Last month, I posted a list of things that well-meaning-but-misguided people tend to say to childless lesbians
. On my Facebook page
, a few readers mentioned that people say equally irritating and/or idiotic things to lesbians who have
kids. Here are some of their least favorites:
- "How did you get your kids?" [Fed-Ex brought them. I didn't even have to sign!]
- "So you were married to a man before, then?" [No, which is why I'm so confused about how these kids got here.]
- "Are you his real mom?" [Nope. I'm the fake one.]
- "Does he have a dad?" [Nope. Immaculate conception.]
- (Incredulously) "YOU have KIDS??" [I know! Apparently the stork is less discriminatory than most state legislatures.]
- "But won't she be bullied?" [Not if your kids leave her alone.]
- "Don't you think he needs a male influence?" [Yeah, just like all those kids who are influenced by abusive, alcoholic, or absent fathers? Clearly having a caregiver with a penis makes all the difference.]
- "Aren't you worried that they're going to grow up and be gay?" [Terribly. I lay awake nights!]
- "Oh so you weren't always gay? You have kids, so it must not have always been horrible being straight." [...]
- "Is your kid okay with you being a lesbian?" [Is your kid okay with you having no manners?]
- "Do you feel bad knowing she'll be picked on because of your choices?" [Do you feel bad knowing that intelligence is partly genetic?]
- "Do both your kids have the same dad?" [Congrats! You've just won the things-that-aren't-your-business identification award!]
- (Said to the butch half of a butch-femme couple): "You're the one that had the kid?" [Yeah! They didn't take my ovaries away when I started wearing ties! Hooray!]
- (Also said to a pregnant butch): "Well, I guess you'll have to start dressing/acting like a mom, and not so.... um... like a dad." [The ignorance! It burns!]
Seriously, people. Let me give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're beside yourself with joy and curiosity about a child or a pregnancy that is not your own. It is very, very rude to ask someone you barely know about the biological details of how his or her children came to be, or to offer your unsolicited, pop-pseudo-psychological opinion about how the family arrangement is likely to affect the child.
Q: But what if I really want to know?
A: That's what the Internet is for.
Q: But I'm a total supporter of gay rights! So it's okay if I ask, right?
Q: What if the person I want to ask is a friend or family member?
A: Possibly fine. But this varies based on the person. Some folks will talk your ear off about IVF; others will want to smack you for asking. If the person is a friend, you probably already know the deets or would feel comfortable saying something like, "Hey, I had a few questions about the biological aspects of your pregnancy. Would it be okay if I asked you about it? If not, I certainly understand."
Q: Oh, good! I can ask my lesbian co-worker how she got pregnant!
When I say "friend," I'm talking about someone with whom you hang out socially
, on a voluntary
basis. Just seeing someone at work functions, PTA meetings, or the post office doesn't count.
Q: Oh, good--so I can tell my lesbian daughter that her son needs a male influence?
A: NO. The aforementioned ban on
unsolicited, pop-pseudo-psychological opinions about someone's child-rearing decisions applies to friends and family members as well.
Any queer parents out there want to add something I missed? Drop me a line or post a comment below!
I mentioned this on my Facebook page
recently, and it continues to chap my proverbial hide.
The New York Times
ran this story
about how one butch went to a (male) tailor and asked him to make a men's suit for her. Last year
. Yeah, you read that right: when Tomboy Tailors
, Saint Harridan
, and other companies were already on the scene. (I profiled some of them back in January
Worse yet, the Times
's story implies that this tailor had some amaaaazing new idea. The story begins with, "Breakthrough ideas often come from the least expected sources." The idea that a mainstream male tailor would make some suits for butch women is not a "breakthrough;" he was merely introduced to a market that he didn't know already existed.
