If you're like me, you think that the Republican Party's stance on civil rights issues makes lesbianism as compatible with Republicanism as horseradish is with chocolate. But the Log Cabin Republicans
disagree. They're a national organization of openly gay GOP members who want to strengthen the Republican Party, limit government, promote free markets, and
advocate for LGBT equality.Intrigued, I contacted Log Cabin and asked for an interview with a member. I soon heard back from Casey Pick, Programs Director at the organization's national office, who is an out butch lesbian. She graciously agreed to an IM interview for BW, which I've printed here (edited only for length and clarity). Unless otherwise specified, her answers are hers alone and not that of the Log Cabin Republicans.
Pick in action, undeterred by injury
BW: Thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me. I really appreciate your time.
CP: Absolutely. I enjoyed reading your blog earlier, so I've been looking forward to this.
BW: Thanks for reading! I'd love to start by asking a little about you. You're in your late 20s, and a graduate of UCLA Law School, is that right?
CP: That's correct. I'm a proud Bruin, and a licensed attorney in the state of California. Now I'm the programs director for the National Log Cabin Republicans.
BW: Have you been a Republican since you were young?
CP: No, I became a Republican in college, shortly after the 2004 elections. That's quite a story.
BW: I'd love to hear it. I was guessing that you've always identified as Republican, then came out later in life as a lesbian.
CP: I'd always been pretty moderate, but sort of a "Democrat by default," especially after I realized my orientation in high school. But when I went to college at Claremont McKenna
, I started to really define my political views, discovering that I was much more of a national security hawk--I was strongly affected by the 9/11 attacks--and that I really did believe in a free market and conservative political philosophy.
BW: That's interesting.
CP: But still, I was more concerned about gay rights than party politics, so I didn't make the change until two big things happened. CMC invited Patrick Guerriero, then Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans to speak, and I really admired the work he was doing to change the party from within. The second thing was when I watched Democrats, after losing in 2004, start blaming Kerry's loss on LGBT people, and talking about how the Democratic Party needed to get in with religious voters.
Casey Pick in her lez-baru
BW: What was the political climate like at Claremont McKenna?
CP: CMC is a special place. It is one of the only schools I know of where the student body splits pretty evenly into liberal/conservative/independent, and we've been called the most political campus in the country. Add to that a really strong emphasis on leadership and studying government, and you have a politics wonk's dream!
BW: Did you grow up in California?
CP: I was born in CA and lived there until my mother decided to go to law school when I was 10 or so. We moved to Iowa, but I kept going back to CA during the summer, so it never really stopped feeling like home.
BW: I bet you miss it!
CP: I do! I've got plane tickets in hand for a trip to Palm Springs this summer, actually.
BW: So when you began to ID with a conservative political philosophy, did you feel tension between your sexual orientation and new political leanings?
CP: Given that it was 2004, and I had just watched 11 states pass constitutional amendments banning marriage equality, I knew there was work to be done in the GOP. It was very important to me, knowing that I was a conservative at heart--and also a newly born-again Christian... it was an intense time - it was important that I use my ability to speak, Republican-to-Republican, evangelical-to-evangelical, in order to change hearts and minds for equality. I was going to be a Republican, but I wasn't going to abandon my pro-equality principles at the door. And frankly, I believe the GOP's core principle of freedom and individual liberty is entirely in line with LGBT equality.
BW: Did your Christian beliefs cause any tension re: your sexual orientation?
CP: I became a Christian after really getting to know and love some of my evangelical neighbors at CMC, so they knew I was gay and welcomed me from the start. I will say that my orientation, and a long fear of Christians/God, made it harder to accept my faith, but now I reconcile the two happily, and enjoy helping others do the same. It's a theme in my life - I like to be a bridge.
BW: I agree that freedom and individual liberty is in line with LGBT equality. But I'm skeptical of the idea that freedom and individual liberty are in line with the Republican agenda. Economic freedom and deregulation, yes. Social freedom, no.
CP: Well, there are many Republicans who believe, as Vice President Dick Cheney said, "freedom means freedom for everyone" - and on issues like LGBT liberty, more Republicans are coming on board every day.
BW: More may be coming on board. But in absolute numbers, it still seems low compared to Democrats.
CP: The LGBT community has spent a long time investing in and educating the left side of the aisle. I find it unfortunate that we've conceded territory on the right for so long that now Democrats sometimes take our votes for granted. Log Cabin Republicans is working hard to do much of that same work on the right, and it's bearing results - I'd point to important votes on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal, or to marriage in NY, WA and NH as examples of where hard work pays off.
BW: But if the Republican Party really believed in getting out of our personal lives, wouldn't they be totally accepting of LGBTQ folks?
CP: We have to remember that the movement for LGBT equality, slow as it may seem, has actually moved very fast. As a matter of political philosophy, conservatives tend to be more cautious of social change in general, and the reality is that a large portion of this nation is still coming to grips with what it means for gay people to be out, proud, and forming families.
BW: But if conservatives supposedly care about personal freedom, why do they tend to be cautious about social change?
CP: A lot of times, what is marketed as change - as in, say, a "hope and change" agenda - is really about giving government more control. At the same time, it's about the law of unintended consequences - if we change this, what happens next that we can't see? This is the academic, geeky butch coming out in me - it's Burke, Hayek, that kind of political philosopher that says beware radical changes, and to a lot of folks, LGBT rights still seem radical. But as people learn that we're just like them, interested in going to work, raising our families, sometimes serving our nation in uniform - the more they learn that, the less radical we seem and the more progress we make among conservatives.
BW: The fact that we have to "convince" Republicans that we're "just like them" suggests to me they DO care about getting into our personal lives.
CP: It isn't so much about your personal life as about what society looks like as a whole. Conservatives often believe that a self-governing society, one which can maintain a high level of freedom, requires strong families and other private institutions to provide stability.
BW: The values you're articulating sound more Libertarian than Republican.
CP: The GOP, like the Democrats, isn't a monolith. We're a coalition which includes your libertarians, your national security hawks, your social conservatives, and so on, and we don't always agree.
BW: The idea that strong private institutions should be a source of social stability is another place you and I diverge. I'm wary of the idea that private institutions--that are hard to hold accountable--should be a big source of social stability. Look at outsourcing. I'd argue that insufficient regulation is why we have such a withered manufacturing base.
CP: And I'd come back pointing out that we have some of the highest corporate tax rates and most burdensome regulations in the world. I think we'd enjoy a debate over a couple of beers.
CP: Btw, I enjoyed reading your field guide on types of butch lesbians--I'm going to be thinking about that for awhile!
photo credit: Amy Walter Beisel
BW: Thanks. Do you ID as butch? Which one are you?
CP: I'm slightly on the butch side of the spectrum. All about holding open doors, being protective, and let's just say not a lot of work got done during the women's NCAA basketball tournament!
BW: Okay, back to The Gays: What’s your reaction to Obama’s stance re: gay marriage?
