. There are many more things I could write about.

But it’s day three of being back, and I have so many things I need to accomplish, my email inboxes are too full, and I’ve been avoiding some regular tasks the last two days as I have been trying to take good care of myself for this re-entry. Perhaps I’ll write more about those things later, I promise I’ll try.

Meanwhile, I’ll get back to the Ask Me Anything questions, and start working on the next retreat, which is my favorite one (a five-day advanced retreat in New Mexico in late July).

I’m curious if you all might have questions for me about this retreat … do you want to know more about it? Which parts?

Ask Me Anything: Origins of ‘Sugarbutch’, and Butch Identity Advice

Kyle asked:

Where did ‘Sugarbutch’ come from? Is it a nickname? A term of endearment? A random word paired with ‘butch’?

And, because I’m feeling greedy/generous, another question, this one a little more serious. What is one piece of advice you’d give to a newly identifying butch. Would it be something about relationships? Or maybe fashion related? Something deeper about identity, gender and sexuality? And if you don’t want to be limited to one piece of advice, go for it.

I’m not sure I have explained “sugarbutch” before. It is a term my first girlfriend used to say, as in, “You’re not really butch, you’re kind of sugar-butch,” as a way to soften the “butch” part. When I started this site I knew I was butch, but I was still having trouble claiming it without any qualifiers or clarifications, which is why I used the “sugar” part. It makes it sweeter (ha ha), less harsh. Five years later, I don’t think “butch” needs to be made sweeter or less harsh, or rather I think the stereotype of butch may need to be, but that I don’t need to present it that way. I can let the complications of butch identity come through just by being who I am rather than qualifying my language.

Secondly … advice. Actually I have a somewhat recent performance poetry piece called “Unsolicited Advice to a New Butch” (also known as The Butch Poem) which I’ve been performing a bit, I did it first at Butch Voices Portland last year (which is why I thought for a second that that was a trick question, Kyle, since you were there! But you couldn’t stay for the spoken word performance, I think you were already headed back to Seattle by then). I haven’t posted it online yet. I’d like to post it as a video instead of as text, but I haven’t had the chance to record it yet.

One piece of advice is hard. I could have one piece of advice on all the topics you mentioned—relationships, sex, fashion, identity. But I’ll just jump into it by saying: Examine your identity alignment assumptions. Examine your misogyny and masculine privilege. Make the label conform to you, don’t conform to it. Gender should not dictate your personality, hobbies, emotional landscape, or interests, so like what you like and don’t worry that it’s not “butch enough.”

Ultimately: do what feels right to you. Deconstruct societal restrictions and listen to your own inner self. Date who you want to date, sleep with who you want to sleep with, keep your hair how you want to keep your hair, wear what you want to wear. Give yourself permission to experiment (especially with fashion and adornment—hair and clothes are very temporary!). Don’t be afraid to expand the definition of a label if you feel like it has some resonance. Don’t be afraid to experiment, collect the data, and then change things as needed in the future. Whatever or whoever you are right now, it could be the same in five or ten years or it could be completely different, and that’s okay. Don’t take it all so seriously. There is more to you than just this identity, this is just one part of who you are. Work on all the parts (like in the integrated life matrix) and commit to evolving into your Self over and over.

I’d be curious to hear other folks’ answer to that question, though—what advice would YOU give to a new butch? What advice do you wish you had? What’d you learn the hard way? What was the best piece of advice you received?

Butch Lab’s Symposium #2 is Up!

I posted way too much on Friday, so while the Butch Lab’s second Symposium topic went live on Friday too, I waited until today to cross post it to Sugarbutch.

I challenge y’all to comment on every single post. They’re beautiful, and I think this conversation is important.

Butch Lab’s second Symposium is about Stereotypes and Misconceptions around butch identity.

Ali Oh at Made of Words: Bottoms Up, Thumbs Up:

Now apparently masculine-of-center people aren’t supposed to be bottoms. In fact, one of Jae’s former girlfriends called her appearance misleading. Um…wtf? How Jae responded and responds is by making her sexual preferences really obvious and open. Have I mentioned that we met on OKCupid? “Bottom” was in the first sentence of her profile. I think she should have responded by leaving that tool. … If we’re talking about who wears the cock, that’d be me. If we’re talking about who has shorter hair, that’d be her.

Madeline Elayne: Butches Don’t Wear Pink (and other fallacies):

It’s actually a fairly simple thing to avoid, too, though it takes a conscious effort. DON’T ASSUME. It’s just that easy. Just because K is butch doesn’t mean that she will bristle or bite your head off if you open the car door for her. The fact that she doesn’t like acts of chivalry directed toward her means that she might just bristle or bite your head off if you open the car door for her. G loves pink. Doesn’t mean she isn’t butch. That hot pink cowboy shirt she had on yesterday was WAY masculine, and super hawt, too! The only cure to making assumptions about people is not admit to yourself that you don’t know what they like ,what they don’t like, or how they’ll act in a specific situation based on any group that they belong to. You only know these things about them once you get to know them personally, as people, and not as gender identities.

Victoria Oldham at Musings of a Lesbian Writer: Misconceptions

The misconception: Butch is a dirty word. Something less than, something too extraordinarily ‘other’ to be acceptable. Butch is threatening as an in-between, an indefinable and therefore unknown entity. Our hair dresser keeps trying to give S a softer haircut, until we explain that S identifies as butch, and expects to look butch. The hair dresser laughs and blushes a bit, but starts getting the cut right. The truth: Butch is hot. Butch is cocky and shy and gorgeous and loving. Butch is an identity one can be proud of.

Wendi Kali at A Stranger in This Place: Butch Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions:

I am far from being a stone butch. I have my moments of weakness both physically and emotionally. I feel all kinds of emotions and most of the time I have absolutely no way of hiding them. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I definitely want to be touched, bitten, kissed, licked, penetrated and everything else when it comes to sex. … While it’s true that I can fix a lot of things, I definitely can’t fix everything nor do I want to. I am, sadly, not the owner of many tools, although I really would like that assumption to be true some day. I like tools. I like them a lot. I certainly am not threatened by a strong, independent femme. As a matter of fact, I’m really turned on by them. I mean, think about it. A femme fixing things or building things, knowing how to use her hands and get dirty? Yeah. So sexy.

