eye candy: bedroom eyes

My hot papi Jess of HouseofJero.com. She’s bringin’ butchly back. – Tina

Tina sent me three shots of her partner Jess because, she said, she couldn’t just choose one. It was tough! This one is so smooth. I actually met these two at Curly McDimple’s queer blogger weenie roast last summer (and there will be another one!), and I gotta say, they’re really sweet together. Tina’s quite the eye candy herself. 

And, uh, didja notice that headboard? Looks very … functional.    

pink & bent: queer women art exhibit in nyc

The opening reception for Pink& Bent: Art of Queer Women is tomorrow night here in New York City. One of the contributing photographers, Sophia Wallce, sent me a few of the shots that will be in her show. I love them all, but this one might be my favorite – the colors in the background are so stunning.

I first saw Sophia’s work because of her project called Bois and Dykes, which has some beautiful photographs of female masculinity shot in New York City. It was fascinating to look through this project of hers; the photos are just so familiar. She even shot my weekly happy hour watering hole and the barber I see about twice a month.

Here’s the information about the exhibit.

Pink& Bent: Art of Queer Women
Curatated by Pilar Gallego & Cora Lambert

Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation presents
Pink & Bent, an exhibition of international artwork by queer women.
Exhibit runs May 21-June 28th

The Leslie/Lohman Gallery
26 Wooster Street
New York, NY 10013
(between Canal & Grand-closer to Grand)

Hours: 12-6pm, Tues-Sat, closed Sat-Sun
Tel. 212-431-2609

Opening reception: Tuesday, May 20, 6-8pm
Panel discussion: Thursday, May 29, 6:30-8pm
Women in the Arts Speak Out
$7 suggested donation at the door

On misperceiving someone as femme or butch (again)

A couple heated comments about my last post already, and I want to make a couple things clearer.

First:

I believe it is absolutely okay to not identify with the labels of butch or femme – or any label, for that matter. I think identity categories should be chosen by ourselves, not by others, and if a label is not chosen, it should not ever be imposed.

Period.

(Sometimes I feel like that should be written at the top and bottom of every post, just to make it clear. I want to write it in all caps, in bold, in italics, underlined: I support your identity, whatever it may be, even if it isn’t mine. And I also expect you to support mine.)

Also:

I’m not trying to say that, when someone is called butch or femme and does not identify that way, that that is not a misperception of your own personal identity – of course it is. That’s why the post was called “on misperceiving someone.”

It is insulting and difficult to be misperceived, to be misrepresented. As Daisy put it: “the person saying that doesn’t understand me, and like I’ve failed at gender expression.” I totally understand that – I hate being misperceived (as Daisy also points out, I said it bugs me when people told me “you’re not really butch”), but ultimately, that too is about the other person, not about my own identity. And just because one person misperceives me does not mean that I am not butch, if that is what I am choosing to call myself.

This clarification is important to me because I see many, many folks around me, many readers of this site, many of my friends, who tell me that they deeply want to identify as butch or femme, but are holding back for whatever reasons. Are suspicious of the identities, and are making their way down those paths of understanding how it will play out for them, in their own unique ways. I want to encourage that, when I can, share my knowledge of this identity process, and make it easier for someone else.

Now, on a related sidenote – being misperceived as butch or femme, or as not butch or not femme, is about the social policing of gender. The ways we, as a society and culture, enforce standards of gender on each other, on our friends and communities and lovers and strangers.

Miss Molly commented: “As much as we’d like to say there aren’t different rules in the queer community for butches and femmes, there are many of the double standards that exist for straight men and women.” Sure – there are standards out there, but they’re the same perceived cultural standards that enforce heterosexism and homophobia.

What I find most interesting here is who is doing the enforcing of these double standards. For example, I was in my favorite dyke watering hole not long ago and ordered a vodka cranberry with my usual bartender (who, at this point, calls me “dude” affectionately and shakes my hand when I walk in), and she actually leaned in close to me and said, “Are you sure? That’s awfully … sweet, you know.”

I cringed. Yes, I usually order beer and whiskey. Yes, the drink I ordered was “girly,” and my gender was insulted there, underneath that comment. But: this is about her, not about me. As I joke, sometimes: “I’m man enough to wear pink” – I’m also man enough (ahem, “man” enough, I should say) to order a cosmo or a midori sour or a vanilla vodka cranberry with a cherry if I want one. Yes, I know it’s a sweet drink. I’m aware of what I ordered, and I wouldn’t have ordered the drink if I didn’t want it.

Ultimately, that comment was about the bartender, and her ideas about how gender framework operates, not about me or how I operate. It is not her – or anyone’s – responsibility to police what they perceive to be my gender performance, and I’m at a point in my gender process and identity won’t let anyone else do it for me.

My point about that is this: Who is it that is making these “double standards?” Who enforces them? I read all sorts of things from all sorts of personal online diaries, articles, personal ads, queer media, books, gay culture – and everywhere I hear the same stories about butch and femme: those who don’t identify with butch and femme feel like they are being pushed to do so, and those who do feel like outcasts, like gender freaks who don’t fit in.

That’s a little heartbreaking to me, every time I get my Google alert with gender keywords in my inbox: yet another email full of “Femme women are noticeably less deviant and have a socially acceptable appearance,” and “a rigid and artificial dichotomy of male/butch/top/dominant and female/femme/bottom/submissive” and “the idea of ‘butch‘ and ‘femme’ is as frakked up as Albuquerque driving” and “all butches want to become men” and “I’m butch I suppose, but I’m no guy” and “all that boy/girl butch/femme crap – it’s not real!”

All over the lesbian/queer/dyke communities – my communities – I see people railing against this, from many perspectives. All I’m trying to do here is share my own stories and my own perceptions, illuminate the process a little bit, discuss it, open it up

I want to also echo Lady Brett’s comment: “If it does piss you off, it’s probably a matter of misperception. So, please, tell me. Give me the chance to fix it before you get offended.”

Yes. Please do tell me if I misperceive your identity. Tell anybody, when they misperceive any sort of identity of yours, not just in your gender identity. I’m not trying to blow off the misperception and to encourage you to just let them go on thinking you’re butch/femme/whatever – it is insulting! and, ultimately, inaccurate. Which makes us not feel seen, not feel acknowledged, not feel validated.

What I’m really getting at with that last post is the times when someone is misperceived, really in any way, and they are deeply insulted by it. There’s more to it than just “you don’t see me as I really am” – there’s this big set of implications because of those loaded words.

But again, I want to stress, I really believe that any misperception and insult is about the other person, not about me or my identity – and I do believe this goes both ways, being perceived as butch or not butch or femme or not femme or foreign or local or a hippie or a punk or bi or trans or anything that we don’t actually identify as.

Maybe I’m getting too Buddhist in my philosophies here. I was just reading Be the Person You Want to Find by Cheri Huber, and I’m feeling those philosophies seeping into my opinions on these subjects.

Identity categories are so personal, so intimate – and the theory around them is so slippery! I mean, if anyone can identify as anything, if social policing means nothing, then what is the real meaning of an identity label? Some theorists would say, ultimately, it’s all basically meaningless. I can get there, can understand those arguments – but I also know what it feels like to be inside of these identity categories, and to know precisely how it works for me, how it’s given me a beautiful structure in which to tinker and fuck around and play.

These topics are really difficult, and anytime I post something that gets heated and emotional, I always take the comments very seriously, and consider my points even harder. I am not claiming to speak for everyone here – man, that is one of the best things about blogs, is immediate discussion and feedback and comments like this. I’m only speaking from my own perspective about my own experience, with hopes that it occasionally is helpful to others. Speaking of the round-bellied-guy, I want to echo a quote from the Buddha that I’ve got hanging on my fridge, and was reminded of this week:

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

On misperceiving someone as femme or butch

I often have conversations with folks who say that they have been perceived femme or butch, and they really don’t like it. That tweaks me a bit, for various reasons, not the least of which is that I spent years flat out telling people, “I identify as butch,” and I would still get the response, “oh, you’re not that butch,” or “you’re not really butch.”

These identities are deeply socially constructed and policed, on all sides – those of us who do claim them, those of us who don’t. They’re loaded, complex, and largely misperceived.

Calling someone femme or butch is not necessarily intended to be insulting – sometimes, it is meant with much love and praise. But if you don’t identify as such, it can feel insulting, regardless of the intention.

This happened again recently, and it got me thinking: here’s why it doesn’t have to feel insulting, regardless of the intention.

1. This is about them, not you

Maybe you don’t identify as “femme” or “butch” at all, maybe you see those labels as confining to who you are and how you want to express yourself. Great! Good for you. Celebrate your whole self, in any way you like, you betcha.

[Hopefully you simultaneously realize that it’s possible for others to find liberation and freedom inside of those categories, too, and that you don’t force your philosophy of rejecting gender identities onto others. But that still never means that you have to work within that framework.]

This other person calling you these things may simply be working within the framework where they see everyone on the feminine side of the gender galaxy as femme, and everyone on the masculine side as butch.

But ultimately that is not about you – that’s about their framework. That doesn’t make your framework wrong, and that doesn’t make your perspective, presentation, or philosophies any less valid.

This is about them, and their worldview, not about you and yours.

2. Misconception of the terms

My gender-activisty self gets my boxers in a twist, because being called femme or butch is NOT AN INSULT.

These words are loaded – I get that. And sometimes, it can actually be intended as an insult – but we don’t have to take it that way.

But think about what we perceive someone else to be implying when they call us butch or femme. Where is that coming from? Who is filling that in?

It’s like someone calling you a dyke or a fag or a queer. The person slinging the insult could mean deviant, sinner, immoral, freak, but those of us who have reclaimed these words can look beyond that to laugh it off and say, “yep, that’s me. Gotta problem with that?” (Clearly, they do have a problem with that. But that’s not your problem, it’s theirs.)

Same with butch and femme: these words have deeper, personal meaning to some people, and it’s possible to take the time to go inside of the words and figure out what they hold, figure out their power and their detriments. If we knew more about the way these words worked from the inside, perhaps we would get to a place when calling someone – who doesn’t identify as one of these terms (more on that in a second) – femme or butch doesn’t make us bristle and cringe.

Because it doesn’t have to.

Here’s my basic thoughts on what we think it means when someone calls us femme or butch:

a) Femme does not mean whiny, controlling, manipulative, vulnerable, stupid, weak. Butch does not mean insensitive, thick-headed, macho, violent, emotionally stunted, controlling. Those are sexist misconceptions, and we don’t have to use those categories that way.

b) Just because you look one way one day, doesn’t mean you can’t look a different way another day. Gender is fluid, identity categories are fluid. Unless you’re chosing to identify as one of these categories, no one else can put you into these categories for you.

So, maybe this person calling you “femme” actually does mean that they think you’re weak, controlling, etc – well, then, so what? They are inaccurate on two accounts – i) that’s not what femme means, and ii) that’s not who you are (I am assuming).

They might be implying that they think you’re a high-maintenance bitch, or a thick-headed lug, but that doesn’t mean that you are. That’s just a downright insult couched in genderphobia, and you can call them on their ignorance, not take it so personally, and move on with your life.

3. Identity vs Adjective

We severely lack language to describe gender, and since we largely perceive gender to be a spectrum of masculine/feminine, butch/femme, male/female, calling someone femme or butch is simply an adjective – a way to describe which side of the binary gender scale they are perceived to fall on.

(I wish we had names for all the gender galaxy quadrants and solar systems and orbits and such, but they’re almost too big, too multi-faceted, to categorize and map. Goodness knows that won’t stop me from trying …)

In my opinion, identity categories can only be chosen by those they are describing. I think this applies in various socially charged identities – race, gender, sexuality, class, nationality.

The only time someone calls me butch and it is an identity, not an adjective, is when I myself have chosen butch as a way to describe me.

Again, the speaker here could actually mean it as an identity – but that’s about them, not about me.

Often, describing someone as femme or butch is a simple observation of their physical style – short hair vs long hair, slacks vs a skirt, heels vs boots. (Sometimes it’s much more suble, of course, as someone wearing short hair, slacks, and boots can be seen as femme.)

Usually, I’ve found the use of this word as an adjective is not entirely inaccurate (at least, not at that particular moment). The problem is that it is implying all these other things about behavior and gender performance that are then perceived to be ongoing and permanent within that person, and that’s just not true.

This is precisely the reason why I use the words to describe someone that they chose for themselves, and if I don’t know how they identify, I don’t assume.

So, in conclusion:

It really doesn’t have to be an insult, and using those terms as an insult is, in my opinion, a sexist misunderstanding.

Just because someone else doesn’t understand these categories, doesn’t mean that you don’t – even if you reject them. No need to take it personally, no need to educate them in their misconception – just let it go, don’t let it bother you, move on.

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: Butch Identity & Misogyny

4. leo asked: i have a question about butch identity. you’ve written so eloquently about the concerns you faced in reconciling feminism and your gender identity, and especially about rejecting misogyny as a necessary element of masculinity. but you’ve also written that you wanted to throw up (i think?) when someone first called you butch. was that all about feminism? if not, what other feelings (positive or negative) and concerns have been central to the development of your sense of butch identity/female masculinity? did it frighten you at all, apart from the feminism issue, or was it love at first sight, or some combination?

I definitely had a love/hate relationship with what I perceived to be butch identity in the beginning. It appealed to me, but at the same time I saw such misogyny and disrespect coming out of these butches mouths – often the very objectification and trivialization of women that felt so reminiscient of the stories I heard in feminist classes and texts. But, at the same time, I wanted to be more masculine than I presented – I was just very torn about how that identity would be possible without the deep misogyny.

It was the first girl I was in love with – a femme, who, when we were discussing gender, whispered in my ear, “I think you’re butch.” And I did want to throw up a little, but also felt like I’d probably come right then & there if she put any single finger on me. The feeling of sickness and fear was about being seen, being visible, having tapped into something that I wanted so deeply that I was afraid to let anyone know I wanted it at all, for fear of failure I suppose. It wasn’t so much that I was afriad of the identity itself, but I was afraid that it wasn’t me or that I wanted something unreachable.

The feminism confliction with my butch identity was actually a very short-lived argument in my head. Of course I can be butch and be a feminist. Of course I can display and embody a sort of intentional, respectful masculinity. But then: how?

I did have to re-invent masculinity for myself – I actually used to make long lists of “masculine traits” or interests or hobbies, and I had a system of symbols (stars, circling, highlighting in different colors) that would denote different aspects of the identity – things I already was, things I wanted to be, things I rejected about masculinity in general, things that masculinity could be but that I didn’t want for myself.

In the beginning, I distinguished heavily – and still do – between ideas of “external gender” and “internal gender” (for lack of better terms, at the moment at least). External gender meaning what I put on my body, my clothes, my haircut, my physical communication, my physical presence. Internal gender, then, meaning emotional styles, interests, hobbies, personality – I don’t believe those things are or should be dictated by gender.

Gender theorists don’t believe that there’s any sort of “innate” gender, something that comes from inside – but that doesn’t seem to be how most people really experience gender. “I just know,” they say. “I just feel butch,” or “I just feel femme,” or “I just feel like a woman.” Theorists would say there’s no such thing as a woman, actually. But that experience doesn’t necessarily translate to praxis – putting theory into action.

