For the past several months, we've been hearing about how "it gets better." I love the Trevor Project--it's hugely important, and it will save lives. But as LGBT people plugged into the gay community and gay media, it's easy to start thinking that positive messages are virtually ubiquitous.
A few miles away from your local gay pride parade, though, there's a 13-year-old boy crying in his room because he was beaten up for asking another boy to a dance. There's a 40-year-old woman down the street who thinks that killing herself would be better than coming out to her husband and kids. And these people aren't necessarily the ones watching "It Gets Better" videos. I know that if I had watched one of those videos six years ago, I would have thought: Maybe it will get better for them, but it won't for me. Campaigns like the Trevor Project are terrific, but it's crucial to remember that they are strategies, not solutions.
I've mentioned that I moonlight as a community college English professor. Six weeks ago, one of my students came out to me (asking during office hours, “Uh… I was wondering, mmm, what it’s like to be… uh, different?”). Let's call him Doug. Doug is 21. He had only come out to a few of his friends, and none of them were gay. He desperately needed practical advice about self-presentation, dealing with parents, dating, safety, etc. I'd never mentioned my own sexual orientation in class--but, heck, I regularly wear a shirt and tie, so I'm not exactly closeted. Because I was identifiable as gay, he decided to come out to me.
Over the course of the quarter, Doug and I had a few conversations about his sexual orientation. When I told him the outlines of my *own* story, his look of relief nearly made me cry. (Especially since, less than a decade ago, I was in Doug's position, coming out to a gay professor of my own.)
Although Doug lives in a relatively cosmopolitan area, and although he's on the Internet constantly, he had no idea that there are two gay pride celebrations within an hour's drive of his house. I showed him some pictures of a few gay neighborhoods online, saying, "There are places where you can hold another guy's hand and no one will even blink." Doug couldn't believe it--he just stared, open-mouthed, at the pictures of rainbow-flag-adorned buildings.
Doug isn't particularly "sheltered." He's a smart, pretty typical 21-year-old kid from a conservative family in a moderate-to-liberal area of the country. Yet he didn't have a single gay friend, and was afraid to join the college's LGBT group for fear that his straight acquaintances would find out. The last week of class, he gave me a big hug and told me that talking to me had changed his life. Doug had even mustered the courage to come out to his father (who was pretty upset about it, but told Doug he still loved him).
If I hadn't been identifiable as gay, Doug wouldn't have approached me. But by being my normal self in the classroom, I did something good. Visibility of regular ol' gay people (even if they’re cramming subject-verb agreement down your throat) is invaluable to kids--and adults--struggling with self-acceptance. It's one thing to know in the abstract that life is improving for LGBT folks, but there's no substitute for seeing gay people in your community who are out and "normal" and happy: reading books at the library, shopping for groceries, going to movies with their partners.
Many of us think a lot about the perils of being butch. To be comfortable in our own skin, we often have to be outsiders. We get called "sir" in the restroom. We get stared at in the department store. And often, this sucks.
But we also have the great privilege of being one of the most obviously, identifiably queer subgroups of the entire LGBT community. Just by showing up as ourselves, we raise visibility. Remember that you are doing awesome, important, life-saving work just by showing up as you really are. In ways that you may never know, your identifiably gay self is making some other questioning person more comfortable, more confident, and more hopeful.
I don't know what, exactly, possessed me to wear a tie to jury duty. But I daresay I was one of the sharpest dressed civic-duty-doers in the vicinity. Admittedly, I *did* get looks from some the other jurors--and the bathroom was a Small Issue as well. My DGF accused me of liking the attention that I get (even negative attention) as a tie-sporting she-person. I disagreed, telling her I just like to be "comfortable." But as my DGF pointed out, that's not totally true, since arguably I could have been just as comfortable without the tie and garnered fewer significant looks from my fellow prospective jurors. Here's the deal. First, I felt like looking sharp. And the variety of usual
ways women look sharp (make-up; a nice purse; other things that flummox me) is not comfortably available to me. Second, I felt that as long as I was doing ONE civic duty, I might as well do another one and provide some much-needed homo-visibility for my fellow county residents.Today's outfit, by the way, exemplifies an acceptable way to pair two striped patterns: a shirt with very thin stripes and a tie with much wider ones.
