The Seal Says Happy Birthday

We al

l know who this is, right? Jesse James‘s dawg The Seal (who is on Twitter, @justliketheseal) who probably had some help in borrowing Violet’s shoes. Jesse said, “You don’t have to post this one!” but hel-LO, like I wouldn’t. It is awesome.

The Seal says: “You is a good dyke. Please bring more rubber chickens in your suitcase next time you come visit.”

Is That 6″ On Your Arm, Or Are You Just … ?

It arrived! My “Prom Is So Gay” tee shirt from Just Like Jesse James. I feel a little weird wearing it, I feel the need to explain the use of “gay” pejoratively around people I don’t know especially. But I did wear it to The Bulldyke Chronicles (and pimp it when I read a quick poem), and it seemed like the audience understood that it is a reference to Candace McMillan.

And while I’m taking photographs, here’s a shot that caught my new tattoo in it too. It’s a 6″ ruler, positioned 2″ from my palm which means I can measure things to 8″ when I place my palm flat against something. I’ve been thinking about this one for a long time (it even made an appearance in a poem from last year, which was one of three I read at Bulldyke Chronicles).

It’s actually a lot straighter than how it appears in this photo. One could even say it’s the straightest thing about me (ha ha). It is, as I’ve been calling it, an artist’s rendition of a ruler, so it’s not 100% accurate or straight, but it is damn close. Close enough for anything I’d need to measure, certainly. I don’t need to count the picas.

There are a lot of layers of meaning to this, not the least of which is that I’m a graphic designer. Any other guesses as to what it just possibly might symbolize?

Mr. Sexsmith’s Other Girlfriend: Prom Is So Gay

My latest column from Sex Is discusses the lesbian prom scandal concerning Constance McMillan. If you haven’t been following, Jesse James has been keeping up with it from quite a few bad ass angles.

Clipped from: www.edenfantasys.com by clp.ly

Jesse even made “prom is so gay” tee shirts, which are now available at Cafepress. I’m still waiting for mine (pink letters on black) but will certainly model when I get it.

Fucking & Making Love

She looked so damn hot yesterday.

I don’t know what it was exactly. She was in an outfit I’ve seen, tight slim jeans, her girly black tank top with the silver star pattern, little yellow sweater with the clear buttons. Maybe it was her hair, she’s been letting it grow and it’s getting longer, almost to her chin, it’s thin so it’s starting to flip up at the ends. So. Fucking. Cute. Maybe it was the earrings, simple large silver hoops, the ones she’s worried are a cliche but I keep trying to assure her they’re classic, sexy.

Off hand, she said yesterday that I am obsessed with my hair. I said ‘obsessed’ was a bit strong, but I see her point. Maybe it’s not just my hair, either, but hair in general. Still, I don’t want to pressure her into doing things like growing her hair long because that’s what I like – I hope it’s okay for me to state my personal preference while at the same time accepting however she prefers to present. Because while it’s true, I do prefer long hair, even more than that I prefer her to make decisions based on her own wants and needs and personal expression, not on what I desire.

Still. Her hair was so much shorter when we met, nearly as short as mine is now; I’ve been growing mine too, going for that early Elvis look. I’d dye it blue-black like his but I really like the few strands of gray that are coming in at my temples.

I guess I really am obsessed with hair.

Point is: she looked so, so good. Fun, flirty. Femme.

We chatted on the couch after I got to her house. How are you, how’s your day, how’s your sister. Maybe it was that I hadn’t seen her in more than a day after spending many days in a row with her. I felt my appetite for her growing, bubbling up. At one point she tipped her head just slightly sideways, her hair doing this little flip on both sides, the lines of her silhouette so perfect, those big hoop earrings brushing her neck, and she gave me a little smile, eyes twinkling. If I’d been on a TV show, it would’ve cut to a shot of me, my spine becoming jelly, my hands to my face, crying OH GOD as I slide off the couch before springing up and throwing myself on her, wrapping around her and kissing her hard, my mouth wherever she’d let me put it, then the camera would snap back to the shot of us on the couch as we were before and nothing would’ve actually happened, just me, sitting there blinking, in awe, probably totally transparent and readable and ooey gooey in love. Am I so obvious? Moments like that I feel oafish, bull in a china shop, too big and awkward next to such grace and elegance, like I am certain how much she knows she’s got me wrapped around her little finger.

