Long Live the Butch: Leslie Feinberg & the Trans Day of Remembrance

leslieI sit in shock at my desk, though I knew it was coming, knew Leslie Feinberg was sick, and know how deadly lyme disease can be is.

I sit feeling the shock of grief: Leslie Feinberg died this past weekend.

And today is the Trans Day of Remembrance, and that of itself gets me all weepy about all of those we’ve lost, all the hate, all the fear, and how far we have left to go. It makes me think about “butch flight” and the relationships between butch identity and transmasculine identity. It gets me thinking of my lineage, the legacy I am a part of, and where I came from.

For me, Leslie’s book Stone Butch Blues invented butch identity. If I had the word before the book, it was only as a slur, only as something nobody should want to be. If I had the word before Jess’s story and her tortured restraint of passionate love, it was only used to describe ugly women, unattractive and unwanted. It wasn’t until I read Stone Butch Blues that I realized it described me.

I’m not sure I wanted it to, but I knew that it did. That book made me feel exposed, like someone had found me out. Vulnerable, like someone could come along and pluck my heart from my unguarded chest to do with as they pleased. But also, strangely, it made me feel powerful. I could feel the power that came from being butch, the paradox of growing up a girl and then becoming the suited partner of a beautiful woman, the torture of being such a social outcast, and the deep craving hunger for being accepted.

“My life, forever changed because of Stone Butch Blues. And Leslie Feinberg.”
—Felice Shays
I wasn’t even 20 when I read it, wasn’t identifying as butch yet myself, though I was starting to realize that was growing in me. I was barely out as queer. I recognized myself so much in that book that I hid it in the back of my bookshelf and didn’t pick it up again for almost ten years.

But it is potent, and it seeped into me. It inescapably linked the words butch and stone, and for years I thought that being stone was the only way to be butch. It still feels like the butch/femme culture overly values stone in butches, that the stone—by which I mean, not receiving sexual touch—is one of the measures of the amount of gender dysphoria felt, and therefore the more stone a butch feels, the more butch they are. There is so much belittling in queer culture about masculine-presenting folks who want to be touched in bed, or—gasp!—are bottoms, and they are so often chided for not being a “real butch.”

I have been fighting fighting fighting this for years, both as a queer cultural community wound and internalized in my own body.

I have heard so many butches cite this book as their coming out root, as finally recognizing who they are by reading Jess’s story (Leslie’s story), and so many femmes cite this book as finally feeling like they could be queer and crave a masculine partner, or that it’s the “heartbreaking holy grail of butch perspective.” They have told me they see themselves in Theresa’s butch devotion. For so many of us, Feinberg’s book made our secret budding desires make sense.

“Were it not for Stone Butch Blues, I’d still be stranded on a lonely island of inexplicable gender and sexuality. Many of us would.”— Tara Hardy
Stone Butch Blues came out in 1993, but was set in the 1960s, and I wonder if it wasn’t one of the major seeds which planted 1960s butch/femme nostalgia into our heads while so many of us were coming out in the 1990s. It contributed to how we crave the supposedly thriving butch/femme culture of yore.

I understand being nostalgic for a time that is now romanticized—not only in queer culture but in butch/femme lore and history. Beyond that, it is romanticized in the larger US culture as well, as it is the time post-WWII where this country was thriving, and idealized visions were planted in our collective (un)consciousness. But I also want to remember that while it might seem like butches come from that time, and thrived in that time, what we have now—and the myriad gender identity, expression, and presentation options available to us—is much improved.

“Losing Leslie Feinberg is a gut blow. Hir work has been instrumental in my own life, & the lives of so many queer & trans folks.” — Corey Alexander
Because here’s the thing: There are a lot of problems with those idealized versions of butch/femme relationships. A lot of problems. Beyond the linking of stoneness with butchness, there is an overvaluing of queer masculinity and undervaluing of femininity. This isn’t just in Stone Butch Blues, though it is there—it is all over mainstream culture, and we queers haven’t escaped it: it has permeated queer culture to the core. It has at times felt present even in the articles I’ve read about Leslie Feinberg’s death, where her partner, poet Minnie Bruce Pratt, has often been skipped over. The scholars I know who are studying femmes have a hard time locating them in queer archives, and have often best identified them by looking for their more visible butch partners. This is not good. This is a version of butch that puts femmes as an accessory, as a tool to validate and enhance butch masculinity.