CP: Obviously it's tremendously significant, and having the president on the right side of this issue is in the nation's best interests. That said, Americans can be certain that the President would not have made this decision at this time if it were not in his best political interests. ...the trap is laid for any Republican who responds with intolerance. I think a lot of Republicans know this, which is why you're seeing a pretty mild, measured response, particularly from people like Speaker Boehner and Governor Romney, who is only bringing it up when asked so far.
BW: Do you see gay rights as a states' issue?
CP: I will say I was very disappointed in the timing of the announcement. I was on the ground in North Carolina working against Amendment One, and I know that there were a lot of people there who were hurting at that defeat, who are asking now why the president couldn't have come out for this one day sooner, which it might have made a difference for them. So while I'm happy he's finally caught up to Dick Cheney on this, in a way the timing of it just made it bittersweet.
BW: Do you agree with Cheney that it's a states' rights issue?
CP: Log Cabin Republicans are working hard to pass a federal employment nondiscrimination act and other important legislation for LGBT Americans at the federal level - but we do sometimes make the argument that the federal government should show more respect for the states. To conservatives, it is a strong argument to remind them that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was actually an unprecedented intrusion on states' rights, and that today it is actually working in an anti-federalist way by allowing - forcing, even - the federal government to ignore marriages in states like New York and New Hampshire where the state has decided to grant marriage rights. If we treated marriage like a states rights issue, we'd be recognizing those marriages today for purposes of federal benefits like social security and taxes. That said, we do agree with former Bush administration solicitor general Ted Olson that marriage is a fundamental freedom due to all Americans, gay or straight.
BW: Ted Olson is an excellent advocate. Do you think it would hurt Romney politically if he came out in favor of gay marriage? Or, put differently, do you think that the Republicans have basically given up on getting the gay vote?
CP: There is a growing number of Republicans leaders who are aware that campaigning on marriage, or even appearing antigay in any way, is a losing strategy for the GOP. I'd point you to an article in the Washington Post
which shows more and more Republicans strongly encouraging the party to take a more modern stance on these issues. That said, social issues activists like the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council aren't going away just yet.
BW: It must be annoying to you that so many visible Republicans are so anti gay rights.
CP: It isn't just about the gay vote at this point - those gay voters have friends, family, co-workers, and polls are consistent in showing that moderates, younger voters and women are inclined to support equality. It's a growing voting block to be taken into consideration. It's frustrating sometimes, not just because as a gay woman I find some of what is said offensive, but also because I think that kind of rhetoric is harmful to the Republican Party.
BW: You think Romney would lose votes if he came out in favor of equal rights for LGBTQ Americans?
CP: I think there are some measures Governor Romney could comfortably take to reach out on issues of equality, including support for employment nondiscrimination. On marriage, I think he has stated his position and intends to stay with it, though Log Cabin Republicans have informed him of our disagreement and strong desire to see DOMA repealed.
BW: Do you foresee Obama repealing DOMA if he's elected again?
CP: The question is whether I see him investing significant political capital to move DOMA repeal through Congress. Given his anemic efforts on DADT repeal and broken promises on the federal contractor executive order against employment discrimination, I'm not optimistic.
BW: [Sigh.] Me either re: his political capital. [Though I'll definitely be voting for him come November.]
CP: See? Not only is a lesbian Log Cabin Republican not a unicorn, I'm also not crazy!
BW: You've been super generous with your time. A couple more questions?
BW: I listened to another interview with you, and the interviewer was literally yelling at you for being a gay Republican. Do you get that a lot?
CP: Especially this week! Our statement
in response to President Obama ruffled a few feathers. But yeah, there are plenty of people who don't understand how a person can stay in a party where there is significant disagreement on something as personal as marriage and families. I remind them that I am a multifaceted human being who cares about a lot of issues; that somebody has to be willing to speak with the right side of the aisle if we're ever going to truly win equality; and that it's my party, too - I'm not about to be driven out of it or told I can't be a Republican. We won't have real freedom as LGBT people in this country if there's still the idea out there that your sexual orientation dictates your politics.
BW: To me, civil rights are so personal that it would be hard to be a member of a party whose official platforms suggested that I was inferior.
CP: Civil rights matter to me, too - that's why I do this work. I think the most important battleground for equality today is with people who disagree with us, and if I have the knowledge, perspective and, frankly, stubbornness to have those conversations, then it's my job to do so. Log Cabin Republicans are unapologetically Republican and unapologetically pro-equality, and that's why I'm proud to be a member.
BW: Although I disagree with you in many ways, I'm glad that there are people like you in the Republican Party.
CP: We need folks on the left pushing Democrats, too, so if you're not a Republican, you've still got work to do. I'm happy to work with other advocates to get things done. Log Cabin works with Freedom to Marry, Immigration Equality, Servicemembers United, GLSEN, to make equality a reality.
BW: Here's a question I know a lot of readers are wondering: does being a Republican affect your dating life?
CP: Being a workaholic political activist affects my dating life!
BW: I can just imagine it. Candlelit dinner, romantic music... then all of a sudden, you say it: "Honey, I'm a Republican." Do you encounter a lot of women who are just like, "I totally don't get you."
CP: To be honest, yes- there are some folks who find it a turn-off, who think I must be self-loathing or fundamentally greedy, willing to trade equality for tax cuts. For others, it's not the Party, but being deeply involved in these issues. Thankfully, it rarely gets that far - when the answer to the question "so what do you do?" is "I lobby Republicans for gay rights," that screens out those types pretty effectively.
BW: I bet. Do you prefer to date other Republicans?
CP: Lol! If that was my criterion, I'd be in trouble. I prefer to date people who are passionate about whatever they believe in. Clearly I'm comfortable with liberals and have plenty of lefty friends - I don't discriminate.
BW: Who's your dream woman? Ann Coulter? Rachel Maddow?
CP: *shudders* No thank you.
BW: Shudders to whom? Both of 'em?
CP: Pretty much, though Rachel has her moments.
BW: LOL--if she was a conservative, you know you'd be all over that.
CP: No doubt! Sadly, she's not so fond of Log Cabin types.
BW: Maybe she'll invite you on her show one of these days.
CP: I think I'd enjoy that conversation - sparks would fly, just not romantically!
BW: Well, I should wrap up, but just want to say thanks again. It's been fun talking with you, Casey.
CP: Anytime - it's been a nice break.
BW: Good luck.
A couple of days ago, I wrote about my memories of my father's dresser
, and I included a snapshot of my own. I asked readers to send in pictures or descriptions of their dressers. Here are some of the pictures and quotes people sent in. (The pictures are interspersed with the quotes. Some quotes go a picture; others don't. Can you guess which ones do?)
• • •
"Coins, keys, pens, pocketknife. Valet with wallet, cufflinks, bracelets, tie tacks. Vintage ash tray with odd bits like collar stays, dog whistle, lost button, corsage pin, matches. Vintage tip tray with specs, sunglasses, cell, biz cards. Always a memo pad. All neatly arranged on top of TWO dressers pushed together and garnished with a bureau scarf. Geez. What a fetishist."
