AJ Stacy: Mini-Interview

Host, Tuna Talk

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

I think of me, by default, or people like me, who have too much style when we walk into the men’s section at the department store. The word “Butch” is sexy, it’s strong.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

I really don’t like to label myself too much, but people always ask if I’m FTM or Butch or if I’m transitioning or whatever so, based on that, occasionally I like to clarify that I’m just BUTCH, I’m just AJ, I like to dress better than a straigt guy.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

If I could sit my 18 year old, crazy self down, I’d tell myself to go out and have fun, don’t be so shy, speak up for what you want and what you believe in and don’t wait for things to happen, make things happen.

Visit AJ’s online video blog Tuna Talk

B. Cole: Mini-Interview

Activist, advocate, teacher, community leader. brownboiproject.org

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”
I came of age as butch but it never fully reflected Cole. As I was growing up, butch was much more common in the white queer community. That’s why I came up with the term masculine of center. I wanted to be able to acknowledge my place within this amazing community of womyn, recognizing the diversity and power of defining ourselves across a spectrum.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?
I’ve been a stud, a dom, a butch, and a boi across my journey of life. It’s been important to claim my identity as a masculine of center womyn, to make peace with myself. I prefer female pronouns and as long as you don’t call me lady or m’am, we’ll be fine.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?
Spend your time with people who respect and love you for who you are, even if it’s different from them. We live in a society that has a deep aversion to difference. Love it, cultivate it all around you. It is what makes life the most interesting.

Gina Mamone: Mini-Interview

President & CEO, Riot Grrrl Ink. The Largest Queer Record Label in the world.
Photo by Grace Moon

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch”?

My relationship with butch has evolved over my life. From coming out in college in rural West Virginia in the mid 90’s to living in modern day New York City. I have a very broad concept of gender especially in regards to identity and fluidity.

I did not come into my butchness like some, I was born into it – my mother jokes to this day that there was no need for me to “come out”. I grew up in rural Appalachia in the buckle of the bible belt. In the early 80‘s before there were mandatory curriculums of inclusion and tolerance in the public school system. I was bullied and teased constantly at school, it was a hard way to grow up. Butch was full of negative connotation for me in the first part of my life. Then I came out and I learned to find positive images of butch & gender variance in my community and I learned a new definition of the word. The more people I meet, the more art I am exposed to – my definition of butch & gender gets bigger and bigger – it will always be evolving.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

I identify as a Tender Hearted Gender Queer that has a nougaty Deep Lez Center with Hillbilly tendencies.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I was bullied and teased constantly about my gender expression in elementary school (see attached elementary school photo). By the time I was in Jr. High & Highschool, I was dressing to fit in and growing my hair long. I had learned to not let anyone know who I really was. I would go back and tell my younger self about Dapper Q, Bromance and the Flatbush Freakshow…. the big beautiful world that awaits out there once all of the queers find each other on the internet… start to mobilize & create. I would also tell myself that American Apparel Manties will change your life, have a wicked respect for your herstory / history, there is truth where you come from and to take better care of my vinyl.

I LOVE what is happening now – the fostering of butch identified community though grassroots organizing. I look at things like Butch Voices & Butch Lab happening all over the country and I see people coming together to create safe space, share resources, organize n’ mobilize, get inspired and most importantly, connect to community and I get hella excited. This generation of butch identified / masculine of center individuals are changing what it means to be butch – making it bigger and more accessible for those to come and it’s all being documented in real time through social media – it’s a very exciting & fascinating time.

Rachel Venning: Mini-Interview

Owner, www.babeland.com

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

Being butch has always been part of my queer identity. When I was young my friends and I loved to talk about “what kind of butch are you?” Now that I’m headed into my silver fox years it’s just an identity that has sat well with me for a long time. And I acknowledge other butches out there as much as I can, with the butch nod or a “hi.” I feel a lot of solidarity with other butches. It’s really not easy being butch. Just dealing with people’s reactions and my projections of their gender phobia.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

Butch, dyke, lesbian and queer. Kinky. Some feel more comfortable than others.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

My younger self thought she knew it all, so cocky! I’d tell her to be more gentle and compassionate- people have a lot of different ways of growing into themselves. Oh and I’d tell my younger self to take more risks, and have sex with more people. I was not enough of a player in my playing years. More of the uhaul type, alas.

