“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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“I Want To Be Fearless”

Ever since I got Ellis’s newest album Right On Time I’ve had it playing over and over. I like to listen to it at the gym (along with the Bryan Adams anthology) because I can crank it in the headphones and hear every word, every note. Somehow she has captured every emotional state that I’ve been going through lately on that album, and I’m continually surprised by her eloquent writing.

When I ordered Right On Time I got a note back from Ellis thanking me. I kind of assume she does this with everybody, though I can’t guarantee she’ll send you a note too, maybe she just happened to have some extra time on her hands right then. So I emailed her back and we corresponded a little, which is what led to her mini-interview on Butch Lab, which I’m so happy to have there. I’m keeping a watchful eye on her summer tour schedule—I hope she’ll be somewhere in the Northeast that I can easily attend.

I just ordered her Scrapbook 2-disc set which includes a DVD and an mp3 CD with her entire backlist (64 songs for $40!). I used to have a couple of her early albums, but I’m not sure what happened to them, they disappeared in one of my moves. I’m excited to hear the other albums, can’t wait to get to know all of those other songs of hers.

Here’s one from Right On Time that I’ve been obsessing over lately, listening to a lot and trying to keep in mind while things sometimes feel tumultuous.

(She adds another verse in this live version … “Let’s pretend we’re smaller than / the ants under the grass” but these lyrics are for the album version.)

Close to You
Ellis

let’s pretend we’re taller than
the highest part of everest
giants with a lions roar
but lighter than a bird
and we build upon our shoulders
buildings high into the sky
and we look out of our windows
wishing we could fly

I want to be close to you
to know how close we are
I want to be fearless
in the face of love
and not be afraid of falling apart

each day there’s a sunrise
beauty I can barely see
if I saw it all my heart would fill so full
I couldn’t breathe

I want to be close to you
to know how close we are
but I cover up my heart
afraid I am weakening
I have ways to escape when things get hard

here we are
this is
the way it is
the sun, the rain
how things are always
changing

let’s pretend we are at the end of our lives here
all our troubles that seemed so big
have all disappeared
when we are deep in the shadows
bringing light into the dark
I will reach for you till the end of me
when I can’t tell us apart

’cause I want to be close to you
to know how close we are
I want to be fearless
in the face of love
and not be afraid of falling
I’m falling apart

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.

Heavenly Spire

Yes, this is a bit of an advertisement for queer porn director Shine Louise Houston’s newest project Heavenly Spire, but it’s also a commentary on masculinity in porn.

I’m sure I don’t have to work too hard to convince you that for as many limited, limiting, stereotypical, heterosexist notions in porn that exist for women, there are just as many that exist for men. Men are portrayed as the domineering, dominant, in charge, virile, muscular, top character in virtually every way in the porn industry, a depiction that hurts and polices the vast range of male sexualities—just as depicting women as the receptive, passive counterparts is hurtful to women.

And while there is a huge world of queer porn out there, most of the ethical, thoughtful, gender-aware is trans or female, and there hasn’t been many explorations of masculinity through video and porn.

Until now!

Here’s some wording from the official press release of Houston’s beautiful Heavenly Spire project:

After making a name for herself directing beautifully shot dyke/queer porn, Feminist Porn Awards’ Visionary Director Shine Louise Houston has turned her sharp eye to the gays.

Vivid-Ed director Tristan Taormino touts Houston as “one of the most influential, groundbreaking and talented queer filmmakers of this century.” Advocating that women watch gay porn, Taormino enthusiastically took note of the new site, commenting: “It features a group of ethnically-diverse models and couples, genuine chemistry, and Houston’s signature stunning cinematography.”

By dedicating the site to masculine beauty and sexuality and how it manifests on different bodies, Shine Louise Houston pushes the boundaries of a new visibility in gay porn: HeavenlySpire.com equally casts queer males as it does transsexual men. This inclusion is a rarity in gay male pornography.

Models share an intimate interview where they disclose their personal fantasies, describe their sexuality, turn-ons, and what they physically like about themselves and one another.

While partially inspired by her love for gay male porn, Houston’s vision for HeavenlySpire.com came mainly from within. Says Houston, “Heavenly Spire is a personal project for me. Accepting my own masculinity has really allowed me to feel okay with desire for masculine people. Exploring it on the site really looks at male bodies the way I want to.”

