One of my favorite newish bloggers, A Lesbian in Pensacola, contacted me and said she'd like to post on BW about suitable butch beach gear. I agreed; it's hard to get more beach-experty than Pensacola, after all! Here she is:
Memorial Day Weekend is almost here, and tens of thousands of queers will head down to Pensacola Beach for a massive party. Whether Pensacola is your destination or you choose another beautiful beach this summer, a few essentials will keep you happy and healthy while enjoying your vacation.
[BW note: Pics like this make me rethink my resolution never to live in Florida...]
The first rule of beachy butchness: nobody likes the boiled lobster look. Wear sunscreen (regardless of your natural skin color)! The beach is a lot more fun if you can go back the next day instead of lying in bed with ice packs and Ibuprofen.
[BW note: Not all tankinis suck. See?]
If you're a softer butch, your style options have expanded in the past few years. Tankinis
that used to consist of generic-looking shorts and squared off tank tops now run the gamut of triathlon-ready to super femme. Athleta
offers tons of sizes, and while a lot of them might be too femme
for some, I love the running-ready variety
. The tops fit like sports bras, and solid colors abound. [BW note: what do you wear under that for a bra? 'Cuz my girls aren't gonna be tamed by that tankini alone.] What we call the "
classic Pensacola dyke" look is easily achieved with a women's bra-style top and men's boardshorts.
[BW note: I have this one.]
Rashguards will keep your skin burn-free and scrape-free. If you’ll be surfing, snorkeling, or on a boat, a good rashguard will be your friend. Rashguards are also a stylish way to cover your upper half, if you’re not excited about any of the bathing suit tops.
[BW note: Non-pastel colors!]
For butches who hate wearing women's swimsuit bottoms, the ever-present boardshorts are still ragingly popular. Women's boardshorts
are often short, fitted, and involve pink
. But there's been a lot of color and style progress recently, though most men's boardshorts
will do just fine, as long as they're not so
long as to inhibit your knees when you're playing in the water. It's maddening to try to stand on a surfboard and get stuck in a squat because your knees are locked in your shorts.
Other beach necessities include:
- Any of the Dykes to Watch Out For books make great beach reading. The comic compilation books are fairly small and easily tucked into a beach bag. Dykes to Watch Out For is like an illustrated soap opera, and strikes a good balance of humor and activism—just the right mix for a long day in the warm sand.
- Sunglasses are a must. Oakley Frogskins have made the rounds back to popularity, and there are myriad color combinations. I remember begging my parents for a pair in middle school, and now I can buy my own if I want to represent my 7th grade self (I'm tempted, minus the braces and long hair). These days, I prefer Oakley Bottle Rocket. They're lightweight and reasonably durable, plus, they wrap around the sides of the eyes, providing extra protection from glare off the sand.
- Flip-flops! Butch styles abound. I've had the best luck with Teva and Reef. Plain black flops complement every type of swimsuit, but plenty of cool designs are out there to give you a little extra color.
- A good beach towel goes a long way. Since your towel is likely what you’ll be intimately familiar with at the beach, don’t skimp. I have yet to find a rainbow towel of any decent quality, but I know they’re out there somewhere.
- Frisbees are perfect for the beach. They don't weigh much or take up a lot of room in a bag, and water and sand won’t ruin them. There’s not much hotter than a beach butch doing something sporty.
- A waterproof case for your phone is a great asset. As long as your phone has a decent camera, you'll probably want to leave your heavy photographic equipment at home. I'm too nervous to dunk my phone regardless of the case, but waterproof protection will definitely come in handy if you get splashed while documenting favorite beach memories.
- Most beach towns don't allow glass near the sand. But one bonus of a developed beachfront is bars. A local drink in a to-go cup—in Pensacola, we chug Bushwhackers—will be fresh, cold, and readily available. For the sober butch, coconut water makes a nice alternative to plain water, and it's available in plastic, cardboard, or aluminum containers.
- If you'll be hitting the sand for more than a couple of hours, you'll want a cooler. All are bulky, so a small, manageable one is your best bet. In addition to drinks, snacks will help you play longer. Even though everything will be on ice, pick something that has a low likelihood of spoiling or melting. Mixed nuts, oranges, and granola bars should hold you until it's time to explore the local restaurants.
Safe travels, and see you on the beach!
[BW note: Thanks for those awesome recs, Pensacola Lesbian! You've not only inspired me to consider putting a "beach" section in the Butch Store, but you've made me want to visit Pensacola!]