Oh and here I am being all dramatic and admirational again. Are you bored of this femme-worship yet? Three and a half years of Sugarbutch and I only love femmes more, I am only more certain of my orientation to them in such a specific way. Only three and a half years of Sugarbutch, but I met my first femme nine years ago, and I knew then … what? Something. The way she shocked me to life, lit up the night like a shower of sparks from fireworks.

And I’ve never had it this good. I tell myself that every day: every day of this relationship I am grateful, so appreciative of every minute we have together. I’ve not known a bliss like this and I’ve never known it to last this long.

When Jesse was here, she had a brief little snag with Violet, some conversation where it wasn’t quite perfect, but she didn’t let it phase her or lose her unwavering faith in their relationship. “We’ve always been able to talk it through, whatever it is,” she said. And so far, Kristen and I have that too – not big explosive fights and feelings getting deeply hurt, but conversations of honesty and self-awareness and accountability and care. There are some things looming, a little, I’ve felt their weight lately, our differences and complications and inadequacies and places where we need more support, but we have always been able to talk things through, even if the journey is more illuminating than the destination, even if the only conclusion is, “well, now we know, that’s how we work, that’s my particular quirks and assumptions coming up against yours in our unique relationship way. We’ll just have to watch how this plays out.” We still come back together, appreciate each other, speak the deep truths. I feel like I am heard, always. And oh how important that is, what a relief to have it in my relationship, with her.

Dacia has a piece she’s read in public a few times lately which has the lines, “I write about the relationship I wish I was having,” and “I buy my own bullshit.” I’ve done that, here, in the past. I’ve written myself into love, used this site to woo and court. I haven’t wanted to do that with Kristen. It’s too precious, too real; I’ve learned from my mistakes, or rather, I am learning, I am trying to learn. That is a major reason why I haven’t written about her like I have others.

Plus, I’m all the more protective of my heart these days. How many heartbreaks is one heart made to withstand, anyway? I love writing about my relationships, but it can also be a crutch – I become obsessed with micro-articulating my feelings and emotional landscapes in writing, sometimes to my own detriment, overdramatizing and letting the articulation of the emotion be more important than the experience, the story, the audience, the effects.

I don’t want to do that anymore.

So I am protective of this relationship, as it has swelled and sometimes burst, its ups and downs. I haven’t chronicled it all here, preferring instead to articulate it to her as best I can. And there are things, snags, places between us which are murky and lurking a little for me right now, things that have come up and we’ve said “we should talk about that more later,” but now it’s later and I don’t even remember what they were, so that makes me all the more nervous. The unknown rather than the known. I should’ve kept a list, I keep thinking. But I’ve got to calm my nerves about this, not let it affect the really good highs inside of which we still so easily slip. So far, we’ve been able to talk through everything, and for now I’ll rest comfortable on presuming we’ll be able to do that in the future, too.

Yes, I was high when I reached out for her upper arm and pulled her onto my lap, and she’d just told me about how she’d done her homework this morning by playing with her ass while getting off, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t also in love, wanting to make love, wanting to be inside of her, drinking her in as I sucked her nipples into my mouth and left bite marks on her neck and shoulders. She cried out and I thought, someone should be videotaping this she is so goddamn hot.

In the bedroom we slipped off her clothes. “Take off your shirt.” I slid her tight jeans down her legs. She was in this matching bra and panties I hadn’t seen her wear before – she does wear the bra, a little white one with pink polka dots and pink satin bows, very femme, but the matching panties have layers of ruffles. I’ve never seen her in them.

I didn’t take them off.