Adrienne “Aj” Davis: Mini-Interview

Organizer for the Butch Voices conferences, www.dreadedmemes.org

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

I proudly use that word. Although it took me about ten years after I came out before I truly embraced that identity.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

Butch. Geeky butch. Nerdy butch. Nerd. Geek. Geekgirl (or geekgrrl). Academic butch. Scientist. Alpha Geek.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I would tell myself, “Self, don’t worry about how others look at you. Don’t worry about how this might play in the black community. Embrace who you are because you ARE sexy, you ARE beautiful, you ARE alluring—but not in the conventional manner that women are seen as expressing those attributes. And yes, Virginia, you can be as academic and urbane as you wish and still be a butch.”

Kyle Jones: Mini-Interview

Writer, parent, lover, perpetual student. www.butchtastic.net

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”
‘Butch’ is one of the words I use to describe myself. I’ve experimented with different identity terms over the years, and ‘butch’ is one that I come back to over and over again. I currently use butch to describe my presentation, as an adjective more often than as a noun. When I describe myself as butch, I mean to say that I am masculine in appearance and mannerisms. I wear clothing from the men’s department, cut my hair short and don’t mind when someone refers to me as ‘Sir’.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?
When I talk about my identity, I say that my sexuality is queer, my gender is genderqueer and my presentation is butch. I also use the words transgender and trans-masculine to identify myself, as a female-born person who’s gender identity does not always line up squarely with my body.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?
I would try to explain how fluid and changing identity is, that what we see as a rock solid personal identity can change over the years, as we grow and experience more in life. I would encourage myself to explore sex more, to experiment and play, to see the fun and playfulness of sex and not be hung up on judgements about what should, or should not, turn me on. I would try to explain some of what I know about gender now, which is much less rigid than my viewpoint when I was younger. Back then, I was very much trying to find the one gender that worked for me and that kept me bouncing back and forth until recently, when I finally realized that I didn’t have to choose. Gender is not only fluid and unfixed, we can experience multiple genders concurrently, or even feel a lack of gender identity. Gender is much more fascinating than I imagined 20 years ago.

Joe LeBlanc: Mini-Interview

President and Conference Chair for Butch Voices. butchvoices.com | @BUTCHVoices

Photo by Kristin Kurzawa

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

My relationship with the word and identity of butch has been a complex one. I hesitated using it at first as a descriptor for myself since I did not “fit” the stereotype for a number of reasons. So much was wrapped up for me upon first glance in the identity of butch – hair style, clothing, class, age, race, sexual preferences, boundaries, underwear, shoes, etc… in order to use the identity for myself. Or so I thought. I thought that I had to already have it all figured out, and have it all in place in order for me to identify as a butch. Not knowing any other butches impeded this process, because I only knew what little I saw about butches. The disassociation the lesbian community was having at the time over anyone who looked butch, much less identified as butch, didn’t really help matters either.

Over time for me, it became less about my needing to fit a specific equation of x + y + z = butch. I began to see that it was more about how I felt inside. I did a lot of internal work around the various facets of myself in regards to my preferences. When I gave myself the permission to get beyond the stereotypes, I could relax and start to become at home with the word. For me, butch is an identity that is personal, as well as sexual and political, too.

With doing community organizing with BUTCH Voices, I have seen ‘butch’ as a polarizing word. For some it has become more of an umbrella term that continues to bring folks together both online and in person, who in the past would not have been in the same room. For others it is a word that gives them the idea that they can ape the worst traits in men. Being a misogynistic asshole does not make someone butch. I enjoy when people can use their preferred identities to start conversations, find commonalities, but not dismiss the differences, or abuse privileges sometimes afforded to us for presenting masculine. Finding strength in the diversity of what butch means is key for us as a segmented community. The identity we choose for ourselves is not the end all, be all about us. It’s only the tip of the iceberg. We can stay divided over semantics and assumptions, or we can find common ground and actually work together to combat the many issues that we all face no matter the language we choose for ourselves.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

I am a lover of language, so I do have some strong personal relationships with certain words around my identity such as: butch, genderqueer, transgender, masculine of center (from B Cole and the Brown Boi Project), dyke, feminist, activist, queer, and gender non-conforming to name a few.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I would tell my younger self to not to be so in a rush with the need to figure it all out. But I’m not sure that my younger self would listen. My life’s lessons had and continue to have to be experienced first-hand, which isn’t good or bad – it just is. I am constantly learning more about myself and adding this knowledge and reforming opinions I have along the way. Such is life, and it’s more about the journey than the destination.