It sounds all smart when described like that, huh? And yes sure, of course it is smart, it is intentional and thoughtful and the filming is just fucking beautiful. But let’s not forget that it’s also way hot.

Sometimes as a dyke I am a little hesitant to recommend porn with cisgender men in it, as I can frequently get the “ick factor” reaction from other dykes: “Ew.” But as someone who is increasingly cock-centric, and, I’ll admit, sometimes a bit fascinated to the point of fetishizing cocks, I have got to say that this site is not just thoughtful and beautiful but also fucking hot.

So thank you, Heavenly Spire, for being a sponsor of Butch Lab, and for bringing new and exciting visions of masculinity and a masculine sexuality into the porn world. I can’t wait for the DVD.

Elisha Lim’s Queer Love Cards

Artist Elisha Lim is now also selling Queer Love Cards at their Etsy shop.

Says Elisha: “The cards are about a queer way of being in love, with things like butches saying “Hey Handsome,” transfags saying “Hey Beautiful,” and genderqueers saying “Hayy” and “I Like Your Cardigan.””

Just in time for Valentine’s Day! I’m sure I can think of a few people I could send these lovely cards to … Etsy.com/shop/elishalim

See also: Elisha Lim’s 2011 Illustrated Gentleman calendar and their Mini-Interview with Butch Lab.

They also sent along a couple images to show off here on Butch Lab! Enjoy:

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.

Rachel Venning: Mini-Interview

Owner, www.babeland.com

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

Being butch has always been part of my queer identity. When I was young my friends and I loved to talk about “what kind of butch are you?” Now that I’m headed into my silver fox years it’s just an identity that has sat well with me for a long time. And I acknowledge other butches out there as much as I can, with the butch nod or a “hi.” I feel a lot of solidarity with other butches. It’s really not easy being butch. Just dealing with people’s reactions and my projections of their gender phobia.

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

Butch, dyke, lesbian and queer. Kinky. Some feel more comfortable than others.

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

My younger self thought she knew it all, so cocky! I’d tell her to be more gentle and compassionate- people have a lot of different ways of growing into themselves. Oh and I’d tell my younger self to take more risks, and have sex with more people. I was not enough of a player in my playing years. More of the uhaul type, alas.

Adrienne “Aj” Davis: Mini-Interview

Organizer for the Butch Voices conferences, www.dreadedmemes.org

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

I proudly use that word. Although it took me about ten years after I came out before I truly embraced that identity.

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

Butch. Geeky butch. Nerdy butch. Nerd. Geek. Geekgirl (or geekgrrl). Academic butch. Scientist. Alpha Geek.

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

I would tell myself, “Self, don’t worry about how others look at you. Don’t worry about how this might play in the black community. Embrace who you are because you ARE sexy, you ARE beautiful, you ARE alluring—but not in the conventional manner that women are seen as expressing those attributes. And yes, Virginia, you can be as academic and urbane as you wish and still be a butch.”

Shelley Stefan: B is for Butch

Artist Shelley Stefan sent on this video from her art show in Harlem in New York City in 2010. I missed this entirely, unfortunately, but I really like the work.

Here’s a description from Shelley, from an interview with CherryGRRL:

“The series “B is for Butch” is an offshoot from the work and research I developed in two prior visual arts projects entitled: “Lesbian Family Heraldry: An Achievement of Arms” (2005-2006) and “The Lesbian Effigies” (2006). These bodies of work, comprising of paintings, drawings, bronzes, and belt buckles, appropriate the art and science of medieval heraldry in order to engage queer subcultural commentary on topics of power, alliance, and family signification, prioritizing what Theorist J. Halberstam cites as the construction of “queer (female) genealogies.”[i] In 2004, I directed my visual arts practice and research into the world of heraldry and armour as an emotive response to real-life experiences of familial trauma, where I felt what it was like to be a person, a family “under siege.” My wife and I lost custody of our happy and healthy daughter due to several breaches of justice and a bigoted and homophobic US legal system. The experience and the loss left me and my lesbian partner feeling broken and beaten. I did what many artists do amidst strife: I turned to my visual arts practice as a method of emancipation, activism, and poetic justice in a world where, unfortunately and sometimes, bad things can happen to good people. Heraldry and this world of armour seemed like a perfect conceptual and aesthetic palette for me to think about notions of power and security from the “underdog” or subculturally liminal perspective, and how traditional visual symbologies (such as heraldry) have a way of legitimizing through the mere history of their visual currency. In these bodies of work, I problematized heraldry’s armigerous exclusivity and its heterosexist male monopoly on the meaning of family, as well as appropriated the heraldic medieval aesthetic to take part in what Third World Feminist Theorist Chela Sandoval calls a “Technology of Crossing” – a method to “identify and describe emotional, psychic, and social technologies that embody and circumscribe identities necessary for recognizing power, and changing its conditions on behalf of equalizing power between socially and psychically differing subjects.”[ii] I began using the power of heraldry and medieval armour as a method to transpose power on behalf of queer liminal subjectivity.