"Picture of my lady, stuffed amoeba my friend sewed for me, three books on female masculinity, a chapstick, my wallet, and a roll of duct tape."
"I had a fascination with my father's dresser as well. I snooped though ...found a lot of interesting things! Every week I would hope for something new...it's still intriguing every time I see it now."
"Generally there is a cat napping on mine and nothing else...since he'd just knock it off."
"In essence, her side is the zebra lamp side, and mine is the one with all the nail polish and hair things...we've got receipts, a pen cup, water bottle, and a Bath and Body works bag there... That mask, though, is my favorite, and a keepsake from the Highland Games in Enumclaw."
"Diapers, shirt, that's it."
"It's a mess of nothing but junk. Change, receipts, a fan, 2 valet boxes."
"Perfume, deodarant, talcs, nail polish, brush, comb, wet wipes, clock, mobile."
"Aftershave, deodorants, my gf's perfume [and] makeup, jewelry, bobble rack, face wipes, creams a teddy, watches."
"As for my parents, they never had anything interesting on their dresser... but their closet always fascinated me because my mom kept all her jewelry, important documents and things like that in a safe, inside the closet. Also, their closet was the only way to get up into the attic, and so as a child, I was convinced that if I ever got a ladder and went up there, I'd be able to climb into another world. The modern-day version of Narnia, I guess."
"Mine is in my closet, and I avoid going back in there as much as possible."
"I was obsessed w my grandfather's [dresser]. [H]is white old spice bottle would be the first thing I went after... and his razor was next... he removed the razor ...when we came over to keep me mainly from shaving something off my face. My dresser is a little more on the romantic side I guess... my candles, colognes, deodorant, and my change jar, most of the time all nice and neat."
"My SnapOn jewlery box. My Cabbage patch doll dressed in a baseball uniform. My AA chips and big gbook. Watches, wallet and colonge. A picture of myself before I lost weight so I don't forget. A picture of my girl."
"A black fanny pack... a jewelry box my brother brought back from Japan when I was 11 and a bunch of books and lotto tickets... and a stuffed animal someone gave me when i was going though chemo."
"I was always fascinated with my Dad's dresser as a child because he had all this cool stuff on top and hidden in the drawers that he would sometimes show me if I lurked around while he was getting ready, like pocket knives, boxes, shells, die cast toy cars he had when he was a boy, harmonicas and generally fascinating old stuff... I have a habit of collecting random things through the day that end up in my pockets, then at night this is where most of it ends up when I empty them. "
"Coins, deodorant , mini-hope chest, papers of important stuff that needs to be done but have been laying there for about 6 months, hand lotion, dust..."
Lots of folded, multi-colored t-shirts, passport, foreign money, important documents, Canadian cell phone for when I go "home."
"I was always fascinated by my grandad's dresser. He had a box of things he picked up whilst serving in WW2, Brill cream and a comb. Minimal. I have my grandad's old oil lamp, my toy soldier minus a foot, ashtray of loose change and memory cards, deodorants, hand gel, tiger balm, body butter, glasses, a wee pot of body jewellery, and my rice crispies i forgot to eat this morning."
This is the third of a three-part series of posts about butch-butch relationships. These posts are based on my own experiences, as well as those of about 15 butches I interviewed who are, or have dated, other butches. You can read parts one and two of this series here and here.Toughness and VulnerabilitySeveral member
s of butch-butch couples said one aspect of their relationship they particularly loved was the mixture of toughness and vulnerability in their partner. K was particularly eloquent on this point: "We don't usually think of butch women as being... vulnerable, do we? After all, if butch means masculine, and if boys are encouraged to be tough, then doesn't it follow that a butch lesbian should have a thick skin, and brush off all the hurts... collecting broken hearts and belt notches, and racking up a lifetime of hard knocks? ...[T]he best thing about being with her [is that s]he makes herself vulnerable to me."Butch-butch couples loved that their relationships allowed them not only to exhibit their own toughness, but to take refuge in their partner's toughness.
Z told me, "The best thing is that we are both very strong, in ways that compliment the other's weaknesses." And Jennie wrote, "I can be strong and tough for [Lisa], be her butch. But I can also use her toughness and let her be my butch when I need it." Indeed, as one astute femme Facebook buddy
pointed out, the qualities that butches seem to appreciate in other butches aren't too different from those that femmes seem to appreciate in butches.
Occasionally, some butches in butch-butch couples feel like their "masculinity" or "butchness" is threatened by being with another butch. For example, one anonymous respondent feels a little uneasy when her partner wears a tie: "Then will they think I'm
the femme?" she asks. K.D. explains that she and her partner, Becca, sometimes "have butch-offs: 'Sweetie, let me carry that,' 'I'll get the door,' etc. Sometimes I just want to be the sweetheart that helps the other person, comforts the other person, demonstrates chivalry etc. and when Becca wants to be that part of the relationship it can be interesting to navigate." Donnie added that butches are a stubborn breed, and that neither partner likes to be the one to give in!
A few butches offered suggestions for making each other feel butch. Jennie said that since she and Lisa "fight over some 'butch' duties," they needed "to buy 2 shovels, 2 chainsaws, etc." Lisa added, "We need to buy a second snow shovel, cuz I am NOT watching her have all the fun!" KT said that it's important to reinforce each others' butchness, since for both her and her partner, being a masculine or androgynous woman was an important part of their identity. Z admitted to a little concern that her partner might one day leave her for a femme, since K has dated femmes before. And alas, I can personally confess to having a similar pang of worry now and then. It's not only important for butch-butch couples to respect
each others' butchness, but to be very explicit about valuing
this in each other. What Butch-Butch Couples Share
Navigating the world as a masculine-of-center woman can be tough, and several respondents mentioned that it's nice to have someone who understands those experiences first-hand. AJ said that being in a relationship with another butch gives her 'permission' to be herself: "I'm allowed to be me. There is no expectation for me to change myself or be more 'feminine' because I am female. We are best friends and lovers. She just gets me." Becca wrote, "I truly appreciate that the other person knows where I'm coming from and understands what it's like to move around in the world as a butch." Jess said, "The best thing is just having someone you can relate to."
K.D. + Becca = awesome.
Several butches also mentioned that butch lovers are quicker in the bathroom: "Chopper doesn't take long to get dressed," Z said. "[S]he is rough around the edges like me. We don't really worry too much about whether our socks match or if we have some dog hair on us." AJ said, "[I]t is quick to go out because I don't have to wait for her to do her hair, makeup, nails and stuff."
Nearly every respondent said the best part of being in a relationship with another butch is that they are simply very attracted to other butches. Some of them are attracted exclusively to other butches, and others have no generalizable preference or pattern. Either way, being in a relationship with someone to whom you are physically attracted is, well, hot. Butch-loving-butches are no more in charge of their own chemical attractions than femme-loving butches, butch-loving femmes, or anyone else. This is one of the many reasons it made me sad that a few people wrote, in response to my previous posts, that butch-butch relationships are "gross" or "a waste." When two consenting adults are in love with each other, a "waste" is about the last thing I'd call it.