I actually think there is some sort of “gender energy,” something that comes inside of someone that will tell you that’s a butch in a dress or that femme sure looks tough in those overalls, installing those 2x4s. I’m not sure how this is different than “internal gender” or innate gender, but I do think it is slightly different.

That’s a bit of a tangent. Back to your question:

Another reason why butch was difficult for me was because I had very few representations of butch, and what little I did have I basically flat-out rejected. Why would I want to emulate something, to be something, that I had no good model for? But somehow, I persisted in this, I recognized some sort of value in the identity – and some sort of me in the identity – even if I wasn’t sure how to identify it, or identify with it.

I think a huge part of this is because we, as a culture, still need a masculine revolution – a remaking of masculinity much as we’ve had a (successful!) remaking of femininity since the Second Wave feminist movement.

And honestly? It’s no small feat, and it sounds kind of pie-in-the-sky, or maybe cocky as hell, but that’s part of what I consider myself to be doing by claiming a butch identity: revolutionizing masculinity.

eye candy: “Womyn in Construction” series

womyn in construction 1

womyn in construction 2
Two shots from photographer Laura Placencia’s series,
“Womyn in Construction.”
Laura adds: The two womyn in the pictures are Elsa and Tania,
a pair of lovely butches who helped me build a runway for the
butch/femme fashion show Sappho’s Return did two years ago
at the LA gay & lesbian center … and all I had to do was
bat my eyes and say ‘pleassseee.’

The Red Tie Night, Six Years Ago

I ran across some photos this week of me and jesse james and georgia from almost exactly six years ago – I remember that night vividly. Aside from georgia’s very grabable curly hair, spaghetti strap tank top, and long string of gin+tonics (that I kept drinking for her), my gang of friends – including jesse james, and Maverick – decided we’d go out “in drag” that night, which meant slacks, button-downs, binding our breasts, ties.

(Interesting how men’s business wear is drag for masculinity, and women’s lingerie is drag for femininity – clearly some cultural values coming through there eh?)

I took many photos that night as we got ready to go – even the preparations were significant, the rituals of masculinity, hair slicked back, knotting and re-knotting my tie. It was one of the first times I wore a tie and packed out in public; in the photos I’m wearing a black shirt, black slacks, and red tie. I’m not even sure where I got that tie, now that I think about it. It just seems like I’ve always owned it. A red tie, solid – my favorite.

Interesting how, then, it was drag, it was rare, it was deliberate performance – I was so self-conscious going out like that, I felt stared at, noticed, in a new way. And I was, particularly by georgia’s attention, the clear lust in her eyes and fingertips as I lit her cigarettes and held her drinks and attempted to kiss her (with little luck – she had a girlfriend back then).

Looking at these photographs from six years ago, though, I catch a glimpse of the gender I grew into – I don’t always recognize myself in photos from that time, but in those … yeah, I think, that’s me.

It took such a long time for me to come to comfortably sit in this butch identity, for me to (if we’ll continue the metaphor) navigate the gender galaxy, and find a comfortable orbit around an identity label. Some of us don’t ever settle into that – some of us are radical little spaceships that explore treasures from all sorts of different worlds and words that we orbit. I guess the trick is, in my opinion, to simply find the routes that are the best to navigate (not necessarily the easiest, but the most satisfying), the orbits where there is plenty of oxygen, the alliances that create treaties and share resources and have excellent adventures.

We basically have to make our own gender galaxy maps. And while some gender mapmaking tools – queer theory, gender theory, postmodern theory, queer literature, smut and the language of lesbian desires – while some tools help immensely, I still couldn’t quite escape the praxis, the application of the theory, because of the ways that the social constraints and social policing affected my own process deeply.

The same friends who went out with me on that infamous red tie night – jesse james & Maverick – were very influential, and I had a lot of criticism about how they performed their own flavors of female masculinity. I don’t remember a lot of discussions about the label/term/identity of ‘butch’ specifically, but we definitely knocked the term around sometimes – mostly I remember saying, “I don’t know. If I’m butch, then am I all these other things that come along with compulsory masculinity – like misogyny?”

I remember one particular time when jesse james and Maverick were joking about attending a community class for and about femmes – identity, privilege, passing, visibility. And they kept speaking of it like it was a place to go pick up chicks – I eventually snapped at them: That’s a special place for femmes! That’s not a convenient pick-up ground! You’re like the boys who heh-heh-heh and sign up for women studies.

[I know it says “women studies” and not “women’s studies,” and that’s deliberate. The apostrophe implies that these studies belong to women, that it is women who study them. When it’s women studies, singular, then the implication is that it is the study of women. This is how my undergraduate Women Studies department operated & how I still describe that particular academic discipline.]

I’m not sure if they got it; maybe they did. I quickly gained the reputation as the hard-core feminist of the gang, and jesse james especially loved to push my buttons about it, to get a rise out of me, to make me laugh, to frustrate me with a scenario. They used to tease me endlessly.

But looking back at it, it was an integral part of my gender identity development. Because feminism, and deep respect for women, and deep rejection of the “oppressive male gaze” and gendered hierarchy, came first, I was terrified of objectifying women, of disrespecting women – and, most importantly, of adopting misogyny as part of a masculine identity. And I kept wondering, over and over: If I reject misogyny as part of masculinity, part of “butch,” then what’s left? Masculinity is, in so many ways, simply defined as not-woman; what else does that identity hold? And what does it mean for me to adopt it, to become it, to be it?

My solution, at least temporarily, was that I could look butch – hence the ties and button-downs and packing – but that I would maintain my hard-core feminist values, my inner emotional landscapes, my interests and personality traits. I didn’t know how far I could take this new idea of a masculine gender. For years, my friends & peers would say, “well, yeah, but you’re not really butch.” I didn’t like that, but I didn’t know how to only pick and choose the traits that I wanted, intentionally, within masculinity. I didn’t know it would mean to have be butch in other ways – for example, emotionally.

Even still, this puzzles me. There is something inward about gender, a sort of “gender energy,” internal traits that run through displays of female masculinity – but I still struggle with articulating that. It starts to run into the grey areas of where gender overlaps with personality, and I start feeling cautionary, not wanting gender to dictate things like hobbies and interests.

I’d like to figure this out, though. It’s on my list of Things to Explore Further.

Incidentally, jesse james – formerly known as The Closet Musician here on Sugarbutch – was known as Ice (from Iceman) back then; Maverick and Ice even had flight suits for Halloween one year. Then we had Mitchell, who joined our gang on occasion, and there were the femmes, Pepper (Maverick’s girlfriend and, later, wife) and Lola (who I was madly head-over-heels about). Who knew all those nicknames were such fabulous practice for anonymous writing?

I never had a nickname that stuck, I always wanted one. Perhaps that’s part of why I created Sinclair all these years later.


Donate to RAINN & let ‘em know I sent you – add “GBBMC2008: Mr. Sinclair Sexsmith” in the information box. (Why?)

The personal ad I’m not posting

You:

Tree-climbing dirty jeans and sneakers femme. Frisbee in the park and a picnic femme. Jogging in the rain femme. Dancing sober all night femme. Occasional martinis at home because it’s Tuesday femme. The come-fuck-me-now-eyes femme. Take me down femme. Turn over now femme. High heel shopping on a Saturday with lattes femme. Custom made jewelry femme. Beliefs and convictions and spiritual femme. Deep values of care and kindness femme. Recognition of your own shit femme. Able to articulate where you’re coming from femme. High sex drive femme. Occasionally needs to get roughed up femme. Always has a safeword femme. Just as comfortable in Chucks as you are in Maddens femme. Garter belt femme. Toolbelt femme. Brings me to my knees femme.

Me:

Chivalrous feminist butch. Suit coats and ties and wingtips butch, khakis and polos at work butch. Boycut #4 butch. Takes you out, then takes you down butch. Up against the wall in dirty alleys butch. Under the table at a fancy restaurant butch. Knows how to wield a paddle butch. Knows how to drive a stick butch. Packs most weekends butch. Always has a pen and a rock on me butch. Carries your shopping bags, opens your doors, offers my jacket butch. Stays up late talking or fucking or both butch. Love notes at work butch. Butler and Halberstam and Rednour and Hollibaugh and Bergman and Califia and Queen butch. Rich and Clifton and Siken and Oliver and Hafiz and Ackerman and Doty butch. Dapper dandy faggy butch. Hardcore respectful high butch.

Us:

Slow and steady love. Intentional, honest, and kind love. Responsible, passionate love. Both grounded and floating love. For each other and for ourselves love. Able to walk away at any time and be okay love, but we don’t, we stay because we want to love.

(I haven’t yet given up that you are out there.)

I like to pack

… and Ivan E. Coyote does too.

From ivanecoyote.com: Ivan Coyote was born and raised in Whitehorse Yukon and is the son of a welder and the daughter of a government worker. Ivan is the author of three collections of short stories, a monthly columnist for Xtra West, and a CBC lovechild. Ivan’s work has also appeared in the National Post, the Georgia Straight, Geist, Shared Vision, Nerve, and Curve Magazines. Ivan’s first and truest love is live storytelling, and over the last ten years she has become an audience favourite at music, poetry, spoken word and writer’s festivals from Anchorage to New York City.

I came across Ivan in the queer spoken word circuits of the Northwest, Seattle and Vancouver primarily, and have seen her perform in various places, devouring every book of hers I can find. Ivan grew up in Canada not far from where I grew up in Alaska, and much of the landscape of his stories are familiar and very home-like to me, with which I really connect.

He goes by either she or he pronouns – “whatever you’re comfortable with,” I’ve heard him say – and is an incredible storyteller, the best I’ve ever seen. I highly recommend the CD You’re a Nation that she made with Richard Spencer. Download a few mp3s of Ivan’s stories from the CBC’s website.

And, in case you can’t tell by the video, he’s quite handsome.

(Thanks to Kim for the link to the youtube video.)

march masthead: bringing butch back

A few weeks back, Muse & I went to a meditation group and I held her jacket for her when we were heading outside. She dipped down to let me more easily slide the coat up onto her shoulders, and I laughed.

“You’re not supposed to move,” I said. “Just let me do the work. This chivalry thing is designed to make you look good.”

She laughed too. “Ah, right. How would I know that? Nobody holds my coat for me. You’re bringing butch back.”

I like that. I like the alliteration, three b’s in a row, and the second epitrite of poetic meter in the phrasing. I really can’t take credit for bringing butch back – honestly, I don’t think it ever went anywhere, I think if anything it just went a bit underground during the gay and women’s rights movements, and many folks are now reimerging to problematize and celebrate gender, myself included. And youth these days are more open to gender and sexuality differences than we ever have been, so aside from some old-school activists coming out of the woodwork, the youth also have a hand in opening up these conversations, refusing to be limited by labels or definitions, and yet finding value in the historical contexts of labels and words as well.

Chivalry is deeply feminist to me. When in femmes, I expect femininity to be deliberate, done with the whole knowledge of the compulsory heteronormative restrictions which dictate that women must be and do certain things, particular that we must wear high heels, delicate cloth, restrictive clothing. Femininity is not made for comfort or movement, it is made to accentuate the sexualization of a woman’s body – and that’s why things like holding her doors open (so she doesn’t dirty her white gloves or expensive manicure), pulling her chair out (so she doesn’t have to awkwardly move a bulky piece of furniture, and risk getting it caught on her skirt or stockings and ripping something) or holding her coat (so she doesn’t have to reach around and risk ripping the tight seams in her shoulders or upper back) are necessary to me, as an acknowledgement of how restrictive femininity can be, and of how difficult it is to walk around the world in these clothes, as a celebration of the beauty of femininity on the body, and with deep respect for the courage to costume and perform femme to begin with.

There’s a long history of these gender roles, these accentuations of the body as a flirtation, as a mating ritual, as peacocking, to attempt to attract a lover.

All this is to say, I’m really not taking credit for “bringing butch back.” But I like the phrasing, and I’d like to think that I’m encouraging it. I’ve written it before (& I’ll write it again): I would never tell someone what their identity is, I would always wait for them to tell me how they choose to identify. But because I’ve found such play and liberation and fun and self-empowerment inside of butch, I do want to encourage and support it.

So, I made a masthead. Those are my hands and the bird tie, in a portrait taken last summer by Bill Wadman. With a nod to dooce, in theory the mastheads will rotate monthly with a different tagline. 

I tend to follow the wheel of the year, so I wish you a happy spring equinox today:

The Spring Equinox celebrates the return of life and growth to the thawing earth.  For the first time since the Fall Equinox, the time of light and dark in a single day are equal. From this day forth, Spring will arrive, and with her, a wild spurt of growth begins. Shoots of young grass appear, leaves sprout on trees, birds and their songs return. Winter and the dark time have finally been put behind us, and the season of growth has begun. This holiday is truly a celebration of life and nature.

Since the Spring Equinox represents new life and growth, this is the perfect holiday for planting seeds of your own on the path of your life.  New ventures may be aided by the spirit of life and growth that abound, and many people decorate eggs at this time with symbols of fertility. All is new and possible. In addition, this holiday is an ideal time to break the last of the chains that may halt our growth.

So that’s what I’m thinking about today: what chains may be halting my own growth, and how to let them instead be little sprigs of pure green.

couple, in b&w

butch/femme, heather corinna
butch/femme couple, photo by Heather Corinna
Shannon says it’s her “favorite photo of butch & femme”

I’ve been following Heather Corinna online for quite a few years now – she’s practically infamous for her self-portraits, her personal online journal, her sex-positive educational resources. I still haven’t ever met her – she moved to Seattle just after I moved from Seattle to New York City, and while she knows some of the same folks that I do, our paths have just never quite crossed. Needless to say, though, after following her work for all these years, she still gives me that butterflies-in-my-stomach celebrity feeling – I’d probably be too shy to ever actually have a conversation with her, I’d get all tongue-tied and flustered. Ah, femmes.

jack: portrait

jack: self portrait
Jack: Portrait

from Jacket’s Girl: “a picture of my smokin’ hot butch…
I know I’m biased and all, but damn!”

Thanks for the photos so far! Send more, I’m liking this new idea. It’s not only to add a little bit of visual interest to SBC, but also as celebration of the butch aesthetic. Photos of butch/femme couples are absolutely welcome too … keep ’em coming. 

In Response to a Rant Against Female Masculinity, Guest Post by Jesse James

A response to the girl who posted that awful rant against female masculinity on Craigslist from The Closet Musician, one of my very best friends. Thank you.

I feel like there’s no way to properly respond in this particular forum that would have much of a chance of softening the angry girl’s mind about any of the angry things she said. So, what do I do? It’s obvious that all of this hurt and fear is in her from somewhere, and her default reaction is to put it back out in a hateful, anonymous add that anyone, from anywhere, in any place or state of being can run into.

So, what do we do?

