BW NOTE: This is a guest post by a reader who wanted to remain anonymous. She recently faced the dreaded decision of pissing off a friend or wearing a (ugh!) dress...
A few months ago, my cousin cast me as a bridesmaid in her wedding. Sensing my possible reluctance in the wardrobe department, she immediately informed me that I would be wearing a dress. Period. Because my cousin and I grew up together as friends, I made no verbal protest (BTW: This BW post is a must read for any straight bride with a lesbian (non-femme) bridesmaid
As details of the dress leaked, my dread grew. The bride had selected a purple gown with "challenging" qualities from top to bottom. On the bottom, the bridesmaids would sport a train (i.e. a bunch of fabric dragging behind us). On top, we would endure a strapless bodice with boning. For those unfamiliar with boning, a little history lesson: Boning (in the context of fashion) refers to the straight-jacket-like metal that serves to hold in your fat and position your breasts appropriately yet provocatively. Historically, dress designers used actual whalebone.
When the bride began sharing details of the dress, I might have failed to exhibit the requisite level of enthusiasm (one of my flaws is an inability to conceal disdain). When the bride inquired, I politely reminded her of my hatred for dresses, lace, and frilly things.
During the early stages of the engagement (a year or so before the wedding), I felt comfortable airing my concerns to the bride. During one conversation, my cousin pointed out that I had worn a dress to her sweet sixteen and to our high school homecoming dance. I had indeed. I went to a very homogeneous high school and dared not defy convention during my tender adolescence. The bride failed to grasp why, 10 years later, I couldn’t again conform for the purposes of her happiness.
Because I’m petite and naturally pretty feminine looking (though I definitely err on the masculine side of clothes, hair, and shoes), I think my cousin had trouble understanding why a dress would pose such a serious hardship. Had I presented in a more masculine way, she might have more easily seen how dresses don’t fit with my gender identity. I could have explained, but in the context of her wedding planning, it didn’t seem like the right time to delve into the intersection between my sexual orientation, gender identity, and wardrobe choices.
At one point, sensing my lack of enthusiasm for her dress selection, the bride proposed that I just rent a tux with a vest to match the bridesmaids' dresses. Now we were onto something! But before I could enthusiastically assent, she continued, more outlandishly: "While you’re at it, you could stand with the groomsmen, because that
wouldn’t look weird." Her final suggestion—that I attend the bachelor party—made her sarcasm impossible to ignore. When I persisted in expressing enthusiasm for her suggestions (minus the strippers—she knows I find female strippers unappealing), she ended the conversation with an abrupt, "You’re wearing the dress and I don’t want to hear another word about it."
Even when I stopped complaining to her face, the bride continued to worry about my ability to function as a bridesmaid, inquiring as to who would handle my makeup on the big day. When I responded "me," the bride proved unsatisfied, correctly assuming that I lacked the materials and the will to adequately cake myself. Earrings were also strongly recommended to counter my short (read: dykey) haircut. I borrowed some from a co-worker, and with a running start managed to re-pierce my ear hole in a bathroom stall (only my left one had closed over the years).
I tried to respect the "no dress talk" rule, opting instead to write whiny entries in my journal and complain about the cost and fittings to my friends. As the wedding neared, my friends advised me to keep my big mouth shut and let the bride enjoy her big day.
On the eve of the wedding, the bride furnished each bridesmaid with a gift and enclosed a note. Most notes recognized the bonds of friendship, and the affection she had in her heart for each of us. My letter simply thanked me for not leaving her side even if it meant, wearing a bridesmaid gown. I felt a huge wave of guilt. The bride had been a good friend to me in other ways, and had welcomed my girlfriend at the wedding. Couldn’t I just have dealt with the fabric monstrosity, the bloody left ear hole, and the caked-on face for her special day?
At the wedding, I dealt with my suffering in the form of liquid relief, dancing the night away, and tying my train into a tail with a rubber band (and perhaps slapping my dance partners with it). With the help of only seven vodka-themed libations, I did have a blast. I wore the dress for 10 straight hours (I was given instructions not to change out of it at the reception), and I survived (though the tight bodice did a number on my back).
Post-wedding, when I think back to the note, I shudder. I have no idea how I could have handled it better. I wanted to be her bridesmaid, and I certainly didn’t want to ruin her special day. Had Butch Wonders posted this article
a bit earlier, I might have sent the bride the link. That way, she’d have known how I felt and had a few creative solutions at her disposal (she was actually on the right track in her sarcasm). Even though my morning routine allows me to ready myself for work in three minutes or less, on my cousin's big day this low-maintenance dyke made for a high-maintenance bridesmaid.
Thanks to everyone who responded to the queer college survey
I posted a few days ago. Over 60 schools were represented! Most people who responded are in college now or graduated within the last 5-10 years. Today, I'll share the colleges people
said were "awesome" for queers:
- Bard College: "Safe, supportive and open--Bard is known for the Drag Race where everyone dresses in drag."
- Bryn Mawr: "Open, safe as far as I know, and supportive. There were occasions of misandry, which is a problem as well."