Remember the questions I posed to you
a few months ago? Here are three interesting answers to one of the toughest ones:"Describe how some other identity you have (race, religion, social class, whatever) interacts with your sexual orientation."Response #1 (From Kyle at Butchtastic):
The intersections of my ethnicity, class, educational background, age with my gender identity and butchness is an area of great fascination for me. I’ve really been looking at these intersections in earnest in the past couple of years. I know that I receive privilege in some circumstances because of my age, because I’m white, and sometimes because of my masculinity, even if people don’t perceive me to be male. So how have those elements of my identity interacted with my sexual orientation?
First off, it’s queer--my orientation, that is. I use "queer" because listing all the aspects of orientation for my male and female sides takes several words: bisexual, lesbian, faggot, even straight... well ok, never "straight." Even if my female side hooked up with a cis man... it would still be queer sex. I haven’t examined these intersectionalities really at all.
My socioeconomic class has definitely had an impact on where I live, the people I meet through work, shopping, activities, and walking around the neighborhood. I more easily relate to people who have backgrounds similar to mine in terms of class, education, religion, race. But none of that is really about my sexual orientation.
I guess I’ll have to think about that more. It's a good question. I gave up religion when I was 13, before coming out as a lesbian, so that didn’t end up having much impact. Growing up in an aspiring middle class family meant I was given a lot of freedom of expression and association, even though my parents were not happy when I came out to them at 17. They didn’t limit me to only befriending particular classes or categories, nor did they try to hook me up with boys.Response #2 (From "BT"):
Being a Christian is by far the identity that interacts most with my sexual orientation and until very recently my Christian identity was a big, mean, nasty bully to my butch lesbian identity. I have known in some form or another that I am a lesbian since I was four-years-old and I also have been a Christian since around that time. The two identities were at war within me from the time I was 4 until I was 27.
When I was 17, I let my lesbian self have the upper hand for a little while but all that did was spiral me into a deeper depression and greater self-loathing for the next ten years. The guilt and shame almost took me to my grave. I was at the point where it finally clicked that if I didn’t accept every bit of who I am I would be miserable for the rest of my life.
But how could I be a Christian and
a lesbian? I basically had tried everything I possibly could to change my sexual orientation, even my own version of the dreaded conversion therapy. Nothing worked. It was clear to me that I must have been born this way. If it had just been childhood trauma or whatever else I was telling myself then the therapy would have changed my homosexual tendencies. So now I have finally accepted the grace that Jesus has extended to me. I have given grace to myself. I am accepted and loved no matter what. I can’t say that the two identities are in perfect balance now, I still have a ways to go but the battle has finally ended. After 23 years, my Christian and lesbian identities have embraced and I am no longer a person torn in two.Response #3 (From "KH"):
I am a seminarian working on my Masters of Divinity hoping to become an Episcopal priest when I graduate from seminary. The identity of being an Episcopal seminarian plays a major role in my life. While the Episcopal church is very accepting of LGBT folks, ordaining gays, performing same-sex blessings and marriages, etc., I am still faced everyday with the question of how out can I be/do I want to be to my classmates and Bishop. I am from a Midwestern state, so my bishop and my diocese isn't necessarily as liberal as in other parts of the country.
It seems like when you are out in seminary you become that "token lesbian" who can or is expected to answer theological questions for the entire community. Also, attending seminary in southern Tennessee, I was the first out lesbian that several of my classmates had met. Everyone had met a gay man before, but not a lesbian. One of my classmates said to me the first couple of weeks we were here, "To southerners, gay men aren't scary. But lesbians, they scare us. We don't know or understand how they work, dress, have sex, etc."
It has been interesting to see how people interact with me because I break a lot of the labels that are given to lesbians in the south and break what they have heard about us and believe. But I love that my classmates are so open minded and give me a chance to be who I am without putting a label on me.
I also feel like a lot of the time the lesbian community isn't sure how to react to me/handle me either. It isn't every day that you meet a lesbian who is a soft butch that wants to become a priest. The LGBT community also doesn't always feel the love from the religious community. Many churches treat our community horribly. But it should teach us that we don't always like the labels that come with being a lesbian, so we shouldn't label a church without knowing something about them first either.
I am proud of who I am and the identity I have as a lesbian and as a seminarian.
This guest post was written by Jesse MacGregor-Jones, who also blogs at Butch Ramblings and is also the author of multiple books.
Butch, stone butch, soft butch, baby dyke, bull dyke, bulldagger, femme, stone femme, high femme, lipstick lesbian, genderqueer, queer, gay, FTM, MTF, transsexual, transgender, gay, homosexual, fag, faggot, womyn, boi, sporty butch, bisexual, butch daddy, twinks, bears, tops, bottoms, subs, doms… Labels, labels, and more labels. I bet you can think of more that I have not mentioned.