“Through this research process, I encountered many, many images of armour. Some armour just seemed inherently queer-looking to me – very dykey, very butchy, and quite gender-bendy, all of which to me are very good attributes. Some armour also really seemed conceptually loaded for me on topics of security/insecurity and subcultural interiority. I began to think about the dual signification of the term “armour” – like, how armour signifies at once a sense of security and a sense of insecurity – a toughness and a vulnerability. To wear armour is to acknowledge in some way that you are vulnerable, but also and simultaneously that you aim to and claim to feel non-vulnerable, or protected. I started really thinking about subcultural interiority, what’s underneath the rock that’s underneath the rock. Near 2008, I began to imagine how different liminal subjectivities and minorities might relate to this notion of armour and how I might be able to manipulate these visualizations to open up conceptual doors. Butch subjectivity came to the forefront, partially because I live as a butch lesbian and my art is strongly tied to self-portraiture, but also because I like to do research in queer subcultural theory and this was a topic I was interested in investigating. So, I was inspired to create this collection of works entitled “B is for Butch.””

Here’s one example of a pieces from “B is for Butch:”

Shelley Stefan, Primary Cock, Oil, 2010

Shelley Stefan – B is for Butch from Roger Kisby on Vimeo.

Kyle Jones: Mini-Interview

Writer, parent, lover, perpetual student. www.butchtastic.net

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”
‘Butch’ is one of the words I use to describe myself. I’ve experimented with different identity terms over the years, and ‘butch’ is one that I come back to over and over again. I currently use butch to describe my presentation, as an adjective more often than as a noun. When I describe myself as butch, I mean to say that I am masculine in appearance and mannerisms. I wear clothing from the men’s department, cut my hair short and don’t mind when someone refers to me as ‘Sir’.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?
When I talk about my identity, I say that my sexuality is queer, my gender is genderqueer and my presentation is butch. I also use the words transgender and trans-masculine to identify myself, as a female-born person who’s gender identity does not always line up squarely with my body.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?
I would try to explain how fluid and changing identity is, that what we see as a rock solid personal identity can change over the years, as we grow and experience more in life. I would encourage myself to explore sex more, to experiment and play, to see the fun and playfulness of sex and not be hung up on judgements about what should, or should not, turn me on. I would try to explain some of what I know about gender now, which is much less rigid than my viewpoint when I was younger. Back then, I was very much trying to find the one gender that worked for me and that kept me bouncing back and forth until recently, when I finally realized that I didn’t have to choose. Gender is not only fluid and unfixed, we can experience multiple genders concurrently, or even feel a lack of gender identity. Gender is much more fascinating than I imagined 20 years ago.

Joe LeBlanc: Mini-Interview

President and Conference Chair for Butch Voices. butchvoices.com | @BUTCHVoices

Photo by Kristin Kurzawa

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

My relationship with the word and identity of butch has been a complex one. I hesitated using it at first as a descriptor for myself since I did not “fit” the stereotype for a number of reasons. So much was wrapped up for me upon first glance in the identity of butch – hair style, clothing, class, age, race, sexual preferences, boundaries, underwear, shoes, etc… in order to use the identity for myself. Or so I thought. I thought that I had to already have it all figured out, and have it all in place in order for me to identify as a butch. Not knowing any other butches impeded this process, because I only knew what little I saw about butches. The disassociation the lesbian community was having at the time over anyone who looked butch, much less identified as butch, didn’t really help matters either.