I don't fault the tailor--his quotes don't make it sound like he
thinks he's a pioneer--but "discovery" is the thrust of the Times
's story. Here's a quote: In a coffee shop near his home the other day, he [the tailor] seemed still struck by the world that opened to him after that initial email. "The whole thing is really strange, and sometimes I can't — " he said, his voice evaporating into the wonder of it all. He was not even sure how to identify Ms. Tutera [the Handsome Butch], gender-wise. Was she transgender or just mannish? Sometimes it was hard to know such things.
In other words, Regular Person discovers Weird Queer Market.
While the story pays lip service to the fact that queer
-owned companies with this mission already existed
, this bit of info comes several paragraphs into the article, after the article's framework is well in place.
I'm happy to see any butch coverage in the media (see here
for previous posts on the subject), but the Times
article was one more reminder that butch visibility--and queer equality generally--still has a long way to go.
We've all heard that feminism is the "radical notion that women are people." But if so, then why wouldn't nearly everyone
call themselves feminists? It's odd to me that if you ask people in their 20s, "Do you think men and women should be treated equally," most of them will say yes. But if you ask instead, "Are you a feminist?" many will claim that they are not. Is this because so much of the media paints feminists as unsexy, man-hating, unpleasant harridans? As extremists? As--godforbid--lesbians
? Or is it because so many people naively think that we've already achieved gender equality? That there's really nothing left to fight for?
Within the queer community, I've sometimes heard feminism referred to as "old school," or heard it criticized as "embracing a gender binary." And I've even known butches who don't identify as feminists because it associates them with being female, which they (by which I mean this handful of people, not all, or even most, butches)
do not want.
So, as I've been pondering all of this, I became very curious about your thoughts on this, dear readers. Do you identify as a feminist? If so, why? If not, why not?
(And if you laugh at this
, you juuust might be a closet feminist.)
Okay, I'm hesitating to post this because it makes me seem way more curmudgeonly than I actually (think I) am. Oh well.
I should also say that at least for me, and maybe for other people, none of this applies if you're a close friend or close family member. It's more when acquaintances or (godfuhbid) strangers offer their advice that I blanch.
What you say: There are soooo many options for people who want kids!
What I hear: You're probably too stupid to figure this out, but you can procreate without having sex with a man!
What you say: But you'd be such a good parent!
What I think: I'd also be a good race car driver, occupational therapist, or professional shoeshiner. Natural predilection does not a destiny make.
What you say: Some people are too selfish to have kids.
What I hear: You are selfish and shallow. Unless you have kids. In which case all is forgiven. But I thought better of you. Now you just make me sad.
What you say: You could always adopt!
What I think: No sh*t.
What you say: Lots of lesbians are having kids these days!
What I think: Lots of lesbians are also chain-smokers, alcoholics, drug users, glue-sniffers, head cases, doctors, truckers, and couch potatoes. So?
What you (usually another lesbian) say: My mom didn't fully accept my partner and me until we had kids. But now that she has grandkids, we're closer than ever.
What I hear: Your mother will never fully love you until you procreate.
What you say: There are SO many children out there who need good homes.
What I think: So why didn't you adopt instead of having biological kids? Oh--you're scared you'll end up with a crack baby or a psychopath from a Russian orphanage who's never been held? But I should go for it? Thaaanks.
What you say: NO one thinks they want kids. Then they have them and they're glad they did.
What I think: Am I the only person in the world who's ever heard of cognitive dissonance?
What you say: Are you thinking of having a family?
What I think: So, me + DGF + slightly swollen canine ≠ "family?" Screw you.
What you say: You haven't lived a full life unless you have kids.
What I hear: Your life is invalid. There's only one way to redeem yourself, and it smells like diapers.
What you say: You may think you know what love is, but you don't really know what love is until you have kids.
What I hear: All your feelings are pathetic, shallow, and invalid--mere shadows of what they could have been. Alas!
Okay, so I'm being melodramatic, but you get the idea.