I identify as butch. I don't identify as stone butch but I used
to identify as soft butch. I have a woman in my life that I care about a great deal. She is femme. I am a femme-loving butch. I've never been attracted to other butch women. I know several butch women who are attracted to other butches and I don't see a thing wrong with it. It just isn't what works for me.
My personal path to who I am today is complicated and I daresay that most of us have had a complicated road. Life really isn't easy for anyone. Many of us continue to evolve as we grow older, which is good and normal. Someone who is a high femme now may eventually just consider herself femme later on. I've seen butch women evolve into femme and vice versa. As I said, I originally identified as soft butch. In fact, there was a time in my life when I wore dresses, makeup, and got my hair permed every 6 to 8 weeks. I used to get my nails done and I enjoyed it to some extent. Yes, I was somewhat femme. (I have destroyed the photo evidence, so don't bother to look. <grins> )
I “evolved” as I got more secure in who I was. I have come to learn that the only real difference between me and someone transgendered is the fact that I have no dysphoria with regards to my breasts and I enjoy being touched physically. I've come to terms with my body and have no desire to actually transition. Nope, I really like to be touched. I'm good with that. Therefore, I am not stone butch. My stone butch friends assure me that they also enjoy being touched, but there are more rules involved and many of them don't like their breasts touched. Some do. The point is, we all have wants, needs, desires, likes, and dislikes, and that is just normal, We all have to get used to new relationships and how to touch people in ways that are loving and unique to each relationship.
The current woman in my life is very confused by all the labels. I think she thinks they are somewhat insulting and come across as derogatory. Some can definitely be used in a derogatory fashion. I personally don't care for labels, but they seem to have become important to the way we relate to each other. She is new to all this and she's very confused. She's never dated butches and she's never lived in a way that her sexual identity has been important. The smartest thing that she has recently said to me was that she doubted I was “typical” of other butches. This makes me laugh. I realize that while many of us have things in common, there is no such thing as “typical.”
I can only speak from my own personal view and I really hope readers will chime in and tell me what they think of the labels that they most closely identify with. I'm curious to know. For example, as I continue to evolve, I'm realizing that I also am considered 'genderqueer' because I feel more masculine and I like to be called “he” or hy.
I don't see myself as pretty, beautiful, womanly, or anything female-identified.
As a butch woman, I often feel completely misunderstood. Often I feel as if I am loathed by a large portion of society. Femme women who only date femme women have a tendency to scorn women like me. We are treated as 'ugly women who try to be men.' But gender is more mental than physical. I don't want to be a man. I'm just not completely comfortable as a woman. I don't think
like a girl. I can't help that. I don't want to be a man either. I just want to be me.
Isn't this what we all want?
Butch woman are somewhat caught in the middle. I don't 'pass' as straight, so I don't have any of that 'straight entitlement' that so many femme women enjoy. They do not get the dirty looks, the condescending attitudes, the outward hate and even the shunning within their own community the way that I do.
Being uncomfortable as a woman, I didn't get the life education that women get from dating men and living in a straight world. Straight women, and femme women, are tough with feelings. They are so in control sometimes that it is just plain scary to me. For this very reason, I don't quite fit into the male world either. I'm emotional. It is that one damn part of being a girl that I cannot control. I hate it. Almost as much as having a period once per month. That comes along once every 28 days or so and slaps me upside the head and reminds me that even if I wear a tie and suits, I'm a woman and I can't hide from that. It has taken many years, but I finally do embrace myself and love me as I am. I am neither male nor female, in my own humble opinion. I'm something of a hybrid, the best of both worlds.
You see, I've come to learn that when it boils right down to it, I'm human. All the sub-categories and groups really don't matter that much if we get down to the root of things. We are all attracted to those we are attracted to because we see something in them. That's all that matters. I just thank the stars for the one femme who likes this butch. That's all that matters to me. I think we all have the right to be who we are and love who we want to love. I also believe that we should be more tolerant of each other, as a community, if we expect the rest of the world to accept us as well. Practice less judgment and more compassion beginning today. Take the time to listen to someone else. Their story may surprise you and it may be more like your own than you imagined. In a world filled with hate, we should start practicing love, both with ourselves and with each other.