Over time for me, it became less about my needing to fit a specific equation of x + y + z = butch. I began to see that it was more about how I felt inside. I did a lot of internal work around the various facets of myself in regards to my preferences. When I gave myself the permission to get beyond the stereotypes, I could relax and start to become at home with the word. For me, butch is an identity that is personal, as well as sexual and political, too.

With doing community organizing with BUTCH Voices, I have seen ‘butch’ as a polarizing word. For some it has become more of an umbrella term that continues to bring folks together both online and in person, who in the past would not have been in the same room. For others it is a word that gives them the idea that they can ape the worst traits in men. Being a misogynistic asshole does not make someone butch. I enjoy when people can use their preferred identities to start conversations, find commonalities, but not dismiss the differences, or abuse privileges sometimes afforded to us for presenting masculine. Finding strength in the diversity of what butch means is key for us as a segmented community. The identity we choose for ourselves is not the end all, be all about us. It’s only the tip of the iceberg. We can stay divided over semantics and assumptions, or we can find common ground and actually work together to combat the many issues that we all face no matter the language we choose for ourselves.

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

I am a lover of language, so I do have some strong personal relationships with certain words around my identity such as: butch, genderqueer, transgender, masculine of center (from B Cole and the Brown Boi Project), dyke, feminist, activist, queer, and gender non-conforming to name a few.

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

I would tell my younger self to not to be so in a rush with the need to figure it all out. But I’m not sure that my younger self would listen. My life’s lessons had and continue to have to be experienced first-hand, which isn’t good or bad – it just is. I am constantly learning more about myself and adding this knowledge and reforming opinions I have along the way. Such is life, and it’s more about the journey than the destination.

Anything you’d like to add?

Butch is what you make of it, and there is no one way to be butch.

The Illustrated Gentleman: 2011 Calendar

You can still pick up a copy of the 2011 calendar The Illustrated Gentleman by artist Elisha Lim.

“A 12 month calendar of handsome dandy queers from January to December. Full colour images and comics feature sartorial queer style, shopping anecdotes and strategies, and a celebration of walking proud in what you wear. The comics feature excerpts from “The Illustrated Gentleman” and “100 Butches” and contain a hand-drawn monthly schedule for each month. It is a quaint, trim 5.5″x7.5″ on glossy calendar stock.”

They sent Butch Lab a few images from the calendar to entice us:

Buy The Illustrated Gentleman on Etsy.

S. Bear Bergman: Mini-Interview

Writer, performer, activist. www.sbearbergman.com

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

Butch was the first way I ever really felt seen, or desired. Butch is how I was recognized, and it’s how I was made. I love many of the ways of butchness, and even the ones I really do not love I can at least understand. The part of me that is a butch – not a butch lesbian or a butch woman but a butch as its own whole and true thing – is both the toughest and the tenderest part.

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

I identify as queer, transmasculine, and as a butch; as a husband and father; as a Jew, and as a storyteller.

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

Calm down. You don’t need to know, or do, or try, or be, or have everything sorted out right now. There’s time, and being patient will make you less annoying.

So Brown: Mini-Interview

Musician, kickstarter | myspace.com/sobrown | Bad Love video

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”
I’m not really sure about my relationship to the word “butch”; I’ve always just felt I was a male-ish spirit and tried to honor that.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?
Occasionally, when trying to convey my aesthetic to a new person, I’ll say something like, “think along the masculine spectrum. What would Johnny Cash be doing?” I’ve always done what boys did without really thinking about it. I do also love the Native-American concept of the Two-Spirit, a person who is a third gender and has qualities of both. That always resonated with me.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?
I’d say, “Young So, try to be kind to yourself, try not to self-destruct. One day you will have a really beautiful life, and you’ll be able to write awesome songs about all the hard years along the way, and you will have an important place in the world surrounded by lots of people who love you. You are perfect just the way you are and you don’t have to choose about anything. Just be.”

Anything to add?

I guess the only other thing I’d add is that I’m really looking forward to making more openly gay music videos for my songs!

Kelli Dunham: Mini-Interview

Kelli Dunham, writer, comic. kellidunham.com

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

I love the word butch for myself but also love the umbrella term masculine of center which seems to encompass a lot more folks in a very positive way. I’ve learned over the years that I don’t have to do what Grace Moon calls “Butch/Femme realism” to be butch. I don’t have to fix cars or even be tough. I’m not tough, I cry at dog food commercials, I cry on the subway. I like that part of myself, and I’m glad as I’ve gotten older that I’ve been able to move away from needing to pretend to be the strong and silent type (which I ain’t) in order to be butch.