Butch in the Bedroom: Just Us and Our Socks
A few bashful butches didn't respond to this question at all. But I'll let those who did tell you in their own words what it's like for two butches in bed:
Stacy: "Butch/Femme is something very different than Top/Bottom, but people assume it's the same. I have had very different roles in each of my relationships in that area. If you have enough trust with someone, you have enough freedom to explore all sides of yourself and your partner. I believe everyone has their butch side, their femme side, their top side and their bottom side. The fascinating thing is to see how yours pairs up in each relationship."
O: "Things are very hot in the bedroom. We are both takers and givers so it usually works out very nice. The only thing is sometimes we fight over who tops."
eL: "It is amazing. I don't want to kiss and tell... but it was magical."
Donnie: "I think it's amazing! It's a true give and take of feelings, emotions, and love on an equal level."
Anon: "Really hot! This might be because I'm really only attracted to other butches, and it's fun to have sex with people to whom you're attracted. But yeah, it's great. Sometimes there's a little argument over who tops, though, since we both love topping."
Becca: "I think it depends on the butches. :D I appreciate that everyone expresses their sexuality differently, and I'm grateful that my current partner and I are very compatible and satisfied in that area."
Lisa: "Completely open and free. I don't have to always butch-up, and I don't have to always be the 'girl.' We can wrestle, we can fight for who has top tonight, or we can take turns, or we can snuggle and cuddle."
LG: "Same as any other relationship."
K.D: "AMAZING!!! Luckily we are not the stereotypical stone butches (I do not feel like many are.) We get to enjoy each others bodies the way that they are with little to no question about it."
Tammi: "I don't know what it's like for 'just any' two butches in bed… It strikes me as a creative wellspring of opportunities, and each time leaves me wowed and full of ideas for the next time."
Anon: "There's no hairspray on the pillowcases, or heavy perfume, or itchy lace underthings. Just us, and our socks."
There you have it, dear readers--everything you wanted to know about butch-butch couples, and more! A huge thank you to the wonderful butches who let me interview them: AJ and Jo, K (aka Chopper) and Z (aka Zed), eL, LG and KT, Donnie, Becca and K.D., Jess and Beth, O, Stacy, Chelsie, Lisa and Jennie, and a handful of others who preferred to remain anonymous.
Butch-butch sharing extends to more practical arenas as well. Becca noted that she loves being able to share ties, and Jess wrote, "You can share - hair gel, clothes and shoes, toys. You have someone you can talk to about anything - getting called sir, woman staring at you in the ladies bathroom, packing or not packing, cargo shorts vs. cargo pants."
When I posted my last entry, I worried that it might be behind the times. Especially considering the number of queers who identify as neither butch nor femme (and those who eschew labels altogether), I was uncertain whether the post would ring true for people. But wow. Not only were my fears unfounded, but the number of negative messages I received on Facebook made it clear that this is still a big issue. Whether they specifically identify as "butch" or not, two masculine-of-center women who date each other face serious challenges, even within their own communities.
In this post, I continue exploring butch-butch relationships, based on interviews of 15 self-identified butches--10 who are currently in a relationship with another butch, and five who are single and date butches. I've decided to expand the butch-butch exposé into three parts rather than two. This part tackles "balance" in a butch-butch relationship, as well as how butch-butch couples have been received by others.
A Different Kind of Balance
One of the most-written-about joys of butch-femme relationships is the inherent "balance"--psychic, physical, and otherwise. Many of the butch-butch couples I interviewed also talked about balance, using words like "synergy," "camaraderie," and "equality." Several respondents said that in butch-femme relationships, gender roles had been too present for them. All respondents were quick to state their respect for butch-femme relationships (and understood that prescribed roles are not necessarily part of that equation). Still, they saw butch-butch relationships as a kind of "tabula rasa," with no default (in their own minds, nor in others' perceptions) about who opens the door for whom. "In our relationship, it's as if gender roles just completely don't exist, which I love," KT said. Lisa echoed this, saying that she enjoyed the "fluidity" of her and her partners' roles. Chelsie wrote, "The fem women I was with treated me more like their 'boyfriend' and resembled the dynamic of a straight couple."
Personally, while dating men and while dating femmes, I always felt like there were prescribed "typical" ways for us to act. If my femme date brought me flowers (or if I bought my DXH flowers), it was as if were were "bucking" certain roles. I don't like having roles to buck, even if they're only imposed by my own culturally-programmed brain.
Nearly all of the butches I interviewed had previously dated femmes, and said dating butches felt "natural" or "was a relief." K wrote, "The dynamic of my relationship with my butch is so different from any of my relationships with femmes (or men, before that). I feel like I have finally been allowed to take off… any kind of costume. There's no doubt that I'm butch, or that she is: even though we're not terribly attached to labels, we both agree that either of us prancing about in a dress or makeup would be Just Wrong." She also said, "But the relaxed and accepting dynamic of our relationship allows me to be myself first and foremost, with costumes optional, whereas in masculine/feminine-roled relationships that I've been in, only certain things were allowed, and to venture beyond them might make somebody squeamish."
When it came to the essentials of love and communication, however, most respondents believe that butch-butch relationships are no different from any others. Becca wrote, "[T]he dynamic of our relationship is basically very simple--we're head over heels ridiculous for each other, and I'm grateful for every single moment." Jess shared a similar sentiment: "[T]he dynamic of our relationship is similar to any other relationship, whether it's femme/femme, butch/femme, or any straight couple. We love each other and have committed ourselves to a lifetime together. We argue with each other, we miss each other when we're apart, and we consult each other in any big or small decision we're making. We laugh, we cry and we care."
All of this made me wonder if butch-loving-butches experience a different kind of queer "sexual orientation" than femme-loving-butches. What do you think, dear readers?
Friends Don't Care, But Strangers Stare
The dominant theme from my interviews was that close friends tend to be accepting of butch-butch relationships, but that strangers and acquaintances, whether straight or queer, tend to be weirded out. There also seems to be an uncomfortable "invisibility" that butch-butch couples experience as couples. I'll let these butches explain in their own words:
eL: "Most of my friends 'just don't get' butch... I do feel like it's taboo. …[W]hen my ex and I would go out dancing, when we weren't being seen as gay boys/bois, we were often assumed to be single (even though we were dancing together and were, in my opinion, pretty obviously TOGETHER). We would regularly get hit on and then have to politely decline and, much to most folks' surprise, state that we were, in fact, a couple. Also most femmes and some 'straight' women automatically assumed were were interested in them when we just weren't--we only had eyes for each other… Not being seen as a couple was difficult."
K.D: "My best friend thinks its adorable, [and]others don't have much to say. I think some people get confused because they are used to the butch/femme dichotomy. I think a lot of people find it unusual but I don't think many would say its taboo, just perhaps confusing."