Last week, I posed five writing prompts to BW readers
. (I'm still taking answers, so feel free to send yours in
.) One of those was: "Write a letter from your 2013 self to your 2003 self." Here are five of my favorites:Dear kid,
I know you're reading this at age 31 but I know you still feel young and dumb, sometimes. I want, no, need to let you in on a few choice secrets. First, you have a lot of growing to do. You may feel like you are stagnant and the gears have stopped turning in your identity formation. I'm here, 10 years down the road, to urge you to hang on and keep your mind open. You're in for some heartbreak, which will make you question everything but you'll survive and only get better with age. Also, bear in mind that within the next decade, you'll become so comfortable with the you who you are that you won't give a tinker's damn what other folks think of how you present or label yourself. You'll be a fine person, who has expanded beyond terms like tomboy and lesbian and will embrace new aspects of self like boi, genderqueer and butch while never neglecting what it is to be female. In short, you will create a pretty balanced synthesis where you can appreciate your masculine and feminine qualities. You don't need to be afraid that you'll be unappreciated or unloved because you rock that short haircut and tie. You won't bow to societal pressures to conform, get married, wear attire that doesn't mesh with who you are, etc. You'll be a work in progress, even in 2013 but you will be a happy butch, who exudes confidence and class... and you will not be alone.
Dear Self from 2003,
Do yourself a favor and come out of the closet now. You know you're gay and so do your friends. I know you're scared that your family won't be fine with it but they will be as long as you are happy. Also never leave any of your girlfriends for someone else. It's lame and will rob you of true happiness. Keep trying to lose weight... it definitely pays off. Never give up!!! Life out if the closet is so much better than the life you have now.
Me from 2013
The third letter is from Whitney, who chose to send it in in video form. I totally love this--click here to check it out
Kiss a girl. One of those long lingering soft kisses that you can feel right down to your toes. When you are done don't feel guilty and don't feel ashamed; but most of all don't be afraid.
Your life begins here. YOUR LIFE. Not the life you just assumed you should have. The life that you were conditioned to believe was the proper, moral thing for a good girl to do. This kiss will allow you to start really living.
What you want is important and it matters. You will feel for the first time that you have found what you've been searching for. The thing that lingers just outside of your reach. Finally understand why you have always felt so different from other girls.
Love yourself for who you are. Start to look how you feel inside. Dress how you've always wanted to. Be comfortable in your own skin. Take advice from Dr. Seuss "Be who you are and say what you mean because those that matter don't mind and those that mind don't matter."
With this one simple act, do for yourself what years of therapy will not be able to do for you. Understand your relationship with your husband, then let him go. Give yourself the opportunity to experience real romantic love for the first time.
Trust in your family to understand and to be there for you no matter what. Believe that they love you and feel that your happiness is all that matters in the end.
Be brave. Be true to yourself. I'm not saying it will be easy. The sacrifices will be many. Some of them easy to take, while others will leave you heart broken and change you forever. But I promise you will never regret any of it for a second. The rewards far outweigh the hardships. Everything that you have ever imagined for yourself is what's at stake.
Kiss that girl! Then sit back and enjoy the ride.
Stevie LoveHi there, Laura.
I know it's a pretty confusing time for you after just breaking up with Jade. I know you think you're a little bi-girl, but let's be honest; we both know you're gay; don't pretend any more--it will be so much easier. You will meet people in your new secondary school who will find you with other girlfriends, will bully you and you shouldn't let it get to you like it did to me. The bullying got quite bad for me and I let it get to me but ignore them, actually in a few years the main ones have themselves come out.
Don't get all worried you won't suit short hair. It looks awesome on you! In the next few years you'll notice you meet some amazing people, especially in 2012, you will meet an amazing woman who makes you very happy. Don't let her go... ever.
I know you want to be with the guys and you've always acted like one but let's face it, you've always checked out the same girls they have without wanting to admit to yourself. Rugby is awesome. Just because you like to wear men's clothes doesn't mean you're weird. Keep smiling; it does get better. It gets a lot better and you are happy in the future. Life is good when you admit you're into women. Oh... you look damn good in a shirt and tie and don't you ever forget it.
Your future self.
I'll share some more of my favorite answers from readers to these and other questions
in the next couple of weeks. Readers' answers are making me wonder what I
would tell my 10-years-younger self. Would I tell her not to marry my DXH? I'm not sure. It broke my heart and sent me reeling for years... but on the other hand, I learned a lot from being married to him, and we had some absolutely wonderful times. In a very real sense, he and I grew up together. Plus, if I'd come out earlier, would I have ever met my hilarious, gorgeous, terrific DGF?
It's hard for me to think about what I'd want my 10-years-younger self to know. Even the things I learned the hard way sculpted me into the person I am now... so maybe that's good. Or maybe it's just cognitive dissonance.
What do YOU wish you would have known ten years ago?