- Columbia University: "Safe, supportive, and open."
- Evergreen State College: "There was a queer group on campus planning activities and doing advocacy. They also had a support phone line, discussion groups. Students and faculty at the college tend to be very politically aware and active." (BW note: this was in the 1980s!)
- Grinnell College: "It was safe and very supportive. It wasn't until I graduated and entered the 'real world' that I really realized most places aren't like that."
- Hollins University: "The atmosphere was completely open and supportive. I attended an all women's university and about 50% of the population was lesbian/bi/curious. Due to this large population, the entire campus was very aware and supportive of lesbians and trans*. "
- Humboldt State University: "There was a women's and multicultural center and most LGBTQ folks congregated there. It was a very progressive area."
- Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, MN: "Safe, supportive, very open."
- Northwestern University: "More gay men were out than lesbian women. My environment was very supportive - friends, fellow students, even professors."
- NSU Davie: "Really no one cared. My college was very group specific, meaning whatever group of friends you had that's where you stuck."
- Ohio State University: "It was awesome! Columbus has a great LGBT nightlife and people were so friendly and accepting. My experience could not have been better. Being a college athlete may have helped."
- Puget Sound: "It was pretty great. We have a queer club on campus and I've never come into contact with any negativity regarding sexual orientation or gender identity."
- Reed College: "Safe. Supportive. Open."
- San Francisco State: "Safe, supportive - All San Francisco, all the time!" (BW note: OMG, and this was in the 1970s!)
- Skidmore College: "Very open! The professors are awesome and the other queer students are really cool people. I'm a senior but I'm sad to leave such a supportive community!"
- Smith College: "At Smith sometimes it seems like everyone is gay -- there are so many out and proud people that LGBTQ culture becomes somewhat normalized. It's amazing and incredibly empowering. Trans students still struggle with institutional and community transphobia, but there is a strong network of student support that I believe makes Smith an important school for gender-queer and trans folks to consider." Another Smith grad writes: "It was super safe and supportive. It was never an issue and it helped me figure myself out."
- SUNY Purchase: "Awesome and open."
- University of CA at Santa Barbara (see pic and caption below)
Of the University of California at Santa Barbara, a reader writes: "I felt safe and supported by an amazing queer community... We hold an annual Pride Week in which rainbow colored stakes border the bike paths going through the center of school."
I was stoked to see the breadth of colleges that provide super atmospheres for queers these days: public, private, and all over the United States!In one of my next posts, I'll share people's experiences on the other end of the spectrum, and I'll also offer some tips for high schoolers on how to find a gay-friendly college.
- University of CA at Santa Cruz: "open and supportive. Lots of LGBT activities."
- University of Southern CA: "USC has campus-wide Pride events, a queer student resource center, a queer "Lavender Graduation," and LGBTQ student organizations frequently honored as being the most organized and best on campus. When I left, I felt that the events and the leadership was becoming less cis-gay male centric and more female/womyn/queer centric... more things like gender-neutral housing and gender-neutral bathrooms (both of which are works in progress). These things seem to be stalled... because USC's administration is fairly conservative and wants to appease donors... There are lots of opportunities to take classes with professors who are leading scholars in queer studies, gender studies & women's studies and American studies. Quite a few of these professors are openly queer."
- Vassar College: "Extremely open - they even had a whole queer-tastic building that we used a gathering/hang out center, lots of campus wide initiatives to celebrate things like national coming out day and aids awareness, and school supported/student run erotic magazine that often featured same sex photography. It was a happy LGBTQ playground!!"
- Wellesley: "Totally supportive."
Carleton College. Small town in MN. GAY!
The Huffington Post recently posted this article about the 25 most LGBTQ-friendly colleges in the United States
. While some of these were fairly predictable (UC Berkeley, U Mass Amherst, Portland State), others were a little more surprising to me (Ohio State, U of Utah, UC Riverside). Conspicuously absent were some of the small liberal arts colleges I always assumed were bastions of gay-friendliness, like Smith and Reed, as well as colleges in queer-friendly cities (UC Santa Cruz, Harvard). Interesting, though.I was in college in the late 90s and early 2000s, in a fairly gay-friendly region of the country. I met a lot of out men, but very few out women--maybe because I wasn't plugged into the scene (too busy hanging out with my DXH and quitting the rugby team), or maybe because women tend to come out a little later in life. Even in the relatively accepting space of campus dorm life, coming out would have been tough.
There were a few gay-bashing incidents on campus during my undergrad years, and even the faculty members that everyone knew
were gay weren't exactly "out"--they just didn't mention their home lives.
I get emails from high schoolers sometimes, asking for advice on choosing colleges. I thought it'd be cool to do a survey about readers' college experiences. If you attended (or are in) college, I'd *love* it if you'd fill out this short survey if you went to any college at ALL (even if you didn't graduate). I'll post the results Friday!
Thanks for participating! I'll be interested to see the results, and I know that young gay and lesbians kids considering college will really appreciate it.
