Posts Tagged ‘butch voices’
And it was fantastic.
I want to tell you all about it, and I barely know where to start. It was thrilling to work on a committee which was so invested in working, and whose skill-sets were all so complimentary. Primarily, I worked with promotion, copy, images, and event planning & promotion, as well as hosting some of the events over the conference weekend too. Which tend to be the things I’m good at, and the things I most like to do, in terms of putting on an event. There were a lot of logistical details that I was less concerned with, personally, but the rest of the Core Committee was so on top of it, I didn’t have to worry about it—I could just do the parts I was particularly good at.
It’s the first time I’ve been such a key organizer for a regional conference, and I had a wonderful time. I learned a lot about organizing and producing big events. I think I might go into a little bit of withdraw after working so closely with the other organizers—Kelli, Kawana, Lea, Paris, Emma, Emilie—I’m hoping we can organize a post-event gathering to debrief and talk about what’s next. (There’s already some discussion about another New York regional conference in 2012.)
But: what happened at the actual conference?
The Friday Night Social Event
Friday night kicked off the conference with Speed Friending at Anti-Diva. I was surprised and impressed at how many masculine-of-center folks came out for that. It was great to have a kick-off event where everyone came with the assumption that they would meet other people, everyone was more open and talkative than usual. We planned on having Melissa Li perform an acoustic set, but there were some technical difficulties and Melissa never did go on. But oh the rest of us did … on and on, talking to each other and about the conference the next day and about the other events that were planned for the weekend. Many folks were in from out of town, and not everyone who came planned on attending the entire conference, but was interested in meeting butches (for various reasons).
Just about as I was ready to retire, a text came in from Kelli, conference “chair,” if we had one of those, to both myself and to Emilie, along with a photograph of the conference space: we had a wall! A genius contractor had saved our asses at the very last minute by coming in to help us divide up the very large QEJ Performance & Conference space into three separate spaces where we could hold two workshops, registration, and the hospitality suite. Not only did it look amazing, it ended up being constructed out of cardboard, twine, and tarps. It was more than I would have expected—when I arrived on Saturday morning—and it was perfect. Em and I were so thrilled, we actually high-fived—a move I do not usually participate in, but it was apt.
And then the conference started …
After getting things up from the car and helping to open up registration, the first thing I did was to attend a workshop with Corey Alexander called Doing Relationships with Emotional Armor: For Stones and Our Partners. I’ve flirted with stone identity, and definitely have some emotional armor, so it was interesting and intense to bring those things to light and discuss them openly. It was a difficult subject to begin the conference, but set the tone for the depth and personal level of discussion throughout the day.
I took a brief break to prepare for the Cock Confidence workshop I was leading in the third workshop block, and then joined the impromptu discussion. Conference organizers intentionally left some physical space empty such that active discussions could happen, either folks could bring up new topics they felt weren’t being addressed or could continue discussions started in the workshops if they felt inspired to do so. So a few people decided to lead an open discussion on responsible masculinity, which was very fruitful and touched on many topics and conundrums of masculinity that I frequently contemplate. It was great to hear other perspectives on these things that often really get to me, that I spend days thinking about, or talking about, or writing about. The question of “What is responsible masculinity?” was posed, and much discussion of misogyny and feminism commenced. One of the major points made was the ways that expectations can be oppressive, and that though our identities may appear to be something someone knows and can identify, and therefore draws all sorts of conclusions about (e.g., masculine of center -> butch -> top -> dominant -> dates femmes), that one has to actually ask and observe that particular individual to see if any of those things are true for them—and they may not be!
We also discussed butch competition and policing, and how to build more butch community. Someone said, “The only way to eliminate butch competition and enhance butch camaraderie is to acknowledge each other.” Which, I think, was beautifully put and I wholeheartedly agree. We spend a lot of time circling each other silently, and it is a thin line, if at all, between that and competing.
Next, I ran downstairs to Cock Confidence & Strapping It On, which is a workshop I’m doing many times this fall (already at Purple Passion and Conversio Virium in New York and Good Vibrations in Boston). I was greated by a packed room, and people just kept streaming in—it didn’t hurt that I had two Aslan Leather harnesses, three Vixen Creations cocks, and one Tantus cock to give away, I’m sure!