Personally, I tucked right back into that slightly tougher skin of mine, so not to have my heart impaled by a hateful, cowardly stranger on Craigslist. This is that thicker skin that queers, people of color, disabled people, anyone different from the “norm,” have been wearing since the dawning of time. The one that at some point, we all have to learn to throw on at the drop of a dime, at any moment, for an immeasurable amount of unpredictable moments of attack. In this case, the one that all of us queers grew or will grow at some point: when we first cut our hair short, the first time we shop in the clothing dept. that doesn’t coincide with our biological sex. This is the skin we put on before we go into a public restroom, or when we are awkwardly sir-ed in a crowded place, or spat at, or threatened, beat up, ignored, laughed at, or when a really close friend or perfect stranger or parent or lover says some of the same things that the angry girl on Craigslist posted. This is the skin we wear when we aren’t butch enough, too butch, faggy, not gay enough, wear makeup, wear a suit, when we are insulted, rejected, fired, not hired, gawked at, thrown out or any of the other plethora of things that happen to us because people like this girl cannot or will not deal with their own internal issues of hurt and insecurity and so shove it on us somehow, carelessly and spitefully in the form of hate and discrimination. This is nothing new, right? We are just taken off guard, angry and offended and confused and hurt … again … or maybe for the first time.

Most of us aren’t counting the hits anymore, but there are some of us that ran into this post and got hit in that soft unarmed place, where our true and fragile identities are trying to bloom, for the first time. Some of us just cut our hair really short yesterday and then walked down a busy street, some of us just admitted to ourselves that we’re queer and that this was okay, some of us braved our first gay bar last night, some of us just had our first queer kiss, some of us just came out to someone and it went ok, some of us finally went out in a tie or a skirt for the first time and were told we looked handsome or pretty for the first time ever, by a pretty girl or cute boy or a parent or a friend or a stranger – and then we read this post and got hit in that soft place for the first time – and that thicker, tougher skin, that I’ve been wearing for a few decades now, that filters what can and can’t get into your heart, started to grow. And this makes me mad, this makes me very, very sad.

I wonder, even though it’s pointless, I wonder why she wrote most of everything she wrote. It didn’t really have anything to do with anything and was so careless and aimless. She just opened fire on anyone who ran into it. She hurt a lot of people.

Regardless, it’s out there now, for most of us as a reminder, for some of us as a harsh awakening, that our identity, our self understanding is just that: it is our own and it is deeply personal and sensitive and pliable and impressionable, breakable, insecure, vulnerable, real and very, very… very important. And as you discover you, you have to wear it, claim it, right? It’s who you are.

And I think that when who you are is hit with hate, go ahead and feel it, give yourself permission to react, just chose your reaction consciously so that maybe the hatred going around will lighten up and so that maybe insight and acceptance can have some room to get somewhere, and so that maybe this girl, who, like it or not, is everywhere, might learn something from you … and …but … maybe she won’t. But, for all of us who are brave enough to be who we are and let our identities free to style our hair, dress us, create our stride, our speech, and any and all of the infinite possibilities of potential expression for the identities we claim – good for us!

Audre Lorde said, “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” As a boi, butchy, lesbian, dyke, girl, androgynous, top, bottom, sister, partner, writer, daughter, friend, gardener, Cher-loving, liberal, sexy, funny, handsome, cocky, fragile, political, sensitive, angry, kind, self-loving person, I really like that quote.

And now my comment directed to the girl that wrote the original ad on Craigslist:

Angry, Anonymous Girl,

If your misplaced hatred is at all removable and you are even slightly open to things that don’t make sense to you, I (by myself) or some of my friends and I (a lovely bouquet of butches, bois, dykes, fags, hags, trans, femmes, studs, bi’s, queers, and straighties) would be more than willing to have an open discussion with you. If you promise to leave your sword at the door, I’ll take off my thicker skin and talk to you from an honest place: girl to girl, lesbian to lesbian, boi to however you so choose to self identify at that particular moment.

If you are going to respond to this letter with hate, please warn me first, maybe in the title, so I can put on a layer first.

Thanks for listening.

“Lesbian Does Not = Butch”

I use an RSS reader somewhat obsessively, and it has significantly cut down on the time that I flounce around the internet, following link to link, surfing. I save that for lazy weekends or evenings instead of doing it during my workday, and it’s lovely. It means I keep up with my friends’ writings, with interesting blogs I might otherwise forget to check. I come across new ones and add them on a trial basis, I go through everything I’ve subscribed to about once a month and weed out those that are not so interesting.

One of my RSS feeds is the Women-seeking-women section on New York City’s Craigslist – but not just every post, I took the feed for posts containing the words both “femme” and “butch.” Because frankly, if you’re not a femme looking for a butch specifically, I don’t want to date you. There’s a lot of “NO BUTCHES/NO MEN/FEMMES ONLY” posts happening over there, and I usually just skip right by them.

Last night, a new post went up, and reads as follows:

lesbians does not = bois, studs,butch, soft butch. no confused females

Reply to: [email protected]
Date: 2008-03-11, 5:54PM EDT

To all you bois, studs, butches, soft butches or whatever you want to call yourself, this is not back in the old days in which you had to dress like a boy or man in order to go out late at night without getting raped and harassed so why is it that you still dress and look like a male? Why would I want an imitation of a man when I can get a real man if I was straight. It defeats the purpose of being with another woman if I’m with a “female” who looks, acts and wants to be a boy. It’s such a turn off.

Why do you all act like you’re all that when you’re not? I realize the ones who act the most cocky and over confident ones are usually the ugliest too- go figure. You make the rest of the population think we as lesbians are freaks when the majority of us are not. Be born to be who you are, if you are born a male be one, if you are born a female then be one, but if you’re unhappy with your gender then get a sex change but stop looking like a adolescent 15 yr boy girls. Girls actually go down on you?! gross!! makes me want to gag.

For those of you who are femme who like and date these male wannabes, you have no taste LOL, have low self esteem, don’t want anyone to be better looking than you, you want all the attn or not real lesbians. Why anyone would want an imitation male or female is beyond me. Take off your beer goggles LOL nasty! you are why the rest of the population shuns away from us and we don’t have the same rights as straight folks.

If your appearance looks like you are confused with your sex/gender how can you expect the straight world to take any of us seriously? I don’t even take you seriously and I’m gay. You look like a pathetic wannabe. We will never get equality because of you. Do the rest of us a favor and get a sex change and really become a male, and if you were born a male and want to be a female then do it, instead if going in drag, it’s so fake. The rest of us will respect you more for it. Don’t be a coward and go through with the sex change instead of pretending to be something you are not. Stop bringing the rest of us down. You are not a representation of the majority of us. We shouldn’t all pay for your identity issues. Stop trying to stick out like a sore ugly thumb.

I don’t even want to reproduce the whole thing here because, frankly, it’s offensive, personal, below-the-belt punches, and I would not want any of you potentially reading this to feel hurt about this. I want to protect you, see? I want to be the buffer against the big bad world of gender-phobia and only write cool, celebratory things, yay femmes!, yay butches!, yay to people who don’t claim a label but understand why we do! But that’s not what it is all the time, I guess.

And frankly, I’m hurt by this. Me, personally. My identity, my gender, my sense of self – hell, my very mission of activism and tolerance and acceptance.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m fine, I’m not asking for your comfort or praise. I know I’m too damn sensitive. Generally, my butchness is pretty damn well accepted in my life – I’ve never had a single issue at my current job, I have fabulous friends who love me and celebrate my gender expression, I have community, I have this amazing space to write about things, I have lovers who appreciate my boyishness and have their own gender fetishes that compliment my own. I don’t feel ugly or like a “pathetic wannabe” or responsible for the inequality of homosexuals, for which that poster is blaming us butches. I know better than to believe that.

But it’s surprising. People really think this? Lesbians really think this? In New York City, in 2008? Really? Maybe I’m being naive here – but honestly the gender discrimination I’ve experienced in my life is usually about ignorance, not flat-out hatred.

I am tempted to pull the posting apart and write a response, but that idea just makes me exhausted. I’m too tired to defend my identity and sense of self and very essence and sexuality and sexual orientation toward femmes and gender and fetish to someone who has drawn angry, prejudiced conclusions about a group of people who she clearly does not understand. I’d like to write something; perhaps tomorrow I will feel more inspired and articulate. Today, I’m not even sure where to start.

This has created a little bit of lively discussion over on Craigslist; I’ve sorted through it and posted the responses after the jump. The original poster replied to a couple of the responses, most of which are people saying “you’re an idiot,” though one of which – the last one – was in support of the original post. Read them at your own risk, they’re hard to read, and may be offensive.

On Privilege & Gender (Part Two)

One more thing:

To Belle, and to the femmes I’ve dated and fucked and longingly admired: Thank you.

Thank you for swooning over my neckties and collared shirts, my perfectly messy short hair, my heavy belt buckles and swagger and the way I order wine for you. Thank you for having my favorite whiskey at your house for me, just for me, thank you for dressing up and looking your best, celebrating the costume of femininity, for putting time into your hair and makeup and outfit and shaved legs and stockings and lingerie straps that bite into flesh and shin splints from high heels and freezing legs from short skirts and the eyelash batting and the way I feel like a million bucks when I’ve got you on my arm.

I appreciate your gender expression, deeply, because I make more sense when I’m next to you. To quote Cody: “Let’s be honest: we need femmes.” I didn’t get who I was until I started dating femmes. This identity does not exist in a vacuum, and, for me, requires the duo dynamic inherently.

I have so much reverence for the femme aesthetic. Am I occasionally jealous of your ability to pass? Yes. But I understand – at least a little – the burdon of it, too, and I want you to share that with me. Femininity is assumed to be for the benefit of straight men, and to subvert that can sometimes mean consequences.

Yeah, I get tired of being on the front lines of visibility sometimes. But when I have a femme on my arm, strutting down the street, freshly fucked and we’re melting into each other, everyone who sees us knows what we are, and I love the second glances we get. I love the tiny revolutions that happen in the faces of strangers passing by.

Passing is not always a privilege. Some femmes I know have even said to me that passing is never a privilege, in fact. (I’m not sure I agree entirely, but I understand the argument.) To force someone to admit that it is a privilege is to force a hierarchy, such a power play, such an insecure I’m-better-than-you kind of move.

I’ve joked occasionally that femmes and other passing queers get to hear what straight people say when they don’t know a queer is listening. My lovers have occasionally told me stories of what they heard at work or school and I’m shocked – especially in PC-Seattle where I used to live, I never heard people saying homophobic – or even homo-ignorant – remarks around me, because I am visibly queer, they knew I was listening. As a writer, as an activist, as an observer of human character, I am fascinated by those conversations and interested in access to those places where I cannot go. Likewise, I sometimes find I have access to intimate (bio-hetero-) male conversations, where they let me in as one-of-the-guys and bitch about their wives, tell sexist jokes, or fawn over girls at the bar. A straight girl – and probably femmes – would probably not have access to these conversations.

I’m remembering a conversation I had with my friend and femme spy once upon a time, where she strongly asserted that there is no privilege in passing as straight, especially because sometimes, when she is presumed straight and then outs herself, she actually finds herself in more danger than she was previously and, I believe she argued, she’d be in more danger than someone visibly queer – a butch – because of the perception that her passing was actually deception.

I definitely see her point there, and it makes me feel highly protective and posessive of femmes, to think of the occasional dangerous situations they may be in. I still think there is some privilege in the femme identity – as there is some in the butch identity, some in an androgynous or genderqueer or any other gender identity, isn’t there? If there was no benefit, what use would it be? I suppose “privilege” here though is not the same as “benefit;” one implies a hierarchical gain within social structures.

Maybe I need to back up here. What is privilege? How do we define it? How do we know when we have it, when we don’t? And what, if anything, do we do with it when we have it? What are our responsibilities with privilege, how do we meet them? How do we avoid abusing our privileges?

Uh, I’ll think about that and get back to you. Chime in your two cents if you feel inspired, please.

Ultimately, though, I really want to stress that comparing degrees of oppression is fruitless and purposeless. Who does it help? Do you really feel better after forcing someone to admit that they have privilege? It’s one thing to have a discussion about it, to acknowledge the intricate complexities within identity hierarchies – it’s another thing to play these I’m-better-than-you games.

Passing, Privilege, & Butch/Femme

In response to what Belle wrote about privilege, guilt, and butch/femme:

I can’t speak (write) for all butches, and I do get that some of us have awful things to say about femmes and passing and privilege. I don’t know what to tell you about all of that, except that I think that it’s bullshit. It comes from a misogynistic bullying place where the one who is bullied and oppressed turns around and bullies the femme who is littler than you.

This is male privilege. This is the heteronormative hierarchy.

I don’t feel “more oppressed” than any given femme, and I resent that game of who has more hardship than whom. Division and in-fighting are ways that our marginalized communities stay broken apart instead of banded together. C’mon, remember Lord of the Rings?

Yes, butches are more visible, and therefore, in some situations, easier targets. But femmes are targets, too, and discriminated against. Hell, there are so few of us who even fall into this butch/femme dynamic – why make enemies of each other?

This past week I appeared as a guest on the Diana Cage Show on Sirius OutQ radio, and she’d had a whole segment of conversation before my part (where I performed some poetry and chatted about breakups, smut, and femmes, what else) where she was talking about “butch training,” I shit you not.

“Who trained you?” she asked me.

“I don’t think I was ‘trained’ … do all butches get trained?” I was confused.

“Oh yeah,” she answered.

“What about femmes?”

“Oh, no, they don’t need to be trained.”

Oh man, did my mind boggle. I don’t think she’s right about that, but let’s say, for a minute, that she is. In what do we need training? Was I doing something wrong? Did I need to be trained? Had I already been, and didn’t know it? Who had trained me?

“I’m not sure I was trained …” I said skeptically.

“Yeah, true, you’re a chivalrous butch. An old-school butch,” she said, as if this meant maybe I didn’t need ‘training’ after all?

“Yeah, I am. And a feminist, hardcore.” But I kept thinking. “Maybe my first big love trained me,” I said. She was the first femme I knew and she whispered in my ear, I think you’re butch, and I came a little and threw up at the same time. I watched how she wished her girlfriends would treat her and tried to be that.

And when I thought about it more later, I think it was my mother, my parents, who probably most deserve credit for “training” me in the ways that I take care of myself and others. Isn’t that what we’re speaking of? How we love, how we care, how we expect the partnership dynamic to work? And, fundamentally, if I may interpolate here, I think the “training” refers to those butches who often have grown up tomboys, one-of-the-guys, with a socialized masculinity. Those butches that treat femmes – and women – and, hell, people – with disrespect and dishonor, and I think it has everything to do with the “tough guise” of masculinity.

My point is, this is often the same type of butch (as much as I shudder to sub-categorize) I’ve heard this “femme privilege” argument come from, too. And I resent it, deeply. It saddens and angers me. I don’t know how to encourage a more wholistic, human range of experience in that type of butch (again, I shudder), wish I did.


But. This is what I have to say to Belle, or to any femme who endours that forced guilt about femme privilege:

Yes, passing is sometimes a privilege, but not always. Just like my visibility is sometimes a privilege, but not always. Tell me about times it was a privilege for you, and times it wasn’t, and then ask me about my stories, too. Tell me what it’s like to walk in your shoes. Let me learn from your experience. It’s hard sometimes to be a queer in this heterodominant society, and it’s hard to be a butch or femme in a lesbian community rooted in androgyny and which associates gender oppression with gender expression.

Fuck, can’t we share this burdon? Can’t we pass this weight around, let it be a little lighter between us? I mean, I know I’m a hippie-feminist-do-gooder-pacifist and all, but I believe in the power of community, deeply.