“I want to see your ass. Turn over.” She does, gets on all fours. “Show it to me. Get down on your elbows.” She parts her knees a little and arches her back, I run my hand over her curves and feel the outline of her cunt and ass under the thin fabric. I let my fingers trail over her softly, slowly. My mind raced. There’s so much I wanted to do to her, with her. All that ass talk earlier made me want my fingers in her there, to get out the little plug I’d brought to leave at her place (her further homework), wanted to plow her ass hard and make her scream. I won’t do that, yet, of course, it’ll take some time to work up to it. I wanted her to stay on her knees, ass in the air, while I gripped her hips and fucked her slow and hard. I wanted her on her knees, mouth full of spit eyes looking up at me as she sucked me down.

But most of all I wanted to be close, pressed against her, kissing her, wrapped around each other. So I strapped on, peeled off her pretty bra and panties, told her to turn over, slid inside, and got lost in her, got lost in the way we wind around and hold each other. We barely spoke, just felt each other, just took it all in with our bodies.

There were a few times I slowed down, savored her, looked at her, but the vibration was so strong between us, I couldn’t didn’t want to stop. Sometimes I wondered if I should, if her hips were okay, if she needed more of a break, but I kept getting so close and ultimately was able to come inside of her for the first time in a long time, I was glad I didn’t stop. (I don’t know why I haven’t been coming lately. I broke out the Spartacus harness I’d retired hoping that would help. It did, apparently.)

Later, she said, “I thought you were going to stop … but you didn’t. That was good.”

Yeah, that was good. And I’m glad she said that. Always affirming to know I wasn’t pushing her. I want to push her, I want to have that kind of power and trust and knowledge and skill, but that has to be earned, that has to be worthy. I want to do so much more with her, to her, want to take her to all sorts of dirty places and cradle her and worship her and honor her and fuck her and smack her around and force her and hold her and let go with her and trust her.

There’s time. It’s been almost a year, but I know enough to know that we’re in this. And that we’ll keep building, and exploring, as this keeps getting deeper and stronger.

Sometimes, I will never catch up …

Well hello! Hey look! I have an online-writing-project (aka blog)!

It’s not like I’ve forgotten. I never do. I am always writing posts in my head or taking notes or adding to the looooong list of things I want to write about, including reviews of porn films and books and silicone cocks and bondage supplies (and did you see that Kristen just got some lingerie from Liberator?).

The past week has been a total wash for writing, because Jesse James was in town, and we (and Kristen, more often than not) were completely booked, painting the town.

Jesse’s writing up her trip to New York in four parts, and Jess posted about the success of the top-surgery fundraiser party that we attended. I’m really glad I got to spend some time with Leo MacCool and Freedomgirl, Leo and I ducked out of the party to take a loooong walk. Jesse still hasn’t stopped talking about dinner with Greg, and I can’t stop talking about Kristen’s famous pizza-from-scratch and chocolate & butterscotch pudding.

It’s Friday, Jesse left on Tuesday, and I am just starting to feel like I have adequately recovered enough to get my strength back. I’ve got some deadlines (hello, Carnal Nation), I’m so behind on reviews, my email inbox is overflowing (I’ll get to it, I promise!), and my room is still a mess, but I downloaded The Gossip’s newest album Music For Men and thanks to Dita Von Teese I am really into Mayer Hawthorne, so I think I’m going to turn up my speakers and try to get some shit done. Your regularly scheduled Sugarbutch Chronicles will return soon.

PS: Edit! I forgot to mention the ah-may-zing tee shirt that Jesse custom made for me, which is my new favorite thing ever. Here’s the photo.

“Whoops! Where’d my job go?”

Followers of my @mrsexsmith Twitter account will know that my 9-to-5 day job is pretty much over. I’ve worked as a graphic designer at a firm in midtown for nearly the last four years, and they spun off two of the three divisions of the company, which were the two I worked for, and now I am technically on leave through December 1st. That means if they call me I have to go in, but I can’t accept another job until December 1st. Meanwhile, I have some t i m e o f f.

The million dollar question is, of course, what are you going to do now? Well, I’m not quite sure. I’ll be doing freelance graphic design and writing for a while, and building up my own artistic career. I will be looking for another job, but I’d like to have some down time before I begin a serious search, and I think I can live on a lot less than I thought was necessary.