I started in on my workshop contents about confidence and communication when there were a few questions and comments, rapidly, from attendees. I’m paraphrasing here, but basically what was said was, “What about butches who bottom, and the ways that can be seen as emasculating?” and then, “What about women who are survivors of sexual assault, and for whom penetration is difficult or traumatizing?”
Whoa. Big, huge topics.
Which I will gladly write about here, I have plenty to say about them (watch for future/soon essays), but on which I was not prepared to speak, or lead a discussion. I had a lot of (prepared) material to get through, so I explained that, and said, those are both way important questions and I would love to have a discussion about them, that I was not prepared to hold the space for that discussion now. But, I proposed, I will do some talking about toys, do the raffle, then adjourn early and folks can go off and explore another workshop, or stay here for Q&A and we can discuss those things. I also said: Thank you, for bringing that up. I am used to doing this workshop at sex toy stores (mostly with an audience of hetero couples) so those questions are definitely Cock Confidence 301 instead of 101, and I love that the Butch Voices NYC crowd really raised the caliber of the discussion.
Thank you for that, all of you who were there.
I think the room understood my point, so I kept moving on. I talked about toys, my favorite and the most popular harnesses and cocks, answered some questions, and pulled names out of the bucket to see who would take home some new toys. I’m going to work on a Cock Confidence Product Guide and let everyone know the things that I recommended and where I recommend getting them.
The conversation, when it continued, was a much smaller group and we ended up more CR-style, discussing our personal challenges and experiences.
It was definitely the best Cock Confidence workshop I’ve ever facilitated, and it was so much fun. Wish I could give away toys every time I do that workshop! To be clear—I give away these toys, and I work with these companies as a sponsor (of sorts) of Sugarbutch because I adore their toys so much, not the other way around (I don’t adore their toys because they’re a sponsor). I’m pretty picky about the toys I give away, and while I have tried out all sorts of products, even if I suspected they would be awful, I won’t give away things I think are awful.
Butch Representation in Media
Off I rushed to the Media Panel, where I moderated a discussion about butch visibility, mainstream media, working in the media, and how we use the media to further authentic images of ourselves. It was a great discussion with Madison, Grace, Mamone, and Dasha, and the attendees had many questions and comments about race, participation, othering, and success. I didn’t feel like we had a point that we really hammered home in this workshop, but then again, we didn’t really have a point that we set up to make when we formed this panel, so that was okay.
At the end of the panel, we went around the room and everyone there introduced themselves and did their thirty-second elevator pitch about what they do. It was fascinating to see the caliber of talent we had in that room, all together.
The Community-Building Keynote
The keynote at Butch Voices NYC was non-traditional in that we didn’t want to have one singular person speak for all aspects of masculine of center communities, and since it was a one-day conference we didn’t have time—or money—for multiple keynote addresses. So Kelli and I planned a community building keynote ceremony that was a commitment to our butch voices, and it turned out beautifully. It was incredibly moving, from start to finish.
It all started with a pebble, a river stone—everyone received one at registration. I took them from my own rock collection (remember my this I believe poem? “rocks in my pockets”?) I counted out 180, which didn’t even make a dent in my collection, to make sure we had enough for everyone, then added a few handfuls more for good measure. I have collected rocks over the years from just about any place I have visited, from Bournemouth in England to Ocean Shores in Oregon to Washington state to Southeast Alaska, where most of the rocks are from. The pebble beaches are the best up there. It’s become a bit of a collection, that therefore I subsequently have no idea what to do with. It doesn’t make sense to display them, not really, not beyond a few rock stack formations here and there, so they’ve been in a box for years. Seriously. A box of rocks. Useless and taking up valuable New York City apartment space. I’d be glad to donate them to a garden or beach, but most green spaces around New York are so manicured it doesn’t make sense to leave them there.
But a ritual—it was a perfect use for (some of) them. I was so pleased to pass them on in that way.