RM at Letters from Titan: Butch Isn’t Ugly:

Being butch doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t, mean I have to have certain interests (e.g., sports, which I largely don’t care for), skills (e.g., Patty changes lightbulbs and deals with tools because I am largely useless at these things), and social and sexual roles (my own being unnecessary to describe for the sake of this entry). And it certainly shouldn’t require me to be misogynist, which is something I see more and more gay women complaining about lately — butches that assert their butchness by denigrating femmes in all the same ways that women get denigrated by men in het culture. But, if I reject the external assumptions of what a butch is, what’s left to define me as butch, at least on the days where I would consider myself such? The answer, is, simply, that I don’t know.

Kyle on Butchtastic: Butch Stereotypes, Cliches and Misconceptions:

We are inundated by images and stereotypes equated with masculinity. As a young queer person wanting to express my masculinity, it seemed to me there weren’t a lot of options. If I wanted other people to recognize my butchness, I had to copy the attitudes and behaviors of the boys, and other butches, around me. I played along for a while during high school, ending up with a combination of chivalrous and sexist behaviors. I was sweet to my girlfriend, holding the door for her, doing all I could to be the gentleman. However, I also went along with my butch buddy and other guys when they spoke in not-so-complementary terms about their girlfriends and girls in general. As time went on, it was clear to me that if being butch meant being sexist and chauvinistic, I would have to find a different identity.

EST at A Lesbian Christian on Butch Stereotypes:

Butches hate men. Butches drive motorcycles. Butches wear leather jackets. Butches are the “man” in the relationship and perform all the “male” duties. Butches work with their hands. Butches aren’t intellectuals. Butches can only have short hair in a men’s style. Butches like beer and sports. Butches are mean. Butches cannot access their feelings. Butches want to be men. Butches will only date Femmes and do not date other Butches. Butches are (always) the sexually dominant ones. Butches only wear masculine attire. Butches under the age of thirty do not exist.

Joliesse Soul at This Side of Changed on Butch Stereotypes:

I’ve heard a range of cliches, misconceptions, and flat-out assumptions that would make your hair curl. Butches are sexist, chauvinistic, misogynistic. They’re all blue collar. Butch and stone are the same thing. Butch is the queer equivalent of a “strong, silent type.” Butches are only attracted to femmes and straight women. … It’s almost like the image of butch, even (and maybe especially) among gay and queer society is some kind of adaptation of the Marlboro Man, crossed with Rooster Cogburn. … I’ve written a zillion blog posts about how these stereotypes annoy, irritate, and generally piss me off.

Laina at The Bookish Butch:

For many people that I know, “Butch” means man. To identify as butch would signify an identification with men, and therefore would want to be a man. I run into the assumption that I’m actually trans, due to my supposed “strong desire to be a man.” The difference is that my gender identity is female, rather than an identity as male. When I finally settled into a masculine style of dress, I felt like more of a woman than I ever have in my entire life.

Harrison at How to Be Butch on Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions:

My academic background is in math: specifically, probability, and a growing knowledge base in statistical theory. … Gender is pretty much THE example of a binary variable in introduction to statistics classes. I can’t tell you how many times I sat through an explanation of a binary variable only to hear, “The categories are male and female: each person belongs to one, and one alone.” And every time, it really really hurt. But it doesn’t have to. Consider that there are different types of variables. We, readers of gender blogs, already know that gender does require interpretation. How are you measuring it? Self-reporting? Survey collector’s impression? How are you accounting for error or bias? The truth is that gender alone could be its very own statistical model. To us, it is vastly complex. Why is that? I’d argue it’s because of something that a professor once said in lecture: No model performs well on its boundaries.

Lenore Louhi at Twenty Pebbles, from a piece titled “Smoke”

“Well,” I replied, “I have a pretty good sense of people. But mostly, you were by far the hottest butch in that bar, and I wanted you.”

“Oh,” she said, smiling, “I’m not butch.”

“Yes, you are,” I said, eyebrows raised. Is it possible that she doesn’t know? It’s not like she’s some college kid, she’s old enough to have figured out at least some of this identity stuff.

“No, I’m not,” she said again. “I used to think I was butch. I lived in the city after college and I played pool with all the butches at the lesbian bars, and they thought I was one of them. I thought I was one of them. And then I realized, spending all that time with those butches — that wasn’t me. I’m not that kind of tough. I’m a faggy genderqueer.”

Cody on Cowboy Coquet on Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions:

For years, I was afraid to appear masculine; I struggled with feminine gender presentation, referred to myself as a ‘lesbian’, and felt totally…awkward. I also grew up in a conservative town, where any woman seen as not being feminine (i.e. passive, submissive, quiet, etc) was sometimes referred to as ‘butch.’ This word was bad, it meant nasty, un-feminine, not to be trusted, disgusting. … In the gay community, I think that stereotypes of butch-ness exist too. Specifically in communities where there may not be a lot of masculine gender presenting folks. … There was a lot of ‘dabbling in butchness’ going on. People just barely sticking their toes into the masculine gender presenting pool, afraid of being seen as butch but unable to control it, and judgment of these presentations ran rampant. People in the bar (not that I had a fake-id or anything) would openly state that they ‘didn’t want to date butch girls.’

Butch Lab Symposium #2: Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions on Butch Lab:

Want to contribute next time? Keep an eye on the Butch Lab Blog and the Symposium page for the future topic, to be due in June.

Tomcat’s Barber Shop

It’s been a long time coming, this ode to my favorite barber shop in New York City. It took a while to find it, but now that I have I don’t go anywhere else.

When I moved to New York City, I went to the barber shop around the corner, which happened to be on 2nd avenue and 3rd street. It was a reasonable place, the guy who owned it, I think, he was always there cutting hair and was nice enough. I never witnessed any overt homophobia or weirdness about me being in that space, though it was clear it was a dude’s space, with Maxim and Playboy and other kinds of girly magazines on the tables near the waiting chairs and with an eventual upgrade to big-screen TVs that were always playing exploitive (or so it seemed to me, anyway) music videos or sports events. Sometimes the guys in there, who were obviously the barber’s friends, carried on elaborate conversations I would have rather not overheard. Most of the time there weren’t any mentions of queer folks, but very frequently they were talking about women in ways that I didn’t like.

