Recently I was talking to someone I respect a great deal, and she said something I've often thought as well: many people are more uncomfortable with gender nonconformity than with homosexuality. Of course, the two often go hand in hand. But let's assume, for a moment, that we can disaggregate them.
In my work circles, which mostly comprise upper-middle-class NPR listeners, few people care if your partner is male or female. Same-sex partnership is still noteworthy, interesting, and a titillating gossip source to some
people, but for the most part, it's not a big issue. Homos abound at high levels in my profession, and most are pretty open. But I have trouble coming up with examples of high-powered women in my profession who wear mostly men's clothing. If you're a woman giving a conference talk, it's not that big a deal to mention your same-sex partner. It is
a big deal to wear a necktie. No one else does it, and you're likely to be seen as "making a statement."For me, this begs two questions: (1) Why?; (2) What implications does this have for my own self-presentation? Today, I'll write about the former.Here's my guess: looking gender-conforming still adheres to people's ideas and assumptions about gender--the idea that men "are" and "look"
a certain way, and that women "are" and "look" a different way. If we define homosexuality narrowly (as I think most people do, particularly non-queers), it only challenges one aspect of gender typicality: whom you sleep with.
It's as if are only two kinds of ice cream, and ice cream always comes in double scoops: one vanilla, one chocolate. This is what most people always order, then later they learn that some
people order two scoops of vanilla or two scoops of chocolate. "Fine," they think. "Some people like two scoops of the same thing. But there are still just two kinds of ice cream."
In contrast, if someone orders vanilla with chocolate swirls and says, "It's still vanilla--it just has chocolate swirls in it," (or if, God forbid, they order strawberry) this challenges people's fundamental ideas about the kinds of ice cream that exist
. In this way, gender nonconformists
mess with people's categories. A woman in a tie, when only men are wearing ties,
is like chocolate chip ice cream. "What IS that?" people think. "No flavor I've
ever seen." This is probably why, as Kristen Schilt writes in One of the Guys, when people go from identifying as butch women to identifying as trans men, they become more accepted in the workplace. As butch women, people viewed them as gender atypical. When they become trans men, people can say, "Oh, I kind of understand--you were really chocolate all along!"
As more states adopt legal protections based on sexual orientation, I think gender conformity will be one of the next frontiers. This is closely tied--though not identical--to the fight for trans rights, providing another reason to help fight for the rights of all
other queers, not just your personal subset.
For now, I'll leave the conversation there. What do you think, dear readers? In your everyday work lives, what's people's reaction to sexual orientation versus gender nonconformity?
A friend of mine went to a presentation by the fabulous Janet Mock
recently, and took this photo. Part of the presentation talked about how non-trans* people be allies to trans* folks. She fleshed these points out a lot more at the presentation, but I want to share her list and add my own thoughts as well [my additions are in brackets]. I hope that trans* readers will comment!
10 Things You Can Do Now [to be an effective ally to trans* people]:
What do you think of this list? What would you add?
- Allyship is not a badge. [Nor is it a "door" you walk through. Just because you have trans* friends doesn't mean that you're allowed to break #'s 2-10, or make fun of trans* people, or anything like that.]
- Educate yourself.
- Work with local groups. [I know that sometimes female-ID'd butches don't want to start getting involved with FTM groups because then people will think that she (the butch in question) is trans herself. To that, I say: so what? You're not butch enough to take it?]
- Include "gender identity/expression" in nondiscrimination policies.
- Welcome trans people into spaces & groups. [I'm not a fan of "women-born-women" policies. I do think it's okay, in limited circumstances, to require that everyone in a given group ID as a woman. Yes, this excludes trans men and non-binary trans people from certain womyn's music festivals. And I am personally uncomfortable with this, but I think it's (again, rarely) necessary for groups to be circumscribed sometimes--e.g., for trans men to have their own groups that exclude female ID'd butches, for lesbians to have their own groups, etc. But why the *!@# would we exclude trans women?]
- Educate others. [But don't presume to speak for trans* people.]
- Use preferred names & pronouns. Don't assume. [Also, realize that there are non-binary trans* people who ID as neither a man nor as a woman, and eschew gendered pronouns altogether.]
- Never "out" someone.
- Never inquire about surgery or genitals. [If you want to learn, there are ample books and websites.]
- Recognize that trans people are people too.
Occasionally I get email from other aspiring queer bloggers asking for advice, and I received another one recently, so I thought I'd share some general, hard-won blogging advice. Take it all with a boulder of salt.BW's Tips for Bloggers
I'm sure other bloggers feel differently about lots of this stuff, and I hope they'll weigh in with other thoughts they have. What about you, dear readers? What are your favorite qualities in a blog?
- Assuming you want an audience, your blog should revolve around a theme, not just be a diary. For a following, you need an angle. (Once you have a following, it's okay to deviate sometimes--regular readers are forgiving... As, I hope, you all are right now...)
- Let your personality shine through. Whether it's nerdy, quirky, punny, whatever--it's genuine you, and this is the fun of it.