I’m also hoping to make some appearances and do some workshops – so far I am scheduled on October 16th, Friday, at Bluestockings Bookstore, speaking on a panel about Feminist Sex, and also on November 16th at Conversio Virium, Columbia University’s BDSM student group, where I’ll be giving a lecture on Gendering Power: How to spice up your role play.

I’d love to do a bit of traveling to colleges nearby, too – Smith, Bard, back to my alma mater the University of Washington. I’m hoping that some of those gigs will work out, my booking company Phin Li has been helping me with my scheduling, and if you’d like to book a date with me, you can contact me at my regular email address or Phin Li at bookings at phinli.com.

(Also, Jesse James is coming to visit, and we are so going to paint the town. Can’t wait. She hasn’t met Kristen yet and it’s going to be a blast.)

I’ve noticed that July and August were two of the quietest months I’ve ever had here on Sugarbutch, for some reasons I’ve already explained, and because work changed their corporate access policies which meant that I couldn’t access this site from there.

I will be going back to the minimum of one-time-a-day five-days-a-week posting on Sugarbutch that I used to do, for a while, while I’m in this transition. I have about twenty topics I need to write on, and half a dozen drafts. If you have topical requests, now’s the time to chime in. And as always, if you have specific questions for me, I’ll be glad to address them as well as I can. I try hard to keep up with my inbox.

The ending of this job is a huge transition. It was absolutely time for this job to end, and it has worked so well for me – really, this job has been the major funding behind Sugarbutch for the last 3.5 years, since I started this site shortly after I got that job and I spent many hours working on Sugarbutch from that position. (Why else do you think my Sugarbutch Star chapbook is by “On Company Time” productions?) I basically got out of debt through this job, and I saved up quite a bit in my 401K, and it has afforded me to get on my feet in New York City in a way that seemed impossible a few years ago. I had been planning to leave this job in the beginning of next year regardless, and the way that this position was eliminated was probably the best possible way to lose a job. Still, it’s a huge change … I’ve commuted to Midtown Manhattan every weekday for nearly four years! I’ve had full access to all sorts of beautiful paper and color printers and supplies! I know my way around that neighborhood so well, in fact, that I don’t know where to get many things in my neighborhood near my house, since I knew I could just pick whatever it was up during my work week.

Meanwhile, though, I’ve had some amazing conversations with Audacia Ray about the future of the Sugarbutch Empire, and where I’m going, and how best to use my time with my artistic career. And I finally, finally, will have a good amount of time to get some of my shit in order and really meditate on where I’m going.

Glee: Single Ladies (Video)

I admit, I haven’t seen a minute of the new TV show Glee yet. Seems like lots of folks are abuzz about it, and I am a big fan of Jane Lynch, so I figured I’d check it out eventually. I don’t have TV so I try not to be watching more than one or two series at a time, otherwise I’d just spend all my time doing that … and we all know I just finished My So-Called Life, and I’m working my way through The Wire (season 4 now), and there’s True Blood (though I hate the sexualized violence), and Mad Men, and Californication, and I haven’t quite finished Battlestar Galactica …

I ran across this clip from Glee tonight, and I’m thinking I should really move it up on the list.

There is something about the masculinity in this whole thing that makes me just … thrilled. I’m not sure I’ve put my finger on it yet, but I love it. It doesn’t hurt that I love that Beyonce video either – I mean who doesn’t? It’s one of those songs you just can’t help but sing along to, except with this one it’s dance along to it. I find myself flipping my hand and doing the I’m-a-little-teapot move without even realizing it.

Plus, I associate it with the first time I heard it, which was in the back of Jesse James’s car, with Violet, on our way to an amazing dinner, with Jesse singing along and knowing all the words and shaking her ring finger at Violet. (That was also the moment we both realized Beyonce might be the new Cher. I kept expecting her to make an appearance on Cherday, but not yet. So I guess this will do instead!)

when waitresses are kinky

If you didn’t see it in my Google Reader shared items or on my shared items sidebar (over on the left), There are a few photos of me & Jesse James over at Jesse’s blog from my recent visit to Seattle. I didn’t have much time with Jesse, but it was enough to go get tipsy at some swanky bar and then go shopping.