The conventional wisdom is to stick with solid or patterned ties if your shirt is striped, but in my opinion, this is outdated. Simply don't pair two striped patterns if the stripes in each have similar width. And if you want to be extra
safe, make sure that at least one of the colors in the shirt (not counting white) is the same as one of the colors in the tie. This (like many other fashion fundamentals) is a useful guideline, not a hard-and-fast rule. For some other examples of striped shirt-and-tie pairings, you can check out some nice examples
Ah, straight girls... Nearly all of my butch friends have an anecdote or two about dating straight women, trying to date straight women, or straight women trying to date *them*. So when I received the following [edited] email from a BW reader, I decided it was time for an entry about the topic:Hey there. I am really bad at telling if a girl is straight or gay. I've hung out with this girl a few times and I want to ask her out. She doesn't have a boyfriend. Should I try to date her if she's straight?LOTS of complications packed into that email, no? In no particular order, here is my (admittedly scant) wisdom on straight women and butches:
- If she's actually straight, you're not going to "turn" her. If you identify as lesbian, think about this: is a really hot bio-man going to suddenly turn you straight? No. (Okay, except for maybe Jake Gyllenhall, and even then, only for a night.) And wouldn't you think that a guy who presumed that he could turn you was an arrogant arse? See what I mean? Respect straight women's sexuality. That said...
- Sometimes, "straight" women are still figuring things out. After all, I was a "straight" woman once. So was my DGF. So was my buddy C. Just because she's straight now doesn't mean she'll still be straight in six months. And THAT said, tread lightly because:
- It generally sucks to be someone's experiment. You're trying to build a relationship with her and SHE'S still trying to figure out whether she wants to go back to her ex-boyfriend? Yuck. Who needs that kind of pressure? And it doesn't feel particularly good when they go back to guys, either, saying that they decided they think of you as "more of a friend." Do you really want to be someone's coming out confidante, experiment, and lover? (The correct answer is: NO.)
- Straight women flirt with butches. I don't know why it is, but many straight women flirt with butches a LOT. It's like we're "safe" recipients of flirtatious adoration. Then if we ever try to make a move, they can suddenly be like: "Oh no--I'm straight, you know that!" I have a few straight friends who will hug me, hang on me, and tell me I smell good, look hot, etc. But I guarantee that if I ever DID anything, they'd flip. This really, really sucks if you're attracted to any of them. (I, personally, feel lucky that 99% of the time, I am attracted to other butchy types, because they tend to be more obviously "out.")
- There is a difference between bisexual women and straight women who are "experimenting." I know more than one lesbian who says she won't date bisexual women. This strikes me as silly. If someone has a track record of dating men AND women and identifies as bi, she's not "experimenting;" she's genuinely bisexual. (If she's never dated a woman, though... tread lightly.) Yeah, I know it might be a little mind-boggling to those of us who are 0-1's or 5-6's on the Kinsey Scale, but some people truly don't care about their partner's gender. They are not "undecided."
I cannot, however, speak to is how straight women respond to dating trans men. I know a handful of trans men-straight women couples who seem to be dating without incident. If any readers want to speak to this (or anything else I've left out), please comment!
You can read my latest contribution to Can I Help You Sir
's Butch 360 Project, as well as other butches' discussions of their butchness at work, here
In my last watch post
, I gave an overview of the three kinds of watches essential to a butch wardrobe: black, brown, silver. But what if you want to go above and beyond the confines of classic fashion? Here are some ideas.
#1: The White WatchGrand for slaving away at your desk or grinding away on the dance floor, white watches are fun, fashion-forward, and increasingly popular. I scored the one on the left on eBay, slightly used, for $36 (normally in the $80-$90 range new). Other hot white watches include this one from D&G
and the Nixon Graduate
(which I mentioned in the last post, but *love* in white!).
#2: Color Splash!
Though you shouldn't wear it more than once a week or so (or it will become a little tiresome), a big ol' shock of color on your wrist is a really fun way to smack some style into an otherwise dull outfit. For example, I might wear my lime green Nixon Time Teller (pictured left) on a day when I'm wearing jeans, sneakers, and a plain black button-up shirt. Nixon Time Tellers (pic below) have been ridiculously
popular for the last year or two, and are still going pretty strong--probably due to their simple style and relatively affordable price tag. The Swatch New Gent
(which I discovered on the Sartorial Butch's blog a while ago) is along the same lines, but a little less ubiquitous. (I am presently coveting the Petrol Rebel--just an FYI for those of you who are trying to decide what to buy me for July 4.) Look around for a cool watch in your favorite color. The Noon Watch, pictured at right, is kinda snazzy. If you want to be extra retro, go digital, like this Freestyle
#3: Vintage Virtuosity
Ah, "vintage..." This widespread term can mean anything from "used" to "antique" to "hipsterrific." But basically, anything before 1980 is going to be something most people don't have. For a brief time, I was obsessed with Russian watches from the 1960s and 1970s, three of which are pictured here. I bought them on eBay for between $15-$20 each. The catch? They all stopped working within a month of their arrival. And according to the rather rude watch guy at my local drug store, one of them can't even be fixed. So go vintage, but understand that it can be a gamble. Still... so cool, right? "Oh, this old thing? It's, like, a Russian watch from the 1960s. Yeah, that's Cyrillic alphabet. Beautiful, isn't it? ...Oh sure, I'd love to go out with you sometime."