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

Butch, Mama Butch, Genderqueer (if describing myself to folks under 30, usually), Wanna Be Glitter Butch. And Boi, but only to those with whom I’m close. Like my girlfriend calls me boi, and have another close friend who calls Munchkin, who is her own variation, I think, on boi. I think people who are closer to me (rather than those who see my on a stand up comedy stage) see me as more Boi than Butch.

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

It doesn’t matter, I wouldn’t have listened since I already knew everything. But for starters:

“Saunter in a dignified manner away from the flannel drawstring pants. NOW!”

AND

“Good fucking Lord goofball, you can wear men’s underwear and you’ll be FINE!!!”

AND

“Don’t wait for the grown-ups. They aren’t coming. You’re the grown-up now and you get to make it up as you go along.”

Elisha Lim: Mini-Interview

Elisha Lim, artist. newhearteveryday.blogspot.com

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

I’m a gay butch, I’m attracted to other butches. That seems to immediately abandon a lot of butch stereotypes. Domineering, possessing or even providing for a feminine person doesn’t profit me, and I hope I can always confront any accompanying butch sexism, in myself and my surroundings. I’m a proudly feminist butch.

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

I’m queer, I’m trans, I’m a they, I’m a s/he, I’m easily confused, but one thing’s for sure, I’m always thrilled when you call me handsome. In other words butch forever.

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

Oh man, this question can bring tears to my eyes. You never needed to be a girl! You’re something else, and it’s okay, and it’s natural, and it’s as old and real and sure and plain as the birds and bees.

Bonus: Anything to add?

I’m working on 100 Butches, 100 Femmes (with Leah Lakshmi) and a wall calendar called The Illustrated Gentleman.

John Gagon: Butch Mini-Interview

John Gagon, data application programmer

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

My relationship with the word is that it carries with it something that’s not necessarily pure masculine and not necessarily rough and tough, it’s more the voice, appearance, trim hair, compatible with leather and less so with silk/feathers/lace or ghetto-silk (nylon). It’s not too stylish, it’s plain, feels Jimmy Dean, cool and relaxed and comfortable in skin. It also has a ballsy feel and while not necessarily rough and tough, it can be and it can be prone to a little anger. It’s adventurous and playful, not overly ticklish. Can be emotionally sensitive but not too physically sensitive, can play dom and appreciate masochism. Not too shy of verbal… or anything. The masculinity is incidental and it’s not always macho or aged. A spikey haired boy is butch just as say a biker. There’s often a mechanic penchant, it can be a little intellectual too and suave. It’s more rough around the edges than just leather and chain with cigar and scowl. It’s all a bit butch but the visual is less soft, shiney, no sequins, not flashy or sensitive/impractically fashioned. It’s pragmatic and useful. Someone who is butch can serve but also expects some loyalty or submission in return. Butch lesbians are butch if they like to crop their hair but they can have long hippy hair or something else. A good pair of jeans and cap, tshirt are butch. Usually not in a dress unless it’s cultural like sarong/kilt etc. But it can bend and mix. A bearded dude in a burlesque wedding dress or a female in a suit can be butch but a bearded man with lipstick and a roll of the eyes/queen is not so much. A soft lipstick lesbian is not going to seem butch except in that general appearance just like bears and leathermen can have lisp and peakybrows.

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

Butch, burly, scruffy, woofy, natural, bearish, (insert animal here), hairy, wolf, pup, dog. The butch honorifics tend to be masculine: master, sir, boy, pup.

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

I would tell my younger self that sex isn’t evil, isn’t going to damn me to hell if I love someone or fornicate. that religion is dogma and unrealistic. That gender is flexible. We are all a bit hermaphroditic in our brains. I would promote safer sex, responsible sex (disclosure of risks), honesty with self. Don’t do things for others, do things for yourself. Rules are not absolute. I would reveal more of what I’ve found out through genetics and research… that while it’s not a choice, honesty is a choice and so in a sense, you can promote the freedom for people to define themselves. I’d teach myself love, trust, a bit more about what BDSM is all about. A bit more about finding the right guy.