I adore the butch/femme culture. As someone who highly identifies as a femme-oriented butch who is currently dating a trans boy, I adore it even more, and as I have a bit more distance now that I’m a little bit outside of it, I see copious places where the butch/femme culture reinforces the cultural binary gender roles, where it pigeonholes people into boxes of expectation, where people are shaved down to fit labels and not the other way around.

Stone Butch Blues may have invented butch identity for the current queer cultural movements, but we need a reinvention.

We need the new butch.

We need a butch identity where the masculine gender role is criticized and reinvented to include access to all aspects of emotionality, psychology, caretaking, feeling, hobbies, interests, and play.

We need a butch identity where we actively work toward undoing the racist culture that keeps people of color oppressed, their voices marginalized, and their bodies under attack. We need a butch identity which recognizes that butch has been historically a white identity, and that radical queer masculinity looks differently in other cultural contexts.

We need a butch identity where any kind of surgery and hormone taking and body modification is acceptable, supported, and celebrated without commentary on how we knew that butch was “trans all along” or that they are “betraying their womanhood” or teased, “another one bites the dust.”

We need a butch identity where the identity expands to fit who those claiming it, rather than those claiming it shrinking to fit inside of it.

We need a butch identity where it is okay to transition. We need a butch identity where it is okay to wear a dress. We need a butch identity where “butch” is just the starting point of the conversation, and where nobody assumes they know anything about you just because they know you are butch.

We need a butch identity that doesn’t assume topping and dominance as the norm, and that doesn’t put down butches who bottom, who receive touch, who submit beautifully and skillfully and with agency, who crave giving over, who crave being owned. We need a butch identity that doesn’t assume femme partnership as the norm, and that recognizes butches loving butches as a real and valid desire.

We need a butch identity that sees femmes as more than accessories, and that values femininity as solid, legitimate, and radical. We need a butch identity that doesn’t joke that femmes are having “a butch moment” if they fix something or play sports or act tough.

We need a butch identity that embraces the myriad mashup versions of in-between genders, of genderqueerness, male feminity, fagginess, swishiness, and fabulousness. We need a butch identity that rocks glitter and leggings without shame, that encourages purses and boas, and that never makes fun of someone’s “girly drink” or pink button down shirt.

We need new butch icons, we need new butch events. We need to show up at events where butch and femme genders are celebrated and made visible (there are many already out there! Go to them! Participate!). We need to stop prioritizing and privileging masculine versions of queerness. We need to read femme authors like Minnie Bruce Pratt (seriously, have you read S/he? It is one of my top 5 of all time, it’s stunning), we need to work on dismantling white privilege. We need to read trans women like Julia Serano and Janet Mock, we need to listen to Laverne Cox, we need to listen to Ceyenne Doroshow and watch things like the Red Umbrella Project documentary about sex workers, we need to keep refining our activism, we need to work on our own privilege, we need to stay alive.

We need new butch clothes, despite Saint Harridan and Tomboy Tailors and all the other dozen (more?) creators of clothes for dapper queers that have popped up in the last few years, not because we don’t look good in those (damn, we do) but because most of those are suit-and-tie shops, and there are so many more ways to be butch than with a suit-and-tie. Let’s reinvent dapper fashion, let’s never be limited by the narrow masculine options that have existed so far, let’s go farther, let’s have it all.

Even as attached as I am to the word “butch,” we probably need new words. Language evolves as we do. We may even end up turning butch over for some new way to talk about the in-between space we occupy, that tortured passionate place of wanting, that marginalized place of vision and truth.

As much as I would like butch to thrive and live forever, and as invested as I am in this identity, it has roots in dangerous masculine and white culture. I see so much fear that butches are “a dying breed” or that butch/femme culture is dying. I still think it isn’t—Long live the butch!—but if it is, perhaps it is at least a tiny bit in part because we are in a queer culture now that is working to decenter masculinity and whiteness. Perhaps when we fear we are losing butches or losing butch/femme, we are really losing the cultural way we have privileged masculinity and butchness. Perhaps along with this reinvention, we are losing the huge amount of body shame we are forced to carry as butches. Perhaps we are losing the social ostracization that came with butch masculinity and femme femininity.

Perhaps we are moving toward something new, and even better.

I wish we had our own words to describe ourselves to connect us. I don’t want another label. I just wish we had words so pretty we’d go out of our way to say them out loud.” —Jess, p254 in Stone Butch Blues

Radical Masculinity: Reinventing Our Icons

“Have you seen the Dockers ads?” someone asked me recently at a conference, after I told them I write about masculinity. “A friend told me he liked those ads, because he is so unsure of what it means to ‘be a man’ right now. Everything has changed. There are no icons pointing men where to go, what to be like.”