Jesse took the afternoon off work to come play with me. A little snippet:

Sinclair to Cute Waitress: I’d like a Knob Creek on the rocks please.

Cute Waitress: Certainly.

Jesse: Hmmm, what do I want, what do I want. I can’t decide. Something fun.

Cute Waitress: Like a Manhattan? A — eeee!

Leggy Blonde Waitress walks by behind Cute Waitress.

Cute Waitress: She just pinched my butt! [Laughs, a little flustered and blushing.] Oh gosh, I’m sorry.What did you want?

Jesse and Sinclair exchange significant glances and try not to laugh.

Jesse: Can I have a bloody mary with tequila instead of vodka?

Cute Waitress, still laughing: Sure, got it.

Exit Cute Waitress to behind the bar.

Jesse: Dude, I am so totally in lust for you!

Ah yes, good times are had with good friends in Seattle. Jesse tells the story about what we did after that, which was basically have a little party in the dressing room and buy Jesse an entirely new fall wardrobe.

It was hard to come home this time, I needed the down time of being away from my life and obligations and freelance and writings and work and social life, but I didn’t get the real rest I need because I was running around with family so much. So really one of the very best parts of the trip was seeing Jesse for an afternoon, and then having a lovely dinner with about half a dozen of my closest friends in that city. I got my favorite black bean burger at my favorite brewery-slash-pub, made a visit to the famous lesbian bar, and slept on Jesse’s (very flat) futon while the Seal dozed in her cute dog bed nearby. I didn’t see Violet much but she was quite lovely and warm, and I so appreciate them letting me crash their place for a few nights.

On Pronouns, Mine

I’ve had almost half a dozen people ask me in the past few weeks about my pronoun of choice, so here’s the deal.

When referring to me as Sinclair Sexsmith, I go by the masculine honorific – by Mr. Sexsmith. That, I do feel strongly about. Pronouns have generally then followed, so I am often referred to as “he” and “him.” That’s fine, and I think the masculine character that I have cultivated here as my alter-ego fits quite well with masculine pronouns. I didn’t expect it to happen and I didn’t quite plan it, and I don’t know if I ever would have asked for my friends or lovers to play with male pronouns in my personal life, and I very much like it, more than I thought I would.

But, female pronouns in referring to me as Sinclair are also totally fine. In fact, in some ways, I like that some people refer to me with male pronouns and some with female pronouns, because I firmly am occupying both spaces. In some ways I like the gender neutral pronoun options like ze and hir (pronounced “here”). The Gender Intelligence Agency introduced the pronouns pe (pronounced “pay” not “pee”) and per, short for person, which I quite like but which is proving incredibly awkward in speech. Maybe I’ll try to write a story with them in it sometime, just to try it out, get more used to it.

Problem with pe and per is that it doesn’t have a third possessive adjective version of the pronoun – the “his/her/its” version. I guess that would be per, again? To borrow wikipedia’s structure, it looks like:

Pe laughed.
I called per.
Per eyes gleamed.
That is pers.
Pe likes perself.

Yeah, I like the philosophy behind that. But looking at the fifteen different gender-neutral pronouns that wikipedia lists as potential options, I hesitate to think that we need more of them. I guess we keep making them because the others don’t quite work, yeah? I kinda wish there was more consensus, but some part of that has to come about organically, about what gets put into use in daily life for a significant piece of a community.

In my offline life, I do not go by male pronouns, at all. As things go on, that is becoming more strange, actually – my sister referred to me recently as her sister, and I thought, oh yeah, I’m a sister to someone. I’m a daughter. Someday I’ll be an aunt, a mother. I think lesbian dad is rubbing off on me that way, in that I don’t know if I’ll ever be “mama.”

I do go by sir, sometimes boy, and other masculine words like that in a sexualized context … but there really aren’t very many of those words for butch tops in bed. But that’s a slightly different post.