I actually don't think the pressure is nearly as bad for lesbian and gay couples who don't want kids, as it is for straight couples who don't want kids. People basically assume that opposite-sex couples are going to have kids, and that if they don't, it's because there's something biologically "wrong" with them. Instead of just getting asked, "Do you think you'll have kids someday?", people will ask questions like, "Do you think you're going to... start trying?"
I once asked my friend Erica what it felt like to want a kid. She said that when she saw other people's babies, she just wanted to steal them and have them for her very own.
I have never felt this way.
Although, admittedly, I want to steal other people's dogs and take them home and have them for my very own. When I confided this to Erica, she was not especially impressed by my puppy-mothering instincts.
"But doesn't that mean something?" I asked, forcing my mouth into what I hoped was a beatific maternal smile.
"It might, um, mean that you should have dogs instead of children," she said.
Of course, she is right. Baby dogs are cute to me in a way that baby children have never been. People say that babies are cute and smell wonderful. I maintain that even though babies *can* be cute, this is not always the case, and that they typically smell like poo.
My lack of desire to procreate is something I've been thinking about lately, as I am solidly in my mid-30s, and it's now-or-never time if I want a tiny human to spring from my loins. Originally, my mother didn't want kids, but changed her mind and decided she was okay with it, and then she loved having them (and, truth be told, was the best, most engaged mom ever). So I have kind of assumed for most of my life that although I never wanted children at the moment, there would come a time when having children would go from seeming wretchedly inconvenient to seeming kind of fun.
But this time has not come.
If I had a partner who (1) was dying to have kids and (2) was willing to do four-fifths of the work, having kids might sound fun. But my DGF feels the same way I do, meaning that in tandem, we would still be sixty percent short of a parent.
Don't get me wrong--I like kids, particularly after the age of fiveish. I've done a lot of teaching and coaching of various types and at various levels, and I think kids are awesome (my favorite being high schoolers). And if someone gifted me a baby, or something happened to a friend and he or she left me with custody of their kids, I guarantee I'd throw my whole heart and soul into parenting--I really would--and I'd probably love parenting, too. I can guarantee I'd be both open-minded and overprotective.
And yet, I have no special desire to proactively become a parent. Not only does this make me feel like kind of a bad person, but it's also a little odd. After all, tons of babies need good parents and are up for adoption. Why don't I just adopt one? Is it really all that different from a friend leaving me their kid? Somehow, it feels that way.
I also keep feeling as if, one of these days, the desire to have a kid is going to grab onto me, and then I'll "get it." But for now... I don't get it.
Can anyone else relate to how I feel about all this?
Next post: Well-Meaning-But-Obnoxious Things People Tell Lesbians Who Don't Have Kids. (Anything I should be sure to add to this list? Tell me!)
Well, folks, it's been nearly FIVE months since I talked to any of you. But lest you thought I'd fallen off the face of the earth, I'm popping my butch little head up to say hello. It's not that work has abated--goodness knows THAT hasn't happened--nor that I think I can write every day, or even every week. Rather, I sort of thought I'd know when it was time for me to come back, even occasionally, and it's time.
In the spirit of re-acquainting ourselves, I'm going to list some things that have happened to me in the last five months. Then YOU list a couple of things that have happened to YOU in the last five months. Deal?
Okay, here's mine:
So that's me in a nutshell. I have lots, lots, lots more to say. I'm officially back, although "back" may mean a once-a-month posting. I don't know yet. But I do know that I missed you. I probably won't be back to answering emails or Facebook posts for a while, but I'll try to be in touch whenever I can! :)
- I travel to Boston. I am there for less than 48 hours, and am addressed as "sir" three times.
- My dog is diagnosed with a rare condition called "idiopathic abdominal effusion," which--from what I can tell--means, "Your dog swells up and we don't know why." Expensive surgery and much ultrasounding ensues. Prognosis remains unclear.
- I get sick. I recover fairly quickly. I get sick. I recover again.
- I wear a pearl necklace. Voluntarily. In front of people. Three different times.