Before we started the ritual, we spent a moment with the Memory Wall we had constructed to add names to, people who are no longer with us but who came before us and whom we want to remember. And right away, the room got heavier, we focused, I felt immediately moved.
We all got a rock when we checked in at registration. The seven of us organizers stood up to explain about the ritual, what we were going to do and why, each taking turns. We explained that the rock had absorbed our personal experiences of the day, our individual voice and perspective, and that we were going to add that rock to the collective pile of our community’s experiences, similar and related, yet different and varied. We invited anyone who felt moved to participate—allies too, but whom were also invited to witness if they felt so inclined, as we need witness to our statements, commitments, and very existence—to come up to our make-shift alter, one at a time, and speak aloud the sentence, “My commitment to my butch voice is,” or “my commitment to butch voices is.” Folks were invited to substitute whatever words they wanted to for “butch,” if that wasn’t their identity word of choice, such as queer or genderqueer or stud or aggressive.
I wasn’t prepared for how moving it would be. I wrote the majority of the script that we read (which only dawned on me about halfway through the ritual, I wrote the keynote), and the whole time I was just crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t be cheesy, but would be honored and respected and come across the way I wanted it to. It did—and it went beyond my expectations, like much of the conference did, above and beyond. It was moving, enlivening, big. Many of us teared up. Many of us said hard things that would not have been easier to say in other places, but which felt safe to reveal. Many of us murmured or clapped or responded as each person who felt moved came up to place their rocks in the wooden bowl on the make-shift alter.
Paris closed the ritual by having everyone repeat a line that Kelli and I came up with, based on the Core Initiatives of the Butch Voices conference: “Our commitment is to stand together, to take care of each other, and to make the world a more just place.”
And with that, everyone could take a rock home with them, if they felt so inclined, and we adjourned.
What a day.
I’m still reeling from it all.
And yet … right after the keynote, Kristen and I rushed downtown to get to Bluestockings Bookstore for the Butch Voices Speak Queer Memoir/Sideshow mash-up reading/performance. I posted photos and a wrap-up of it over on the Sideshow blog today, but expect more photos from Syd London (official Butch Voices NYC photographer!) as those get processed.
And more articles, more thoughts, more things from me, too, as that all gets processed.
I feel so much gratitude toward the folks who came and were involved. I’m thrilled to have been a part of it.
I’m sorry to say, it’s Yom Kippur, so the folks are fasting or observing might not be able to attend. I am sorry about that—it was the only Saturday available in September for me to host it, so it was the only option. There will be one more, after the Butch Voices NYC Conference is over, on October 16th, so hopefully if you are observing tomorrow you can still attend that one. Or, of course, perhaps I’ll see you at the Butch Voices NYC Conference!
Check out the photos from the Butch Brunch in August, it was a great time. We chatted about our relationship to the word and identity butch, how we identified, what we thought about the evolution of this identity. It was a great casual conversation.
Butch Brunch is co-sponsored by Butch Voices NYC and Sugarbutch, so we are adapting Butch Voices opinions about what butch means. From ButchVoices.com: “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.”
Cafe Orlin i a pretty big place and they’ve got a $6 plate of eggs & potatoes & toast, and it doesn’t get cheaper than that in Manhattan. Please RSVP on Facebook or email me to let me know you’re coming so we can get a head count. They don’t take reservations on the weekends, so I plan on being there early to get a big table. See you there?
Did you see that? Does it really say “2 Weeks” up there in the title. Um, reality check. So much to do! And I’m going camping with Kristen this weekend. She’s already made her famous (or what should be famous) potato salad. Which seems like a bad plan (the camping, not the potato salad) because there is so much to work on. But I’ve been working all week, and am still re-integrating after the New Mexico trip, so this will be good for me, I know. And we’re going to our favorite campsite that we’ve visited so far, still on the hunt for the perfect one, far enough from the city that it’s quiet and spacious but not so far that we have to drive all day to get there. I think I will be sneaking away during the days to find a coffee shop with wifi in the northwest Catskills so I can spend a little bit of time on The Smut Machine, aka my laptop, working on Butch Voices media.