I'm excited to share this guest post from a BW reader who's working as a Peace Corps volunteer. I hope you enjoy her insights as much as I did! For reasons that this piece makes clear, she's chosen to remain anonymous. Discovering the Lesbian Underground in Rural South America
Peace Corps is a two-year commitment to do development work in impoverished countries. I am an Agricultural Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in South America. My site is a very rural, impoverished, and conservative village in a conservative country.
I generally present myself as androgynous. Short hair, comfortable clothing, and a slim build make this easy. I didn’t tell my Peace Corps recruiter about my sexual orientation, but I scoured the internet trying to find information on queer life in the small, culturally isolated country to which I was assigned (and on the experiences of queer PCVs worldwide). To my dismay, I found little information. The Peace Corps welcomes queer PCVs, but warns that in many countries they will have to stay closeted—sometimes to work smoothly with host country counterparts, but frequently for the safety of the PVC.
In my village, miles away from paved roads, surrounded by banana and pineapple crops, I am very deeply in the closet. I still dress androgynously, but I have not, and likely will not, tell anyone in my community the direction in which my romantic interests generally lie – the señoras
trying to match me up with their sons don’t know how much of an uphill battle they face. Due to my unfeminine hair and clothing, I also receive far fewer cat calls and less sexual harassment than other female volunteers.
After working with men in the community to rebuild a wall of my house, someone joked that a "man"
would be moving in: me. This comment from a community member made me anxious, and led me to worry about every interaction—to an unhealthy extent. Indeed, my self-censorship has been one of the most stressful parts of being here. I am fearful that they will “guess,” but I actually haven’t altered much. I don't change my appearance or flirt with men, though I certainly don’t flirt with women in my site either. My second year, I’ve loosened up because I know the people in the village, and they know me. For example, when señoras would ask me if I had a boyfriend I used to say, “not right now,” but now I say, “I don’t need a boyfriend.” It’s a small, but significant, difference.
One of my queer volunteer friends says that this is a country of “open secrets:” Secrets everyone knows, but tacitly agrees not to talk about. It makes me wonder, am I living an open secret too? Is it possible everyone in my site knows and are electing to keep quiet?
One of the biggest personal changes I have experienced here is the role my sexual identity plays in my sense of self. Like many people in their mid-twenties from accepting backgrounds, I never viewed my orientation as a big deal. However, here in rural South America, I needed to hide this part of myself for the first time in my life… so it has become more important. I am open with other volunteers and the Peace Corps support staff in-country, but I miss being in an active queer community.
Once every month or two, I travel to the country’s capital to get mail and to socialize with other PCVs. If possible, we visit one of the few gay bars in the whole country. Unsurprisingly, it’s usually full of gay men. However, after a conversation with a posse of local gay men looking out for me, we got directions, scrawled on the back of a napkin, to a rumored lesbian bar. It was months before we found the place. When we finally did, we discovered that we had to get past the guards, ring the bell, and wait for someone to come unlock the door. They’re only open one night a week, but have information regarding human rights campaigns, queer film festivals, and Pride activities. Despite their limited hours, it was nice to know that such a locale existed.
However, I still needed a queer community closer to where I live, and as luck would have it, I stumbled across one! There is a town an hour and a half away, and during my first few months, I traveled there frequently to buy supplies to build my house. A PCV there introduced me to a friend of hers (I’ll call her B), a female firefighter. This PCV told me that B was a lesbian and told B the same thing about me. A few months later, B invited me to a secret, underground drag show! Out here, in the middle of nowhere, there was a community! The event was invitation only, with the location announced a few hours ahead of time. Secrecy was a big priority. Drag queens from all over the country performed, and under a blanket of stars, the rest of us queers watched. It was great! But the most valuable part of the experience was finding out that there is a network, even out here in the rural countryside. However, it’s distressing that such a high level of secrecy is necessary.
Now I find myself dating B’s ex (I guess lesbians are the same world over). This
chapter is unfolding day by day…Our interactions are full of cultural misunderstandings and poorly translated endearments. (Also, how on earth does one discuss strap-ons in a country without toy shops?) She is closeted even to those in her family who would be accepting. I worry that I overestimate the level of acceptance around her, and thereby put her in danger. Her internalized homophobia and self-hatred is another challenge altogether.
I am pleased to have been admitted into the secret lesbian underground of this country. I’ve never met any established lesbian couples, but supposedly several pairs live together, frequently raising children from their past relationships. One of the pairs was comparatively wealthy and lived somewhat more openly, and the other pairs just quietly lived together as “housemates.” I never heard of couples in the countryside, only in town. I also met people who had been part of the lesbian community but ended up marrying men. For some of them, marrying was one of the few avenues of independence they had. Outside of the capital, most people don’t leave their parents’ house till they get married.