Coming out as a(n obvious) butch dyke when I was previously known as, and basically looked like, a heterosexual woman, was like my very own social experiment about the effects of sexual orientation and gender presentation.I've written previously about happy surprises that coming out brought to my life. I've talked less about the unhappy surprises; I'll hit some of those now.
Here are some ways my interactions with others changed when I came out:
As I said, I'm only listing the negative or neutral things here, and I'm making a lot of generalizations. So please don't take the list too literally.Still, it was incredibly trippy to feel like I had stayed the same, but all these elements of the social world had suddenly changed around me.
- I became less visible to straight men, maybe because I no longer had anything they wanted. A female professor of mine once told me that when she turned 60, men stopped looking at her altogether and that she became invisible. I wondered what that would feel like... I got to find out just a few years later. (BIG generalization here; not always true; some of my best friends in the world are straight men, etc.)
- Straight women still looked at me, but in a different way. Some of them seemed to think: How much of a woman are you, and how much of a man? What does this mean for how I should treat you? Others seemed to think: How can I possibly understand someone who wants out of the game? Some of them began to flirt with me.
- Republican friends/family said things like: I am progressive on social issues, but why does being gay have to be such a big deal? They began using words like "waiting" and "inevitable" to talk about equal rights.
- Assumptions were made about me: I am pro-choice; I love cats; I care about football; I like camping; I find femmes attractive. Want to guess how many of these five things are true? People's assumptions fit me about as well as men's fitted shirts tend to.
- Straight progressive friends began using the word "partner" to refer to their opposite-sex spouse in front of me.
- Couples who were friends with both my ex-husband and I stopped calling either of us--particularly me. Oddly, this seemed to be most true for lesbian couples, some members of which began treating me like a pariah for reasons that remain unclear to me.
- I got stared at sometimes in the market or at the post office or in class or on a hike. I couldn't figure out why. And then I remembered: I look gender-atypical, and some people care about this and/or find it interesting to look at.
- A certain, mercifully rare brand of bitchy gay man hated me upon meeting me--fiercely and without apparent reason.
- I was automatically given some kind of "progressive" cred among hipstery friends who had previously considered me a bit of a traditionalist (albeit a liberal one) before.
- Even when I didn't want to think about my sexuality, which was a lot of the time, my sexuality was made an issue.
- People no longer assumed family-ish things about me, such as: I would have kids someday, I would go home for Christmas.
- Many straight friends rarely asked me if I was seeing anyone (even though relationships had always been a frequent topic of conversation).
- One or two very good friends claimed not to care about my sexual orientation, but were visibly uncomfortable when I came out to them, and then mysteriously stopped being your friends, and I will never be 100% sure if my sexuality was the reason.
- I suddenly noticed the overwhelming presence of heterosexist assumptions basically... everywhere. Movies, books, everything. Supposedly gay people were 5-10% of the population, but it didn't feel like I was represented in 5-10% of media.
- I would try to be friendly to strangers, as was my custom, in the grocery store or whatever, and they were extremely rude to me. I did not know why. Of course, this happens occasionally to everyone, but it started happening more than ever before. I didn't know if people were getting meaner, or if my patently obvious homosexuality was the cause of their rudeness.
Do any of these hit home with you?
It's been a full week since I've written a Butch Wonders entry. Often when I have something I have to (or want to) write and I haven't really been doing it, my brain does this (click to see a bigger version):
I'm learning to write a little faster and get stuff out there immediately. This is the "prototype early and often" principle (in design thinking parlance), or the "fail, fail again, fail better" principle (in Samuel Beckett / Zadie Smith parlance), or the "brain crack" principle (in Ze Frank parlance).
...Anyone else ever experience anything like the flow chart above?
I've talked about how you can tell if a butch likes you
, but what about the other way around: what are the best ways to flirt with a butch? I list ten top ways below. They're targeted largely toward femmes, but most are adaptable to anyone who wants to flirt with butches. So read this and get out there!
Via the Lesbian Confessional
Butches, what are your favorite ways to be flirted with?
- A good, old-fashioned wink. Unprovoked, unexpected, in the course of everyday business. Then continue on as if nothing happened and leave us there to melt.
- Goad us a little about our favorite sports team. "Houston lost again, Dee. When's your team gonna make a comeback?"
- Touch us on the arm or shoulder, either while you're making a point or playfully when you're joking around.
- Compliment our hair. We are suckers for hair compliments.
- If we're good at something, ask us to do it for you: fixing your computer, changing your oil, editing your paper, whatever.
- Make a bet with us about something--anything. Bet a cup of coffee or a beer; that way, you're basically setting up some time together no matter who wins.
- Maintain eye contact just a little longer than usual or necessary.
- Ask questions about us. What do we read? What do we do for fun? Keep 'em light. Ask follow-ups.
- Express interests in our interests, particularly the nerdy interests that we're a little shy about.
- Call us out on something: "Oh, sure you can make five three-pointers in a row." Or, "Oh sure you've hybridized a new variety of fern." Keep your tone light and playful--you're inviting us to prove it.