Donnie: "My close friends were ok with it, others thought it was kind of odd to be butch on butch… and teased us about who opens whose door and who does who in bed."
Stacy: "My friends didn't say much, but I heard later that they thought it was a bit weird. I find a lot of things feel weird in the lesbo world--the B/B thing was just another one."
Becca: "[M]y friends are a broad mix of queers who don't really seem to judge other people's situations, and my straight friends and family don't know that it's different from anything. They just see two queers and it makes sense to them. I don't feel like it's unusual/weird/taboo for me, but I do feel extra gay sometimes. I feel like we'e super visible as queers, but not always super visible as a couple."
Anon: "Some friends think it's weird, especially the butches in butch-femme couples. It's like being gay within the gay community. One butch friend of mine said she thought it was 'gross.' I feel like heterosexuals understand butch-femme better than butch-butch. Maybe the butch-femme thing is more recognizable to heterosexuals as what they're used to."
Lisa and Jennie
Jennie: "None of my friends ever questioned the butch/butch thing. My friends were just excited to see me happy. I don't find it unusual. In fact, I enjoy it more than I realized I could!"
AJ: "All my friends were great and they love Jo so there was no problem there. Sometimes when you are out in public and we are together you get weird looks… You do hear… complaints of femmes that it is not fair that you get all the butch girls when they want one!"
So What's At the Heart of the Butch/Butch "Taboo?"
This all made me wonder... if Portia had short hair and had worn a tux, would people have been quite so stoked about Ellen and Portia's wedding? Would "Ellen Show" viewers still have talked about how "cute" the wedding was? And if not, would this be due to the fact that butch + butch is taboo, or that same + same is taboo, or to the fact that butch women aren't seen as conventionally attractive?
Stay tuned. Next entry will be a wrap-up on butch-butch relationships, and I'll finally tackle butch-butch in the bedroom...
A huge thank you to the wonderful butches who let me interview them: AJ and Jo, K (aka Chopper) and Z (aka Zed), eL, LG and KT, Donnie, Becca and K.D., Jess and Beth, O, Stacy, Chelsie, Lisa and Jennie, and a handful of others who preferred to remain anonymous.
Lisa: "It feels a little taboo sometimes. But it seems to throw off straight people more than other lesbians. Straight people still seem to be stuck in butch/femme roles, and get confused if we don't fit into those stereotypes."
Z and K, butch-butch couple extraordinaire
Gay Within the Gay Community
When I first came out, I quickly understood two things: (1) I was butch; (2) I was interested in butch women. It took me a few months to realize that the co-occurrence of these two things was a bit unusual. I read dozens of online profiles in which devastatingly attractive butches proclaimed their desire to find a femme who could "balance" them.
I hope my loyal readers will forgive me for this, but back then, I really didn't understand butch-femme relationships. Wasn't a big perk of being a lesbian to get away from gender roles? Why would anyone want a relationship that replicated heterosexuality? Of course, this is silly; butch-femme relationships aren't "replicating" heterosexuality any more than my butch DGF and I are "replicating" a homosexual male relationship. When two phenomena are similar, sloppy thinking can lead to the conclusion that the less culturally privileged one is imitating the other. I was engaged in sloppy thinking.
Anyway, the lack of butch-loving butches to date led me to give femmes a whirl. But dating femmes felt a lot like dating men: it was something I was supposed to like, but it felt strange and unnatural. It just wasn't me. (The main upside to dating femmes seemed to be that it was easier to find my clothes on the floor next to theirs!)
So I resigned myself to the fact that I was the rare butch who is into other butchy/boi/andro types. I found plenty of butch-femme socials and butch-femme mixers, but no butch-butch ones. And there were all kinds of informal social sanctions for cruising other butches. It was a little like being gay within the gay community. This is reinforced by the fact that some people call butch-loving-butches "fag butches."
I've had several readers ask about butch-butch relationships (whether they want to be in one or not). Since this is an object of such intense curiosity, I thought I'd give it some attention. I interviewed 10 butches who are currently in a relationship with another butch, and another five who are single and looking to date other butches.
Opposites Don't Always Attract: How Butch-Butch Couples Meet
Almost universally, the butches I interviewed said that it's difficult to find butchy types who want to date other butchy types. In fact, one of them (who lives in New York City) called it a "dating nightmare." Even butches who are open to dating other butches don't always end up doing so, since it's easier to find femme dates. Dating online widens your dating pool, and the majority of my respondents met their partners this way. The handful of butch-butch couples who met in person did so at a bar, a dinner, or through a mutual friend. Personally, I met my DGF through one of those dorky "come meet other lesbians" dinners (and I was only there because my DXH forced me to go).
When two butches are attracted to each other, they can be terribly shy about making the first move, and may assume that there's no mutual attraction. To carry the gay male metaphor further: if a straight guy hits on a lesbian and gets rejected, he doesn't lose face. It's just a bummer. But if a gay guy hits on a straight guy and gets rejected, there's more at stake. The straight guy might interpret it as a threat to his masculinity. This puts the gay guy in a more vulnerable position than the straight guy. Same deal with butches. Hit on a butch who is only into femmes, and you may find yourself subject to a negative rebuff (which, in turn, can wound your own butch pride). Chelsie writes, "[Telling] my butch friends what I'm attracted to was a mini version of coming out of the closet."
Added to this is the machismo two butches can exude when they meet each other. Sometimes they puff out their chests and shake hands as if to say, "Yeah, we're both women who are into woman, but to each other we're bros, not sex objects." As K told me, "if [a butch] has got her 'cool suit' on, as so many butches do, it can be impossible to read her." Stacy described something similar: "There is something that I call a 'Butch Barrier' (and no, it's not a dental dam) because it's hard to get close to other butches... I think it makes dating even harder. Plus some butches are totally turned off by the thought of another butch."
Jess and her partner Beth
Advice for Single Butch-Loving Butches
AJ and Jo: "Just because someone looks all butch and uber tough doesn't mean they always have the confidence and personality to match... Go up and introduce yourself and talk and listen, see where it goes from there."
K: "[S]tart by talking to them as friends... There are not a lot of constructs of behaviors for butches interested in butches, because... it's pretty rare and unexplored (in available writings, at least -- I have no doubt that the butch-loving butches have been finding each other since way before Stonewall).
Jess: "The idea of butch/butch is not always accepted in our community, but don't give up... When I didn't think I was going to find someone, Beth came into my life and changed it forever."
Z: "To another butch/boi who wants to date another butch/boi but is having trouble finding dates, I say, don't give up. First you gotta put out to the universe what you are looking for... Put an ad on Craigslist, be specific... Try some online forums/bulletin boards, go to a gay bookstore and hang out getting to know people. Someone will know someone who is single and looking to date. Put the word out."
LG: "Try dating older butches."
K: "If she grins at you nonstop at [a] party... that is a promising signal to go ahead and flirt with her... think of this uncharted territory as Your Territory: One of the few areas of your life that can be untainted by stereotypes, assumptions, and stupid old American Puritanism."