Re-Valuing Masculinity

It is no secret that I like identity categories. Anyone who has read around on Sugarbutch knows I identify strongly with some of these labels – hell, even if all you ever read here is the masthead, my chosen categories are listed right there – kinky queer butch top – which is also the chronology of their development.

Kinky and queer came easily to me. Well, let me clarify. Not easy, exactly, but without much social stigma. It took me a few years to get out of the relationship with my high school boyfriend and come out, for example, but once I was out, I was out and didn’t really look back. Kinky, too, was generally easy to adopt.

Butch was much harder for me. I’ve written about that some, and many folks have pondered and asked me about the amount of work that I seem to put into it, as if questioning whether or not all this work is worth it. These questions asked to me are often followed by things like I just don’t get it, I am what I am, I’m just me, I don’t fit any one category.

Two things about that.

First, I like the work. I get off on it, I find it hot and engaging and fascinating, and interconnected to so many of my interests.

Also, I don’t fit into any singular thing either. I have a long string of identity labels – and even still, the whole is more than the sum of its parts, right? So even if I told you I am also a pianist, a photographer, a yogi, an Ears with Feet, you still don’t actually know me. You have to meet me, interact with me, see me in different situations, hear my history and future aims.

I wouldn’t ever force labels on anyone else. Call yourself or don’t call yourself whatever you like; just because I feel strongly connected to these things doesn’t mean I think you have to. I study post-identity politics, I understand that identity categories have issues.

I recognize that I am in the minority here, and even that I have a gender fetish. I love these categories and language that they provide when discussing gender. It is tightly connected to activism, for me, and I strongly believe in the ways that gender diversity is liberating and subversive. (Back to that in a minute.)

I run into many people, lesbian and queer women especially, who say, “I don’t fit in,” “I don’t know what I am,” “I don’t want to limit myself,” “am I femme/butch if I _____,” “I’m not really femme/butch, look at the ‘real’ femmes/butches out there, I don’t look like them.”

I would never presume to put my gender fetish on you. If I want to reject the labels and categories, or if you want to call yourself and your gender “blue” or “leopardish” or “the eleventh hour” or nothing at all or whatever, I don’t care. Do whatever you like, do whatever feels good to you.

And, if it feels good to you, I will gladly talk to you about it, explore it, lay down some of my concepts like the gender galaxy and the dress-up test and my theories on separating gender from personality.

The people I’ve done this with have generally been very interested in gender play and categories and theory, but were wary of being policed by the community about it. They don’t feel femme “enough,” or like a “real” butch.

Quite often, I find that the people who want to talk to me about this stuff want to identify with a gender identity category, but fear the social policing. Maybe it’s just part of human nature – to organize, categorize. I’ve said before, I don’t think one should conform to a label – any label, especially not gender – I think the label should conform to you.

All that said: generally, I do want to encourage more dykes to adopt the labels of butch femme – if they want to – primarily because I know how liberating it has been for me.

But I also want to encourage gender identity labeling, specifically butch/femme dynamic – because the primary contrary argument I hear to these labels is that they are limiting.

And this is where the activism comes in: I believe we need to go inside these labels and expand them.

We’ve actually done a pretty good job re-valuing feminine/female/femme in this culture, which has (in my opinion) everything to do with the three waves of the women’s liberation movements, and, especially, the Third Wave feminism of the 80s and 90s that questioned the notion that gender causes oppression, which was a major assertion of the Second Wave, and instead said that hierarchizing the male/female binary meant that femininity was inherently defined as “not as good as,” which should be examined and changed.

And, I would argue, generally, it has.

For more on that I suggest Manifesta by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards – a very readable feminist book covering third wave politics and theories.

But: We have yet to have a gender re-valuing for men and masculinity. It is starting – and the fags and butches and drag kings and FTMs are on those front lines, for sure – but it is far from full force. This is, I think, particularly why there are so many more femmes than butches out there in the queer communities these days – to quote Team Gina, “there’s like one of them and thirty of us.”

We need this. Men and fags and butches and FTMs and people need a revaluing of masculinity.

And this is why I want to encourage more lesbians to identify as butch – because the more who do, the wider the understanding of the label becomes, and the more range the label has. If we say, I’m not that, because butch is this tiny limited thing, and that’s not me, then we are allowing it to be this tiny limited thing instead of going inside of it and exploding it, opening it up.

And that’s one way to add more acceptance to the range of masculinity.

under my radar

My bottom lip is still tender from where she bit just a little too hard.

My inner left thigh has three perfect bruises in rings of teeth marks, two new, one darker and faded; she bit me hard enough for me to gasp, wince, jerk my thigh away from her mouth but I could not slide out of her grip, probably wouldn’t really have wanted to if I could.

The handprint on my right thigh has pretty much faded completely.

She poured me a glass of port, brought chocolate truffles after we peeled ourselves out of bed.

Looking in the mirror, putting in her contacts, she said, “I came so hard, I broke capillaries in my face, look.”

In The Leather Daddy and the Femme, one of the characters said, “they’re the kind of couple you’d pay a million bucks to watch fuck,” and that’s what we are when we’re together. Chemistry palpable. Bodies synched.

We made lists of things we would do if we had time. Proper dates. Dancing. Watching The Secretary (“And then we’d reinact it. And you’d be the secretary, of course.” “Oh, of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Unless, of course, she was the secretary.). Take a tour of her personal history of Seattle.

I loved the way she said yes and don’t stop and baby. Loved her impulse to confess when my hand was inside her deep. Loved the look of nervousness in her eyes when I easily attached the leather cuffs – that were the week before around my wrists – to the restraints she keeps on her bed. Loved the way she slid her leg over mine sitting next to me at breakfast, the morning after. Loved her growl, her lunge, her strength, her tenderness.

Twenty-two hours. That’s what we had together on my way back to New York. I spent the night in her bed, shared her tub, her shower, coffee in the morning, met her cats, watched her problem-solve, undress, dress, sleep.

I held back. Bit her shoulders to keep from giving in, letting go. Left marks, teeth, fingertips, where I gripped her tight, held her close, for leverage and levity and lust.

I know the precise amount of water that her body displaces in a tub. How her fist feels inside me to the wrist. The torture of her pure white lingerie peeking out from the low plunge of her dress.

We had a proper date. I opened her door, took her coat, held it for her to put on, ordered for her. Kept my hand on her thigh so I could feel the lace of her garter the whole way through dinner. I didn’t realize I was doing so until she said, “You like that, huh?”

My mouth watered. I wanted to see it, to peel that dress over her head.

Later, I did. Slid her boots off of her lovely calves and ankles and she said she felt particularly naked. I liked her exposed. I had longed to feel her body under mine like that.

She’s used to dating butches, trans guys, the female-bodied masculine quadrant in the gender galaxy. She notices all those little identity things that build me up, that have often been mysterious to the femmes I’ve dated. She notices and comments and has a context for them, a compairison. My clothes, body hair, gestures, chivalry. Makes me feel young, inexperienced in this gender, but I also feel recognized, visible, seen.

Probably, probably, I’m only this into her precisely because she’s so far away. But somehow she slipped under my radar, slid inside, sat down and made herself comfortable, poured herself a glass of wine, and had one waiting for me, too.

“I’m fifty-fifty, top and bottom,” she said. “What would happen if you were with someone who liked to top as much as bottom? Maybe you wouldn’t get bored?”

She has a point. As much as I love topping, bottoming opens up a different space in me, makes me more vulnerable, more exposed, more defenseless.

Yes, I had some sweet revenge, but those twenty-two hours were not a scene, like the hotel room was, not something with a beginning-middle-end concocted specifically with purpose and time management. These hours were fluid, thick and heavy with desire and lovemaking (there is, indeed, a reason that’s what it’s called). I loved the way she received me, opened for me, pushed herself. Wanted her to push me harder, and then she did, again and again. Curled around her like a vine. We both came & cried. Intense, intense.

Again, she took care of me brilliantly, I felt cherished. And then she left me at the airport. I haven’t cried on an airplane in a long time; it felt ridiculous, accidental, and I couldn’t stop feeling.

There is something here, between us. What a loss, what a great injustice, that we are so far apart that we cannot play it out the best way – in close physical proximity.

We are talking nearly every day. Have some ideas about seeing each other again, soon, and I don’t want to wait to have her back in my arms. Does this mean I’m thawing? Feeling through to my heart again? Still distancing myself from possibility? Someone told me yesterday that I have to prepare to get ready to be ready before I can actually be ready.

“How significant is she,” one of us was asked.

“Well … she’s not insignificant.” we answered.

Yeah. Ain’t that the truth.

There’s something here.

poll results: my ass is hers

The results of the poll, asking you, my favorite, loyal readers, how the sexy DateDyke and I are hooking up, are in.

But you already know what I’m going to report, because you were the ones who voted. (Traitors.)

You voted:

DateDyke tops me: 86
I top DateDyke: 50
We wrestle: 23

And we have two write-in votes, which were:

  • Wrestle for dominance, and loser gets to rule the day on your return flight
    and
  • I just want you to win!

Someone also commented, “I vote for your vote,” and I wondered, does that mean they’re voting for me to top, or for me to get topped? ‘Cause clearly, I’m not even sure what my own vote is. I had hoped not to lose by a margin that fucking huge, but, well, readers, I get it. I hear you loud and clear.

My two consultants told me a few days ago that I should’ve threatened not to write about it unless I won. Now that, I bet that would’ve worked.

Ironically, after the Sugarbutch Star contest this year, one of the things I took away from that was just how many submissive femmes were out there who were inviting me to top them, often in ways that were (note the past tense) beyond my topping capabilities, I felt – lots of force, domination, coercion. I was surprised, and extremely validated, that there were so many of my type, at least upon initial inspection, out there, and so excited that they felt I was capable of taking them down.

But this time … seems the tables have turned a little, eh?

I know, slightly different scenario.

I am managing myself well, I think, inside the flirting, the submission, the bottoming, in my chats with DD; I’m a bit nervous about tomorrow, but trying to re-frame that into excitement. Tonight, she told me, “I’m not nervous, not now. I’ve worked that out. I have a solid idea of what I want and what I need from you.”

Mmmm, when you put it that way, I have a solid idea of what I want and what I need from her, too. I think. But that still doesn’t quite make me feel ready … this territory is just new, I suppose.

And … then there’s the reality of what’s going to happen tomorrow, of that first kiss when I walk into that hotel room, of the spreader bar she’s threatened, of my ass – my ass, lord, it has been a really long time since my ass has been fucked by anyone other than me, years – in the air, of who knows what else, being exposed, being taken. I’m thinking, do I have pimples on my ass? When was the last time I did some hair grooming, down there? Will I, as they say, break? Cry? Or will I be able to take it, to submit actively, intentionally, to push back against her topping, to hold my own, in my own way, in a butch and boyish way?

I’ve also been thinking about the responsibility of bottoms lately, not only because I am faced with this (gulp) new scenario – it seems there are many ways to bottom, and if you’ve read the Topping and Bottoming Books (which I highly recommend), then you know something about that.

One of the common misconceptions is that bottoms don’t do anything – that “pillow queen” notion. The Topping Book calls these folks “bottom-less pits,” those who want and need and take and don’t offer anything up, don’t match their top’s energy and hold their own.

I know this feeling as a top, but I am not as experienced of a bottom, these days – I want to avoid this, if at all I can.

It’s the difference between this active submission, intentional surrender, and some other form of just taking from a top … and I can feel it, energetically, but I’m not sure how else to pinpoint. This is reminding me of this post of Dacia’s over at Live Girl Review and that look in Legs’s eyes … clearly, though she is submitting, she is very powerful, present, active, working just as hard as her top. Gorgeous.

I’ve had a lot of comments, emails, and conversations, on & offline, from folks who follow Sugarbutch, about the notion of bottoming and butchness, especially for those of us whose butch identities are intertwined with a top identity.

I am not stone, have never been stone, and usually like and expect to get off during sex in some way. But that’s not to say that my sexual satisfaction is defined by my own orgasms – in fact, that’s not usually what makes me feel satiated after an interaction. Usually, it is the pleasure of the femme I’m with.

And, I’ve often said that just because I bottom, it does not have to conflict with my butchness. Those two things are not mutually exclusive, I’ve never felt that they are. I’ve been loud & proud about this, in fact, insisting that those two things can in fact go together and compliment each other quite well. I know butch bottoms, male subs, trans guy switches, all sorts of a range of masculine- and bottom-identified folks, and yeah, sure, have at it! You get on with your bad selves.

But … I guess the thing is that I’ve never quite occupied that space myself. And even in the past few years, when receiving or bottoming I guess I was doing so to women who did not go there, to celebrate the things that my boyishness brought to our scenario.

Certainly not in this way.

Interesting, how I thought I’d gone here, thought I’d played with this, and yet, these past few weeks has opened up whole new places to explore, new passageways, new ideas. I like that. I’m grateful for it, thankful to DD that she’s giving me the opportunity to explore these things, gender, submission, my own intersections.

Some folks have asked me about reading DateDyke’s dating chronicles, which are so steamy that she keeps them locked – she told me that she’d most likely grant permission, you’ll just have to ask nicely.

Also, to clarify – though both Red and DateDyke read Sugarbutch, I met them both offline, through friends. I have yet to sleep with someone who met me through Sugarbutch.

Want to be the first?

Do I pack daily?

Multiple people have asked me how often I pack, lately.

The short answer is: no, I don’t pack daily.

The longer answer is … I seem to be packing more and more often. Since I got my hands on that fabulous packing cock, it’s been easier to pack discreetly and comfortably, so I’ve done it increasingly.

I used to pack only when I had a hot date and having sex was a possibility; that began changing six or so months ago, when I began packing occasionally when going out, just for the boost of cock confidence.

I can see why it may seem that I pack often though. The narrators in my stories nearly always pack, and I do speak of my butch cock frequently. But I don’t pack in my daily life, and I would say I’ve never packed and gone to work (rather, I’d bring my cock and put it on at the end of the day) but that’s not a true statement anymore, because today, I am packing, and at work.

I did not choose the Silky cock I can actually use, rather I am wearing a flaccid cyberskin “mr. softie” cock that does not get hard and is made only for the purposes of tucking into undies, to feel the weight of something between the legs, to perhaps pass a hand squeeze upon inspection, or maybe to surprise someone I may brush up against.

Generally, I do not feel that I’m “missing something” when I don’t pack. I don’t really think about it, in fact. I think of a cock as part of my sexuality, primarily, and part of my gender secondarily, I suppose – I love the ways it plays with gender while I’m in the midst of sex, but I don’t know if I want to add it to my daily navigation-of-the-world type of gender.

This is one of the reasons why it is hard for me to wear suits to work functions, such as my holiday office party which happened last week. Last year, I wore a suit (it is formal, ties required) and I felt so very exposed. It’s not as if I am not visible or out at work, both are true; and I wear the men’s “corporate casual” office uniform, primarily consisting of polos, button-downs, and slacks; but somehow, a suit crossed over into a sexual presentation of my gender identity.

It was better this year – more comfortable, more of a gender thing and less sexual. I am simply more comfortable at workhaving been here nearly two years rather than it being my first major party, as was the case last year. I fit in better, I know more people, I can hold my own in conversations. I’m not the new guy anymore, which is nice, and I even have some authority of my own.