It was affordable, and convenient, and reliable—he would almost always give me a good haircut. Maybe not amazing, but good, and that’s important.

Later I saw a shot from Sophia Wallace‘s “Bois & Dykes” series (which I can’t find online anymore, someone point me to the link if you’ve got it) (which fimgfound on the GAQ, thank you!) of someone getting her hair cut in that same barber shop, with that same barber, which I thought was pretty cool. I’m glad they are known, at least a little, to be cool and warm toward queers.

But then I moved to Brooklyn, and it became a huge challenge to find a place to get my hair cut. Maintaining this kind of short hair takes a cut about once a month, so I had plenty of time to try out places, (sometimes) get horrible cuts, and try out somewhere else.

I knew I needed some hip, reliable place to go, but couldn’t find it.

So I started asking around. I decided that when I saw someone with the kind of hair I wanted, I would ask them where they got their hair cut.

The first time that happened, I was on the subway on the way to Brooklyn. He had a pompadour of some sort, slicked back and poufy in the right spots. That, I thought. That’s what I want.

He got up from his seat to get off at the next stop, and I swallowed, told myself it was now or never. I don’t like talking to strangers. “Excuse me,” I said, “Sorry to bug you, I’m just wondering if you’d mind sharing where you get your hair cut? Love it.”

Tomcat’s Barber Shop,” he answered easily, and exited the train.

I looked it up. It is in Greenpoint, near Williamsburg, known as The Hipster Neighborhood. Hm. Not sure that’s where I want to go. I continued to go to other barbers, even made a special trip down to the East Village to go to my old barber because he was reliable enough. But the cut wasn’t great. A little too quick, a little too short, not quite styled enough, just average. It was fine when I was getting faux hawks and all-short-with-a-little-bit-flippy-in-the-front, but now that I wanted something more retro and stylish and grown up, it wasn’t quite right.

Then I saw a guy in a big department store one weekend. Also with a pompadour of some sort, this time with tattoos and a motorcycle jacket. Okay, maybe it was time to step up my rockabilly look. Maybe it was time to push my style.

I kept catching glances of him at the ends of aisles, or passing each other, but not quite near enough to ask him a question. Then, magically, we both got in the same elevator to get down to the street level after we’d checked out.

“I have to ask—your hair is amazing,” I said to him. “Where do you get it done?”

“This retro barber shop called Tomcat’s,” he answered.

Another vote for Tomcats. Clearly I had to try it out.

So I did. And I’ve been going there ever since, for more than two years now.

Actually, I’m not sure when I started going there. I’m sure it was before Kristen and I got together, but not sure how long before. Maybe a year? So maybe it’s been more than three years I’ve been going there.

I have never had a bad cut from Tomcat’s. I’ve had cuts that weren’t exactly what I asked for, but they were still awesome. I’ve had cuts from Katja (though she doesn’t work there anymore), Joey, and Derek. Erin and Chris are great, too. I always ask for Joey, but I would recommend anyone on staff.

The cuts are $20 and they will do a wash and razor shave on your neck if you want (you might have to ask, I rarely get a wash, but they will do it). You’ll also get a beer while you’re waiting, if you want that.

This is how they describe themselves:

Tomcat’s Barber Shop specializes in Classic cuts (pompadours, 50’s biker cuts, Blade cuts for the Psychobillys, Mods, Glamrockers, Punks etc) military cuts, and shaves, and any of the modern cuts. Tomcats is known in NY as the premier Rock ‘n’ Roll barbershop.

They moved around Halloween last year, but just across the street, and the new venue is gorgeous. I’ve taken various shots the last times I’ve been there and I’d love to do a photo shoot there, eventually. I love the feel.

A few months ago, when I went in, Joey, the owner, who seems to like to talk while he’s cutting hair, was talking about his clients and how he’s still hiring barbers for the new place. “I have all kinds of barbers working here,” he said to me. “But what I don’t have is a girl with a flat top and tattoos.”

(If you know of a queer barber looking for a chair, this might be a place for them to try out!)

So he’s keeping an eye out for more queer clientele to come in, and I told him I’d tell my story and tell y’all to go check them out. I know plenty of you have regular places you already attend, but I am telling you, this place is an experience.

If you’re visiting New York from elsewhere, think about stopping here on your first day—then you’ll have a killer coif in all your vacation photos. They have all the (affordable!) products you need to keep it waxed and pomped and defying gravity, and the cuts are only $20.

I’m overdue for a cut myself, but I’m trying to grow it out for the Gay Ol’ OpryDapperQ requested I pomp my hair up for it so I’m letting it grow. I’ll get it done later this week, probably before I leave on the birthday weekend trip, so it’ll be all set for the event on the 7th.

I have fifteen more stories to tell you about barber shops and hair and my gender and masculine spaces where I feel safe and product, but perhaps I’ll leave those for other times. Tell me, folks, where do you go get your hair cut? Is it an important event for you? Do you cut your hair yourself? What’s your barber/salon like? Is it queer (friendly)? What have you witnessed there?

(Perhaps this would be a good Butch Lab Symposium topic.)

Oh, and if you stop by, tell Joey I sent you.

Angie Evans: Mini-Interview

Angie Evans, singer-songwriter, performer, musician.
www.angieevans.com & www.facebook.com/angieevansmusic

Photo by Michelle Bandach

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

Well, to start, I have the word tattooed on the back of my right arm, if that tells you anything. It is a central part of my identity. The word represents the way I walk in the world and represents the sisters and brothers who have come before me. It is a part of my herstory. By owning my female masculinity I own the word butch, thus, I own myself. I want to be an example for young baby butches out there, to show them that you can be a womyn in the world and have complete freedom to express your natural masculinity, because it is fucking natural! And goddess damn!, you can look good in a suit and tie. Being butch makes me feel empowered and proud! It is my other butch sisters and brothers (and definitely the femmes out there!) that make me feel special, loved and embraced. Everyone should feel that way and that is why supporting, not criticizing, each others identities within the queer community is very important.
Butch also provides me with opportunities to build community. When I attended both Butch Voices conferences in Oakland and LA, I was able to see the huge variety of folks who identify as butch, making me feel like I was not alone, yet a part of something. I think that embracing female masculinity and butch-ness is on the rise. Or at least I am pushing for it!