Anything you’d like to add?

Butch is what you make of it, and there is no one way to be butch.

S. Bear Bergman: Mini-Interview

Writer, performer, activist. www.sbearbergman.com

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

Butch was the first way I ever really felt seen, or desired. Butch is how I was recognized, and it’s how I was made. I love many of the ways of butchness, and even the ones I really do not love I can at least understand. The part of me that is a butch – not a butch lesbian or a butch woman but a butch as its own whole and true thing – is both the toughest and the tenderest part.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

I identify as queer, transmasculine, and as a butch; as a husband and father; as a Jew, and as a storyteller.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

Calm down. You don’t need to know, or do, or try, or be, or have everything sorted out right now. There’s time, and being patient will make you less annoying.

So Brown: Mini-Interview

Musician, kickstarter | myspace.com/sobrown | Bad Love video

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”
I’m not really sure about my relationship to the word “butch”; I’ve always just felt I was a male-ish spirit and tried to honor that.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?
Occasionally, when trying to convey my aesthetic to a new person, I’ll say something like, “think along the masculine spectrum. What would Johnny Cash be doing?” I’ve always done what boys did without really thinking about it. I do also love the Native-American concept of the Two-Spirit, a person who is a third gender and has qualities of both. That always resonated with me.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?
I’d say, “Young So, try to be kind to yourself, try not to self-destruct. One day you will have a really beautiful life, and you’ll be able to write awesome songs about all the hard years along the way, and you will have an important place in the world surrounded by lots of people who love you. You are perfect just the way you are and you don’t have to choose about anything. Just be.”

Anything to add?

I guess the only other thing I’d add is that I’m really looking forward to making more openly gay music videos for my songs!

Kelli Dunham: Mini-Interview

Kelli Dunham, writer, comic. kellidunham.com

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

I love the word butch for myself but also love the umbrella term masculine of center which seems to encompass a lot more folks in a very positive way. I’ve learned over the years that I don’t have to do what Grace Moon calls “Butch/Femme realism” to be butch. I don’t have to fix cars or even be tough. I’m not tough, I cry at dog food commercials, I cry on the subway. I like that part of myself, and I’m glad as I’ve gotten older that I’ve been able to move away from needing to pretend to be the strong and silent type (which I ain’t) in order to be butch.

2. Which words and labels, if any, do you use to describe yourself and your identities?

Butch, Mama Butch, Genderqueer (if describing myself to folks under 30, usually), Wanna Be Glitter Butch. And Boi, but only to those with whom I’m close. Like my girlfriend calls me boi, and have another close friend who calls Munchkin, who is her own variation, I think, on boi. I think people who are closer to me (rather than those who see my on a stand up comedy stage) see me as more Boi than Butch.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

It doesn’t matter, I wouldn’t have listened since I already knew everything. But for starters:

“Saunter in a dignified manner away from the flannel drawstring pants. NOW!”

AND

“Good fucking Lord goofball, you can wear men’s underwear and you’ll be FINE!!!”

AND

“Don’t wait for the grown-ups. They aren’t coming. You’re the grown-up now and you get to make it up as you go along.”

Elisha Lim: Mini-Interview

Elisha Lim, artist. newhearteveryday.blogspot.com

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

I’m a gay butch, I’m attracted to other butches. That seems to immediately abandon a lot of butch stereotypes. Domineering, possessing or even providing for a feminine person doesn’t profit me, and I hope I can always confront any accompanying butch sexism, in myself and my surroundings. I’m a proudly feminist butch.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

I’m queer, I’m trans, I’m a they, I’m a s/he, I’m easily confused, but one thing’s for sure, I’m always thrilled when you call me handsome. In other words butch forever.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender

Oh man, this question can bring tears to my eyes. You never needed to be a girl! You’re something else, and it’s okay, and it’s natural, and it’s as old and real and sure and plain as the birds and bees.