Back to the softie cock I have carefully tucked away into my briefs today like a present.

I was chatting with DateDyke this morning for a bit, primarily attempting to knock down her gloating at being currently five votes away from owning my ass, and she mentioned that she was particularly fond of those little softie cocks.

“It’s a teaser,” she wrote. “I like feeling it in passing. It’s a nice little shock.”

I do like that idea. A revealing of the way I own and use cocks. A subtle hint at the ways that I fuck.

So, no, I don’t pack daily. Cocks are an addition, as they’ve always been, though they are becoming more and more central to my presentation, sexuality, and gender.

butch/femme holiday guide

My Butch/Femme Holiday Gift List is getting out of control. I have four pages of notes in my journal, multiple notepad files with links and images. And I just can’t seem to polish it up enough to finish, and fuck, time is running out.

So, I’m going to pick five.

Gifts for the butch-leaning gal in your life:

Engraved hidden message collar stays
From Red EnvelopeI’m always losing collar stays in the wash, and these are super sweet, with messages like “You’re so handsome.” Awww.

Men’s accessories box
From Red EnvelopeBecause we still have watches, leather cuffs, chains, collar stays, rings, pocketwatches, cuff links … so of course, we must have somewhere fabulous to hold it all!

Red Envelope has many other excellent gifts, check em out.

Ties that Don’t Suck – by Cyberoptix TieLab on EtsyThese ties are so badass. Some of them are kinda spendy, but they’re beautiful, and so high quality.

For someone slightly more punk rock, consider Tomcat Threads for some awesome one-of-a-kind vintage silkscreened ties. I have one of these with a microphone on it, and it’s my favorite tie of all.

Look for somewhat slim, skinny, narrow ties, especially for female-bodied folks who are slender. Cyberoptix has many options in the narrow-tie style.

Whiskey Glasses
Via AmazonHandblown glass remake of a classic whiskey tumbler. Perfect for other refined liquors, even if she’s not a bourbon/whiskey/scotch kinda guy. Also consider a flask – even better if it’s engraved with some memorable phrase or image she will love. I wouldn’t recommend something like “to my sweetie, love, me” – it’ll be much more timeless with a personal touch, but not a personalization.

Tiffany Classic Money Clip
From Tiffany & CoEven if she’s more of a wallet kind of guy, a money clip is a good thing to have in the accessory box … and Tiffany’s engraves. Gorgeous, classic.

Also consider Cufflinks from Tiffany, there are some fantastic classic, plain, smooth sets that would be such a great gift.

Gifts for the femme-leaning gal in your life:

Perfume BottleI wouldn’t really presume to buy her her favorite perfume, or a new perfume, unless she asks for it (or hints at it!) specifically, but antique perfume bottles are so beautiful on a dresser or vanity, and hold the scents that she picks out.

LingerieOh, I know. It’s a tough one. You gotta know her size, and have an idea of what she likes – and what you like. Browse around through Princess Tamtam and Agent Provocateur for inspiring ideas.

(Yes, that’s Maggie Gyllanhall over there, modeling Agent Provocateur lingerie. Many other photos of her at the site.)

Shoes. Oh my god, shoes.Shoes are another tough one. I can recommend some good sites, but probably not specific shoes: the Red Door Store has a fantastic selection, as does Endless (and, as a sidenote, I really geek out on the navigation and interface for Endless. Gorgeous).

The Red Door Store has lingerie, costumes, and bondage gear, too …

shoe

Vintage Brush & Hand Mirror setThese are kinda hard to find; I bought a set on eBay as a gift for the Unholy ex last year (you may remember that, if you’ve been around. I can’t find the post on it) and I thought it was a brilliant suggestion. The beauty of these items alone, even if they are not used or functional, is such a lovely addition to a vanity or dresser top.
JewelryMan, I feel like I’m going with very cliche femme gifts. Perfume, jewelry, shoes, lingerie? Really, Sinclair? Somebody help me out here, leave more suggestions in the comments, please. Good thing I don’t have anybody special to buy for this year.

Meanwhile: I adore this necklace from Janet Jewelry. You can customize some text to go onto it, or choose some excellent phrases that Janet has already made, like “The best revenge is living well” or “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Super sexy.

More Jewelry … rings, this timeRings are loaded, I know, but if you can go for it, these rings from Amy Peters Studio are amazing and lovely. I want a set for myself, someday.It’s a ring set, three rings with different words on each one: Believe Dream Hope Wish / In About For For / Peace Magic Love Happiness. So they make a little sentence as they rotate on your finger.

I also really love her Message in a bottle pendants and double sided necklaces

I got some great comments from femmes about what they wanted for the holidays, so I’ll direct you over there for some more ideas. The iBuzz vibrator for two was suggested, and one last particular mention comes from a reader via email:

I am a submissive, by choice and nature. And though my butch is quite accomodating, there are some things I can’t even imagine her doing unless asked. Brushing my hair, painting my toenails, wearing a sleeveless tee, baggy jeans with a hint of boxers revealed, and Tims, donning toolbelt, hammering and drilling at my command, sweating and…wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. You get my point. In a nutshell, I want a day of servitude from my butch…anything I want for a whole day.

Sounds like a fabulous gift, to me.

I like submitting, but that’s a secret

Don’t tell that seriously hot piece of ass, DateDyke, but just between us, my confidence is slipping. She’s got double the votes so far, but aside from that … when I get around another top – a particularly skilled top, if discussion so far is any indication – it makes me all the more bottomy, all the more submissive. I become eager to observe her skills, and eager not to fuck up.

This is probably more about my psychology than my sex play.

Don’t mistake me; I do enjoy pain, I do enjoy submitting, I always have. I’ve never wanted to be the one who tops all the time. And in a one-time (or two-time, or maybe five-time) scenario, I would gladly negotiate bottoming. In the longer-term, though, I want to top most of the time.

It’s like that theory about relationships – if you talk 30% of the time, and listen 70% of the time, you just gotta find someone who talks 70% of the time, and listens 30% of the time.

Same thing applies to sex play, I think. I don’t really know what my topping/bottom ratio is, but probably something like 80/20 or maybe even 90/10. One in ten times, I’ll get under the flogger for you. One out of ten times, I’ll give you my ass. Sounds about right.

Here’s the interesting thing about what DD is doing, though – she knows how to treat me like a boy and a bottom at the same time, and the ways she treats me like a boy are expanding me, and so sexy, and I feel so matched and validated and complimented, that I’m all the more willing and eager to be and do as she wishes. Submitting is not in conflict with my identities when I’m treated boyishly. It totally makes sense – I just never quite realized that most of my submitting and bottoming experience was with the boy I dated for all those high school years. When I started dating women, I got more and more toppy.

I’ve never bottomed with a cock on, for example. I’ve never played with gender and submission quite in that way, and I want to.

She’s not gonna get away with not bottoming to me, sometime. I am salivating at the idea of that slow, hard fuck she’s gonna get. Hopefully it’ll be the return flight, though I’m not sure that’s guaranteed yet.

The other secret, if I may entrust you with it, is that I’d much rather bottom on the way up, because that means I have a higher chance of topping for the second playdate … though perhaps I shouldn’t admit that, quite this early on in negotiations. Never show weakness, right?

Yeah, that’s not quite my style. My heart may be newly behind barbed wire, but it’s still on my sleeve, regardless.

whatever you want

“I promise to go along with whatever your blog audience wants,” she wrote.

Our ongoing flirtation is continuing, and last night, I realized I would actually be in Seattle again this weekend, but only for a three-hour layover on my way to Alaska, where I was born & raised, where my parents still live, for the holidays.

I mentioned this, while discussing fisting and lube and condom sizes and butches who were not delivering, while playing with my newest addition to my cock collection, to the ridiculously hot DateDyke while we chatted last night.

Three hours is just about the perfect amount of time.

She wrote: “I would get a hotel room on international boulevard, pick you up, take you to the hotel, drop you off in time to go thru security, say hi to your sister, and you’d get on the plane. Maybe I’d feed you. Maybe not. You would be required to: 1) show up packing, 2) tell me how hot i am in my skirt, 3) beg me to be availableon the 29th [the return layover], 4) bite my shoulder while you’re unhooking my garter belt.”

“Those are not very high demands,” I wrote. “Anything else?”

“What are yours?”

“I was going to say garter belt, and packing of course, but you covered those. I don’t know what else. I’m awfully curious about you. I feel like many things could be on the table that I wouldn’t usually seek out.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you seem to be a bit of a top. We’ve discussed that before.”

“I’m a solid top. That is true. I get off on that. And I’m a sick bottom … it all depends. What if I sent you back in the security line, stretched out, sore, chapped lips and unsatisfied?”

“Ohh, fucking hell. That’d be … frustrating. To say the least.”

“Well, if I only had 3 hours with you I’d take advantage of what I wanted.”

“Though if I behaved extra well, it may increase my chances of seeing you on the return trip, yes?”

“I have high standards, but I suspect you are eager to please … I’d love to tie you up, get on top of you, use you for what I wanted, and stick you back in line.”

“I’d be eager to take you down. It’d be hard to resist taking control. That’d be a tough inner battle.”

“We could flip a coin? We could: 1. arm wrestle, 2. trade layovers, 3. ask for a blog vote …”

The idea of bottoming to her is increasingly appealing, I must say. There is something about her that makes me want to get on my knees … and I have never actually sucked femme cock.

“Maybe it’s time for you to open some new doors,” she concluded.

For my vote, I think I want her to top me on the trip up, and then I’ll get to have my revenge on the way back.

“I’m a bit of an exhibitionist,” she wrote. “Okay, I’m a big one. Ask your readers. I promise to go along with whatever they want.”

So … what should I do with this girl? What should she do with me?

[UPDATE: some of you can’t see the embedded javascript code, sorry about that. I think it has to do with the wordpress platform, still getting used to it. look at the URL up top and make sure it doesn’t have a “/#” at the end – if it does, delete it, so it just loads with www.sugarbutch.net, and that should make the poll load. That seems to work for me. If it doesn’t, sorry! I’m not sure how to fix it! Advice is welcome … ]

a little butch trick

Because I was showing off my tie tying skills, not only at the Pervert’s Saloon Tea Party today, but also at my office holiday party on Friday night, here is the video how-to of tying a tie in ten seconds.

I’m battling illness & going out of town again for the holiday, so I’m behind. More soon.


How To Tie A Tie Under 10 Seconds – Unbelievable!! – video powered by Metacafe

a queer symbol, a pagan symbol


I have returned from Seattle, and there is much to write about. Most of my closest friends in Seattle are very masculine-identified, some of them have transitioned, and I have returned with some new ideas about butches, masculinity, transfolks, my own body, my own sense of self.Also, I got a tattoo. That white star on the underside of my right wrist that I’ve been talking about for a long time. It’s visible especially when shaking someone’s hand. I love it.

I still want the birds. They’ll be next.

The Sugarbutch Star contest is so close to done, I can practically taste it. I’ll have a roundup post coming, with excerpts from each entry and links to the full thing, to remind you of them, before we start voting. I’m hoping to to a reading (“Sinclair’s” first real appearance) of the finalists and announce the winner.

what is it you … want?

I am currently working on a guide to holiday gifts for the butch or femme in your life. I’ve got plenty of my own ideas, but I want to open it up to comments: what would you love to receive?Specifically, here, I’m thinking of things that are kinda gendered – cuff links, ties, perfume, silver-handled dresser set. But I’m open to all suggestions!

Hmm, and while we’re on the subject, What about sex toys? What toy have you always wanted? What are the best basic toys to have in every collection?

If you’re feeling shy, email aspiringstud (at) gmail (dot) com. I’ll compile the answers, combine ’em with my own, & repost them.

will my cock get sucked?

I stood at the foot of the bed. Standing up made me realize that my jeans were still unzipped, belt unbuckled, falling around my hipbones. I hedged my bets: would my cock get sucked tonight? Is it presumptuous of me to keep my fly down? I decided: yes. I began to button the jeans.”What are you doing?” she clearly didn’t agree with my decision. We started laughing.

We weren’t going to fuck, I knew it already. That was okay – I went to see her, to meet her, to hang out, with only the expectation of the company of a smart, pretty girl, and hopefully some flirting.

And oh I got that.

She was stunning. I particularly liked her in jeans and a white a-shirt, hair tussled and no makeup, bare feet, when she answered the door, though as soon as I saw her lips slightly pinked and luscious I knew I wanted to kiss her, hoped we’d kiss, before the end of the short few hours we had.

We settled into a borrowed bedroom and she lit candles, turned out the lights, after she brought the three gerbera daisies and bottle of prosecco into the room with us.

We weren’t going to fuck – and this is the second time that this has happened with us, of the two times we’ve met – but fuck if she didn’t make me want. Kisses and her eyes and curly hair and the way her neck bent back when I pulled it and that little southern twang in her voice and her tongue and oh the sounds from her throat.

“I want to learn how to throw you around,” I said.

She laughed. “You have already learned that. Graduated from that school, walked across that stage, picked up the diploma, switched your tassel to the other side.”

I laughed too. “Maybe. Then I want to practice.”

There was a moment when some feeling grew from my cock up through my chest to radiate out through my shoulders into my fingertips and my timing was perfect, fist on wrist with a precise leg twist so she went exactly where I placed her.

And I could’ve devoured her, then.

I wanted to. I felt her hesitation and didn’t push it. Maybe she’d say the same of me, but I was eager, willing. I imagine that was clear.

I brought my cock. I’d showed it off at the tea party beforehand, and was hesitant to keep it on, but wanted to be prepared.

“I certainly didn’t want to seem … presumptuous.” I said. There’s that word again.

“I would’ve been mad if you hadn’t brought it,” she answered.

And, later, she said: “I want to suck your cock.”

I wanted to growl fucken do it then and push her head down, but it wasn’t quite that kind of night. That, though, was what she brought out in me.

“I would like that …” I said weakly, trying not to writhe and moan on the bed.

She has incredibly sensitive lips. Earlier, after she’d admired my various bits of (ahem, carefully groomed) body hair, she’d asked me if I shaved – it puzzled for a second, before I realized she meant my face. “Yeah,” I admitted. “Can’t really feel it now … ” I brought my fingers to my five o’clock shadow, still mostly smooth. She could feel it though. Her mouth is just that sensitive.

(Small sidenote: That’s new for me, really, that my lack of shaving or non-feminine placed body would be a turn-on for a lover. I guess it has to do with the ways I am masculine, which makes sense, if what someone is attracted to in me is (at least in part) my butchness. It’s taken me a while to not feel weird about it though – I was socialized female, shaved for many years, despite my hippie parents objections. Also, having more hair tends to be a sign of testosterone in the body, doesn’t it? I wonder if that’s related to my butch identity, some sort of biological connection? Or maybe I’m just reaching for ways that this butchness came from “inside” and not only adopted as a performative gender-bending practice.)

I don’t know when, or if, I’ll see her again, but I hope our paths will cross sooner than the last time I saw her. She lives in the south, and did tell me that if I am ever in her city and want to get sweaty, I should call her. Likewise, I made sure she knew she always has a booty call in New York.

Motivations behind my butch identity development process

Yes, it’s true, I said “how do I get THAT kind of girl?” when looking at the femmes, and have studied the butches that they have been with. But it’s much more than that. Here’s some of the other reasons.