I was a “tomboy” all of my life and began to identify with the word when I was dating a femme and I started exploring the butch-femme dynamic, fucking and playing with gender roles. When I met the first butch-femme couple in my life, who were tied to a feminist community, I saw how the femme adored her masculine partner and thought… hey, maybe I can be as boyish as I want and maybe my hair can be as short as I want and still be a radical lesbian feminist as well as desirable in the world. In fact, I think becoming more butch has made my sex appeal go way up! Not only because it is sexy, but because I am expressing who I am in a way that makes me feel like my authentic self, and THAT is sexy! Butch is beautiful and butch is handsome.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

Queer, feminist, butch, dyke, womyn, lesbian, poet, musician, activist, lover, amazon. Sometimes the order changes, but that is how it came out today.

I feel proud to inhabit all of these labels. A lot of folks feel like labels, identity politics, etc are so passe. I find power and unity in the labels that I choose. They help guide me in the world and have been helpful signposts in the growth and change that has occurred in my life.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

Don’t worry. Your body is beautiful. You’re not confused. You do have a dick, you’re just not old enough to buy it/them yet. :)

4. Anything you would like to add?

A thank you to Butch Lab for creating space to let butch voices be heard. Praise Butch!

Wendi Kali: Mini-Interview

Wendi Kali, Writer/Photographer
wendikali.com & astrangerinthisplace.blogspot.com

Photo by Kina Williams

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

My relationship with the word “butch” has changed over time. There was a period of time when I felt it was too much of a box to put myself in and I questioned whether or not I actually identified as butch. Over the years I have learned that the word encompasses many things and has so many definitions. For me, the thing about words and titles is that I can take them and define them for myself. I like to think of myself as mostly a guy but also a woman. I like things that are stereotypically things that guys like and I present as masculine but that’s only a small part of who I am. I am a complicated being filled with thoughts and feelings and likes and dislikes with a little bit of mystery locked in there. I challenge gender stereotypes on a daily basis simply by existing in this world. I have grown comfortable and almost proud of the fact that I am called “Sir” on a daily basis. On the outside I may look like a man, but under these boots, jeans and t-shirt, I am all woman. Comfortable and confident in these clothes and in this skin. I am me.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

I identify myself as a motorcycle riding butch lesbian, writer, photographer and self-explorer learning to love and accept myself. I will answer to “Sir” or “Ma’am” but prefer to be described as “handsome” rather than “beautiful”. I am a woman who enjoys binding, packing and moving fluidly between genders.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender

Since I didn’t come out until I was 30, I’d like to tell my younger self that being gay is an option. Your parents, family and friends may have had a hard time with it in the beginning but they would have figured out how to be ok with it because you are an awesome human. It’s ok to only want to wear boy’s clothes and play sports with the guys. It’s ok to have crushes on girls and your best friends. You are a girl who likes girls and it’s ok. No matter what anyone else thinks. Love yourself just the way you are.

Tobi Hill-Meyer: Mini-Interview

Tobi Hill-Meyer
Trans Activist, Writer, and Pornographer
www.nodesignation.com, www.handbasketproductions.com

1) What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

For quite a while I felt like I couldn’t transition because it would mean that I’d have to be femme in a way that was uncomfortable for me. The genderqueer butch expression that I saw on female assigned genderqueers worked well for me, but when I was being perceived as male it was next to impossible for that to be visible on me. One day a friend told me, “You know Tobi, you can be a butch trans woman,” but it took a few years to sink in.

When I did transition and was having a hard time at work, I tried for a year or so to dress more feminine, hoping people would be more likely to get my pronouns right. It was difficult for me, but I kept a separate butch wardrobe that I only wore on the weekends – ironically, it was the most like a crossdresser I ever felt. Eventually I decided to screw trying to fit into other people’s images of gender and just be myself. Being butch is an important part of that.

2) What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

I used to call myself a butch-femme switch, because even though my life has been punctuated with social pressure to be femme in ways that didn’t work out for me, I still find occasion when I want to do femme my own way. I dropped that term, though, when I realized that I was probably butch 98% of the time. Now I keep it simple and just call myself butch, or maybe andro-butch and occasionally andro-femme. Of course I’m also genderqueer and trans, pansexual and a dyke.

3) What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I think the key thing would be to tell my younger self “What you want is possible, you can be who you are,” and perhaps offer other words of encouragement. Any specifics or “spoilers” would only deny myself the insight and perspectives I have learned from figuring it out myself. Although, I might not be able to resist sharing a few amazing sexual experiences both as encouragement that you can be a trans woman and butch, be desirable, and have great sex, as well as reassurance that the things I was once most anxious about eventually turned out just fine.

Bonus: Anything else you’d like to add?
As a butch I think it’s important to speak to my relationship to femmes, femmephobia and the privileging of masculinity. I certainly get crap for being gender non-conforming (on top of crap for being trans), but as a butch trans woman it’s easier for me to separate being gender non-conforming and being masculine. I can easily see the difference between how people treat me when I’m gender non-conforming and masculine as opposed to when I have been gender non-conforming and feminine.

Even in queer and trans spaces I can see how masculine folks are more readily assumed to be radical, with it, and hip, where feminine folks are more readily assumed to be conformist, ignorant, and conservative. I have even noticed that difference just in how I’m treated on those days that I’m doing femme as opposed to my more usual genderfuck and/or butch. I’ve found myself connecting well with a number of femmes and I believe part of that is how my experience of transmisogyny that gives me better insight into femmephobia. Similarly I think that, at least for the femmes I’m spending time with, their experience of femmephobia has made it easier to understand transmisogyny.

What does ‘Genderqueer’ mean?