I hear this frequently, and I have asked myself this often, too, in my own personal identity development process of coming to a female masculinity as butch. Where are the feminist men? Where are the radical depictions of masculinity? Where are the examples of health and strength and skill and honor that I can admire and emulate? Who can I look to? Who will be a mirror showing me my reflection so that I can push myself in the direction that best fits me? I speak to this when I talk about depictions of healthy relationships in the media, too—where are they? What does that look like? Where are the heterosexual couples with men treating women with respect, value, care? Where is the equality? Where are the conscientious, thoughtful dads?

Things are changing. That is my entire premise of this series of articles on Radical Masculinity: that we are at a precarious time, in transition, finally studying what it means to “be a man” in this culture, much like feminists and gender scholars have been studying femininity and women in the past forty years. Underneath the question of what it means to “be a man,” as queers and butches and trans and genderqueer folks are also asking, is what it means to be masculine. The concepts of masculinity have changed, and is still changing, and while there is no singular meaning (like perhaps the fictional version of the nuclear family and breadwinner in the 1950s), I’m finding that there is no shortage of masculine icons.

Read the whole thing over at my column on Radical Masculinity at Carnal Nation: Reinventing Our Icons.

Masculinity Icons: Happy Birthday, James Dean

Today, February 8th, James Dean was born in 1931.

I’m working on a piece for Radical Masculinity about masculinity icons, particularly American icons (though I do have some plans to explore masculinity in other places too, in other columns).

James Dean comes up frequently as an icon, both as a traditional icon of American masculinity and as a personal icon. Take a look at the James Dean Lives tumblr for more photos and information about him, if you’d like. Good stuff over there.

I’m gathering ideas and statements for my in-progress (and vastly overdue) column currently, so I have a question for y’all: Who, in your opinion, are traditional icons of masculinity? Who are your personal icons of masculinity? What kind of traits do these icons portray? What kind of traits do you think icons of masculinity should portray? What makes someone (a guy, a cis-gendered guy in particular) a butch icon, or a radical masculinity icon, or a traditional masculinity icon?

I love pondering this stuff.

Year In Review On Sugarbutch: 2009

Remember when I used to do monthly roundup posts? I only did the first three months of 2009, which I actually kind of miss. Perhaps it’s something I’ll bring back.

So: what happened in 2009 here on Sugarbutch?

I’ve been dating Kristen, and in fact we were together all of 2009. Some of the dirtiest Kristen stories are here grouped together, though most of those occur in the first half of 2009, before my particularly difficult late summer and started playing with Daddy/girl play. I guess I wrote a little too vividly about Kristen, at times, because I got enough snarky comments and emails that I finally wrote some clarifying statements about what she represents in on getting girls off.

At the end of the year, I started giving Kristen homework, which prompted some questions about our d/s dynamic. I’m still working out the details on

(I did actually sleep with a few other girls aside from Kristen in 2009. Early on in the year, when we were starting out, our relationship was open. And, in the spring, Kristen and I had a threesome, which I did not write about here. I had hoped it would be our first of a few … but perhaps 2010 is the year for that.)

Aside from Kristen …

I won some awards in 2009! I got TWO Lezzy awards, for Best Gender Bender Blog and Best Sex/Short Story/Erotica Blog. I was also named to the Top Sex Bloggers list of 2009 for the second year in a row!

I launched Top Hot Butches in June, and that exploded in both good and painful ways. I initially included about a dozen trans men on this list, and that was a fairly poor choice, so I took them down, and wrote why I did so in on removing trans men from the Top Hot Butches list. I also contacted or was contacted by many of the trans men on the list, and in the end about half of them remained on the list (the other half I have not been in contact with; I did not hear from any trans men who were included on the original list saying that they wanted to be excluded).

After I went on a particularly transformative tantra retreat, I lost my job in July, though it didn’t officially end until September, when I was on administrative leave for the last few months of 2009. That meant that July and August were particularly I’m using the few months of cushion to launch my freelance work, which will be graphic design (like flyers, postcards, business cards) and web design (banners, ads, blog headers, blog templates) and writing.

I wrote a series called My Evolving Masculinity out of some of the difficulties and growing of the summer. Part One: Introduction, Part two: Yin & Yang, Part Three: “Daddy”, and Part Four: Personal.

I wrote a particularly vulnerable piece about what it’s like to come inside your lover as someone strapped on, and a piece asking, “is it a trans characteristic to wear a cock?” about cock-centricity and gender identity.