I can be an example of a happy, queer, woman within the underground lesbian community. Their eyes went wide when I mentioned that my mother once asked my (ex)girlfriend which of the states with legalized same-sex marriage we would be moving to. I’m not sure what blew their minds more, the fact that marriage was an option for us, or that my mother treated our relationship legitimately. I introduced terms like “family” and “gaydar,” and exposed the underground to television shows like The L Word
and Modern Family
. Seeing queer people on TV just like any other telanovela
was a very significant, empowering experience, especially for my girlfriend. It’s been powerful for me as well: by seeing it from the outside, I truly appreciate the strength of the queer community in the US.
Clearly I can only base this off of the lesbians I know, but but at least in this country, there seems to be less gender nonconformity than in the US or other South American countries. But maybe that’s because all the lesbians I know are from the countryside (the town is in the middle of nowhere. The only real “city” is the capital.
Lesbians here either never find each other (sad but true), or find one other lesbian or gay man who introduces them to her or his friends (like what happened to me). Some of the most important work I’ve done my last few months in the site, has been introducing a few teenagers (males) who came out to me to the community in the town. Additionally, I introduced the community in town to the resources and clubs in the capital.
My Peace Corps experience has changed me in many unexpected ways, including strengthening my identity as a queer person. But more importantly, it has highlighted something else to me, the fact that who I am is not just for me alone. I'm a member of a beautiful community, not just underground in a small country and not just causally out in my hometown: it’s a community that's everywhere, worldwide, where I'd most and least expect it. When I pack my bags, say my goodbyes, and leave this country, I'm taking that lesson with me.
Many thanks to the guest poster for sharing her story. She also wanted me to pass along this link for LGBT Peace Corps Alumni. Do you have an experience worth sharing? I welcome guest post submissions; email me at email@example.com for more information.
I've talked often on Butch Wonders about the difficulty of defining "butch," my distaste for policing "butchness," and the value I find in labeling myself "butch." I've been communicating with some of my dear readers about these and related questions, and I'd like to put a call out there for YOUR answer to one of the following:
Over the next month or two, I will post several of the most interesting, thought-provoking answers I receive. Please email me your entries, along with the following information:
- How do you define "butch?" Does butch necessarily mean "female?"
- Write a letter from your 2013 self to your 2003 self--maybe to give younger self some insight; maybe to prepare you for the next decade.
- Would we all be better off without any labels?
- What is your butch "style?" How is it different (if it's different at all, which it needn't be) from being a man?
- Describe how some other identity you have (race, religion, social class, whatever) interacts with your sexual orientation.
I reserve the right to edit these as I see fit for grammar, length, clarity, etc., but I'll do so as sparingly as possible.
- Which question you are answering
- How you'd like your name to appear (if at all--anonymous is fine)
- A link to your website (optional--I'll publish it with your entry)
- Your mailing address (also optional--a few lucky folks may win a prize)
No minimum or maximum length, but anywhere between 150 and 750 words is great. You don't need to identify as butch, or as gay, or as anything else, to submit an entry. I can't wait to read these! (And yes, if you'd like to answer more than one, feel free--just make sure to send each answer in a separate email.)
My buddy C
and I enjoy exchanging stories about the funny, traumatic, or improbable "sir"-ings bestowed on us. We began talking about manners surrounding the incidents; what do we want people to do after they mistakenly refer to us with male pronouns, then realize their mistake? Here's our advice:Things to do after you make a mistake about someone's gender:
- Just say, "Oops, sorry," and move on like it is no big deal. Because it really isn’t. It's happened to us before, and we won't hold a grudge. Promise.
We'd love to end this post here, but unfortunately, personal experience suggests that a second list is warranted.Things NOT to do after you make a mistake about someone's gender:
- Do not blame the other person. Do not say that our hair or clothes are "confusing" or point out that we are "dressed like a man." Doing so is embarrassing for you and annoying for us.
- Do not overapologize (hint: more than two apologies qualifies as "overapologizing"). We realize that our self-presentation is not gender typical, and don't think you're nuts or a jerk for making the mistake.
- Do not use it as an excuse to tell us how much you support gay rights or trans rights, or about all the friends you have who are trans and/or gay. This takes a relatively innocuous situation and douses it with awkwardness juice.
- Do not use it as an excuse to tell us you love our haircut and "wish" you could wear your hair that short (hint: you can!).
- Do not defend yourself (after following us into the women's restroom and yelling at us accusingly through the closed stall door, "This is the WOMEN'S room!") by saying, "It was an understandable mistake." We will never understand why someone is SO certain that they know what a "real" woman looks like that they honestly believe that a short man with hips and boobs just walked into a clearly labeled women's restroom, ignored the presence of women and the absence of urinals, and blithely sat down to pee. Isn't it more likely that you just might have a narrow idea of what a woman "looks like?"