So yeah, did I make that clear? Either pronoun of the main two pronouns are fine, neither of them fit exactly – but please do use the masculine honorific (and thanks to jesse james for finding that word for me).

Lesbian stereotypes, reclaiming language, and activism

Yet another case in point: Butch, skinhead, wife-beating, pint drinkers? “Butch, femme, dyke – what kind of lesbian are you? Jeni Quirke explores the negativity surrounding lesbian stereotypes.”

Hey, sounds like a pretty good idea, exploring negative lesbian stereotypes, yeah? Right away, I’m skeptical of her inclusion of “butch” in that title, but I’m curious. Let’s read.

[L]esbians and bisexual women are also guilty of holding stereotypical generalisations and assumptions about each other based on appearance and personality. The words ‘dyke’, ‘baby-dyke’, ‘lipstick lesbian’, ‘pretend lesbian’ and ‘political lezza’ are too often thrown about the lesbian community, at work, in the pub or even from a friend to a friend in a jokey and cheeky way.

So why is this still happening, in a supposedly very tolerant and gay friendly society? It’s quite straightforward for all involved – stereotypes[.] … [W]hy do lesbian and bisexual women also carelessly use the terms ‘butch’, ‘femme’, ‘dyke’[?] … Is it internalised homophobia? … most women don’t even realise they have it or are displaying it.

So, when words to describe lesbian identity categories – such as dyke, baby dyke, and lipstick lesbian – are used by heterosexual or gay men who are excluded from and based in ignorant assumptions about the group, it is because of stereotyping, but if lesbians actually use these terms, it is from a place of internalized homophobia.

The use of words such as ‘dyke’, ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ from a lesbian individual or group are almost always meant in a negative way. Often, the only positive times you will hear the words spoken will be from a lesbian who is referring to herself, such as ‘Yeah I’m a butch dyke, but so what? It’s who I am.’ For the individual and for onlookers this proud and defensive statement will seem a very noble and bold thing to say. This it is, but it could also encourage the use of such stereotypes by heterosexual and non-heterosexual people.

So here she’s saying, when I define myself and call myself what I want to be called, when I reclaim the words for myself, it appears to be “very noble and bold,” but really it’s encouraging stereotypes. Who cares if it’s empowering to me in a development of my own gender identity, in putting myself in a historical and cultural context where I recognize the gendered struggles of my foremothers and forefathers and and forebabas and forepapis, really it’s just an invitation to oppress me. Not buying it.

If we are using offensive terms to one another in our own community, then what chance is there that straight people and gay men will stop using them? Are we re-enforcing the terms? And if so why are we doing this to each other and to ourselves? … Possibly the thought that ‘stereotypical’ lesbians such as ‘butch dykes’ are re-enforcing people’s generalisations and giving lesbians a bad name. … Could it be that society on the whole has become addicted and accustomed to using labels or labelling[?]

So now this author claims that butch dykes are giving lesbians a bad name and reinforcing stereotypical lesbianism. Oh, I recognize this tune.

And also, a word about labels: where we are in our cultural identity history, right now, in the West in the early 21st century, we reject labels. Pretty much entirely. Constantly, people are saying “don’t box me in,” “don’t restrict me,” “I’m bigger than that box,” “I’m more than a label,” et cetera. We are not addicted and accustomed to labels. I absolutely think it’s true that labels can be restrictive and limiting when applied without any leniency, and I think it’s true that culturally, we used to have more of a sense of defining people by their gender, age, race, economic status, ethnicity, family history, class, social status, religious beliefs, et cetera – by all of the factors of social hierarchy. But this is precisely what the various activist movements of the 20th century have been working to change, and in many ways, it absolutely has changed. Labels are generally now seen as bad and restrictive.

The well-known and common female stereotypes such as femme , butch and dyke are only there so other people and sometimes even ourselves use to categorise all the ‘types’ or ‘breeds’ of lesbians neatly away into a fileable drawer. [Emphasis added.]