Watchismo, which I mentioned in the last post, also has a small, pricey collection of really cool vintage watches
#4: The NerdbucketNerdy is IN. And one way to fly your nerd flag fly high is by sporting a dorktastic watch. These can feature calculators (a la 1986), or simply be
plain ol' digital throwbacks, like my personal favorite, pictured left. I got it on Amazon for $13.48
, and love to wear it with a plain white shirt and jeans, or with a nerdly-cool T-shirt (e.g., my Ninja on a Bicycle
shirt), or even with a sweater vest if I'm feeling extra awesome. I put many digital watches, even relatively cool ones
, into this category. I do not, however, include watches designed specifically as "sports" watches. These fall into the next category.
#5: Sports/Jock/Survivalist WatchesIt is only reluctantly, and at the urging of my DGF, that I include today's final category. It's not that I don't like or appreciate these watches--indeed, I'm rather fond of my own Timex Ironman (which I wear to the gym, or to the grocery store, or other overtly sporty or casual contexts). It's simply that
I've found that most butches are already well-acquainted with this category of timepiece--so much so, in fact, that unless they're especially faggy and/or fashion-forward, this may be the only watch they own
. Case in point: my DGF's watch, pictured here, is a Casio that gives the time, altitude, barometric pressure, and God knows what else--probably tide tables, the phases of the moon, and the Federal Rules of Evidence. As my DGF is fond of pointing out, it is made of titanium, which makes it lighter than other watches of this stripe. And as I
am fond of pointing out, it is solar-powered, which means that it's excellent on sunny days and less useful on cloudy ones. Like many butches, my DGF finds her sporty survivalist watch appropriate for every occasion from snorkeling to parties to weddings. Note to butches: #5, while wonderful, is not
, in fact, appropriate for every setting. See my previous watch post, as well as #'s 1-4 on this
post, for some inspiration!
There's a good chance my DGF is making this up, but she insists that Friday is some kind of special "cat blogging" day on which bloggers throughout the world are supposed to post pictures of cats. I don't own any cats, and in fact, am quite allergic to some of them. So I am posting a picture of my DGF's cats, Buddy and the GK (which, inventively, stands for "Grey Kitty"). I'm hoping to score points with my DGF, who is trying to build the GK's web presence. Arguably, this could be difficult; the GK has a remarkable lack of facial expression, which rarely translates well to YouTube. But then again, Hello Kitty doesn't even have a mouth, and she seems to have quite a following, so maybe I'm wrong.
Among my fashion affinities (see, e.g., ties, shoes, dress shirts), I have a special fixation on watches. I think they're cool, stylish, increasingly old-fashioned, and a great way to spice up an outfit. There are three types of watches I think every butch should own. I'll talk about those here, and save the fancy, colorful stuff for my next post.
THE SILVER GO-TO WATCH
If you can only have one watch, I recommend a decent silver one that's versatile and water resistant. (Analog is much classier than digital, BTW.) Here's my personal go-to, which was a gift I received/stole from my friend B:
I love this watch because it's plain, simple, classy, and I can wear it with jeans, khakis, nice slacks--whatever. It's also a nice size. I usually go for a women's watch on the large side or a men's watch on the small side. Anything with a face more than 4 cm across looks ginormous on my not-tiny-but-not-large-and-manly wrist. This watch is women's; Fossil's men's watches are SO BIG that they practically dwarf my torso. I don't know what this particular watch cost (for me, free!), but I'm guessing around $80.
Your go-to watch doesn't have to cost that much, though. I took the photo to the right at my local Goodwill last week. The watch was priced at only $11.99! Somehow, I resisted buying it, but it wasn't easy. The brand is Quiksilver (I have a major weakness for the faux-surf look), and it wouldn't work in a very dressy context, though it would probably be fine for most workplaces. The face is about 3.5-4 cm across and it's water resistant.