- Do not switch pronouns, then switch back again. Being "sir--ma'am--sir'd" is worse than being sir'd.
- Do not say, "Oh! Them is little titties! I thought you was a man."
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.
This post was written by Alison C. K. Fogarty, who blogs for Good Vibrations and is a PhD student in sociology! Check out her website here
I’m a 28-year-old bisexual femme living in San Francisco. I had my first sexual experiences with women in college, and while I enjoyed them, I was hesitant to identify as bisexual because these hookups occurred with men present. Involving men in the sexual events provided both me and my female partners the opportunity to explore our attractions to each other in a heteronormative context, which felt safer and less intimidating, but also somehow had me feel like it delegitimized my desire for women. I was also confused because, at that point in my life, I didn’t want a relationship with a woman and so I felt like I'd be a fraud if I identified as bi.
My last year of college, I entered a long-term monogamous heterosexual relationship and shelved my confusing feelings for women for a while. After college, I entered a PhD program in sociology to study gender and sexuality. While preparing to teach an undergrad class on LGBT identities and expressions a few years in, I came across an article called "Two Many and Not Enough: The Meaning of Bisexual Identities" by Paula Rust. Rust argues that it's not experience
that defines a bisexual identity, and that you don't have to be equally attracted to men and women to be bi, nor do you have to want the same kinds of relationships with each. It was while reading this article that I came to fully accept and own my identity as a bisexual.
While I had come out to myself, it wasn’t until my relationship ended a year later that I finally came out to others and looked to find a place for myself in the queer community--a community to whom I was already a long-time ally and advocate. (I realize that there is not one queer community, but I am resisting the pressure to further divide and exclude.) Finding acceptance in this community has proved a difficult process, and three years later, I'm still struggling. I attribute my exclusion to three dynamics, which I detail below.1. Distrust of Femme Appearance
At worst, my femme appearance can cause my queer brothers, sisters, and others to associate me with those who have judged, shamed, and bullied them. At best, I am assumed to be an obliviously privileged heteronormative ally who could never fully understand the hardships of the queer community. It is true that my ability to pass as a "normal" straight woman affords me many privileges in our society. My passability, however, also means that I often am denied access to the queer spaces I so desperately seek. Common experiences of social exclusion are the bonding adhesive of the queer community. Ironically, my inexperience with exclusion from heteronormative society means I am often excluded from the queer community.
A few weekends ago I went to SF Pride, and spent Saturday afternoon blanket-hopping from friend group to friend group in Dolores Park. When I met up with a female lover, I felt like several of her lesbian and trans friends viewed me with skepticism and mistrust, as if I was an outsider infiltrating their space. Of course, it's impossible to tell how much of my fear of being excluded colors my experience (and may even create a self-fulfilling prophecy!). Regardless, I can objectively state that I was not invited into many conversations or invited to join them in their evening Pride plans. On a day when we are supposed to celebrate love and our pride for our queerness and our community, I felt excluded, and that hurt.2. Bisexual Femme Invisibility and Delegitimization
My invisibility as a bisexual is another force that excludes me from the queer community. As a bisexual femme, I am almost always assumed to be heterosexual. When I’m out with a guy, even if he’s just a friend, I am assumed to be straight. When I’m out with a girl, I’m assumed to be straight. Even if I’m making out in public with a girl, I’m often assumed to be a slutty straight girl. It is very difficult to feel like a part of the queer community when no one knows I’m queer. I often feel like I need to shout it from the rooftops wearing my "I’m queer. Yes, seriously." T-shirt.
I end up coming out over and over again, usually facing people who doubt the legitimacy of my sexual identity. Even my mom, a liberal psychologist without a homophobic bone in her body, told me that she thought I wanted to be bisexual because I thought it was "cool." Biphobia, while often unacknowledged, is rampant. I know several closeted bi women who publicly identify as lesbians because they don’t want to face exclusion and ridicule from their lesbian friends
. The sexuality of those who identify as "straight" and "gay" is polarized to tail ends of the spectrum as bisexual behavior is effectively policed with shame by both communities. This delegitimization of bisexuality further conceals our presence in the queer community and contributes to my feelings of being excluded.
3. My Femme-Femme Relationship Preference
One last, depressingly oppressive barrier to inclusion in the queer community is my desire for femme-femme relationships. It is very difficult to find other femmes who want to date femmes, and gender dynamics have often proved difficult to navigate. My attraction to femmes is on a physical level, not necessarily on a behavioral or personality level. I want a partner who enjoys playing with the gender spectrum, sometimes taking a more submissive "bottom" role and sometimes taking a more dominant "top" role, but most often taking neither.