- I buy three suits. Two are identical. The third is identical to the first two, except it is grey instead of black.
- My girlfriend (yep, my awesome DGF!) is awesome and supportive and rock-solid. And a terrific cook.
- In my current workplace, I am called "sir" twice when people just get a quick glimpse of me. One of these people has known me for over a decade. For reasons not entirely clear to me, I feel chagrined.
- I spend one very long plane ride watching seven hours straight of Lifetime, wherein I am introduced to "Million Dollar Shoppers" (awful; I watched three episodes) and "Wife Swap" (omg).
- I order room service for the first time ever, and am instantly convinced that it's the world's greatest invention. The same trip contains my second and third room service experiences. Two of said room service experiences involve corned beef hash.
- I attend my ex-husband's wedding.
- I decide that the best possible way to prepare for an interview is to do an interpretive dance to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" without a shirt on.
- I am deeply disappointed by a friend.
- I am deeply touched by the thoughtfulness and compassion of two other friends.
- I read several excellent books, my favorites among which are Ali Liebegott's The IHOP Papers, Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, and Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart. Admittedly, I also read the third book in the "Divergent" series, and all three Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books. Don't judge.
- A chimney sweep and I have a 20-minute phone conversation about sexual orientation.
Your turn! What's new with you guys?
Dear BW readers,
I've decided to take a break from writing Butch Wonders. I'm not sure how long--probably between six weeks and three months. In part, I want time to think about how best to sustain BW in the long run, both financially and practically.
Additionally, I'm about to start a search for a new job, which will be time-consuming as well. Rather than half-arsing anything, I'm going to step away from BW, then step back in when I'm ready.BW readers are awesome. I love you guys--corresponding with you, learning from you
. You're a proud, gorgeous, eclectic bunch, and I'm sending you all virtual hugs and fist bumps.
I'll be back soon.
In the meantime, I'll occasionally post updates on the BW Facebook page
or add things to the Butch Store
, so be sure to join me there. I'm looking forward to coming back already!Much love,BW
Shopping at thrift stores is an art, a science, and a great way to try out new styles without busting the bank. I shop at thrift stores regularly, and have found some awesome deals there (highlights include a brand-new Banana Republic jacket for $20 and some Docs for $5).The prospect, however, can be kind of daunting. The dressing rooms are often sketchy and dimly lit, the
clothes aren't hyper-organized like they are at Macy's, and the salespeople are there to ring stuff up, not to help you find a shirt with French cuffs and a 15.5 collar.Here are my top ten tips for making the most of your next thrift store visit:
There is zero shame in buying stuff secondhand. Whether you have to do it for financial reasons or not, stand proud in the line at Goodwill!. If anyone gives you a hard time about shopping at a thrift store, just be like: BAM!
- Shirts will usually be arranged in S, M, L, XL, XXL. Usually, S = 14-14.5, M = 15-15.5, L = 16-16.5, XL = 17-17.5, and XL = 18-18.5. (If you don't know what these numbers mean, read my guide to buying shirts.) Don't confine your search to one section--e.g., if you're usually a 17, look in L and XL.
- If you have time, look through all the sizes. Thrift stores often don't have enough staff to keep everything organized, so sizes and styles end up mixed together.
- Try everything on before you buy it. Sometimes a piece of clothing is at Goodwill because the sizing is slightly "off."
- Examine everything carefully for rips and stains. Many (in my experience, most) items there will be good as new... but not all of 'em.
- Don't buy anything with a frayed collar or frayed cuffs. Shopping at a thrift store doesn't mean you have to look sloppy. Similarly,
Don't compromise fit. You still want to look good.
- Wash everything before you wear it. 'Cause you just never know.
- Be mindful of prices. Yes, sometimes you'll get killer deals. But I've seen brand-name shirts for $30 at a Goodwill! Puh-lease! For that, I could just go to Ross or Marshall's or TJ Max and buy it brand new.