Bonus: Anything to add?

I’m working on 100 Butches, 100 Femmes (with Leah Lakshmi) and a wall calendar called The Illustrated Gentleman.

John Gagon: Butch Mini-Interview

John Gagon, data application programmer

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

My relationship with the word is that it carries with it something that’s not necessarily pure masculine and not necessarily rough and tough, it’s more the voice, appearance, trim hair, compatible with leather and less so with silk/feathers/lace or ghetto-silk (nylon). It’s not too stylish, it’s plain, feels Jimmy Dean, cool and relaxed and comfortable in skin. It also has a ballsy feel and while not necessarily rough and tough, it can be and it can be prone to a little anger. It’s adventurous and playful, not overly ticklish. Can be emotionally sensitive but not too physically sensitive, can play dom and appreciate masochism. Not too shy of verbal… or anything. The masculinity is incidental and it’s not always macho or aged. A spikey haired boy is butch just as say a biker. There’s often a mechanic penchant, it can be a little intellectual too and suave. It’s more rough around the edges than just leather and chain with cigar and scowl. It’s all a bit butch but the visual is less soft, shiney, no sequins, not flashy or sensitive/impractically fashioned. It’s pragmatic and useful. Someone who is butch can serve but also expects some loyalty or submission in return. Butch lesbians are butch if they like to crop their hair but they can have long hippy hair or something else. A good pair of jeans and cap, tshirt are butch. Usually not in a dress unless it’s cultural like sarong/kilt etc. But it can bend and mix. A bearded dude in a burlesque wedding dress or a female in a suit can be butch but a bearded man with lipstick and a roll of the eyes/queen is not so much. A soft lipstick lesbian is not going to seem butch except in that general appearance just like bears and leathermen can have lisp and peakybrows.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

Butch, burly, scruffy, woofy, natural, bearish, (insert animal here), hairy, wolf, pup, dog. The butch honorifics tend to be masculine: master, sir, boy, pup.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I would tell my younger self that sex isn’t evil, isn’t going to damn me to hell if I love someone or fornicate. that religion is dogma and unrealistic. That gender is flexible. We are all a bit hermaphroditic in our brains. I would promote safer sex, responsible sex (disclosure of risks), honesty with self. Don’t do things for others, do things for yourself. Rules are not absolute. I would reveal more of what I’ve found out through genetics and research… that while it’s not a choice, honesty is a choice and so in a sense, you can promote the freedom for people to define themselves. I’d teach myself love, trust, a bit more about what BDSM is all about. A bit more about finding the right guy.

Kestryl Cael Lowery: Butch Mini-Interview

Kestryl Cael Lowrey
Performer/Writer/Activist
pomofreakshow.com/kessmain and/or kestrylcael.com

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

I didn’t learn what ‘butch’ was until I had been out for several years. It was the same summer I got my first motorcycle jacket, and a lover asked if I had read ‘Stone Butch Blues.’ Of course, I hadn’t; I devoured the text within days, which then led to library searches and more and more reading as I found a sense of history. I was amazed to learn there was a word, an identity, a community that matched what I’d been doing (I thought) on my own. Looking backwards, I came into butch.

For me, butch is the best word I’ve found to articulate the way that I do gender. Over the years, my own interpretation of ‘butch’ has grown and shifted—and I know this will continue as I live in/with ‘butch’.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

I’m suspicious of labels, but I use a lot of them. Queer, butch, dandy, trans, leather, Daddy, performer, artist, activist, writer, scholar, and theorist are the ones that I use most frequently.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender

For sex and sexuality: It’s okay to have a lot of sex. It’s also okay to not have a lot of sex. Either way, get your first cock, and make sure it’s a good one. It will make all the difference.

As for gender: It will always be complicated. Trust me, you don’t want it any other way.