I recently joined OKCupid in hopes of finding a femme partner, and my experiences have not been successful. Many butch women have contacted me, and although I love their attention and the feeling of actually being seen as queer, I have not been sexually interested in them. Many women in relationships with men have messaged me, hoping that I would join them in a kinky triad, but again I am not interested. Not one femme
has initiated contact with me. So I’ve scoured the site for potential partners, vulnerably sending messages in hopes of a possible connection. Out of the many women I’ve contacted, few responded. Some told me they were looking for a more butch partner, another said she wanted to be the "only queen" in the relationship, and a few said they were open to being sexual with another femme, but did not want to date one. Only one femme was willing to meet, but after she flaked on our plans twice, I gave up. I have had such difficulty finding a femme partner, and my lack of experience contributes to my inability to access the queer community. This exclusion serves to only increase the difficulty I experience finding a femme partner, thus creating a cycle of increasing exclusion.
I decided to share my coming out story and my painful experiences of exclusion because I am committed to raising awareness and sparking dialogue around the challenges queers face in finding acceptance within our own community. Now I have some questions for BW readers:
- Have you ever felt excluded as a result of your gender presentation or sexual preferences?
- How do other identities, such as race and class, also serve as barriers to inclusion in the queer community?
- Have you ever policed boundaries, segmenting the queer community in a way that excludes members of our queer family?
- Are you willing to consider the ways in which you may have perpetrated the same intolerance you’ve experienced in your life?
Although I realize my experience and these questions may be triggering for you, I don't intend for anyone to feel defensive or alienated. Rather, I hope this trigger will generate conversations around this important issue that will ultimately serve to positively impact and strengthen our community.
This guest post is from J.N. Gallagher, a Butch Wonders reader who talks about his experiences and internal struggles writing butch erotica. I hope you find this as interesting and thought-provoking as I did. --BW
When the call went out for guest posts to Butch Wonders
, I was pleased to see that submissions from all genders and orientations would be considered. Whether my work is welcome is something I’ve struggled with… While I write fiction in a lot of different genres on a lot of different subjects, when I write erotica, I typically write about A) lesbians who are B) butch and C) have sex. I am also a heterosexual cis man.
Every editor I’ve corresponded with about my gender has insisted that the only thing that matters is the quality of the work. If they inquired further about my life situation, they’d find out that I was born male, identify as straight, and am married to a fabulous feminine woman. The other detail I don’t explain is that butch women get me all hot and bothered, always have and always will, and that’s why I enjoy writing about them so much.
(I guess the cat’s out of the bag on those details now.)
All of this, sadly, is part of a web of inner conflict that has challenged me since puberty. I’m heterosexual in that I am only attracted to women, but female masculinity makes my knees weak. It doesn't feel like being attracted to masculine and
feminine women would make me bisexual, though "queer" doesn't seem like quite the right word, either—it encompasses too much, while "straight" doesn't cover enough.
I've longed to be around lesbians, but I don’t want to force myself into a community that isn’t looking to have me. I want to write about this delicious type of woman that excites me, but I don’t know if I have the right to do so.
I don’t believe an author needs to be a working rancher to write a great western novel, or a Jedi Knight to write stories set in the Star Wars universe. Familiarity and direct knowledge are always beneficial, but these qualities don’t sit down and write a book by themselves.
Still, the bottom line is that I’m writing about experiences outside of my own, and I feel a connection to the material that is difficult for many people to understand. After decades of reflection, I still don’t understand it myself. And, no matter how universal the themes of my fiction might be, I’m dipping my toes into unfamiliar (and potentially unwelcome) waters. Some people might yell, "Come in! The water’s great!" Others might say, "Get lost, creep," and I couldn’t really blame them. Our identities are incredibly personal to who we are.
My question to the readers of Butch Wonders
is: Do you care about who an author is when reading fiction about butches? Does quality trump all, or would you like a piece less if you found out it was written by a heterosexual-identified, non-trans male?
If you’re wondering what my work is like, I had a story, "Officer Birch," published in Lesbian Cops: Erotic Investigations
. This anthology was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, a fact I’m very proud of. The story is not about two butches, but it’s not really a butch/femme story, either. I guess it’s just a story about a couple of characters who discover things about love, sex, and each other. These are the themes I enjoy writing about the most. Erotic fiction about butches might be the smallest part of my writing output in terms of quantity, but it's definitely the most personal to me.