On Gina Mamone’s mini-interview, a commenter named MS wrote: “Can you post a definition of or primer on what gender queer means?Kyle Jones was kind enough to comment in reply and explain a bit, and I proceeded to ask him to write up his own primer on genderqueer. Here it is.

This is a guest post from Kyle Jones, Butchtastic.net

Genderqueer people, by definition, are united by their rejection of the notion that there are only two genders.

Beyond their rejection of the gender binary as the sole way to describe gender, there is much diversity within the group of people who call themselves ‘genderqueer’—it’s a catch-all term that includes sometimes contradictory identifications.  For example, some genderqueers identify as neither male nor female, some as both male and female.  Some see ‘genderqueer’ as a gender in and of itself, some may identify this way because they feel they are beyond gender—genderless or a-gender.

I led a discussion on genderqueer identity at Butch Voices Portland 2010 and almost everyone who attended came to this identity from a different place.  There were those who described a fluidity of gender, a sense that they were a mixture of male and female.  Some people wanted to move beyond the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ entirely.  They didn’t see genderqueer as being a region along the gender binary axis, instead many described it as independent of that spectrum.   Based on the diversity of personal definitions expressed in that session, we started to talk about a gender cloud rather than a gender spectrum.  Because ‘genderqueer’ is an umbrella term, to really know how an individual relates to it, you’ll need to know their personal definition of genderqueer.

The term “genderqueer” can also be used as an adjective to refer to any people who transgress gender, regardless of their self-defined gender identity.  And some genderqueer individuals also identify as transgender, because their gender identity does not completely correspond to their physical sex.  Genderqueers may have any sexuality/sexual identity, any physical sex.  There is also diversity in the way genderqueers relate to pronouns.  Some prefer gender neutral pronouns such as ‘they’ or ‘them’ or the alternate forms “ze,” “per,” “sie” and “hir,” “zhe,” “hir.”  And some prefer to stay with traditional male and female pronouns, though they may use them in less traditional ways.  Other terms similar to genderqueer are genderfluid, gender-variant, bi-gender, third gender, two-spirit and gender non-conforming.

If you find all of this a bit confusing, you’re not alone.  When I come out to people as genderqueer, I’m more surprised to find people who are familiar with the term than those who aren’t.  And when I’m asked to define genderqueer, as I was for this article, I find it challenging, especially with people who aren’t comfortable or experienced in considering gender beyond male and female.  In my experience, most of the world is still not ready to go beyond the gender binary.  It takes a lot of work and effort to learn the new vocabulary and open your mind to alternative ways of seeing gender.  One challenge I still have is trying to get my head around the idea of being ‘genderless’.  I know that much of the way my brain has organized information about the world is still ruled by the existence of distinct genders.

As I mentioned, I identify as genderqueer.  Butch describes my appearance, genderqueer describes my gender and queer describes my sexuality.  My personal genderqueer definition is that I am not male or female, I am male and female.  I have two distinct gender identities, each with a name, a set of pronouns and sexual preferences.  Sometimes the distinction is obvious and sometimes more fluid and combined. One visualization I use is that of a tree with two trunks, each coming from the same root structure and base.  My male and female identities have some shared history as well as some that is separate.  As I visualize my ‘tree trunks’, they start together, then grow apart, come close again, intertwine and grow together, then diverge again as you look up the tree.  My male side has a distinct personality, accent, sexual drive and issues.  It has also been suppressed more, being less accepted by the outside world and, as a result, is the less developed and mature of my two identities.  My female side, having had more time at the forefront, takes the lead in most situations, although my goal is to become more balanced.

You may be thinking, this person has multiple personality disorder.  Though I’m not a professional, I know that’s not the case.  I have multiple genders, which means I also identify as transgender, because the male side of me does not match my female body.  I’ve had some awesome and unexpected experiences lately where strangers have seen my male side.  It’s hard to describe the feeling of being recognized and acknowledged as male—something like a rush of adrenaline combined with a strong sexual charge—a big ol’ ego boner.

This is a frustration I share with other genderqueer and transgender people—the feeling of being partially invisible, of spending most of my days being partially unseen.  I think we all share a common need to be seen and celebrated for who we truly are, and not just the easily understood fragments, but all our wonderful complexity.

This article is meant to be a starting point for people new to the term ‘genderqueer’, but it’s by no means the last word.  If you’d like to learn more about variant gender identities, here are some excellent starting places:

Kyle Jones runs Butchtastic.net and was interviewed on Butch Lab earlier this year.

Miriam Zoila Perez: Mini-Interview

Editor at Feministing.com; Founder of Radicaldoula.com. www.miriamzperez.com

1. What is your relationship with the word or id

entity “butch?”

While I think there is a whole crew of people now who are reinventing what it means to be butch, I came up feeling afraid to claim it in case people decided I wasn’t butch “enough.” My butchness isn’t particularly tough, or hard. My masculinity is more akin to queer male masculinity–faggy butch, you might call it.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

I would identify with the label genderqueer before the label butch, although I like both.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I wish I could tell my younger self not to be so self-conscious, not to care so much about other people’s judgments. There is room for all of us inside these labels, and the way we reinvent them is what keeps things interesting.

Still Time to Contribute to Symposium #2

Butch Lab’s Symposium #2 is in progress, and I have some great submissions so far! I’m compiling them this week, so if you can get them to me by Friday you will still be included. I hope you’ll consider contributing!

The topic for the second Butch Lab Symposium is Butch Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions.

Here’s the writing prompt:

What do people think “butch” means? What are the stereotypes around being butch? What do people assume is true about you [or the masculine of center folks in your life], but actually isn’t? What image or concept do you constantly have to correct or fight against? How do you feel about these misconceptions? How do you deal with them? Do you respond to these stereotypes or cliches? How?

The easiest way to get your post URL to me is by filling out this form on ButchLab.com. You can always email butchlabproject (at) gmail.com if you have problems, but the form is preferable.

AT: Mini-Interview

AT, Psychologist, Writer, Jock, Artist, Blues & Swing dancer.