Oh, now I’m just sad. The only reason butch exists is so others – or “sometimes even ourselves,” (implying, of course, how sad that is, that our internalized homophobia is so bad that we limit ourselves so awfully) – can categorize us?

Goddammit, this is just so inaccurate. There is a long history of butch, femme, and genderqueer WARRIORS who are changing laws, making strives, marching in protests, fighting for rights, being visible, working hard, raising kids, making families, contributing to thriving communities, loving, living, and being ourselves.

And now, this perspective of the author of this article becomes even more transparent: the things she is saying here are flat-out gender-phobic. Probably out of ignorance, rather than intentionally malicious, but still. This author clearly cannot imagine that any femme, butch, or dyke would ever be authentically empowered by these labels (as opposed to falsely empowered through internalized homophobia) or claiming them out of some sort of intentional, conscious, educated, contextualized narrative of queer culture, life, identity, and empowerment.

I haven’t even started about the power of reclaiming words, here, which this author completely discounts as even remotely possible. Yes, the word “dyke,” for example, has been used by outsiders to marginalize and oppress people within that group. But part of the process of legitimizing that identity is to take the words that have been used to oppress us and revision them to be valuable, which, by proxy, revisions the identity as valuable as well. This also deflates the potential of the insult: if the word no longer has any negative connotations, and someone shouts “dyke!” from across the street, we can recognize that he’s a) being blatantly and ridiculously homophobic, b) attempting to insult us, and c) stupid and ignorant if he thinks homophobia is acceptable. It’s much easier for this type of encounter not to sting, and not to be taken seriously, when we are used to throwing around the words that are attempted to be used as insults.

Aside from that, there’s the linguistics of it all: “lesbian” sounds like the technical term, like dentifrice instead of toothpaste. It sounds like something you could contract or pick up, it’s long – three syllables – and fairly awkward in the mouth. “Dyke,” however, is short, powerful, with strong, shit-kicking consonants that pops on the tongue. Stronger, tougher, thicker, more powerful.

The author of this article closes with this:

We should all join and work together to end other people’s preconceptions, generalisations and stereotypes by not doing it in and to our own community.

Yes, I agree in part – we should end preconceptions, generalizations, and stereotypes. But what this author is describing is not “doing it in and to our own community” necessarily. People – everyone, women and lesbians and yes, even dykes – have our own agency, our own ability to define for ourselves who we are and what we are doing with it. To speak from outside of a community who uses this language intentionally about the choice of using this language is belittling and offensive, implying that I couldn’t possibly know what I’m doing by using this language.

And I know some of you are thinking, “well, Sinclair, you’re a bit different than the average butch, after all,” but ya know what? I haven’t found that to be true. I have found that most butches I know are incredibly intentional about their identities, and have beautiful things to say about what it’s like to navigate the world as a butch-looking woman, often even if they don’t identify with the label, culture, or politics. Same with the femmes. Butch and femme are no longer default identities to which one gets shoved into the minute one comes out as a lesbian. Queer, dyke, butch, femme – those words are marginalized, othered, looked down upon in many ways. It takes work to come to them, work to claim them, and work to keep them functioning.

This author, like the majority of folks out there – lesbian communities notwithstanding, unfortunately – are missing some key elements and understandings of the history of gender radicalism, what it means to reclaim language, and what it means to adopt these identities. Articles like this really get my boxers in a twist because they appear to be a conscious, intentional analysis of what’s difficult or challenging within the lesbian communities, but in fact, they are reinforcing gender misunderstandings and further marginalizing those of us who do play with gender intentionally, celebrationally, and beautifully.

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?)

introducing: jesse james

You asked for it: The Closet Musician has a new name, and is now writing over at just like jesse james.

After the hoopla about the angry, anonymous girl, jesse james’s response, and running into a particularly nasty post on Dooce which examined a bunch of hate mail, jesse james takes on the anonymous hate that gets spewed on the internet and poses her own theories and ideas about it all.

jesse james is one of my dearest & best friends … I’m trying to encourage her, so she’ll keep writing. Just wait until she gets going about the queer community, her own faggy boi gender, her international long-distance relationship turned LTR, wanting a puppy, her own (distant past) slut phase, gardening, or her deep appreciation for Cher.

except when it does

In retrospect, it seems so obvious. Of course it’s hard to date while you’re falling for someone else. Of course you should work on that new relationship, get it to a stable place, before dating around, otherwise the foundation will probably be too shaky.