Ellis: Butch Mini-Interview

Musician, ellis-music.com

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

I identify as a butch woman. I think of “butch” as being a synonym for being a more masculine woman. When I was younger, I thought that butch meant tough, and I worried I wasn’t tough enough. I love pretty ladies and I used to think the only way to have a pretty lady love me back was to be more tough.

But now I’m realizing that toughness isn’t as strong as I thought it was, or at least it is different than I thought it was. Now, for me gentleness is king and I’ve found kindness to be the path to a more steadfast and stronger me.

So my understanding of what it is to be a butch woman looks different then it used to, maybe softer in some ways, less defensive. And, happily, it turns out that my pretty lady loves this gentle butch!

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

Butch, queer, woman loving woman, woman, buddhist, peaceful warrior, runner, musician, songwriter, human …

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

Hmmm… I would tell myself to relax and be patient more.

I’d tell myself that sex isn’t about being someone who is good in bed or having to perform. When I was younger, I had a bit of defensiveness about wanting to be as good as I thought maybe a man would be. Now I know that it’s so not even the point! Loving someone is loving someone. The parts aren’t a big thing. Connecting to the person you are with and loving them is better when there is vulnerability and real sharing.

I would also tell myself that there is a joy in discovering who you are and really the thing that matters most is cultivating the heart. I would encourage myself to care about the feelings that come up as a butch woman living in a culture that doesn’t see or recognize butch. I would tell myself that the fear, inadequacy, anger, and sense of outsider-ness that I felt wasn’t about me, and that it is a result of being in a culture that doesn’t recognize the butch woman.

Vittoria repetto: Butch Mini-Interview

poet, poetry host, chiropractor, applied kinesiologist
vittoriarepetto.wordpress.com
www.drvittoriarepetto.com

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”
It’s an ID that I’m comfortable with and femmes and other butches see the butch in me. Old guard lesbians from my life have a problem seeing it but that is their problem.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?
My tag line is the hardest working guinea butch dyke poet on the lower east side.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?
I would tell my younger self that you didn’t have to be freaked out as a feminist because you wanted a “penis” to make love to your girlfriend.

Emma Crandall: Butch Mini-Interview

Emma Crandall
Brooklyn, New York
writer, college professor, organizer, fashion inspiration

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

I haven’t always identified as “butch,” but it was definitely my first queer identity. There have been people who have told me I’m not butch, and people who have laughed in my face if I said I wasn’t. So many people assume “butch” is a rigid category, but I don’t find that to be true. Still, I like how polarizing butch can be as an identity/identification. I love our history as butches. For me, butch is the only word that explains my past experiences, my particular lesbian heritage, and my style of queerness.

2. Which words and labels, if any, do you use to describe yourself and your identities?

BUTCH BRUT.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I think I had really good instincts as a young queer, but I should have trusted them more. I always interrogated identities and made up my own vocabulary. I understood my queerness as something that was inborn but also creative. I feel really lucky that I had that knowledge at a young age.
Oddly, I think the biggest thing I would teach my younger self would be about self-protection. I put myself in damaging situations just because I didn’t feel valuable yet, or didn’t know how to love myself. I want queer kids to know they don’t have to put up with all the damage that’s thrown at them, from within our communities or outside of them. Standing up and saying, “This is violent and damaging to me and it has to stop” is one of the most empowering things you can do.

Patricia “Cacahuate” Manuel: Butch Mini-Interview

Patricia “Cacahuate” Manuel
Elite amateur boxer
USA Boxing profile

1. What is your relationship with the word or identity “butch?”

The older I’ve become and the more comfortable I have grown in my own skin, I have realized how much of myself is tied into the word “butch”. When I was younger, I was self-conscious of having my sex misread by other people. Eventually as I grew up I realized that there wasn’t necessarily a contradiction between my female sex and my masculine gender identity. For me, this is the meaning of butch and it truly expresses who I am.

2. What kind of words and labels, if any, do you use to identify yourself?

Like I stated earlier, butch is probably the best word/label to describe me. I usually don’t care much for whatever words people use to identify me. Unless of course I feel like I can make a joke of it.

3. What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex, sexuality, or gender?

I’d definitely tell my younger self, “Cut your hair off. The chicks will totally dig it.”