Meanwhile: I’m counting down the Fridays with classic and modern butch book titles that I highly recommend because the Butch Voices Regional Conference in New York City (and then in Portland and LA) is coming up in just two weeks. If you haven’t registered yet, now is the time! We are very near capacity and can only hold so many folks in the space, so make sure you put your name down if you want to come. The workshops and the schedule have been announced, and they look fantastic, it’s going to be a great day. Stay tuned for the full announcements of events around the conference, on Friday and Saturday nights.
I’m really talking about classic butch titles here, so I can’t not talk about Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg. How many of us have had someone give us a copy of this book, early on, perhaps before we even know ourselves, and say, “I think this is you”? How many of us first felt like we were tapping into something larger than our own struggle when we started reading about Jess.
I had the opportunity to hear Leslie speak here in New York a few years ago, for her newer book Drag King Dreams, and it was thrilling. I love that about New York, that sooner or later, everyone does some sort of gig here, everyone comes through. It’s a magnet for some of the most amazing writers and activists and I do not discount the value of that (even in all my complaining about the big city).
If this book has been on your list for years, if you always meant to get around to it, if you kept meaning to read it, consider this a sign: it’s time. Go pick up a copy from Paperback Swap or your local indy bookstore or heck, even Amazon.
From Alyson Press, the publisher:
Published in 1993, this brave, original novel is considered to be the finest account ever written of the complexities of a transgendered existence. Woman or man? That’s the question that rages like a storm around Jess Goldberg, clouding her life and her identity. Growing up differently gendered in a blue–collar town in the 1950’s, coming out as a butch in the bars and factories of the prefeminist ’60s, deciding to pass as a man in order to survive when she is left without work or a community in the early ’70s. This powerful, provocative and deeply moving novel sees Jess coming full circle, she learns to accept the complexities of being a transgendered person in a world demanding simple explanations: a he-she emerging whole, weathering the turbulence. Leslie Feinberg is also the author of Trans Liberation, Trans Gender Warriors and Transgender Liberation, and is a noted activist and speaker on transgender issues.
Leslie Feinberg’s website has some other great information about the book, including the covers that were published in countries outside the US, a video of her reading from the book, and her afterward to the 10th anniversary edition.
When I was at the Lambda Literary Awards last year, the honored Leslie Feinberg, but she was too sick to appear and give her speech—someone else, her publicist I believe, gave it for her. So she hasn’t been doing many appearances, but I hope she is still writing.
She has been publishing quite a few photographs through Flickr and Twitter (@lesliefeinberg) if you’d like to follow her there. And of course more information about her work is over on her site, transgenderwarrior.org.
Pick up a copy of Stone Butch Blues directly from Alyson Books, or head out to your local independent queer feminist bookstore, or, as usual, if you must, from Amazon.
Events! Oh there are many. I’m busy in September. I’m going to try a new format and give you a monthly overview of my appearances, readings, and events at the beginning of the month.
Twitter Porn Party: Tight Places
September 8, 9pm EST 6pm PST
Hashtag is #pornparty
Log on and watch the hashtag for discussion of the new Good Releasing film Tight Places: A Drop of Color with @mrsexsmith and @garnetjoyce
SIDESHOW: Queer Literary Carnival
Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
Produced & Hosted by Cheryl B. and Sinclair Sexsmith
The Phoenix, 447 East 13th Street @ Avenue A in NYC
doors at 7:30pm, show at 8pm
Saturday, September 18th
Cafe Orlin, East Village, New York City
RSVP on Facebook
A Dyke’s Secrets of Cunnilingus
Thursday, September 23rd, 7pm
211 West 20th Street, New York, NY
I’ll be bringing some things to help us do some tongue-strengthening exercises. It will be a good time.
Butch Voices: New York City
Friday through Sunday, September 24-26
New York City
more on ButchVoices.com
Butch Voices Speak: A Sideshow/Queer Memoir Mashup
Saturday, September 25, 7pm
Lower East Side, New York City
I’m still on vacation. But I wouldn’t deprive you of the Butch Voices countdown! Sugarbutch will resume regular posting on Wednesday, September 1st.