KT: "Sometimes a butch thinks she isn't attracted to other butches, but then she meets you and whammo. Also sometimes people are more attracted to mannerisms than physical appearance. I dress more masculine than my partner but am more effeminate in my gestures. If I was gruff or traditionally masculine, she probably wouldn't have been interested in me."
Donnie: "Keep trying, it's out there, you just have to look harder. There are online butch/butch dating sites such as www.butchboi.com."
K.D: "Don't be afraid to let your feelings be known. I feel like there are more butches that want to date butches out there but because of societal norms many are afraid to say it. Speak up, perhaps another butch has a crush on you but they think you only dates femmes so they are being reserved."
Becca: "I have known people who have had good luck finding this kind of thing online, but that has never been the case for me. I usually wind up dating butches who I am friends with first."
O: "In my experience butches are never as hard and tough as you might think they would be...everybody just wants to be loved, so dont be shy, never know if you don't try."
Hope you're enjoying this little butch-butch exposé. Tomorrow: Butch-butch relationships, part II. Who wears the... pants? And more!
A huge thank you to the wonderful butches who let me interview them: AJ and Jo, K (aka Chopper) and Z (aka Zed), eL, LG and KT, Donnie, Becca and K.D., Jess and Beth, O, Stacy, Chelsie, Lisa and Jennie, and a handful of others who preferred to remain anonymous.
eL: "[B]e social, friendly, talk to people that you find attractive... and if you do go out, please dance! A butch dancing is a sexy thing - don't be so shy!"
Around the time "Coming Out Married, Part II" (last post--see below!) ended, I was scheduled to leave for a month-long business trip hundreds of miles from home. My DXH wasn't coming, so I'd have plenty of time to stew about my sexual orientation. I was probably at least bisexual, I was now convinced, but beyond that, I was still confused.
I had very little extra time on my trip. But with what time I did have, I found myself trolling Craigslist W4W. Just to look... You know. To see what was out there. In the back of my head, I thought that I might be able to get the gay "out of my system" by having anonymous sex with some woman, which would let me return to my marriage and live a "normal" life happily ever after.
Guilt was becoming a heavy, constant burden. I hated myself for entertaining the idea of cheating on my DXH. I went so far as to answer an ad and arrange to meet a woman at a cafe. I remember sitting in the dark of my rented car and deciding whether to go in. What stopped me wasn't the fear that I might be a lesbian, but the sadness that flooded me when I thought about violating my marriage vows. That was the closest I came to physically cheating on my DXH. I didn't go into the cafe. Instead, I drove to the far end of the parking lot and sat in my car for over an hour. I thought over my options. On the one hand, I could stay married. On the other, I could kill myself. There only seemed to be two options. Killing myself seemed the better one. I decided it would be the least painful for him if I made it look like an accident. If he thought I'd died randomly, he'd eventually move on. I had promised my psychologist that I would call her if I was feeling suicidal. I did. We talked. I didn't do it, but thought I might do it the following day, or the one after that.
I began looking at flight schedules, trying to put off my return home for as long as possible, and convincing myself that this was necessary for work. Once I realized what my subconscious mind was up to, I knew I had to tell my DXH or I'd never come home. At the time, I thought I lacked the courage to kill myself. Now, I realize that not killing myself took much more courage.
In the end, I told him on the phone. I had to. I went to the top floor of a deserted shopping mall early one morning and sat in the empty food court with my cell phone shaking in my hands. After saying that I had something important to tell him, I think my exact words were, "I think I might not be entirely straight."
I will always be grateful for my DXH's first reaction. He thanked me for telling him, and said it must have been unbelievably hard to carry that around with me. He asked if I was a lesbian, and I told him, truthfully, that I didn't know. I thought I was probably bisexual. I fervently hoped I was bisexual. I told him it was probably just a realization I needed to have. Once I worked through it, I thought, we'd probably be okay. Two days later, I was on a plane, headed home.
To be continued...
Photo from: http://revrohrer.blogspot.com
I recently interviewed Rev. Megan Rohrer
, a pastor in the ELCA Lutheran Church
who identifies as butch, dyke, queer, and trans (Rev. Rohrer is the first openly transgender pastor in the Lutheran church). I hope you'll enjoy her remarkably candid answers--about everything from divinity to her dating life--as much as I did!
BW: How did you decide to become a minister? What was the timing re: coming out and joining the clergy?
Pastor Megan Rohrer (PMR): I never had a moment of being in the closet. I kissed a girl in college and then immediately became a poster child of all things gay - in South Dakota of all places. The backlash was primarily religious. So I began reading to be able to have words to describe what I always knew was true: that God loved me and there was nothing I could do to screw it up. After reading all the books I decided to become a religion major. I had previously been an art major studying sculpture. BW: What college were you at?
PMR: I was at Augustana College
in Sioux Falls, a Lutheran college.BW: Were many people there out as queer?
PMR: There were a few, but it was a tough time. It was right after Matthew Shepard
's death and there was a conservative Christian backlash. Folks tried to exorcize "gay demons" from us and drunk football players would knock on my door at night to "make me straight." I had to move off campus for about 3 months.BW: Did you see a conflict between your religion and your sexual orientation?
PMR: Never.BW: Were you raised Lutheran?
PMR: Yes, Lutheran is to South Dakota what being Jewish is to Israel. It's so engrained in the culture, the news, holidays, everything. But [being a gay pastor] wasn't allowed in the Lutheran church then. BW: So you were a pretty religious kid?
PMR: I had had mystical experiences since I was five and always had an inner sense God was with me and for me. I used to sneak off to church when I was in middle school and not tell my family. I didn't really agree with the fundamental beliefs of the church I went to, but I loved the rituals and music. Lutheran worship is mostly sung, and I've always loved music.BW: Can you tell us a little more about your decision to become a pastor?
PMR: When I was a senior in high school everyone told me I should be a pastor, but I wanted to be an artist. Then when I became a religion major, I wanted to be a pastor but I couldn't handle the fight after living through the violence at college. Since [being a gay pastor] wasn't in allowed in the church back then, I didn't want to fight. BW: But something changed your mind?
PMR: Well, I became a counselor for abused children aged 3-12. When a 6-year-old who had tried to commit suicide 12 times crawled on my lap to tell me he wanted to die before he was too bad and had to go to hell, I knew I need to go to seminary and be trained as a pastor. I moved to Berkeley to become a pastor when I was 21.BW: Wow. Did it feel like a natural fit at the time?
PMR: No, and it doesn't feel natural now. I still sometimes wish I could have another job, because it's very, very hard, lonely work. But, I am certain that there is nothing else I could do and that I'd still be the one people cry to on public transportation and talk to about God stuff. When I started working with the homeless in 2002, they always called me pastor. I used to give them a long explanation about why the Lutheran church didn't allow gay people to be pastors. They just responded by saying: "Whatever, Pastor." I think people notice that mystical things happen to me all the time. I'm the person who asks that follow up question that seems to come right out of someone's brain, helps them feel seen, or gets them to finally ask for help.BW: When does your role as a pastor feel the most natural?