In making that other date, I think I was attempting to not acknowledge how much I’ve already fallen, how much I want to keep falling, how much she matters already. “Nah, it’s just a casual thing,” I was telling myself. “I should keep dating, keep seeing other people, this can’t really work, what can we do.”

“Nothing.” My friend, the Musician, said to me. “It’s impossible. There is no possible way for it to work. Except when it does.” The Musician and her girlfriend spent fifteen months at the beginning of their relationship apart, in different states and then in different countries. And somehow, they made it happen. She & I are probably the most romantic people I know, kings of the big gestures in love.

The people around me are laughing when I tell them my predicament. I kind of want them to say, this can’t work, just give up now, forget it, get real, but they don’t. They get it, like the Musician. Cody‘s girlfriend is also long distance, and about to move to his city to be with him. Dylan is beginning to practice dating more than one person at once (is that public knowledge? I can edit this out if you don’t want me to say that). Molly, my fluffer femme spy, reminds me that she is also an IT department of polyamory. And I haven’t even started tapping the resources of Eileen & Maymay & Rona and other sexbloggers who date multiple people and still manage to love and commit.

Y’all are seriously rooting for us, aren’tcha? It’s kind of strange to feel so supported in this. Maybe you’re sick of the smutty Sugarbutch gallavanting? Or perhaps you’re mirroring my own enthusiasm? Maybe you’ve been following my heartbreak and loss and know how happy I was when I was in love, and just want to see me happy again? Perhaps some of you still believe that One True Love thing and want to see me settled and happy.

Sugarbutch will die when you’re all in love and monogamous, you know that, right? more than a few friends have said this to me. But I don’t think it will die – I still want to write smut. Perhaps it’ll be less dating, but there better well still be sex in my life.

“It just keeps working, until it doesn’t work,” The Musician said. It’s like that quote from Death, part of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, where she comes for a little baby and the baby says, “That’s it? That’s all I get?” and Death responds, “You get what everyone gets. You get a lifetime.”

I like a lifetime as a unit of measure. Same with a relationship. That’s what we get, DD & I … how long we can make it work, and how we’ll make it work, is definitely still To Be Figured Out.

“Will the grand gestures be worth it?” The Musician asks. “Who knows? I won’t know if all these huge gestures, flying across the country for my girlfriend, were worth it, until I’m on my deathbed saying, ‘holy shit, I’m dying, and you’re still here.'”

“Yeah, you’re right. And at the same time, I don’t regret the grand gestures in the relationships I had that have ended. And as much as I’m sad about the endings, or unhappy with how things ended, I don’t regret giving everything I could give, in them, at the time.”

“You’re such a romantic.”

“Yeah. But at the same time, what would I do if she was here? Is it only safe because she’s far away? Would things be totally different? Would I run?”

When I stop to think about it, I’m terrified. Second-guessing myself and my feelings, uncertain, unconvinced, unclear. I still feel so messed up from the two major breakups in my recent past, so particularly fucked by the manipulations of the unholy bitch that I have been trying to unlearn and unbelieve about myself. Somewhere in there I still don’t believe I’d be any good for someone in this state of flux. Too many unknown variables, too much changing.

But, on the other hand, I am closer to being who I want to become than I’ve ever been, and that is saying something. I’m refining, distilling, settling into a version of myself that is sustainable, solid but flexible, just good.

“Are you kidding!” The Musician says. “We’re alike, you & me. You squeeze your heart out in every direction you can find. You want her. You aren’t poly. You want the big love. You want to fall. And clearly, you want to fall for her.

I still don’t have any idea how to make this work, but I think it’s beginning to sink in, a little deeper, to those inner layers, and clearly I have some new, revised choices to make.