Apparently I didn’t write all that much on femme identity in 2009, but I did write a rather long, thorough piece On Femme Invisibility that I like quite a bit. I was also published in the Femmethology! Dacia recorded an mp3 version of my Love Letter to Femmes, and I kicked off the Femmethology blog tour.

I kept writing the Sugarbutch Star stories, but only wrote four out of five. In theory, there is one more coming, which I have started by not finished.

I tried to step up my posts on sexuality, bdsm theory, and domination and submission, and wrote some things I quite like, such as Sadism & the Study of PainHow do you get a dominant to dominate?, and Yes, No, and Consent.

Some more miscellany, from Sugarbutch and me around the web …

  • I curated the 15th Carnival of Sexual Freedom & Autonomy, which was my first major curation for a carnival, and I quite enjoyed it. I asked some specific questions about sexual freedom and sexual autonomy, and many different folks responded with beautiful essays on their own blogs. This was a lot of work, but I loved curating and recruiting and pulling various essays all together.
  • I launched MrSexsmith.com! This will be a place to keep track of my upcoming events and projects, outside of Sugarbutch. A portfolio of sorts.

  • I started a few different tumblr logs, but am focusing on one now: mrsexsmith.tumblr.com. The working description is something like “the personal media collection – images, video, songs, quotes – of Mr. Sinclair Sexsmith. Often featured are ribbons, pigtails, fishnets, lingerie, butches, and radical masculinity.” Generally, it’s all sorts of media and images that I like. The latest photo is currently featured over there in the sidebar.

  • I got a booking company! Phin Li Bookings is now representing me, and I am so thrilled to be doing more workshops and speaking engagements through them. What’s that? You’d like to bring me to your college or community center or local queer group? Well gosh, I’d love to! Let’s be in touch. You can find out about some of my workshops over on PhinLi.com and contact Seraphin of PhinLi Bookings, LLC at (646) 418-5152 or bookings (at) phinli (dot) com.

Other big news! Oh yeah, I write a column now!

I started writing for Carnal Nation in October, a column called Radical Masculinity. This is a major accomplishment, and a goal that I’ve wanted for a long time. I LOVE Carnal Nation and I love my editor, Chris, over there, and the pieces we’ve published so far are some of my favorite things I’ve written. I’ll always

I wrote a couple other things for Carnal Nation first, including being on their Perv Panel, which is on a hiatus. I wrote various pieces of advice, but I’m coming stronger to not really thinking I will pursue being an advice columnist. I like it, but I really don’t have time to get everything done that I’d like to as it is.

Oh yeah – I wrote product reviews, especially for sex toys. I think that might be a separate post, though – a roundup of all the products I reviewed, or a list of my favorites, might take a little time.

Whew! That’s a lot! Did I miss something? Also, what would you LOVE to see here in 2010?

Radical Masculinity #3: When Men Wear Skirts

… is up at Carnal Nation!

A little taste of what I discuss:

One of my basic tenets of gender is the deep belief that gender should not dictate one’s personality. Personality traits are made up of hobbies, interests, and activities; one of the classic ways we police gender in this culture is to require that men only do “manly things” and women do “womanly things,” and when a man does a womanly thing, we get all up in arms about it. Ask my sister’s boyfriend: he’s a cop, the man carries a gun for goodness’ sake, but when he started growing sunflowers, he got teased incessantly by his best friends and coworkers alike. Someone—anyone—is extra quick to criticize when one of the activities we like to do is outside of our gender assignment.

Yet it is more socially acceptable for a woman to cross over into seemingly masculine hobbies than for a man to cross into feminine ones (at least at the amateur level—men still dominate fields traditionally seen as “female” such as cooking, baking, and sewing at the professional level, but that is a slightly different topic). The advances that the various feminist movements have made in the last 100-plus years have made it more acceptable for a woman to get really obsessed with NASCAR racing, or World of Warcraft and video games, or pro-wrestling, or environmental engineering, or the stock market, or any of those other supposedly “masculine” interests and hobbies. She may be insulted for these interests, she may be called a dyke (equating her gender identity with sexuality), but she has support. She has other women who have gone through this, she has documents, she has a feminist history to call upon to tell herself—and others—that she can like these things and still be a “real” woman.

However, if a man wants to grow sunflowers or bake cupcakes or learn how to needlepoint or host fancy dinner parties or make greeting cards, there are consequences: the people around him, friends and strangers, will police his hobbies, words, and actions around things seen as “unmanly.”

Head on over to Carnal Nation for the whole thing.