- Sometimes you can buy a quality piece for next to nothing and have it tailored. I once paid $12 for jeans that would have been $150 new. I had them hemmed, which cost $8, but for $20 total, it was still a bargain.
- Be patient! Some days you'll hit the thrift store jackpot; other days, you'll come home empty-handed. Thrift stores are not a great place to shop for something specific and urgent ("I need a blue long-sleeved shirt for a presentation I'm giving in two days.")
- Learn when the new stuff comes in. Sundays? Mondays? You want to dive in when the items are the least picked over. Off-season items tend not to be picked over, either. You can find some great sweaters in July when no one else is shopping for them.
So go forth and bargain-hunt! I'd love to hear your other tips in the comments, and would also love to hear stories about great stuff you've bought secondhand.
This is a guest post by a good friend of mine. It deals with a question I've often received, but can't write about from personal experience: top surgery for non-FTM folks. Intrigued? Read on...Top Surgery for Genderqueer, Gender Neutral, FAAB, or Otherwise Non-FTM-Identifying People
The decision to get top surgery—via a bilateral double mastectomy—did not come easy. I spent years agonizing over the fact that I had (quite large) breasts. I dumped heaps of cash into sports bras and binders, in search of the perfect containment vessel to make them less obtrusive. I spent years wishing boobs were detachable (like Wanda Sykes’ detachable v-jay
), so I could keep them in a dust covered box in the back of my closet.
Why all this suffering and agony over a pair of breasts? Why, as an ardent feminist, could I not learn to love and appreciate that part of my body? Well, for starters:
- They never fit my image of myself
- They just got in the way of most of my athletic endeavors
- I derived no sexual pleasure from them (one of my post-op nipples is far more sensitive than my original nipple!)
You know when you’re out shopping and you see the male mannequins in the windows, looking all dapper in their vests and button down shirts, and you think, that’s
my style? So you step into the store (in all your butchy genderiness), and try some on. The shirt won’t button around your breasts, the vest hugs your boobs all wrong, and the fit across the shoulders is too broad (and too narrow around the hips).
So for me, there was a disconnect between how I saw myself in the mannequin’s classy getup, and how the clothing fit my body. But fashion design is only part of the problem, since lots
of cool designers
are remedying this. It was also about how feminizing my boobs were—I’m blessed with fairly narrow hips that actually allow men’s pants to fit, and the curves of my boob-heavy upper body were psychologically unsettling. (Pro-tip: Post-surgery, shopping for tops in the boys’ section is where it’s at!)
It’s a psychology I still can’t exactly articulate, even after many therapy sessions (one of the hoops to leap through en route to surgery approval). But basically, as I grew older and explored more of the world, I met all sorts of queers who broadened my horizons and made me aware of this thing called “top surgery.” Wait... you mean they ARE detachable?
It was a big decision—especially since I’d never had surgery. That was the scariest part—letting someone cut me open, remove a bunch of tissue, and sew me back up. But the fantastic images running through my mind of having a flat chest, of throwing out the constricting undergarments forever, and of flexing visible pec muscles far outweighed my fears of surgery.
Still, there were lots of other factors to consider. First, I do not identify as a man
, and have no intention of transitioning. Big psychological fear: my gender presentation already confuses people; will top surgery cause greater confusion? I’m okay with confusing people, but sometimes confusing people makes them oddly violent, and some people like to hurt people who don’t fit their idealized gender norms. I was, frankly, afraid of increased gender violence and social taunting. How would I negotiate public restrooms when I could no longer point to my boobs to ease the concern of the woman giving me sideways glances through the mirror? What about locker rooms or dressing rooms? Would I be mistaken for a teenage boy even more than I already am? Note: Again, I don’t mind the “sirs,” but when people think you’re a teenage boy, they don’t treat you like a capable adult. (But one perk is getting the giveaway toys and prizes for children 16 and under at festivals and special events!)
