Posts Tagged ‘dress-up test’

definitions on sex & gender

February 27, 2008  |  essays  |  1 Comment

I’ve added a Definitions page, for a brief introduction to some definitions of terms I often use in my analytical/theoretical discussions of sex, gender, & relationships:

“Butch flight” – The concept refers to the dwindling number of butches in the queer communities, specifically in regards to that butches are now transitioning to be men, FTMs, transgender, or genderqueer. This is actually highly controversial and many people say “there’s no such thing as butch flight.” The concept can become quickly transphobic, and I think that is generally why the denial enters in. In my observation, it’s quite obvious how few butches there are in the community, and how even fewer masculine-looking lesbians identify as butch. It’s hard for me to say accurately, since I an ten years young in this community, but from my understanding, these numbers are decreasing. That’s the only thing I really mean by butch flight.

Dress-up Test – I’ve written about this in the past. For many years I had no way to define butch & femme, and relied upon what I called the Dress-up Test to gague whether which way someone leaned: if, when you dress up, you opt toward button-downs and slacks, you probably lean butch. If, when you dress up, you opt for heels and skirts, you probably lean femme. Yes, gender is more than just your clothes – it’s also your physical communication, the way your body interacts with the world. But the dress-up test is a good place to start.

Gender Galaxy – People often talk about the “gender spectrum” – mostly as in, “I’m not man or woman, I’m somewhere in between on the gender spectrum.” Looking at gender linearly, with male and female on either end, still leaves gender operating within a binary, with a grey area in between. The idea of a gender galaxy gives much more room to many more identifications. I heard this term kicked around by a few friends in college, but was reminded by Red and looked it up for myself; it appears that the term originated from the article Expanding Gender and Expanding the Law: Toward a Social and Legal Conceptualization of Gender that is More Inclusive of Transgender People by Dylan Vade, published in 2005 in the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law. Actually, just a few months ago, when I was doing reasearch on this, there were less than 10 results on Google – now there are 200. Glad to see this term being picked up!

GGG – A term Dan Savage uses in his sex advice column (and brilliant podcast) Savage Love. Highly highly recommended. As I’ve mentioned before, GGG “stands for ‘good, giving, and game,’ which is what we should all strive to be for our sex partners. Think ‘good in bed,’ ‘giving equal time and equal pleasure,’ and ‘game for anything — within reason.’”

Head on over to that Definitions page to make comments, add your own definitions, or request any terms that you’d like to see defined.

re-valuing masculinity

February 1, 2008  |  essays  |  14 Comments

Part one … more thoughts forthcoming

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.