PMR: It feels natural when I get emails from people saying that reading about me helped them decide not to kill themselves, when I see my homeless people get housing, or when someone says: "I believed it when they said God couldn't love me, but you've helped me see that God's love can be big enough to love even me
."BW: In your denomination, who gets to go to heaven?
PMR: Lutheran theology is fantastic because it believes that everyone is simultaneously a saint and a sinner and there is nothing we can do about it. It holds that everyone is equally sinful and that God loves us regardless of how we live. The idea is, if you don't have to worry about your salvation, you will do more to care for the world and do justice. Martin Luther is famous for saying: "sin boldly, but believe more boldly still."BW: What does it mean to "sin boldly?" In my mind it seems like: "Don't steal a candy bar--instead, rob a bank!"
PMR: It could mean that in its extreme. Sin boldly means, take a stance and have faith that where you stand is the right thing. It's probably very similar to a butch ethic. It suggests that in love you should be strong and act boldly. This does not mean you should be abusive or overly aggressive. But, if you have robbed a bank, regardless of your reasons, God will still love you.BW: Are some kinds of love favored over others? For example, a heterosexual married relationship?
PMR: I don't think any kind of love is favored over others. There are many types of relationships in the Bible. The Book of Hosea compares human love to love between a heterosexual man and a prostitute, and Godly love to that between God and the Sons of Israel. There are queer metaphors, trans metaphors, kinky sex metaphors, and calls to be celibate. It's a really diverse book, but most pastors don't talk about the juicy parts out loud... I think some Christians have confused God with Santa Claus who keeps a list, or Keebler Elves that are just supposed to give us wonderful things, but I think it's more about being people trying to learn how to love and accept love from something bigger than we are.BW: You make it sound so clear cut! Why do so many kinds of Christianity reject homosexuality or label it as a sin?
PMR: Many Christians reject homosexuality because of the King James version of the Bible. It is the first time that homophobia appears in the translations. They were created because King James slept with men. People who could not say anything bad about the king (without being beheaded) put it in the translation... Then those ideas were taught around the world by missionaries who tried to colonize and convert people.BW: Doesn't the NIV version have some anti-gay stuff in it, too?
PMR: All the later translations got their language from the King James. The words in the original Greek are unclear. But even if homosexuality was a sin, Jesus says his anger is but a moment and his love endures forever and that nothing--neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come--can ever separate us from God's love. The tradition of acceptance in religions of all faiths is much older than this contemporary idea that it's sinful. Ancient Rabbis believed that gay people were created by God. BW: I bet that if they were raised with you as their pastor, more gay people would be religious! Why do you think so many gay people reject religion?
PMR: There are many gay Christians--I meet them all the time. I think it's harder for people to be "out" about their Christianity in the gay community than it is for some people to be out [as gay] in society.BW: How do you identify within the queer community?
PMR: I identify as queer, trans, dyke and butch.BW: I've written about the tension between female-identified butches and FTMs. Do you feel that, as someone who identifies as both trans and a dyke?
PMR: I do feel that. I grew up thinking that everyone felt body dysphoria--that's what all the after-school specials said about female bodies. So I learned to love my body even when it didn't feel like the body I would have chosen. But my trans brothers are unbelievably strong, and I mourn their loss of community when the butch community rejects them. Often this happens because people are afraid to admit they have similar feelings or that sometimes it would feel good to have male privilege and not get harassed all the time.BW: So you identify as trans, but are not physically transitioning?
PMR: I have learned never to say never when it comes to making statements about whether I will transition. This [female body] is what works for me now. I grew up watching movies where I wanted to get the girl in the end, so it meant that I had to imagine that I was the leading male. I think it's easy for my brain to go there and fantasize about that.BW: I guess that begs the question: why not physically transition?
PMR: Currently, I don't shave my legs and I'm uninterested in shaving my face. I'm lucky I'm known as trans, because I get the best of both worlds. I can be seen as male (when I want to be) and keep my body the way it is. But when my doctors told me I needed breast reduction surgery to help with back pain, it was a long process to decide if I should make my chest more masculine or more feminine. Both felt wrong to me, so I didn't have surgery and I do physical therapy. Also, I've always felt like I physically want to have a baby, so I may feel very differently after that happens (though I'm not currently working on that, either).BW: Do you ever present as male in your church?
PMR: Any time I wear a pastor collar people think I'm a "Father." It's because most people can't think of any butch pastors. I have bound and packed at church. Most people can't tell because the robe on top gets rid of any distinction.BW: Do the folks in your congregation address you with male pronouns, female ones, or both?
PMR: It's a mixture. Some use male, some female. Some just say pastor. I once talked to a man at the end of the service who said until the sermon he thought I was a man, and then I became a woman. I appreciated that he had seen both natures inside of me.BW: Who do you tend to date? Butches, femmes? Men, women? Trans people? Everyone?
PMR: I've dated all kinds of people, with all kinds of bodies. I'm very attracted to curves and soft skin. But I believe that if I transitioned that I'd likely be attracted to men. Very close to each other on the gender spectrum is the shift between a butch woman and a nelly [effeminate] man. When I present as male, it's a very feminine one. I find that when people accept my masculinity and my butchness, I can explore my soft sides that like to be comforted and taken care of. Someone recently told me I'm like a bear, without the beard.BW: Why do you think you'd be more attracted to men if you transitioned?
PMR: It's pretty common when people transition. Some people think it's because instead of being attracted to a sex, people may be attracted to like bodies.BW: I prefer my partner to have the same level of masculinity as me.
PMR: It's not very common for butches to be able to date each other and explore those dynamics. Perhaps if it was more common we could have a fuller sense of what we like and explore all the parts of ourselves.BW: At what point do you tell someone you're dating what your occupation is? Is being a pastor something you put in an online dating profile?
PMR: I put a picture of myself in my clergy collar on my profile. If someone has a problem with my being a pastor, we should not date.BW: I bet some people think it's a costume and that you're being ironic.
PMR: I think the faux hawk, tattoos, and piercings help people see I'm not a scary pastor... The picture I post in my collar is actually of me blowing a very large bubble--since I probably am more surprised that I'm a pastor than anyone else is. I also write in my profile that I'm a pastor, and about how I do things like Lady Gaga Mass.BW: Lady Gaga mass?! I have to know more...
PMR: Martin Luther changed pub tunes into Christian lyrics. But the songs all seem boring nowadays. I followed his lead and changed the lyrics of some contemporary music. I also do Beatles Mass and a Bob Dylan Mass.BW: That sounds fun! I just googled Lady Gaga mass and found your YouTube channel. I bet that isn't what most people think of when they think of church!
PMR: Right! It's true. Those videos are from the first time it was ever performed. Thankfully we've gotten better. We're doing a fundraiser in November where we're going to perform it with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
--that is going to be amazing!BW: Back to dating... If I saw a pastor's profile online, I would think: there's NO way I'm getting any action for a while.