Well, here’s what I learned: People determine gender in sooooo many more ways than a glance at your chest. In fact, I am still mostly read as female and mistaken for male with about the same frequency as I was before surgery. Most people read me as female as soon as they see my face or hear my voice. They may silently wonder where my titties are hiding, but nobody has said anything about it.
In the three months since my surgery, I could not be happier with how I feel in my body, how my clothing fits, and how my chest looks.
Understandably, you might also be concerned about scarring your perfect body. I am doing lots of scar treatment to try to reduce and minimize my scars, though scarring was, to me, a small price to pay for living the rest of my life comfortably boob-free. Maybe surprisingly, I have actually grown fond of my scars; they’ve come to seem like a natural part of my body’s landscape, and my body seems more perfect with the scars than with boobs.
Another concern is dating. Who would want to date you if you hack off your tits? (Well, I’m actually a bit of a misanthrope, so dating is the least of my concerns, but I can certainly understand how scary that can be to find a person who will accept you and your boobless body.) Guess what? There are
people out there who will love you just as you are (with or without boobs). And if they don’t, you probably don’t want to date that person anyway.
One big fear that persists is how medical professionals would treat me post-op. Sure, I’ve navigated doctors’ gender weirdness with my hairier-than-your-dad’s legs and armpits. But fear of seeking out medical treatment is multiplied when you’re living in a surgically modified, non-gender-normative body.
Recently, I found myself in need of medical treatment (unrelated to my surgery), but I hesitated. What if the doctors and nurses were jerks to me and didn’t treat me well? Eventually, a loved one forced me into the car and drove me to the ER. After a moment’s hesitation, I told the first technician who was rigging me up to a machine that I’d had a double mastectomy so he wouldn’t be shocked when he had to stick some tabs on my chest. It didn’t faze him a bit, and we talked about gender and gayness and queerness and how much he enjoys boobs and sex with his girlfriend, all while the machine measured the electrical activity of my heart.
When I put it out there and seemed comfortable explaining that I did it for gendery-type reasons, every doctor and nurse and tech I interacted with was pleasant and understanding. Will this always be true? Maybe not, but hey, you get better at navigating this over time, and in the end, as long as you can get treatment, it’s a small price to pay for the comfort of everyday life without boobs.
This is all to say: for people who do not identify as FTM and want top surgery, you’re not alone. You may think it’s not an option for you, because of social pressure or because of the mistaken belief that you have to be FTM to get top surgery. But I want to tell you that you can
make the choice that is best for you and you can
safely navigate this world as a female, androgynous, non-FTM, etc. person without breasts.
Yes, it is a great privilege to have access to top surgery (thank goodness for my progressive insurance plan), and unfortunately plenty of people who need and want it can’t access it. But if you can, and you want to—even if you don’t plan to transition or take hormones—it’s a viable choice.
There’s plenty more information about top surgery (even specifically for non-FTM people) that you can Google, Bing, and Yahoo on the Internets, but I am also in the process of compiling a centralized comprehensive guide to top surgery for non-FTMs. In the meantime, feel free to ask me your questions or voice your concerns by emailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
As you may have noticed, my blogging has slowed considerably. I want to blog more--daily, actually--and have been prevented from doing this because I have to work part-time jobs in addition to my main job to make ends meet.
A friend of mine advised, "Dude, make Butch Wonders your part-time job." I said, "That'd be great, but how?" She said, "You have 2000 readers a day! If each of them gave five bucks, Butch Wonders could be your part-time job for a year."
Dear readers, would you be willing to give a couple bucks to have a BW post every weekday? You could think of it as buying me coffee and a cookie to say, "Thanks for writing this blog, yo. I like it." That's right--excellent freakin' blog entries from yours truly. On a regular basis! What fun! And I could throw some prizes into the mix, too.
Here are a couple of polls to help me figure out exactly what to do:
Thanks for filling these out!
Thrilled to be figuring out a way to bring you the best in lesbian blogging,