  1. I hated shopping until I discovered the men’s department. The clothes actually fit the way my body is built – my broad shoulders, for example. I could never find something simple, plain, butch enough in the girls’ section, even when I was a kid I hated the back-to-school shopping because I hated the way my body looked and felt in the girly clothes.

  2. Chivalry: a big piece of butch identity, for me, is chivalry, and the ways that I get to spoil femmes – and other butches, straight women, gay boys, and, hell, straight men – by opening doors, pulling chairs out, helping to put on a jacket, stepping aside. This trait makes sense for the ways that I navigate the world, as a particularly strong observer. Could I be a chivalrous femme (or genderqueer or androgyne)? Absolutely, and I know a few gals who identify as such. But for me, the combination of the masculine presentation and chivalry is explosive, and particularly comfortable. I love the sweetness that comes from chivalry and the hardness that comes from the masculinity.

  3. I love the butch accessories: big ol’ belt buckles, leather bracelets, motorcycle boots, wingtip shoes, golf umbrellas, flasks, cufflinks, vests, suits, ties. Ohh the ties. They make sense to me – I know how to put it together, and I not only have confidence that it actually does look good, looking this way also feeds into my confidence.

  4. Contradiction: I find contradiction particularly sexy. I wonder if that has influenced my combination of female-bodied with masculine/butch stuff. I like that it doesn’t necessarily go together, I like that it is inherently subversive because it disrupts the sex/gender paradigm.

  5. Femininity never came easily to me. Yes, I wore skirts and dresses, but I never felt comfortable, solid, capable. I have wondered if this is because that was primarily the time when I was an adolescent and young adult – doesn’t everyone feel that way during this time? I guess I don’t know. All I know is, though femininity never came easily, masculinity has felt like slipping into a second skin, and has felt more comfortable – and more vulnerable – then any feminine expression ever did.

  6. The cock. I’ve been asked by two different places recently to write about my relationship to my cock, so iI’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. This is absolutely a major piece of my butch identity. But let me clarify: though my butchness is somewhat dependant on my cock, I don’t think the cock is dependant on being butch. And, would I still be butch if I could never – for whatever reason – use a cock anymore? Yep. No question. So, more on my cock relationship soon.

  7. I love that it is subversive to be a butch woman in this time and place and culture. I think it’s important to support all sorts of gender expressions, no matter what the biological sex of the person is, but that is actually still a radical act. Also, it is in vogue to reject labels (“they’re so limiting,” “I’m just me,” etc) in the dyke/queer communities, and if I can speak intelligently and clearly about the reasons behind my choices, I may be able to pave the way for someone else to exercise his or her or hir preference to dress or act the way he or she or ze wants, someday, in the future.

  8. Identity politics, though controversial and arguably outdated and problematic, and gender theory, are fucken hot. They challenge, excite, give language to concepts that are incredibly difficult to articulate, and are, ultimately, a sort of poetry for the inner self. I just love all parts of it.

  9. It’s hard to describe, but I just make more sense this way. I don’t know why it took until I was twenty to come to my butch identity, and why for others it happens from the time they’re toddlers. I just know that from the time I started understanding what who butches are, and what they (we) looked like, and what this identity meant, I was fascinated, and coveted that presentation. I was scared of it all, too, and stared open-eyed at any butch walking by, wishing I looked like that. I wasn’t sure I could ever really be that myself – but I was definitely going to try. And I did. And here I am.

There are more reasons to my being butch than simply gaining the attention of femmes who, I have come to realize, are where my primary compass of attraction points. It’s more internal than that, too – it has to do with the way that I move through the world, my actions on the sidewalk, on the subway, in the elevator, at the restaurant. And it has to do with activism, and social change, and smashing the gender binary, and human evolution, and trans politics, and even fucken revolution.

Butch Stoicism

This past weekend, a friend reminded me that my sensitivity manifests in this butch body, this gender performance, as stoicism. I forget that about myself. I think it is obvious that my feelings are hurt, that I am withdrawn or sullen, yet externally it appears as anger, hard walls, and judgment.I forget that’s how I’m seen.

See, this butch thing is still relatively new – less than a third of my life – and I am treated and perceived differently because of it. I’ve written this before, but: I was never “one of the boys,” I was never the athletic jock, the girl who wished she could join the football team, the one with the toy truck collection. I was the ragamuffin hippie child, making daisy chains, playing in the mud at recess and then changing into mary janes when I got back inside. I was the girl with the handmade dress and the holes in the knees of my wool tights.

Back when I had long hair, this same expression of emotion in me was perceived as something else – hurt, pouting. But now, with my boycut #4, it is stoic anger.

I changed, yeah. But I also am just the same. Don’t forget I used to be the girl on the playground that built rock sculptures and then would sneek into the library to read Jean Fritz and Madeleine L’engle and Anne of Green Gables and The Babysitter’s Club. Don’t forget that this gender doesn’t mean that I don’t feel, too.

“Femme is Pure Strength”

But what is femme? For me, femme is the confident way I move through space. It is the soft outside that couches a tough-as-nails interior. Femme is my unique strengths, the way I wear my clothes, the way I fuck, the way I create, the way I structure my relationships, the way I live in my body. And femme is the way I want the world to treat me. I love having butches open doors for me. I love having my chair pulled out, assistance with my coat, a strong hand on the small of my back guiding me through a crowd. But Femme is also the way my voice carries when I’m wanting to be heard, the way I can take charge of a situation and handle a crisis. Being femme is having a core of pure steel and being able to lay it down and be vulnerable- because of, not in spite of, my strength.

via moxie’s flickr. Any idea where this comes from?

further workshop revelations

I brought my butchness to this workshop in a way I never have before. On Saturday, I wore a button-down and tie in the morning. It has never even occured to me in the past to wear a tie (in fact, in one of the workshops, five years ago now, I felt inspired to bring my only pair of high-heel shoes for one of the rituals, although I never wore them) but this time it did, and it was lovely. I got a few compliments and I felt like myself, not like dressing up.The thing is, this workshop is very goddess-yoni-vulva-womyn. In a wonderful way, really; the rituals and energy ground me in my body, often purge some major things I’ve been holding onto. Hard to describe. But it has meant that it’s hard to bring the butch/masculine energy into that space for me sometimes, because it doesn’t exactly fit in. It stands out, sometimes dramatically. I also think it might put off some of the participants who are very suspicious of masculine energy, and who need the circle to be an especially safe space, which, for many women, means completely free of that masculine energy.

There were a few differences in recent years – I am different, of course, my butch identity has grown and solidified over the past year in a very new way. Also, the instructor is genderqueer – she even referred to herself as trans-gender, at some point, not in a ‘transitioning from one to the other’ kind of way but in a ‘occupying both, transferring between genders’ kind of way. She made me feel particularly empowered to bring the butchness.

What is also interesting about that is the ways that some attendees seem suspicious of me – likely because of my butchness – but by the end of the weekend treat me a little differently, since they’ve seen me warm & open.

I packed on Sunday. I’d brought my (pink bendy) cock & harness for the altar, but during a morning meditation I had some revelations about the ways that I identify with my genitals outside my body, and the ways that that means for me that I have worked really hard to take a good look at what’s going on for me “down there,” my history and relationship and connectiont to my cunt. It’s also about how cock-centric I – and my sex life – currently is, and after that revelation, I really wanted it on. I took it from the altar during lunch and didn’t take it off the rest of the day, wore it under boxers.

It wasn’t obvious, I don’t think – the few people I revealed it to were surprised – and I felt a little embarrassed or even guilty about wanting to wear it. As though I should be complete without it. As though I shouldn’t want and need this extra thing that is me but isn’t me, that is more me than anything else but is not a part of me, that comes to life when I am and it is touched, but has no nerve endings, no real sensation. Wanting it so badly is also a recognition of that which I do not have, of my defiency, and when my cock is acknowledged as me and touched as part of me, I am seen as whole, and I am recognized as having that cock, in all its reality – as a separate-but-connected extraneous and integral piece of me.

If I summed up this workshop in two words, they would be cock and heart.

Aside from the revelations on butchness and my cock-identification, I was consistently reminded of how closed down my heart is (was?). One of my intentions for the workshop was to connect my cunt and my head, which are working quite well, really, via my heart, which is not working so well.

My heart feels like a nest of needles. Tied tight with thick scratchy ropes like a boat moored. (What is tied to it? Can I let that drift out to sea?) Tethered like a hot-air balloon held to earth when it’s impulse is to float and lift.

Another intention was the small mantra, “I already have my wings,” which spoke to not only the ways that I needed to remind myself to open my chest, open my chest, open my chest, but also the idea that I am already complete, that I don’t have to look outside myself (Callie) for answers and validation.

My heart is not healed yet. That’s okay. I kept making the gesture when talking about the workshop of my hands over my chest, peeling back my ribcage – and that feels lovely, vulnerable, tender. I’m sore, yes – but keeping my heart wrapped up tight like this is a bit suffocating, and just makes the soreness worse.

There’s more, there’s so much more about this workshop. But this is a start.

More on Butch Identity, Mine

An old friend of mine sent me an email recently, and said I could post it & my responses.

So I’ve been following your Sugarbutch blog for quite some time now and the whole Gender Identity thing certainly confuses me. I mean, some of it I get, ok, a fair bit of it I think I get. I mean, for instance in life [my wife] is a goodly deal more masculine than I am and I’m a deal more feminine than she is.

I think you’re speaking of these terms differently than I would. By “more masculine/more feminine” you mean she takes charge, does the outward, social, money things, and you are more domestic, yes? You don’t mean that you bat your eyelashes and coo and wear skirts? She’s in charge, perhaps, yes, but that is not the same thing as masculine. That’s sexist, in fact; aligning all things in control with masculinity.

Do correct me if I’m wrong, but these are different things in my head.

When we’re in the bedroom we reverse that dynamic. I dom and she subs and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Those things are separate from gender to me, too. That’s power, rather than gender. And really that all sounds very similar to my own makeup – I want a femme girl who is extremely powerful, especially socially, partly because I prefer to be the observer, to fall back and watch. But I want to take her down in the bedroom.

However…..the extent that you discuss it…it sounds like a LOT of work. I mean really. a LOT. I guess for me I figured out who I was and my wife figured out who she was, we figured out who we were together and we have this sort of…be-ing. We just are. I mean…am I missing something?

It is a lot of work. You’re right. And here’s why, and why it’s okay: for one, the work is fun. I so get off on this. The work is not necessary – at least, it is not consistently necessary, there is a degree to which I’d say it is necessary – for just going about my day. But I enjoy this kind of exploration of sex, gender, kink, and sexual dynamics, and I’ve made a formal hobby of it, you could say.

I understand what you’re saying about how you “just are” and I think that’s great. Me, however … I have been doing a bit of a life overhaul, what with the two major breakups in the last year, and I need to make a study of myself, the way I function in relationships, and the things I want, because I was with the wrong girls. Now this is not to set up a hierarchy and say that you are where I wish I was, that your place in this is better than or superior to mine. It is only different, we have our own paths.

One of the reasons our paths are different, I’d bet, has to do with the ways that our genders are so different because I’m queer/butch and you’re hetero/male. It took me a long time to figure out who I was – and while I’m sure it took you a long time, too, I still bet you knew all about your gender in high school, or earlier. And after I came to my own gender, it took me a while to learn that I wanted to be with a femme – a femme bottom, no less. My particular flavor/brand of desire took me 25-27 years to come to full fruition.

And because I am in a marginalized place, with few real mentors, all of my moves and identities and gender development took longer, and was more complex and tumultuous than a more mainstream, less oppressed or marginalized identity.

ALso, re: this is my hobby: this is also my passion. Sugarbutch is a culmination of what I studied in college: social change, gender, writing – all wrapped into one.

One of the things that kind of threw me for a loop in reading was the comment you made that part of your inspiration was when you asked “what do I need to do to get a hot girl like that?”. To me that just smacked of what most boys go through in high school. Most boys change radically who they to get the hot girls. My friend Dustin for example. He told me once, while extremely drunk, that he used to be nice, sensitive, blah blah blah just like I was but he wanted to get laid and so he changed everything about himself. And then I read about how you want to up the notches on your bedpost. …

Here’s the thing. I changed, yes, but I did not become an asshole who no longer respects myself or the people I’m with. I became more myself than I’d ever been. My butch identity development – as related to wanting to be with femmes – was less like your high school friend and more like me finding my ideal perfect job I wanted to have the rest of my life, then researching where it was that the people who got that job came from, how they got there. I am still nice and sensitive. I will not – I refuse to – sacrifice my personality on the basis of any gender. I separate those things, actively, intentionally, in my approaches to gender.

When someone first said to me, “I think you’re butch,” I nearly fell over. I wanted to be, so badly. I wished and wished and then worked my ass off when I got more confident, more capable. And I spent years feeling “not butch enough” – and I got increasingly interested in the social policing of gender, and identity construction, and the places gender & sexuality intersect, all of that.

Re: “notches in my bedpost”: it’s true, I do want this. But it is about gaining experience and knowing myself better, not about some macho conquest thing. I tend to fall for girls I sleep with, at least a little, but I want to learn to have casual sex. I want to find out what I really want and like so I won’t get stuck in another awful soul-crushing relationship. I want to know what’s out there. I don’t want to settle.

I know that you must get extremely tired of “expalining yourself”, so I apologize. And really you probably don’t HAVE to explain. I love you anyway and that goes beyond any lack of understanding, at least by my reckoning. So this is just an “I’m slightly lost” kind of thing.

I will always gladly answer any questions, and I am flattered you feel comfortable enough to ask. I hope this explains a little better, and I hope it doesn’t feel like any sort of attack against you or your identity. This is really hard for me to articulate, I’m just trying to work through it.

broken, breaking

I walked home with my thumb slung in my blazer jacket pocket, fingering the tip of my favorite pink packing cock, the ridges on the head, mostly to keep it from poking out of my pocket. Its spine is now broken at the base but I think I could still fuck with it.But, if it’s broken, well, what a way to go.

And really, opening this story with discussion of my cock is very self-centered. The night wasn’t about me at all. Once the boundary was broken, once the floodgates were open, the last six hours of foreplay and teasing rushed to the palms of my hands, and the only thing I could do was take her down.

“You’re going to come for us, aren’t you. Aren’t you, pretty girl.”

She moaned and writhed and melted. I held her down by her wrists and shoulders and whispered in her ear. “You like the way she’s sucking your clit?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Yeah? I like the way you say yes. Say it again.”

She paused, swallowed. “Yes.”

“Say it louder.”

She resisted me a little. “Yes.” Told me later that she had to add her own twist to what I told her to say. I liked the way she took direction.

She wriggled her way from one end of the couch to the other, head eventually pressed against the arm, the living room a mess of clothes and blankets and pillows thrown everywhere. Gasping and twisting.

“Oh my god, oh, my god. No one has ever – fucked me – like this before. No one has ever – I mean ever – ohh, my god.”

She was stripped bare, skin flushed and freckled, mouth red and open, lord, she has the most gorgeous mouth I’ve ever seen.

“I like the way you suck my fingers,” I said, working two fingers in and out, pressing a little on her tongue, holding her jaw with my thumb under her chin. She bit down on the nail of my fingertip. More than once. Hard. Ow. Oh I loved it.