The Butch Voices Regional Conference in New York City (and then in Portland and LA) is coming up in just four short weeks. (And as someone who is part of the organizing committee, can I just say: GULP. So much to do!) And in honor, I’m counting down the Fridays with classic and modern butch book titles that I highly recommend. Just in case you want to start that butch library you’ve always been saying you might.
Dagger: On Butch Women edited by Lily Burana and Roxxie Linnea Due is, heartbreakingly, out of print. But it still exists out there in the world, especially with all the online booksellers. It was published by Cleis Press in 1994 and remains one of the only anthologies about butch identity out there … in fact, it’s the only one that I know of. There are other books on butch identity (as I’ll feature in the next few weeks!), but nothing quite like this.
I came across it when the Femme Top loaned me her copy and I immediately went out to pick up my own. It remains something I flip through and contemplate frequently, full of interviews, personal essays, analysis, gender dynamics, love letters to femmes, and touching stories of female masculinity out of compulsory femininity.
Pick it up at your local bookstore (who does used book searches, hopefully) or online, if you must, through Amazon.
And don’t forget, there are lots of great events coming up in September around the Butch Voices conference, starting with Butch Brunch on September 18!
I’m going to be out of town … so you all better go for me!
Boxers Off! An Evening of Butch Burlesque
a fundraiser for BUTCH Voices
With your emcee Lea Robinson
Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher St.)
Saturday, August 28th, 2010, 7pm
$10-$15 Sliding Scale
BUTCH Voices is proud to present Boxers Off! An Evening of Butch Burlesque. Join us and explore the representation of butch identity in a bold, new, sexy way. Lea Robinson emcees this evening of hot and campy burlesque from some of New York City’s finest performers, including Becca Blackwell, Dapper Q, Glenn Marla, Luscious von Dykester, Natt Nightly, Kelli Dunham, Drae Campbell & Kimberlea Kressal appearing as SirMamSir and the Missus, Molly Equality Dykeman, Paris, Dom Juan, Daddy T.Y.E, and of course your host Cocoa Chaps!
All funds raised will go towards the BUTCH Voices NYC Regional Conference on September 25th.
RSVP for this event on Facebook. Have a great time! And if you go, report back on how it was, so I can know how it went? I’m sad to miss it (but then I think of the hot springs, and I don’t feel so bad).
So I’ve mentioned that the Butch Voices conferences are coming up, but I haven’t actually officially done a post and announced it to y’all! So just in case you want to take the day off (I’m looking at you, Ali), mark it on your calendars and work it out.
It’s not a butch-only conference—partners, allies, femmes, genderqueer, and non-identifying folks of all kinds are welcome to attend. Assuming that you have respect for and see value in discussing and paying attention to butch identity, of course, since that’s the focus of there conference.
Here’s the mission statement, and the description about what “butch” means, from ButchVoices.com:
The mission of BUTCH Voices is to enhance and sustain the health and well-being of self-identified Masculine of Center* people by providing activities and programs that build community and empower individuals to advocate for their whole selves inclusive of and beyond their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Who we are: 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.
* Masculine of center (MOC) is a term, coined by B. Cole of the Brown Boi Project, that recognizes the breadth and depth of identity for lesbian/queer/ womyn who tilt toward the masculine side of the gender scale and includes a wide range of identities such as butch, stud, aggressive/AG, dom, macha, tomboi, trans-masculine etc.
So there are four regional conferences in 2010, after the national conference in 2009. There are plans to have another national conference in 2011, every other year and on opposite years from the femme conference. The first regional Butch Voices conference was in Dallas in June, and I hear it was a great success.
Next up is the regional conference in New York City. It will be held Saturday, September 25th, 2010 at the Queers for Economic Justice Performance and Conference Space, at 147 West 24th Street, in New York City. On site Registration will be on the 4th floor.
The day-long BUTCH Voices NYC Regional Conference will include workshops, panels, a butch hospitality lounge as well as a very special keynote celebration of our history and community of butches.
Evening events will also include: Butch Voices NYC 2010 Queer Memoir/Sideshow Mash-Up at Bluestockings Bookstore and Cafe as well as a later Butch Voices Cabaret at a Brooklyn club.