A BLACK WATCH. A BROWN WATCH. WHAT COULD BE SIMPLER?
Continuing the theme of versatility--never a bad thing--your wardrobe should ideally contain a black watch and a brown watch. The black watch goes with black stuff (e.g., the days you're wearing a black belt); your brown watch goes with brown stuff. If you're wearing, say, jeans, a plain white shirt, and blue shoes, then either one matches. I bought the watch on the left a couple months ago, and I LOVE it. (I actually ordered this one first, which I hated and returned.) It's a perfect butch-friendly size (masculine-of-center but not gargantuan), has a simple but interesting design, and the slight purple accents are fabulous. I get tons of compliments on it. It still appears to be on sale at Amazon ($76, down from $120).
Other black watches I like include this one
by Diesel and this one
by Nixon. Citizen makes some nice ones
, too--very simple and classic. Here's
a watch I think is stupid and gimmicky, although I like Wachismo
for its unusual inventory.
BTW: your Timex Ironman
--though awesome--may not be used to fill your "black watch" requirement. Oh--and you know those huge men's "sports" watches
with bells, whistles, multiple time zones, etc? No.
My current brown watch is a Nixon Graduate. It's more casual than my black watch, but nice enough to wear with khakis to work (though nothing dressier). The band is made of canvas, which breathes better than leather. I especially like the two-holed buckle design. The Graduate also comes in black stainless steel
, brown leather with an orange face
, and other colors. I also kind of like this brown watch
by D&G, this one
by Diesel, and this one
by Skagen.Stay tuned for my next post, in which I'll talk about some butch-a-riffic ways to expand your watch wardrobe beyond these three basic standbys
just saw this on a Zazzle site
and thought it looked cool. It's a great way to support your butch sisters and brothers, too! GLBT Shirts
actually has a bunch of other stuff on Zazzle
that's worth checking out. Some of it is REMARKABLY specific.Celebrate asexual vegan leather polyamory!I love my gay bear intersex dad and my stud-genderqueer female-identified cismale mom! Masculine-identified asexual dominatrix pride with handcuffs and vanilla ice cream 4-ev-R!What would YOUR incredibly specific gay pride T-shirt or bumper sticker say? Best entry wins a prize.
All right, I knew Rachel Maddow has been going on location. But this picture?! Seriously. If there was a poster-sized version of this,* it would be up in my office.**
And Rachel, if you're reading this and decide you're into other butches (or, hell, you want to experiment for a couple of hours), give me a call. I'm sure my girlfriend will understand. (Besides, you're on the list!)***
* If you know where I can get one, please email me immediately.
** And by "in my office," I mean "on my bedroom ceiling."
*** Doesn't every couple have one of these? A list of celebrities that you'd be allowed to sleep with and it wouldn't be considered cheating?
Since March, I've been moonlighting as an adjunct community college English professor. (You'll hear more about this in the next installment of Butch 360
.) Today I was grading "argument" papers in which students take a side on the topic of their choosing and write persuasively (one hopes) about it. One of my students chose, "Should Gay Couples Be Allowed to Adopt Children?"Aside from being hideously
written and citing literally no
sources, the essay was full of inflammatory statements. Highlights include: "If a kid had gay parents, normal people would try to stay away from him," and, "A kid raised by gay parents would grow up with a twisted view of sexual minorities."As a married, straight-presenting woman teaching college English 6-7 years ago, I sometimes received anti-gay essays. But I'm puzzled that a kid would hand this essay in to an obviously gay teacher (especially since he had a choice of literally 125 topics). A few possible explanations spring to mind:
- In a vibrant bout of internalized homophobia, this kid has simply not come to grips with his own homosexuality. (Unlikely.)
- He's somehow trying to goad me. (Very unlikely. Trust me: he isn't sophisticated enough to goad.)
- He's correctly discerned that I'm gay, or could be, but my incredible evenhandedness as a teacher emboldens him to speak his mind. (Unlikely; see aforementioned lack of sophistication.)
- Despite my obviously masculine attire (e.g., ties), this kid has the gaydar of a rock. (Moderately likely.)
In any case, this essay had me seeing red--especially because I suspect that he assumes (but how?!) that he's talking to a straight woman. More than once, I had to put it down, grit my teeth, and sip some coffee for strength. Giving the paper a grade was tough. I wanted to be sure I wasn't docking this kid because of his views. In the end, I think I was fair, but I gave him 10 extra points as a buffer against my own anti-anti-gay bias. He still got a D.