Kestryl Cael Lowery: Butch Mini-Interview

Kestryl Cael Lowrey
Performer/Writer/Activist
pomofreakshow.com/kessmain and/or kestrylcael.com

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

I didn’t learn what ‘butch’ was until I had been out for several years. It was the same summer I got my first motorcycle jacket, and a lover asked if I had read ‘Stone Butch Blues.’ Of course, I hadn’t; I devoured the text within days, which then led to library searches and more and more reading as I found a sense of history. I was amazed to learn there was a word, an identity, a community that matched what I’d been doing (I thought) on my own. Looking backwards, I came into butch.

For me, butch is the best word I’ve found to articulate the way that I do gender. Over the years, my own interpretation of ‘butch’ has grown and shifted—and I know this will continue as I live in/with ‘butch’.

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

I’m suspicious of labels, but I use a lot of them. Queer, butch, dandy, trans, leather, Daddy, performer, artist, activist, writer, scholar, and theorist are the ones that I use most frequently.

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

For sex and sexuality: It’s okay to have a lot of sex. It’s also okay to not have a lot of sex. Either way, get your first cock, and make sure it’s a good one. It will make all the difference.

As for gender: It will always be complicated. Trust me, you don’t want it any other way.

Ellis: Butch Mini-Interview

Musician, ellis-music.com

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

I identify as a butch woman. I think of “butch” as being a synonym for being a more masculine woman. When I was younger, I thought that butch meant tough, and I worried I wasn’t tough enough. I love pretty ladies and I used to think the only way to have a pretty lady love me back was to be more tough.

But now I’m realizing that toughness isn’t as strong as I thought it was, or at least it is different than I thought it was. Now, for me gentleness is king and I’ve found kindness to be the path to a more steadfast and stronger me.

So my understanding of what it is to be a butch woman looks different then it used to, maybe softer in some ways, less defensive. And, happily, it turns out that my pretty lady loves this gentle butch!

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

Butch, queer, woman loving woman, woman, buddhist, peaceful warrior, runner, musician, songwriter, human …

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

Hmmm… I would tell myself to relax and be patient more.

I’d tell myself that sex isn’t about being someone who is good in bed or having to perform. When I was younger, I had a bit of defensiveness about wanting to be as good as I thought maybe a man would be. Now I know that it’s so not even the point! Loving someone is loving someone. The parts aren’t a big thing. Connecting to the person you are with and loving them is better when there is vulnerability and real sharing.

I would also tell myself that there is a joy in discovering who you are and really the thing that matters most is cultivating the heart. I would encourage myself to care about the feelings that come up as a butch woman living in a culture that doesn’t see or recognize butch. I would tell myself that the fear, inadequacy, anger, and sense of outsider-ness that I felt wasn’t about me, and that it is a result of being in a culture that doesn’t recognize the butch woman.

Vittoria repetto: Butch Mini-Interview

poet, poetry host, chiropractor, applied kinesiologist
vittoriarepetto.wordpress.com
www.drvittoriarepetto.com

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”
It’s an ID that I’m comfortable with and femmes and other butches see the butch in me. Old guard lesbians from my life have a problem seeing it but that is their problem.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?
My tag line is the hardest working guinea butch dyke poet on the lower east side.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?
I would tell my younger self that you didn’t have to be freaked out as a feminist because you wanted a “penis” to make love to your girlfriend.

Emma Crandall: Butch Mini-Interview

Emma Crandall
Brooklyn, New York
writer, college professor, organizer, fashion inspiration

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

I haven’t always identified as “butch,” but it was definitely my first queer identity. There have been people who have told me I’m not butch, and people who have laughed in my face if I said I wasn’t. So many people assume “butch” is a rigid category, but I don’t find that to be true. Still, I like how polarizing butch can be as an identity/identification. I love our history as butches. For me, butch is the only word that explains my past experiences, my particular lesbian heritage, and my style of queerness.

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

BUTCH BRUT.

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

I think I had really good instincts as a young queer, but I should have trusted them more. I always interrogated identities and made up my own vocabulary. I understood my queerness as something that was inborn but also creative. I feel really lucky that I had that knowledge at a young age.
Oddly, I think the biggest thing I would teach my younger self would be about self-protection. I put myself in damaging situations just because I didn’t feel valuable yet, or didn’t know how to love myself. I want queer kids to know they don’t have to put up with all the damage that’s thrown at them, from within our communities or outside of them. Standing up and saying, “This is violent and damaging to me and it has to stop” is one of the most empowering things you can do.