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”
Butch says it as no other label can. Butches, for the most part, present tough and perform tender. I love the word Butch as it well characterizes the stuff of Butch.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?
Butch guy and Transmasculine.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?
Thanks to me as frequently I give my younger self a big pat on my back for having never once wavered throughout my entire life in my presentation and performance of my identity, sexuality and gender as a Butch guy and Transmasculine. Everywhere I held fort, as a former teacher, getting my graduate degrees and later, in my years of private practice. I strutted my stuff and swaggered and loved special women all as the jock I was, athletic prowess and all taking my space the same as I did as a teenager able to kick a high and distant spiral while barefoot. The same too I did at thirty-something at Jones Beach out in the ocean far from shore, with my swimsuit tied around one ankle and swam naked in the deep ocean. It was my return to shallow waters and the shore fearing each time I would reach down to my ankle and discover my swimsuit no longer there. :-( It takes guts to live Butch!

Bonus: Anything you’d like to add?
Feminism near destroyed Butch and Femme, their attempts to bury us deep in a graveyard and to be forgotten and dismissed. Feminism failed at that, notwithstanding the years of pain and suffering on the part of so many Butches and Femmes forced underground, their presence denied during the many years of Feminism. Remember: only Butch and Femme existed pre feminism! I am deeply appreciative to the Butches today whose persistence of who they are validates our identity, gender and sexuality. It is the zing of the strings in my heart!

Jenni Olson: Mini-Interview

Jenni Olson is a writer, director, curator, filmmaker, and co-founder of PlanetOut.com. She is also director of e-commerce at WolfeVideo.com and author of The Queer Movie Poster Book. www.butch.org

Photo by Cheryl Mazak

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

Butch is a word that helps me speak proudly about a very important aspect of myself. I love that it enables me to embrace so many of my unique and special qualities in a celebratory way and to connect with others who are interested in dialogue about gender difference in society (especially other butches, and the girls who “get” me).

Like the word “queer,” the word “butch” has an outsider quality which reflects the reclamation of an identity that our larger society has historically (and currently) held in contempt. Proudly flying this flag is the first step in my personal manifesto of gender integrity in the face of perennial societal disapproval. It is part of a journey towards wholeness, healing and self-esteem — a journey which becomes somewhat easier as I get older, stronger and smarter. Somewhat.

2. Which words and labels, if any, do you use to describe yourself and your identities?

Butch dyke, lesbian, queer. I am not a “gay woman.” I love that my kids call me Mom! I also proudly claim Q. Allan Brocka’s hilariously honest term from his Logo series, Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All The World: “Versatile Top.” I am also a closeted bisexual.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I would start with the currently popular phrase: “It gets better.” And then recite what I just wrote above in Question 1.

“It’s All Butch” 2011 Calendar

Photographer Debbie Boud has put together a 2011 calendar featuring butch pin-up photos, It’s All Butch.

Says Debbie:

“The It’s all Butch calendar came about from a blog on myspace a friend of mine did about Butch women from the L word and how sexy they were. I thought to myself that most of the women on the L word were not lesbians so I decided to create a venue that showed that Butch Lesbian women could be just as sexy as the femme women. The idea was to create a diverse array of Butch women. In 2010 Maria is 68 yrs old and was a professional roller derby gal in the 70s. In 2011 Torie is 17 yrs old. There are thin Butches, big Daddy Butches, and FTM [folks].”

She sent on some shots to show off here.

More information is available at cabelgalshideout.com, including bios and personal profiles of the models.

Claudia Rodriguez (aka C-Rod): Mini-Interview

Writer, activist, teacher/student, parent. agentezeroocho.blogspot.com

C-Rod is also part of the performance group Butchlalis de Panochtitlan.

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?” 

Butch is word that I’ve grown to embrace, I love being butch but sometimes I hate the baggage, mostly expectations and misconceptions others, friends and foes, impose on me because my gender presentation is butch. This is a poem which, I feel, truly encompasses my relationship with the word butch:

To my butch scholar

Butch aesthetic…
what does that mean?
Reflect what you see before you into words.
make sure you address my big boobs
and expand on how my tight ass
makes you salivate at the thought
of your fingers
sliding up and down your keyboard
as you recreate me, separate me, turn me upside down
and label me.
ME-your idea!
For you to relive every time you, she, I read.
Butch aesthetic?
that captured by your eyes
digested by your mind
and ends up on everyone’s tongue.

Reflect what you see before you into words.
Please include the smells-
is that hot wax or the smell of hot skin?
Hear that?
Your heart beating in MHz at the sound
of the whip against my back,
Um, my moans.
Butch mystique?
That surrounding my butch Papi
who stirs fag/boi/tranny fantasies
you fucking me in your mind
as you witness
gender fucker
fucking
gender fucker
performing Butch identity against what is Queer/Butch.
Gender fuckers gender fucking,
performing Butch identity against what it means to be a chicana/butch
butch violating butch…
This is butch to me…

I feel the marks of my identity
I’ve been the butch top in this femme-butch matrix
where my desire IS draped in femme fatigues
where my identity manipulates my desires
Where I’ve enjoyed being somebody’s bitch
Really, I just want to be ok
with wanting to be manipulated by you.
Feeling your cock-hard Domness
Top this sub
makes my cock hard
femme or butch both can top me the same
as long as I get spanked the way I want to be spanked.

The personal is political
but the political is not always written on the skin
I know you see me as a cabron…ladies don’t deny it
But can you tell I like to fuck boys/bois?
Yes
I am
one of those butches that flew over the coo-coo’s nest
the kind that fucks other butchas…
go ahead and say it “where are all the real butches.”
Act surprised that I’m down with getting down butch on butch?

Hola Papi,
I was thinking about you, how the other day you stretched yourself out before me, slid your hand under your boxers and touched yourself. You scooped some of your juice up! I know cause I saw as you first smelled your scent then ate it. As if nothing you slid your hand down there again. You face twisted this way and that with pleasure and lips parted with your moans. You got the legs twitching, chest heaving types of motions. I watched until your eyes rolled to the back of your head with satisfaction and closed with bliss.
Here I go again
Talking all that little boy fetish (gag motion, and bj motion)
I like short hair, ( here voice over comes on, continue bj)
peach fuzzed, tittie tottin’ cara de niño
The prettier the better
I’ll say it
Son mi cochinita pibil
Carne tierna y picosa.
Won’t I ever quit
Shed this skin
Step into the post pony-tail dyke
Post-drag king
Post-andro
Post-trans
Post post
Post Pomo
all I want is to step into my post-heroic masculinity
Stop suppressing mine to uphold others’
Does it make you feel good?
Does it heave your imaginary man pecks
to put me down? To walk around me like everything is cool
even though you didn’t play by the rules,
Then I’m down to let you
If you think you’re Top enough to top this.