Those were my favorite sounds she made. The way she moaned through whatever was in her mouth. Fingers. Especially my cock.

I worked her mouth and my aural skills while her friend worked her clit and gspot for an hour, almost two. Hips slung over shoulders, arms underneath, wrapped around to her hipbones. Sounds from her throat, mumbles, delicious little noises, mouth full, eyes open.

Two butches and a femme. I was not in charge, did not orchestrate the evening. In fact, it never occurred to me that we would actually return to her house and fuck. I spent the six hours – six! – at the second bar resisting their advances, allowing them both to play with my packed cock, her butch friend grabbing my cunt, working her fingers under my harness, and later biting my neck; and then there was that moment where my hipbone place just below my waistline was exposed and the femme licked and sprinkled salt for a body shot. Her mouth so close to my cock. That pretty, pretty mouth.

Later she took it in her mouth. Not properly, on her knees in front of me, but me above her, sliding it in.

It happened the third or fourth time she was oh so close to coming. I kept whispering things like let go and come for us, pretty girl and I want to hear you scream. There was (forgive me) something happening energetically, and I moved down behind her butch friend and grabbed her short hair, ran my hands over her back and ass, still covered by her cute boxer briefs.

And oh the view from below her. Getting fucked on her back on the couch, body all smooth and soft, curves and I could see the muscles rippling under her skin when she contracted, when her butch friend thrust harder, when she found the good spots and didn’t let up.

“Is that it?” I’d ask as the femme writhed more, reacted, moaned. “Did she find the right spot?”

“Oh she’s got it, she’s got the right spot, she’s had it all along. Ohh, my god. Seriously. God, oh god.”

I liked her hips all splayed open, thighs exposed and pressing her pelvis deeper into her mouth, stomach doing that crunching-contraction thing, shoulders off the couch, arms reaching gripping pressing into anything around her, head and neck hitting against the edge of the couch.

“Move back,” I told her friend, pulling on her thighs. She slid backward a foot or so. “Slide her down, too.”

They gave me just enough room to come back up to the head of the couch. I took the femme’s wrists in my hands again and pressed them over her head. She opened her mouth, closed her eyes.

“I want to fuck you,” I told her. She opened her eyes, looked at me clearly. “I am grinding my hips into the couch right now, I want you so bad.”

She reached for my cock and gripped it, milked it with her fingers. “Ohh, that’s good,” I said. “I like your fingers around my hard cock. I like the way you touch me.”

“You could put that in my mouth again. That would not be a bad idea. Seriously, you could put that cock in my mouth, right now.”

I did. Of course I did.

I don’t prefer blow jobs from above because I like her to control how deep to take it (despite my occasional fantasy otherwise – it’d need to be layed out, consentual. I digress; more on that another time).

But. She took it. Impressively.

“Ohh I like watching my cock slide down your throat,” I said. “So beautiful, watching you suck my cock, oh god, yes, suck it, suck my cock, fuck, fuck.”

I locked eyes with her butch friend, mouth still full on her cunt, watching us. Can you fucken believe how hot she is? we asked each other with glances.

“She is hotter than the center of the goddamn sun,” her friend told me later.

She was a defiant, wily bottom, but good, so good, at submitting, at taking what we gave her. Later, when I told her I liked how she took direction, liked telling her what to say, and she told us both that she had to make it her own, I had the urge to break her of that. I want to direct her, I want her body to be my tool, my instrument to play. I want her to feel the consequences of stringing me along at a bar for six hours, of her tongue on my hipbone.

She is powerful, so commanding and present, in charge, all heart and command, that I want to take her down, I want to break her in.

Butch & Trans In Conversation: Interview with Cody

When I went on that gender tirade back in August, Cody & I talked a bit about the butch/femme identities, and I was really curious about the ways that my arguments translated into arguments for why trans identities are subversive genders as well. He was graceous enough to agree to be interviewed about his gender opinions. Here’s the transcript.

Sinclair: I’m looking over the transcript of the chat we had a few weeks ago about butch/trans identity…

Cody: Okay. Are we beginning the interview? Should I put on my game face? Not that gender is a game or a construct. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that Id joke about something so serious.

Sinclair: That’s a great place to start. If gender is not a game or a construct, or a “role,” what is it?

Cody: Well, Actually, I was kidding. I think it’s all of those things, and none of them really. Gender is whatever you make of it. I also think (and I’m going to get a little woo woo here so bare with me) that gender is also this internal thing something you feel, some, internal energy that informs you about yourself. This is obviously informed by outside forces etc. But not completely. Does that make sense?

Sinclair: That absolutely makes sense. I’ve been writing a lot on Sugarbutch about the ways that butch/femme are not reproductions of some sort of heteronormativity, and I came up with a couple of major arguments about why those genders, though appearing to be hetero, are actually subversive of the whole sex/gender binary, and compulsory gender as a whole. And while I was writing this stuff out I kept thinking, you know, I bet these same arguments apply to the trans identity as well. It’s frustrating – I still hear so much transphobia kicked around in the queer/dyke communities.

Cody: Yeah, there’s a lot of that. But watch out, we all THINK about kicking back now and again.

Sinclair: Oh yes. I kick back, that’s for damn sure. So my question is, how do you think those arguments translate? More specifically, how is the trans identity subversive? Because it appears to be a heteronormative reproduction, especially (obviously) when the trans man is straight, or dating femmes or straight girls.

Cody: Well, the simple answer is that simply by the nature of my physical body [my trans identity] is subversive. And when I am dating femmes, the identity is subversive for a lot of reasons, but if we want to get down to bones here, I’d say the ways in which we have sex are subversive. Also, here’s something I realized the other day that made me laugh: I can never ever have straight by the book hetero-sex. It is physically impossible for me to do so. If that doesn’t make me fucking goddamn subversive I don’t know what does!

Sinclair: I love it! Hell yeah!

Cody: To get back to the question: what I mean about the nature of my physical body, is actually something I’ve been having a weirdly large amount of dialogue with folks about lately. This discussion of my junk (and by junk I mean my genitals) because that’s really what it comes down to in most discussions about trans shit: “What have you got between your legs?” Which has, frankly been making me very angry lately. Because, hell, I’m not a shy dude, but when people (even people in my queer community) are asking me about my dick (or my cunt) I feel kind of well, a little put out. But then again, this is how we end up understanding each other. By our genitals and how we use them to fuck, and how all of this informs who we are presenting to the world (meaning our gender).

Sinclair: Interesting – so that equation is, genitals plus fucking equals gender presentation. That seems accurate, although I would say that’s not everything that goes into gender.

Cody: No, of course not. But for the purposes of this particular vein, yes.

Sinclair: Would you tell me more about what you said about the nature of your physical body? I’m not sure I understand what you mean by that yet. By the nature of a trans body? Born into one sex, but altering it physically?

Cody: Yes. I mean, the fact that I’ve altered or am merely presenting my body in a different way from which I was told upon birth it was, makes the mere nature of it subversive. I mean, it’s a small part. But it’s an argument I like to use, because it’s easy to understand, and If people make you feel uncomfortable (which you totally aren’t, just an example) it’s a good shut down.

Sinclair: Ah I see. And it’s subversive because our sex/gender binary paradigm says that your body informs your nature? Or – your biology informs your self, perhaps is a better way to put it? I don’t want to put words in your mouth here.

Cody: Exactly! No you’ve got it. The binary says that my body should inform everything, right? So if I change my body, I’m fucking with the entire paradigm!

Sinclair: I like that. I know what you mean, I feel that way about the butch identity, too. And that’s one piece of that “butch/femme are not reproductions” argument, definitely. That it fucks with the sex/gender paradigm, by its very nature.

Cody: Definitely. The fact that it is NOT what it seems on the surface makes it so subversive.

Sinclair: Are there places that you feel the trans identity does become reproductive, perhaps sometimes in a negative way?

Cody: There are all kinds of ways that the transmale identity can become negatively heteronormative.

Sinclair: You mentioned before that you have noticed trans men rejecting the butch identity when they transition, perhaps because butch never fit them, and yet that’s something that you have held onto.

Cody: Yes! [I did not] reject the butch identity in favor of my trans identity. It’s more about embracing it because it INFORMS my trans identity. I figured about butch stuff (re: myself) around a similar time in my life that I was discovering trans stuff.

Sinclair: The identities seem closely aligned – or can be. Some of my best trans guy friends have explored so much about butchness with me.

Cody: Its funny, my best friend and I would sit down, and he would tell me about butch stuff, and it was SO HARD for me to understand it (because I was scared I think) and I would explain Trans-ness to him and he would balk. Now, well, now we are both butch trans men.

Sinclair: What changed? Was there a moment when butchness “clicked” with you?

Cody: Well, I think we were both scared, of all of it, of identity politics. Of talking about all of this. I don’t even think we knew at the time, that what we were talking about was so huge. We were just trying to work things out with ourselves and the people we cared about. God, saying that makes me feel like it used to be so much easier before we had to worry about a whole community, too! I mean, it wasn’t suddenly I passed the butch test with myself, but over a period of time, things started happening that helped me to nurture that part of myself, and understand that’s what I was doing. The other thing [that happened was] that I started meeting femmes. Something that I had never really experienced before. Where I grew up there was an incredibly small pool of queers.

Sinclair: How did that start altering your identity?

Cody: While now my butch identity is strong enough to stand alone, in the beginning [of its development], in order to build yourself up, let’s be honest, we need femmes. Let’s be really honest and say, butches need femmes all of the time. [What changed was that] I stopped feeling so ashamed of the ways in which I was masculine, and the ways I wasn’t. I worked out how to feel less shame about being a butch, and about being a man. The man part took way longer.

Sinclair: What was different about the man part & the butch part?

Cody: The butch part I think was easier, because honestly I had more support from those around me about it. The man part, well, I got a lot of shit about. The man part made me into a patriarch. Dykes, butch dykes, femme dykes, lesbians, straight feminists… In the small community I was working shit out in, the backlash was INCREDIBLE. I didn’t call myself a ‘man’ until I had been out as trans for years, partly because of that. I identified almost exclusively as a Butch-Trans-Boy

Sinclair: That [backlash] is so sad. We need to be allies!

Cody: It is [sad]! I had this idea, that if I didn’t align myself with the identity of being a man, I didn’t have to take responsibility for any misogyny.

Sinclair: Yes! I think that’s the same reason it took me so long to come to a butch identity, because I was picking and choosing very carefully what traits of masculinity I wanted to adopt, and I was scared as hell about betraying my feminist politics and enlightenment.

Cody: Funny, when you are trans, when your gender is male, no matter your history, you’ve got to ‘step up to the plate’ about it. It was like, white guilt. Plus, being a boy is all about fun and flirting and whatever. It’s easy!

Sinclair: That’s a huge concept. So, dare I ask? How does one do that? Step up to the plate about it?

Cody: Take fucking responsibility for yourself! Stop forgetting about your feminism because you have passing privilege. I think it’s almost more subversive to be butch, or to be a man, and be a feminist, if you are stepping up to it.

Sinclair: I like that. Is this why we have a serious lack of butches (and/or trans feminists) but we have this new fad of “boi” and “bro”? So many dykes I meet who I would perhaps label as butch tell me they don’t identify as such, but sometimes do identify as boi.

Cody: I think so. I think that’s a big fucking part of it. It’s fear. It’s [seen as] not hot to be a butch, or a man. Because you have to work for it.

Sinclair: It amazed me how much I felt socially policed while I was still coming to this butch identity. All those comments from other butches about toughness, competition, objectifying women. I still get those comments – they just don’t effect me as they used to. One comment would throw me for a loop for days.

Cody: Every time someone put down my butchness, or my male-ness, I regressed like YEARS in my discovery and comfortability with it.

Sinclair: [Masculine identities are] so sensitive! I wonder if this is also what teenage boys go through, all that fag/pussy-bashing stuff.

Cody: Homophobia: the deconstruction of masculinity. Homophobia is all about the construction of masculinity. It’s more about gender than sexuality – sexuality is a part of it, but its more about gender. It’s all about ‘othering’

Sinclair: And [it’s about] misogyny. I would say that’s perhaps because masculinity has historically been defined as not-woman, not-female, not-feminine, and as the gender revolution opens up more and more places for women to occupy, and expands the definition of feminity, that the space that masculinity can occupy becomes smaller and smaller.

Cody: Instead of cutting out any way that it’s okay to be masculine, why can’t we just look at better ways to be masculine?

Sinclair: Which is why I still think we need a masculine-gender revolution. It’s brewing, I think, and trans guys are at the forefront.

Cody: I think you are so right! But we aren’t alone, I think butches are up there on the line with transdudes about this masculine gender revolution. I think we have to hold each other up. This may all sound very idealistic, and utopian, but you’ve got to dream right?

Sinclair: Absolutely. This is what I aim for, even if I feel that it’s going to be a hard bumpy road to get there.

Cody: Oh, man, is it EVER.

Sinclair: So how do we encourage the butches & trans men to be aligned? For some reason, we are often so threatened of each other.

Cody: I think by doing what you and I are doing right now: by fucking talking to each other. By realizing that we’ve got a lot in common, even if it’s scary. By being okay with the fact that this doesn’t mean either one of us is presenting ourselves wrongly. Trans men aren’t ‘abandoning’ the community, and butch women aren’t too scared to ‘man up.’

Sinclair: Well said – that neither of us are presenting ourselves wrongly. That’s a big part of the intimidation factor, isn’t it? That these identities are so fragile, so hard to grow and to maintain, but then when we see someone with something so close to us but very different it becomes a worry that somewhere I’ve made a mistake.

Cody: Exactly. Also, we’ve got to keep in mind, that for some trans men, the ‘trans’ part of our identity fades once we have passing privilege and we’ve all got to respect that. I think that the queer community has a serious peter pan complex going on. Butch ‘bois’ and tranny ‘bois.’

Sinclair: So, you’re talking about respect a seeming rejection of queerness?

Cody: To be honest, there isn’t a cut and dry answer to it (which I think you know and is why its so hard). Every single trans man is different. Sometimes, it IS about rejecting queerness.

Sinclair: Of course. I definitely agree with you about the Peter Pan complex – especially when it comes to the butch/male/boi/tranny boy identities. It’s safer to stay young, perhaps? Not as much examination of identity is required?

Cody: Exactly, and its CUTE, right?! It’s so cute to never grow up.

Sinclair: It’s safer, too. And cute means not threatening. Because when women move into a masculine identity, they are moving UP in the hierarchy, which is threatening.

Cody: Uh huh. Not threatening means no need to examine masculinity means no responsibility. “Oh! Isn’t it cute that that little butch boi just called his partner a bitch?” Gross.

Sinclair: That’s an aspect of masculinity that I don’t want to take on, that I have worked SO HARD to reject. This is why we need a masculine manifesto and revolution!

Cody: You are very right! Also, the word revolution gives me such a hard-on for change!

Sinclair: Oh, that is seriously hot.

Cody: Of course! T-shirts anyone? Also, I really appreciate you even asking these questions about how to not hate on the trans. :)

Sinclair: Thanks! And likewise I really appreciate you answering my questions! I suppose the last thing I want to ask you is something I hesitate to bring up, which is that idea about trans-ness as a fad. it is definitely becoming more prevalent, and it does make me sad to loose the butches, and I am concerned about it as a ‘trend’.