An Emasculating Truth

Update: This documentary is part of the recent ad campaign by Dockers about masculinity. I tweeted about these ads recently, Sociological Images has a good article on it too.

Bitch Magazine has a good post about the film, and I’m supposed to be running my last minute errands and getting ready to go away with Kristen for the weekend, so I can’t spend a lot of time fixing this post.

I did think the film’s perspective was a little questionable … Sounds like there might still BE a movie, but it’s clearly got a secondary agenda: aside from being sponsored by Dockers to some degree or another, it’s attempting to police masculinity as something fixed, limited, and engrained, and puts absolutely no value on the range of accepted masculine expression.

Man, this Dockers campaign is making the rounds, huh? I’ve got lots to say about it. But ack, I gotta go! I’ll be away for the weekend, but don’t worry, I have a couple posts set in my absence, so there will still be Sugarbutchery for you to read. Be back Tuesday.

A new film on masculinity, An Emasculating Truth, has just released the trailer. I have some skepticism about the perspective that this film takes, based on the clips in the trailer, but I am looking forward to seeing it.

Seems like there are a lot of people writing and thinking about intentional, radical masculinity these days! Or perhaps it’s just that I’ve stepped up my noticing of it, so it seems like there’s more. It’s a big, significant issue, and I like that there are more perspectives on it all the time.

Radical Masculinity: How to Make Masculinity Stop Hurting

It’s up!

My second Radical Masculinity column for Carnal Nation is titled How to Make Masculinity Stop Hurting. Here’s the beginning:

radical-masculinity-hurting-big

My dad’s best friend died last week. Heart attack. He was 60, barely older than my dad, not old enough for his heart to give way. They’ve been friends for 35 years, longer than I’ve been alive. I got a heartbreaking email from my father about how they met, where they’d traveled together, and his favorite joke (What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor? Make me one with everything).

In his eulogy, his son wrote that he was “a devoted family man, one who extended the term to cover a great many individuals, supporting and caring for those who needed him.”

And I thought, that’s radical masculinity.

How does one learn how to be that? How do you grow up into a masculinity, a maleness, an adult manhood, despite this culture’s obsession with bad boys and lunkheads, to be a caring protective provider, to make effective, positive changes in this world, to build something that will last, to be generous with your heart and mind and love and time?

Traditional, limitational masculinity says don’t talk about your feelings. That masculinity says be strong all the time. It says a “real” man is tough, and the worst thing you can be is a sissy, a pussy, a girl, feminine, weak.

Radical masculinity says: I am listening. Who do you want to be?

Read the whole thing over at Carnal Nation, and read my other pieces there, too.

Suggestions or requests for the third column are very much welcome! Got any good ideas? What were your favorite parts of the first two that I could perhaps expand upon? Anything about masculinity that you’ve been dying to hear my opinion about? Please do let me know.

A Manifesto for Radical Masculinity (on Carnal Nation)

I’ve got a new column on Carnal Nation called Radical Masculinity, and the first one went up two weeks ago. Here’s an excerpt:

Remember back in the Spring of 2009 when two young boys committed suicide within a week of each other, both eleven years old? Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover of Massachusetts and Jaheem Herrera of Georgia were both being subjected to unbearable anti-gay bullying at school. Whether or not these boys were actually gay, using homophobia to police masculinity is practically the oldest trick in the book. In the aftermath of these suicides, and in the discussions that ensued on the Web and in print, there was extensive lip service given to gender and the inevitable complaint that boys have it so hard, that feminism has stripped men of their manliness, that men don’t know how to be men anymore, that we’ve got a Crisis In Masculinity.

That might seem like anti-feminist rhetoric, but I agree with it—at least in part. I agree that masculinity is changing, for some in dramatic, drastic ways. I have witnessed and observed cultural changes around the masculine and male gender roles which are shifting, yes, as a direct result of the recent feminist and other gendered social change movements.

Read the whole thing over on CarnalNation.com.

The premise of this first article is to introduce some of the concepts of this so-called “crisis in masculinity” and my perspectives on them. I think there’s some stuff brewing behind changes and evolutions in masculinity, and I want to tease them out. I also had a pretty tough time coming to my own masculinity, but I feel like I have come into my own, and I want to attempt to explain how that worked for me and how I adopted a masculinity that was both intentional and actively works to not be painful or hurtful, to me or others.

It’s a really complicated topic and I’m looking forward to exploring it. The second column is in progress – they’ll be monthly. If you have any particular requests for topics I should explore, I’d love to know.

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.