Reflect what you see before you into words….

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?
Lesbian, jota, gender queer, gender fucker, papi, sub/slave, switch, Chicana, lesbiana, sinvergüenza

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender? 

The void of not having female masculinity role models will haunt you like a missing limb. But don’t worry little one, one day you’ll figure out how to step into your/my post-heroic masculinity stop suppressing your’s/mine to uphold others’. You have to have lots of love and compassion for self and it will be returned ten-fold to you.

Raquel Gutierrez: Mini-Interview

Performer, writer, arts promoter in LA. myspace.com/butchlalis & raquefella.com

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

I love butch; it is onomatopoeic. You have to say it like you really mean it for it to register its true power. Being butch scared me, which obviously means I really wanted it. I’m in my mid-30s and these boots have finally been broken in just right. So, as I age, butch feels richer, more deserved than it did when I was a baby gay colliding blindly into language of identities and anarchy of desires. It was an arduous road getting here and it was worth it.

Is butch an insult? It has never been enough of an insult to warrant my having to comment on the banality of someone’s limited observation.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

Bilingual. Brown. Butch. Los Angeles. Napoleon Complex. Performance Writer. Pretty. Queer.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

Take it slow; subvert the scarcity model of relationalities; feel emboldened to ask partners a fuck ton of questions before having sex; lovingly challenge mentors out of their uncritical machismo even if it means risking invalidation; find, create and nurture a radical gender genealogy; believe what people tell you about themselves; take extra doses of vitamin Compassion; and to state my truth like my life depended on it.

Butch Lab Symposium #2, Feb/March 2011

WHAT IS THE BUTCH LAB SYMPOSIUM?

The Symposium is a cross between a blog carnival and a round-up, where participants write about a monthly topic and submit links to Butch Lab which are then recounted. Participants are requested to a) link to the

Butch Lab Symposium in their post, b) reprint the roundup on their own blogs within five days, and c) commenting on the other participants’ entries would be an added bonus (let’s support each other eh?).

You do not need to be butch to participate, anyone is welcome to discuss their opinion.

The topic for the second Butch Lab Symposium is Butch Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions.

Here’s the writing prompt:

What do people think “butch” means? What are the stereotypes around being butch? What do people assume is true about you [or about your masculine of center friends], but actually isn’t? What image or concept do you constantly have to correct or fight against? How do you feel about these misconceptions? How do you deal with them? Do you respond to these stereotypes or cliches? How?

To participate, write about this topic in some form on your own website and email the link to butchlabproject (at) gmail.com before March 1, 2011. The full roundup will be released mid-March.

Butch Lab Symposium #2: Call for Participation

Hey, writers and folks interested in gender!

The next Butch Lab Symposium topic has been decided, after much deliberation, and posted.

WHAT IS THE BUTCH LAB SYMPOSIUM?

The Symposium is a cross between a blog carnival and a round-up, where participants write about a monthly topic and submit links to Butch Lab which are then recounted. Participants are requested to a) link to the Butch Lab Symposium in their post, b) reprint the roundup on their own blogs within five days, and c) commenting on the other participants’ entries would be an added bonus (let’s support each other eh?).

You do not need to be butch to participate, anyone is welcome to discuss their opinion.

The topic for the second Butch Lab Symposium is Butch Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions.

Here’s the writing prompt:

What do people think “butch” means? What are the stereotypes around being butch? What do people assume is true about you [or the masculine of center folks in your life], but actually isn’t? What image or concept do you constantly have to correct or fight against? How do you feel about these misconceptions? How do you deal with them? Do you respond to these stereotypes or cliches? How?

To participate, write about this topic in some form on your own website and email the link to butchlabproject (at) gmail.com before March 1, 2011. The full roundup will be released mid-March.

Grace Moon: Mini-Interview

Grace Moon, Writer, artist. gracemoon.net | @gracemoon

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”
Me and butch go way back. We had a brief falling out in my early 20’s, we rekindled our relationship later that decade. We now enjoy each other immensely, albeit with some disagreements here and there. Relationships are a growing process.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?
Queer, lesbian, dyke, butch, trouble, left of center but not centrist.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?
Don’t worry one of these days, one of these pretty girls will want to date you. Come to think of it, the message hasn’t changed…

4. Anything you’d like to add?
“Butch is a noun and a verb.” (c) gracemoon 2011

Daddi Dice: Mini-Interview

Dice is a 23 year old lesbian women, who identifies as a stud, and a cool collected Aries. “I have a open mind. When it comes to life, it’s to short to be shy.”
@iStrapStroke & Crashpadseries.com under the character “Dice”

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

When I think of the word “butch,” I picture the old school lesbian with a buzz cut and one dangling earring of a cross on the right ear. When I was a kid, that’s what I heard, that’s what the more masculine lesbians where called. I think of it as a old lesbian term. Also, when I think of butch, I think of the word “dyke”—both to me are old school lesbian terms.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

The term I closely identify with is stud. A stud is my generation’s butch. Some people say that within the LGBT community when they hear “stud” they automatically picture a blk, hispanic, often times Asian aggressive more masculine female, emerged in the hip-hop culture, but when you hear butch more then likely your going to think of an androgynous/masculine white female. A stud/butch to me is a beautiful/handsome women who is masculine. A stud/butch has a style close to a male and when in a relationship we wear the”pants.”

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

If I could tell my younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender I would let myself know that it’s okay to be the way I am. When I grow up there will be others like me if I would just open my eyes.