Butch Enough: Butch Lab Symposium #1

The problem with butch identity—well, any identity category of social, sexual, political, geographical, or other significance really—is permission. If you get past the problem of stereotyping, of course, and how stereotypes are based on fact but simplified, sprayed down with fake plastic snow and called a tree when in fact they don’t grow or move or change or catch breezes or encourage nesting.

The problem with butch identity is permission. Who gives you permission to be butch? Are you butch “enough?” I questioned myself. I wasn’t sure I bought in to what I saw reproduced around me. So I sought out mentors: S. Bear Bergman, Ivan E. Coyote, Patrick Califia, Karlyn Lotney, Jack Halberstam. People whose writings I could adore secretly in the dark and examine with a microscope, searching for myself hidden between the lines.

“You’re not that butch,” others would say to me. “Oh don’t say that,” they’d shush me with pursed lips after I dropped That Word into casual conversation. As if I’d just called myself something insulting, something demeaning. A bad word. Butch is a bad word, one of those locked and loaded words used against us by classmate and teacher alike. Such a different, awkward, not-right way to be, according to the eyes of the world.

But I didn’t see it that way. From the minute a girl—a femme—I was madly, stupidly, unrequitedly in love with leaned in and whispered, “I think you’re butch,” I knew it was tattooed on all the walls of my heart and when they split this body open they’ll find those five simple letters ink-stamped over every organ. Butch heart. Butch lungs. Butch stomach and trachea and diaphragm and sternum.

I saw it as an honor.

(I still do.)

And so I started reading, and I saw it as a lineage, connecting me to dozens of other writers and thinkers, radical activists and dapper dressers, people I could look up to for style, advice, insight.

But still: Was I enough? Was I “faking” it? Was I an imposter? Goddess knows that’s the most dangerous thing to be.

My experiences told me no, this is real, but my head took convincing. I craved permission. A card to carry, a gold stamp: certified, verified, “real” butch. I tagged along, hanging on my mentor’s every room for approval, validation. I consumed like I’d been starved of knowledge of my own people—which I had.

Ultimately, it wasn’t anyone else who gave me permission: it was me. I splashed around enough to know that while I didn’t have the answers, no one else did either. They only had guidelines, ideas, what had worked and what hadn’t, the stories of their own piecemeal patchwork lives. But boy, did we have questions.

Questions like: What is butch? What does it mean to me? I savor these questions like a fine rich dessert. I turn them over and over in my mouth with my tongue. And as much as I crave their answering, I crave the questions they raise even more.

So here’s what butch is, for me: Permission. Permission to be myself, that little solid stardust shiny nugget I feel somewhere in my core, like a diamond lodged between L5 and L4 of the lumbar spine vertebrae. Permission to wear what I like, to love who I desire, to play how I crave, to decorate and adorn my body how I choose. To experience all the things this world has to offer, without guilt or obligation, but with curiosity and an open heart and experimental hands. Permission to be right where I’m at, regardless of whether that’s where I was yesterday. Permission to explore and seek pleasure, to connect and create friction, to question and make change. Permission to be exactly who I am, doing exactly what I’m doing, to have bright burning faith that everything I do works toward the greatest liberation for everyone, as much as possible, all the time, in all ways.

And just in case you need it: I give you permission, too.

Patricia “Cacahuate” Manuel: Butch Mini-Interview

Patricia “Cacahuate” Manuel
Elite amateur boxer
USA Boxing profile

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

The older I’ve become and the more comfortable I have grown in my own skin, I have realized how much of myself is tied into the word “butch”. When I was younger, I was self-conscious of having my sex misread by other people. Eventually as I grew up I realized that there wasn’t necessarily a contradiction between my female sex and my masculine gender identity. For me, this is the meaning of butch and it truly expresses who I am.

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

Like I stated earlier, butch is probably the best word/label to describe me. I usually don’t care much for whatever words people use to identify me. Unless of course I feel like I can make a joke of it.

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

I’d definitely tell my younger self, “Cut your hair off. The chicks will totally dig it.”

It’s Official: ButchLab.com Has Launched!

This is the new butch project I’ve been cryptically describing for the last few months: www.butchlab.com.