PMR: Yes, an often asked first date question is: can you have sex before marriage? I think it should go on the record that the greatest kept secret is that pastors are good in bed (when it's ethical and mutual and all that, not when it's any of the yucky stuff that appears in the paper).BW: The record shall so reflect! So I'll take that as a yes, pastors can have sex before marriage?
PMR: Yes, we can. Oh, also: Something to think about is that a lot of kink culture comes from the sexualization of religious rituals. I'm just saying. BW: [Laughter]
PMR: The Song of Songs is a very kinky book of the Bible. It's all about beautiful breasts and loving an ungendered person who is like a gazelle!BW: Would you ever date someone who did not share your faith?
PMR: Oh of course. My longest relationships have been with Jews. I also feel madly in love with an atheist. I think what's important is how people live their life and how they love. There are lots of ways to share rituals and family without using words like: Jesus, God, salvation, etc.BW: Would you ever raise kids with a non-Christian?
PMR: Yes. If I had a child I would want them to be baptized... But, it would be different if I was dating someone of another faith who already had a child. For example, Jewish traditions and rituals are where the Christian ones came from, so I think there's no need to double up. Kids are pretty smart and so much more in touch with faith than adults, so I think they are more than able to become amazing beings in interfaith families.BW: That's interesting.
PMR: Oh, and pastors aren't allowed to be friends with people they meet at church. This is to help prevent some of the unethical sex scandals and jealousy that can come from getting to close to people in the congregation. But it means that although pastors are surrounded by hundreds of people all the time, it's incredibly lonely.BW: Wait, you can't even be FRIENDS with people you meet at church?
PMR: It makes sense if you think about it. We act as counselors and know more about people than they do about us. And you can't really confide in them because people often confuse the faithfulness of their pastor with how God feels about them. BW: That's got to be hard.
PMR: It is. Developing a strong group of friends is important. I find making friends with people of diverse faiths, or no faith at all, is important. It's great to have people who could care less about church, so we can be reminded that the whole world doesn't revolve around who spilled wax on the carpet. BW: Do you belong to a community of butch pastors?
PMR: I don't know if there is a community of butch pastors, but I go on retreat every year with a group called Proclaim
. It's the group of all the out queer pastors in the Lutheran church. It's like my family--to be able to spend time with them and have people around who understand the pressures of being a queer pastor.BW: What
are those pressures?
PMR: Being newly included in any community, there are pressures to be perfect. You can't talk about what is hard or ask for help in the same ways. But there are also ways in which I've been given a bigger voice and responsibilities because people want diversity and there are few queer pastors they can put in leadership. BW: Do you ever get any flak from the Lutheran Church about the stuff you do outside of church?
PMR: Oh, no I haven't gotten any flak from the Lutheran Church. They actually hired me to blog for them because they like the way I write about advocacy issues. As the first transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran church, there isn't really any precedent for how I ought to behave, so I get a lot of freedom. I'm very, very lucky!BW: I was thinking of your (excellent) photography work, "Everyday Drag" that was in Briarpatch earlier this year.
PMR: I wondered how they would feel about that essay, but I got a lot of feedback, particularly from female clergy, that it captured some of the pressures they felt like they couldn't complain about in church.BW: What pressures do you think female clergy experience?
PMR: As a female pastor, I've never been to church and not
had someone comment on the outfit I was wearing, or my hair. Some male pastors talk over me, literally. And... my menstration will not stop during certain parts of a church service. There is something mystical that happens during communion and the sermon where I become afraid I will bleed more than is safe. I can't explain it or describe it, but it feels sacred. In Jewish tradition, menstruation is sacred because it is connected to life. I never understood that before I became a pastor.BW: That is intense.
PMR: Ironically, it is menstruation that made it so that women could not be pastors for so long. There was a sense that we are unclean and couldn't have a ritual given to others during that time. But, I know deeply in my body that the in-church rituals I do during that time are so much more sacred. Sorry bio boys!BW: How does it feel to have a job that helps so many people?
PMR: It feels humbling and I'm extremely grateful for the opportunities I've been given, for my health, for the luck and inner drive I've had that helps me be joyous when others are depressed. It reminds a bit like how it feels to get dressed up in a suit and tie. There is this power that I can take on that taps me into this greater energy.BW: That is the second analogy you have drawn between butchness and being a member of the clergy. It sounds like the two things are really symbiotic for you.
PMR: Yes, I think there is a connection between the way that butches embody strength and giving. Pastors have a lot to learn from butch culture.BW: One last question: what advice or reading recommendations would you give to queer people who are interested in exploring queer-positive Christianity?
PMR: There is a queer Bible commentary that is really great. Jay Baker, Sara Miles and Anne Lamott write some really good stuff that isn't as queer focused, but is queer affirming for a general audience. I also recommend Peterson Toscano's plays - they're hysterical. He has one about his failed attempt to become ex-gay and one about transgender Bible characters.BW: Thank you so much for your time--I learned a lot!
PMR: It was great to chat with you.BW: This was way juicier than I expected.
As you might remember, the sardonic and stylish Lady Haha herself
recently agreed to an interview with yours truly. What fun! Here are the questions I asked (thanks in large part to your awesome suggestions, dear readers) and Kate's answers:
BW: You're in your 60's and still smokin' hot. What's your secret? A great workout regimen? Your 20-year relationship? A macrobiotic diet?
KC: You're very kind. My secret is my father's genes. At 90 he looked like an older Paul Newman. I've been doing yoga for two years now and wish I'd started earlier. My galpal is 11 years younger than me, so she keeps me on my toes. Twelve years ago I did Weight Watchers and still am a daily point counter.
BW: One of my readers points out that you always look stylish (ah, so true...). What are some common butch fashion faux pas you see? Are there any fashion trends you'd like to bring back?
KC: Whatever you wear, you have to wear it confidently. I wish we had more--any?--butch tailors who speak the same language. So you could take something you found--a plaid hunting vest, gabardine trousers--and go to them and get it tailored perfectly for your body.
BW: How do you think the growing number of FTMs will affect the lesbian community--and butches particularly?
KC: First, I respect FTM choices. We butches--soft through hard--have a big responsibility to carry on!We're not running short on femmes, are we?
BW: As a butch with crushes on women like Rachel Maddow and Julie Goldman, I'm acutely aware of the stigma against butch-butch dating. Do you see this, too? Where do you think it comes from?
KC: Very strict people.You can talk stigma all you want--but when it comes to rip-roaring, throbbing attraction, stigma goes out the window. Thank goodness. Or I would never have come out years ago. Thank goodness for some of the loveliest lady ankles and what went up from there for knocking me off my stigma rocker.
BW: Would you rather (1) host "Saturday Night Live;" (2) make out with Annette Bening; or (3) run for Congress?
KC: I'd love to make out with Annette Bening on "Saturday Night Live" and then go work on Tammy Baldwin's Wisconsin senatorial campaign.
Thanks again, Kate! Much love from Butch Wonders--we can't wait to see what you do next!