Cody: Mm…Okay. Well, I want to tell you first that I’m glad you brought it up. It’s a hard question to answer/dialogue about.

Sinclair: It is hard to talk about. ‘Cause, you know, I don’t want to invalidate anyone’s identity. But it definitely comes up in conversation; at least, it does with the dykes. Not so much when I’m talking to trans guys.

Cody: Because I think this is why butches and transmen have a lot of disconnect sometimes, this issue puts us all on the defensive.

Sinclair: But at the same time, I know people who have transitioned and then transitioned BACK, I know people who have ALMOST transitioned and then at the last minute decided not to. It makes me nervous that younger and younger kids are doing this seemingly on a whim.

Cody: Here’s the thing. I think that in some ways it is becoming a fad. Just like when all the girls in high school I knew were bi. Yes, I’m comparing the two. This is VERY controversial of me to say and if a lot of dudes read this they might vote me off the island. But sometimes I feel like my personal struggle is getting fucked with and devalued because dudes are making this whole trans thing into a big goddamn joke. Like its something fun. Here’s the secret: Being trans ain’t fun most of the time. It’s not fun to realize that you feel fucking uncomfortable in your skin, or uncomfortable with the way your gender is in the world. It SUCKS. It ain’t fun to get your shit cut open and cut out and stick yourself with a needles every two weeks for the rest of your life. But, young (and by young I mean, new to transition) dudes are making it all into this GAME. It makes me very …well, it makes me very angry. My fucking life and experience isn’t a game, and it ain’t fun. It wasn’t EASY for me to, figure shit out, to be alone, to find a doctor who would give me T, to pay for surgery, etc. Also, I think its GREAT when people fuck with gender for themselves, when they work out how they feel most comfortable, I think that’s AWESOME ‘cause that’s what I did, am doing. But don’t make me feel like shit ‘cause my struggle doesn’t align with your PARTY.

Sinclair: So what is that other part for you – you don’t align with the party?

Cody: I just got so hot under the collar. Okay, I guess what I’m saying is, when people turn all of this gender business into a big game, it’s a way in which they aren’t willing to examine their privilege. Because that’s hard, right? My struggle don’t play. My life is hard, and I’m down for it. I’m down to work on it.

Sinclair: Ah, so it’s about privilege and examination? That makes sense. That’s exactly the places where gender is the most frustrating for me, skating by on some sort of butch/masculine privilege without even realizing that’s what it is, no examination, no understanding of what you’ve taken on.

Cody: It’s like walking around with a bandana tied over your eyes, and putting your nasty little fingers everywhere.

Sinclair: I don’t know, maybe for some people this identity comes more “naturally”? I just feel like I really really had to WORK at mine.

Cody: I mean, its all ‘natural’ in a way, cause it ends up making sense and feeling like you are at home when you work it out. It takes a much stronger person to realize something about their identity, feel comfy in it, finally! After all of this time! And then KEEP working on it, to keep improving upon what is there and makes you feel good.

Sinclair: Yeah, it really does take constant work, I definitely agree. Everything can be refined, everything is a process, all that. And gender is so complicated! We live within this huge gender system, and it is the source of major agony/pain for pretty much everyone involved, in my opinion. Those places where gender is liberational, and subversive, and fabulous, they are worth navigating the fucked up system for. But man that takes a lot of work.

Cody: Very, very true! All of it. Why can’t we take the shit we need to work on, plop it right down into a comfy space, get out the glue sticks and go at it?

Sinclair: Glue sticks! I love it. I guess first we have to MAKE a comfy space, for everybody involved, right? A forum in which to discuss these things, for as many people as possible. Which is definitely one of the goals of Sugarbutch — to bring this stuff TO LIGHT so that people feel more comfortable exploring, sharing, and articulating to begin with.

Cody: Which is hard, cause we are an exclusive goddamned bunch, aren’t we? Our communities are so INTENTIONAL, that I’m not willing to compromise. But, if we keep creating dialogue and space for those we WANT to work on this with, it will bow out. Get bigger. We are talking grass roots here. But that’s where I operate best. With my hard-knuckled fists working the wood of the problem. Yo! That’s why we butch! That’s why femmes are femme! Because we WORK.

Sinclair: It’s that old quote from Airen Lydick: “Femme is knowing what you’re doing.” As in, being aware and conscious of the identity you are developing and presenting and taking on. And maybe that comes back to other gender questions I have, too, about how to view these roles as celebratory rather than confining, as liberational rather than limiting — by creating dialogue and space to explore all aspects of these complicated identities.

Any closing thoughts?

Cody: Just that this is the beginning of the conversation. Include my email address ([email protected]) and my blog address (codycoquet.blogspot.com), and encourage people to write if they want to discuss/ask anything of me.

Sinclair: Thank you, so much, for the conversation.

I top on the third date

Oh, yeah, I had a date last Tuesday. A week ago now.I showed up, six-pack in hand, at her apartment on Tuesday night. She answered the door in a black tanktop and tiny skirt, very short, kind of an army-green color, which was quite lovely for her light blonde hair and fair skin. Bare legs, bare feet. Have I mentioned this girl is beautiful? Fantastic legs. Wonderfully curvy body, still toned and slender but not very angular. Soft, still strong.

She made chili, and cornbread, which was more savory than sweet, and delicious. We ate, chatted on the couch about our days, drank a few beers. I said a few stupid things and noticed myself getting more & more flustered and un-suave. She tucked her feet up onto the couch and fingered the hair on her neck. Sexy.

We were talking about our days at work, and I said a couple things (that I won’t relay here) that made me sound kinda like an idiot, which I immediately regretted. I attempted to shift the conversation to something better, namely, sex, dating, and being picked up by her.

She said something about being silly or bold or drunk enough to pick someone (me) up in a bar and make them take her home with them, at which point I said, “well, clearly, I wasn’t going to do it,” which … uh, oops … as soon as it came out of my mouth, I realized it sounds not at all as I meant. What I meant was, I didn’t have the guts to attempt to fuck her. It barely even occurred to me that it was a possibility, she seems out of my league.

And it was supposed to be funny, like, god, it was so clear and exasperating to her that I wasn’t going to be The Butch in the situation and make a move toward the physical, so she had to do it, but that’s not at all how it sounded. It sounded like, pshaw, I wasn’t going to pick you up, so you were gonna have to throw yourself at me. Guh.

But in this moment, my head just prickled and tied itself in knots and I realized what I’d said and tried to cover my face and my embarrassment with my hand while grinning like an idiot, stupid me, god, what the fuck. She says, “Oh, yeah, well, that cute smile is buying you some time, but you better come up with somethin’ good to say,” at which point I stumbled, said something about her being out of my league, until she was nodding, saying “uh-huh, sure,” and I gave up trying to explain and shifted my body wait above her, and said, “Alright, shit. I’m going to kiss you now.”

“About time,” she muttered, and we kissed. She is a good at kissing. Soft, smooth, slow, sensual. Simple, even, though not in a way where anything’s missing. Just – clear.

It didn’t take long for us to both realize it was clear we wanted to, and were going to, fuck. We moved to the bed. She altered the lighting and the music to set the mood. I tore her shirt off. Tore her skirt off to find a dark pink satin thong.

She doesn’t let me stay clothed. As soon as her clothes start coming off, she starts on mine. It’s okay, but I’m not used to it. With previous lovers, unless I took my clothes off, often they didn’t even come off. (This is, perhaps, an indication of topping tendencies?) I don’t mind being naked, really, though, so it’s not a big deal. It just puts me in a slightly more vulnerable position than I am used to, from the beginning.

Clothes get strewn. I’m touching her, fingers inside her, kissing, holding her down on the bed, taking more control than I have in our past encounters. Perhaps I need a lot of explicit permission to let my toppiness come out. “Don’t hold my wrists,” she whispers. “Hold my hands instead.” No problem.

Eventually, we break apart, she goes to the bathroom, I get up to get my cock out of my bag. “The good news is,” I say when she gets back, “I brought my bigger cock. The bad news is, I brought the wrong harness, so I can’t strap it on.”

She shrugs, eyes my cock, slides her slender fingers around it. “I have a harness.”

She opens the bottom drawer of her bureau and rustles around. Toys and equipment go flying as she searches for her harness: vibrators, attachments, little bundles of rope, cocks, feather ticklers.

I laugh. “I guess that answers the kink question.”

“What kink question?”

“You know. The Kink Question.”

“Ah. Yes.”

She found the harness. I strapped on. It’s still a little uncomfortable to have something that large dangling from my clit & hips. I get shy, embarrassed at the way I love its weight between my legs.

Lube and fingers and she was wanting, took that big cock all the way. I loved the way she gasped under me, the way her legs gripped my waist. Scratched at my shoulder blades and gasped in my ear.

I fucked her, hard, like this, for a while. Quite close to coming, myself, when we paused again, caught our breath, heads together on the pillow.

I said, “So tell me about sex, Joy,” and we talked. I asked her about kink. Likes, dislikes? At the top of my list, which I relayed, are spanking, rope bondage, and flogging. She got shy.

I said, “My sister would laugh so hard at me right now. Look, I’ve got this gorgeous girl, in bed, naked, next to me, and I’m saying ‘let’s talk.’ Sometimes I am such a capital-L Lesbian.”

She got more comfortable. Said she has four hard no’s: bestiality, children, human waste, and extreme pain/humiliation. She’s willing to explore most everything else. I am pretty much with her there, although there is a bit of a blurry line there for me with some age role-play (dangerous, to me, but can be cathartic and hot), and pain. I like pain. I would like to play with that more. So, we talked about that a bit.

Later, we talked about kink again. What’s the difference between kink and preference? I’m not sure I have an answer to that, I’m still kicking that idea around.

She brought up topping & bottoming, or maybe I did, to say I was sorry to have decided she was a top so vehemently. “It bugged me for a couple days,” she admitted, “but then I realized that I didn’t really even know what you meant, and if I didn’t really know what it was, but somebody else recognized me as such, that meant I could be doing it wrong.”

Ahh yes, I do understand that feeling. But certainly I shouldn’t impose my judgments about identity on anyone else, & I said so. I tried my best to describe what I mean using the terms “topping” and “bottoming,” but they’re really hard to define. (Post on that to come.)

These conversations interspersed in our sex play were quite short, really, generally during which I would keep my hand on her body somewhere, or she would keep her hand on mine, and when she gave me a bit more of a reaction with her body I would increase pressure, frequency, and build the energy again until starting to fuck her again.

I like the way she comes. On her back, fingers flicking over her clit for a while, swirling, she likes the figure 8s, increasing pressure, until she gasps, eyes roll back, hands grip my arm and her body contracts and releases until she opens her eyes and demands fuck me, now, hard and I do, fingers inside her, more, more fingers, two, three, harder, and that ring of PC muscles grip my fingers hard and she groans, cries out, whimpers into quietness. After, I hold her. Sometimes we find I’ve opened something gaping in her and she gets tender, sore, exposed, and I cover her body with mine, sew it up with my fingers on her skin, until she’s contained again.

I like her in these moments. This is perhaps why I am a top. I adore seeing women – especially powerful, put-together, coiffed, impenetratable femmes – in this state. I love creating it, causing it, contributing to it, holding her through it. I love the breakdown behind her eyes, the way her voice changes, softens. I love when she cries after she comes.

I cut her off twice after that, times when she began touching my hips or stomach, making moves to get me off again. I was satisfied. I didn’t want more. It was hard to ask her not to, but it’s what I wanted. I could’ve kept fucking her, though; that, I am not tired of.

Joy asked me to stay the night, I declined. She walked me to the subway, said it was hard to see me go. It was sweet, but I was – and am – worried that she wants more than sex from me. We haven’t quite had that conversation yet, it is definitely on the agenda for our date on Saturday.

Why we need to examine our lives

I went back and re-read the article Lina posted, and I’m pleased to say, it didn’t frustrate me nearly as much as it did the first time I read it. I have various responses at the ready and I feel like I could easily defend my position & claim.

During this gender discussion we’ve been having, I was reminded of this quote:

Nothing can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own.
– Sidney J. Harris

… and I think it is fitting in this situation for various reasons. This argument of “butch/femme as reproductions of the patriarchal compulsory gender roles” et cetera is old, nearly forty years old at least. It strikes me as ignorant and arrogant and young to go around spouting opinions about things which one knows very little. These are old ideas, they are not radical, they are recycled, get your facts straight.On the other hand: there is much value in observation. And there are many, many butches and femmes who – I believe – to fully pass judgement here – are NOT using these identities as subversive tools, but rather ARE reproducing the heteronormative paradigm (gasp! I said it!).

Mostly, I feel like I have no ability or right to draw conclusions about how other people occupy and use their gender. However, occasionally I get the chance to actually converse with someone about it, and I am often shocked at the ignorance and thoughtlessness.

So, here’s what I haven’t said during this gender rant exploration yet:

Sometimes, butch/femme is a reproduction, a mimicry. And honestly, I disapprove of that. I believe that because of the grand amount of gender injustice that happens, because of the prevalence and acceptance of misogyn, because of the objectification and damage done by compulsory gender rules, we must – MUST – do some deep searching and analysis as to how institutionalized oppressive structures function and effect our lives. Especially the big ones: race, class, gender, sexuality. It is life-altering to understand how they work. I honestly think feminism and women studies played a huge role in my dealing with my depression, and the shock of becoming an adult woman in this culture.

But I digress.

This help that gender analysis and theory offers is where feminism comes in. And 1907s US lesbian-feminism – also closely related to what I tend to call “white western feminism,” WWF – was limited in its view at times, dismissing all butch/femme representations as hetero or all hetero sex as rape (coughDworkincough). Obviously there are some issues with these limitations.

BUT!

Though this may be a mainstream understanding of What Feminists Think, it is not the only understandings of sex that feminists hold. And to dismiss feminism as only viewing things this way is also limiting.

So. In summary: sometimes butch/femme is a reproduction of the compulsory misogynistic heteronormative gender roles. This is why we must examine the hierarchical structures in which we operate and make conscious choices about how we participate or resist.

And, not everyone’s participation or resistance looks the same. That’s why I try to talk to people about this stuff. Ask questions, listen, be aware. I feel like that’s all I can do, is attempt to understand the wild and precious ways we all live our lives.

thank you ladies. you didn’t have to say that*


Team Gina, Butch/Femme

I like butch girls and I cannot lie
you other femmes can’t deny
when a butch walks in, all the femmes wanna fuss
’cause there’s like one of them and thirty of us …

Brilliant! I don’t usually post media here, but this is oh so relevant to the current topics of conversation.I really wonder what kind of conversation happened on the set here. Where’d they find all these butches? Do they identify as butch? Were they hesitant to be involved in this video because they didn’t identify as butch?

And how about that part at the end, when the butch is “flaggin’ a bottom” – she vehemently denies it: “I’m a top, I swear!” – I like the subversiveness of the lyrics there, the femmes singing “I ain’t trying to be predictable, but you’re gonna have to pin me against this wall” (I would like that), but it is a tiny moment where I wonder about the reinforcement of the butch/top femme/bottom dynamics.

Really though, this shit is fucken brilliant.

* Flight of the Conchords