If you’re coming from out of town, please email Kelli Dunham directly at kellidunham(at)gmail.com so we can assist you with any hospitality needs.
I’m thrilled to be helping with media for this conference. I’ve never planned a conference before, actually, so it’s good experience, and the other folks on the steering committee are so experienced and organized and hard-working, it’s been a delight so far. I’m working on putting together the conference program (or I will be, when I get back from vacation) so if you have ideas for queer and/or genderqueer organizations who might want to
give us money advertise in the program or sponsor an aspect of the conference, please do get in touch.
I recommend registering for the New York City conference as soon as possible, if you’re planning to come! We have limited space, and we expect it to be full.
After the day-long conference, we’ll adjourn to an evening of entertainment, including a very special Queer Memoir/Sideshow mashup “Butch Voices Speak” performance at 7pm at Bluestockings, and then a later Butch Cabaret in Brooklyn. More details about those as I get them!
The weekend after the New York City regional conference is the regional conference in Portland on Saturday October 2nd , then the weekend after that is the regional conference in LA over the weekend of October 8-10. I really hope to make it out to Portland, but I’m trying to figure out how to fund my trip. (Anybody out there in Portland looking for a speaker to visit your college over the first week of October?) I might do a fundraiser of sorts.
If you run a blog or website, perhaps you’d like to put up a sidebar image to help promote the conference? Or write a post on it, telling your readers about it? Mention it on the message boards you frequent? Tweet about it? Put it on Facebook? Send an email to all the people you’ve ever met? Seriously, every little bit helps. This is happening mostly through grassroots effort and word of mouth.
At New York City’s conference, I’ll be moderating a panel on Butches in the Media (mostly, creating our own media and self-promotion) and doing a workshop on Cock Confidence. And of course, I’ll be co-hosting the Butch Voices NYC 2010 Queer Memoir/Sideshow Mash-Up. I’ll let you know what, if anything, I’ll be doing in Portland.
So? Will I see you there, perhaps?
in collaboration with
Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival
Butch Voices Speak: A Queer Memoir/Sideshow Reading Series Mashup
7pm Saturday, September 25th
Bluestockings Bookstore, Lower East Side, New York City
Hosted by Kelli Dunham, Sinclair Sexsmith, Cheryl B., and Genne Murphy
Call for performers: Butch Voices Speak: A Queer Memoir/Sideshow Reading Series Mashup
Butch Voices New York City regional conference is happening on Sunday, September 25th, and Queer Memoir and Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival have teamed up to bring you an evening of stories, performance, and readings from queer butch voices.
Are you interested in participating? Butch Voices Speak is currently in search of people willing to stand up and tell your quick 6 minute story. You need not have performance or writing expertise, just an interest in telling your story.
QUEER MEMOIR IS an opportunity to give voice to our collective queer experiences, and preserve and document our complex queer history for writers, performers, and anyone with a queer story to tell.
SIDESHOW IS serious literature for ridiculous times, hosting established writers, performers, comics, and storytellers who have literary experience.
Q: Should I submit to Queer Memoir or Sideshow?
A: Is this a personal story written by you about something happened to you? Submit to Queer Memoir. Is it more literary, or are you a seasoned performer or writer? Send it to Sideshow.
To be considered, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org before September 1, 2010, with your name, website, brief bio, and a brief 1-3 sentence proposal of what you’d like to read.
Upcoming fundraiser in Brooklyn for the Butch Voices conference in Oakland this fall! There is a lot of information on the Butch Voices website that details the conference’s goals, what BV is about, and the logistics of the conference in Oakland in August.
Announcing A Celebration of Butch Voices…
An evening of performance, fashion and general butch mayhem to celebrate the diversity of Butch Voices with performances by award-winning gender illusionist Dred; Nedra Johnson, poet Renair Amin and dorky dyke comic Kelli Dunham. The evening will include a fashion show developed with the help of Paris Amari of the Sophisticated Aggressive Gents as well as a butch cook-off.
May 9, 2009, 9:30 PM until 2 am
109 Boreum Place
Bergen Street stop on the F/G train
Admission is only five bucks
For more information contact email@example.com