Here’s what’s over there right now: the Inspiration list, which is the new Top Hot Butches database of folks; the Symposium, which is the blog carnival link round-up (the first of which will be posted later today!); and the Butch Lab blog, which you can subscribe to for updates on the project, interviews, announcements, and all sorts of other things.

I have so much to say about it, so many things to describe and explain. HUGE THANK YOU goes out to the interns who have made this possible: Kyle, Lauren, Sarah, Roxanne, and Yvette, I am so grateful for your help in compiling the Inspiration list and for helping me knock around ideas.

We do have an official press release out, if you’d like a copy here’s the PDF. You can also follow @butchlab on Twitter if you’d like to be notified of updates and publications.

Please forward the URL widely, comment, share, and keep up with the new project. I really hope you enjoy it.

Welcome to Butch Lab!

I’m so thrilled you’ve stopped by! I’m your host, Sinclair Sexsmith. I run the online writing project Sugarbutch Chronicles, and I study gender and sexuality. I identify as butch myself, and a huge part of my journeys in recent years of coming to myself has been about my gender identity.

I’ve been working on Butch Lab for most of the fall of 2010, and I’m really excited to share the space with you.

I want to thank Kyle, Lauren, Yvette, Roxanne, and Sarah, who have been helping me set up this space and research hot inspirational folks who are featured on this site.

And I want to thank my lovely partner Kristen, who has been holding my hand since the beginning of this project, urging me onward and listening to my complaints throughout the process. I so appreciate the love and support.

Here’s some of the background about this project:

THE MISSION OF THE BUTCH LAB PROJECT

The mission of the Butch Lab Project is to promote a greater understanding of masculine of center gender identities, expressions, and presentations, through encouraging: 1. visibility, because we feel alone; 2. solidarity, because there are many of us out there, but we don’t always communicate with each other; and 3. an elevation of the discussion, because we have a long history and lineage to explore and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

THE HISTORY OF THIS PROJECT

BUTCH LAB is the 2010 relaunch of Sinclair Sexsmith’s 2009 Top Hot Butches project, which was a list of the 100 “top hottest” butch, stud, AG, androgynous, genderqueer, and trans folks. What began as a visibility project, intended for fun and amusement and to encourage eye candy objectification, has evolved into a community-focused site discussing butch identity in its many manifestations.

Borrowing from the recent Butch Voices conferences, Butch Lab is a place for a myriad of masculine of center* identities, including, but not limited to, stud, macha, boi, andro, and genderqueer.

We are Butch Voices: We are woman-identified Butches. We are trans-masculine Studs. We are faggot-identified Aggressives. We are noun Butches, adjective Studs and pronoun-shunning Aggressives. We are she, he, hy, ze, zie and hir. We are you, and we are me. The point is, we don’t decide who is Butch, Stud or Aggressive. You get to decide for yourself. (From ButchVoices.com

Cis and trans women who are masculine of center or not feminine presenting in some way are included. Trans men are welcome and included, as are cis men, gay or straight, who identify with butch or intentional, radical, responsible masculinities.

THE BUTCH LAB WANTS YOU! TO CONTRIBUTE!

Butch Lab is seeking submissions! Here’s what you can do to contribute:

  • Comment! Talk to each other, engage in the disucssions about these identities.
  • Submit an image, video, or other media to the Fuck Yeah Butches tumblr site. It can be a depiction of yourself, someone who identifies as butch, someone who represents butch identity for you, or someone who serves as butch inspiration.
  • Submit to the monthly Butch Lab Symposium. It’s a cross between a blog carnival and a link round-up. Monthly, there is a question posed on the Butch Lab blog, and blogs which write on the question are featured on Butch Lab the following month in a carnival-style roundup. In exchange for participation, please repost the Symposium; see the full guidelines here.)
  • Submit an article to the Butch Lab blog. It can be reprinted from elsewhere. We can’t afford to pay you (yet), but we will provide you a byline. We are seeking writings on topics such as, but not limited to: why I don’t call myself butch; dapper fashion on a dime; bridging butch and trans; being better in bed; navigating the health system’s gender discrimination; haircuts, grooming, and the best products; radical masculinity; and more.
  • Participate in the Butch Lab Interview series. Email butchlabproject (at) gmail.com if you’d like to participate.

Please, have a look around!