When I started dressing more tomboyish in elementary I use to have a lot of problems with the girls in school. I always got random questions like, “Why do you dress like a boy?” My answer would be, “It’s comfortable.” I realized in middle school that it was more than “It’s comfortable;” while all the girls in my grade where experimenting with make-up and shorter skirts, I was stealing my mom’s dildos and making panty harnesses for my favorite one. In high school most girls had already had sex with men and was more open to trying something new, so to speak it got easier to get laid, I was a attractive women with a boi swag, girls loved it.

Syd London: Mini-Interview

Photographer, sydlondon.com
Photo by Maro

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

When I think of “butch” I think of the women I’m attracted to rather than myself. Butch is beautifully mind blowing to me. It’s the contrasts of masculinity and hardness in a person who still has the soft skin of woman that drives me crazy. It’s the refusal of butches to kowtow to society’s “should’s” that I continually admire. There truly is nothing sexier than butch to me.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

This is a question I’ve yet to truly answer. I think of myself as a proud dyke and many other things but haven’t found a word that truly encompasses all of me. Though my drag name Syditious does contain a bit of me. In the end I’m just me. I love to play with the biggest power tools I can get my mitts on but I also like to make soap and developing fragrances. Go figure.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

There’s is so much I wish I could tell my younger self. In many ways I try to communicate those things to our queer youth now through my photography. Above all I’d tell myself to hang on. Life isn’t easy, that’s part of the nature of it – BUT things are going to get so much better than I ever dared dream. If you told me ten or fifteen years ago that I’d be a pro photojournalist covering our exquisite community I never, ever would have believed you. I wish I could tell myself about the queer family that I’ve found and am lucky enough to be part of. And I wish I could tell myself that one day not only will women actually cheer for me as a drag king but also there are women out there who will like me for me ( when I came out at 15 I thought no woman would ever like me, let alone kiss me. I wish I could tell myself about a few of the hot make out sessions I’ve had over my life). And I wish I could tell myself about the love and support the community gives me, though I don’t think I could have believed me. Or you. Or anyone.

Bonus: Anything you’d like to add?

As un-butch as it sounds, I wish I could give all the butches who came before me and helped pave the road a big bear hug of gratitude.

Ivan E. Coyote: Mini-Interview

Writer & performer. ivanecoyote.com
Photo by Eric Nielson

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

After many years of rambling and banging around in the “identity and labels” aisle of the english language, I have happily settled on butch. It is a big and beautiful enough category for me, and includes enough other folks that I can identify with and see as my family, my blood.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

Butch, queer, writer, artist, storyteller, Yukoner. There are others, but those are the first that spring to mind.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

Be kind. At least try to be kinder. To yourself, and to others around you, both strangers and intimates. You are just figuring all of this gender stuff out yourself, and things you think are absolutes right now will one day seem a lot more blurry, and complicated. Respect the differences of others, and honour who you know you are in your heart.

AJ Stacy: Mini-Interview

Host, Tuna Talk

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

I think of me, by default, or people like me, who have too much style when we walk into the men’s section at the department store. The word “Butch” is sexy, it’s strong.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

I really don’t like to label myself too much, but people always ask if I’m FTM or Butch or if I’m transitioning or whatever so, based on that, occasionally I like to clarify that I’m just BUTCH, I’m just AJ, I like to dress better than a straigt guy.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

If I could sit my 18 year old, crazy self down, I’d tell myself to go out and have fun, don’t be so shy, speak up for what you want and what you believe in and don’t wait for things to happen, make things happen.

Visit AJ’s online video blog Tuna Talk

B. Cole: Mini-Interview

Activist, advocate, teacher, community leader. brownboiproject.org

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”
I came of age as butch but it never fully reflected Cole. As I was growing up, butch was much more common in the white queer community. That’s why I came up with the term masculine of center. I wanted to be able to acknowledge my place within this amazing community of womyn, recognizing the diversity and power of defining ourselves across a spectrum.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?
I’ve been a stud, a dom, a butch, and a boi across my journey of life. It’s been important to claim my identity as a masculine of center womyn, to make peace with myself. I prefer female pronouns and as long as you don’t call me lady or m’am, we’ll be fine.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?
Spend your time with people who respect and love you for who you are, even if it’s different from them. We live in a society that has a deep aversion to difference. Love it, cultivate it all around you. It is what makes life the most interesting.

Gina Mamone: Mini-Interview

President & CEO, Riot Grrrl Ink. The Largest Queer Record Label in the world.
Photo by Grace Moon

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch”?

My relationship with butch has evolved over my life. From coming out in college in rural West Virginia in the mid 90’s to living in modern day New York City. I have a very broad concept of gender especially in regards to identity and fluidity.

I did not come into my butchness like some, I was born into it – my mother jokes to this day that there was no need for me to “come out”. I grew up in rural Appalachia in the buckle of the bible belt. In the early 80‘s before there were mandatory curriculums of inclusion and tolerance in the public school system. I was bullied and teased constantly at school, it was a hard way to grow up. Butch was full of negative connotation for me in the first part of my life. Then I came out and I learned to find positive images of butch & gender variance in my community and I learned a new definition of the word. The more people I meet, the more art I am exposed to – my definition of butch & gender gets bigger and bigger – it will always be evolving.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

I identify as a Tender Hearted Gender Queer that has a nougaty Deep Lez Center with Hillbilly tendencies.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I was bullied and teased constantly about my gender expression in elementary school (see attached elementary school photo). By the time I was in Jr. High & Highschool, I was dressing to fit in and growing my hair long. I had learned to not let anyone know who I really was. I would go back and tell my younger self about Dapper Q, Bromance and the Flatbush Freakshow…. the big beautiful world that awaits out there once all of the queers find each other on the internet… start to mobilize & create. I would also tell myself that American Apparel Manties will change your life, have a wicked respect for your herstory / history, there is truth where you come from and to take better care of my vinyl.

I LOVE what is happening now – the fostering of butch identified community though grassroots organizing. I look at things like Butch Voices & Butch Lab happening all over the country and I see people coming together to create safe space, share resources, organize n’ mobilize, get inspired and most importantly, connect to community and I get hella excited. This generation of butch identified / masculine of center individuals are changing what it means to be butch – making it bigger and more accessible for those to come and it’s all being documented in real time through social media – it’s a very exciting & fascinating time.