- Keep a running list of possible topics. Then on the weeks you're running dry, check the list and see what inspires you.
- You don't need to know anything about coding or building websites. Personally I use Weebly, because I like their templates and options and easy-to-view stats. But there's also WordPress and a bunch of others.
- Reach out to more experienced bloggers. After you've got 10-12 good posts, ask if they'll put you on their blog rolls.
- Don't feel obligated to post every day. It's nice if you can, but you don't want the blog to feel like something you have to do.
- Give people an option to subscribe to your blog via email.
- Do it for love, not money. I'm positive I've spent more on BW than I've earned. Would I like to make a living writing BW? You bet. Am I willing to post ads all over my page and pimp products I don't care about? No freakin' way.
- Have patience! It can take a really long time for your audience to grow.
- Some people will hate you, disagree with you, and/or think you're stupid--and won't be afraid to say so. Pay attention to thoughtful critiques; ignore the morons.
- Don't be defensive. You will screw up. When you do, admit it.
- You're going to offend some people, even if you try not to. This is not a nice feeling, but it's a virtually inevitable one.
- Readers love pictures, especially if you take them yourself.
- Have fun! Be silly, be weird, be random. If you're laughing while you're writing, your readers will laugh while reading it.
- Keep a separate email account for blog-related email. This will keep your blog life from leaking into your work life, and vice versa.
- Think carefully about whether to be anonymous. It's a hard choice. I'm still closeted for professional reasons (and deeply ambivalent about it), but plan on coming out in the next couple years. Once you're "out," you can't go un-ring the bell. While being up-front about your real identity will increase your credibility (and get you a bigger following, I bet!), it may limit what you feel comfortable writing about.
- Social media is your friend! Lots of people have stumbled across BW randomly through Twitter and Facebook.
- Don't write about friends/family who read your blog, unless they've told you it's okay, or you specifically let them know ahead of time. Some will get pissed off; it's hard to predict who. Also: use pseudonyms.
- Interact with your readers! Most of them will be awesome, and eventually you'll probably get more emails than you can handle, but if you see blogging more as a conversation than a mouthpiece, readers will be engaged (and they'll share smart, interesting ideas that will teach you cool things and inspire you to write more!).
- You're allowed to vary: sometimes you may be funny, sometimes reflective, sometimes informative. Don't feel like you have to keep up some kind of consistent "persona."
- Don't get too obsessed with your numbers, and certainly don't write in response to them (e.g., "People like posts about fashion so I'd better write about nothing but fashion").
- Don't apologize if you go a while without blogging. (Yeah, I broke my own rule recently. Sue me.) Just roll with it.
- Focus on creating good, interesting content. Rachel Maddow said recently that there are too many great content-container creators and not enough great content creators. Be one of the great ones, and strive to get better. I'm talking about technical stuff (for grammar tips, there's no better source than Strunk and White) and non-technical stuff. Think of the bloggers you admire most. Why do you like their posts? Strive to embody the qualities you admire.
- Good writing takes way more time than you think it will.
- Understand that you have something to say. If you're thinking about blogging, it's because you want to tell something to the masses. Don't second-guess yourself. Everyone's an expert on his or her own corner of the world. A blog is an awesome way to share your point of view!
As you know, I enjoy wearing queer themed t-shirts
. And I'm not the only one! Two awesome BW fans in SF (who contributed to this entry, btw) have created this "JUDGE ME" T-shirt
to help keep the DOMA and Prop 8 Marriage Equality debates centered on the LGBTQ community and our allies. They're donating all proceeds to
a combo of important charities: the Human Rights Campaign, SF's LGBTQ Community Center, and Lyric
, a Queer youth empowerment program. (Check out the video
.) There are only TWO DAYS left in their campaign
and, with your help, I think we can push them over their goal. Whaddaya say?
Edie and Thea in the 1960s
A few of you have asked what I was going to write about Edie Windsor, so I thought I'd go ahead and post what I wrote, even though it's kind of incomplete.
The day before the Supreme Court arguments, I dreamed about them. For some reason, they were taking place in a high school gymnasium. And one of my biggest heroes (who was involved in the case, but didn't actually argue it) was arguing on behalf of Windsor. My parents were in the audience for some reason, and so was I, but I didn't seem to have a seat, and kept darting about the folding chairs to get a better view.
If you follow the case at all, you probably know some of the details: Edith Windsor's 40-year relationship with Thea Spyer, her longtime care of Thea after Thea was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and the financial blow dealt to her after Thea died (because their marriage--in NY and Canada--was not recognized by the federal government).
Edie and Thea in the 2000s
When I think about how hard it was for me to come out in the 2000s, and how much anti-gay rhetoric I heard as a kid, I'm especially amazed by women like Edie and Thea, who were out and proud when it was much harder to be.
Regardless of how the case comes down, I'm overwhelmed by my gratitude to Edie Windsor and the many others, young and old, who have been fighting this battle for a long, long time.
When I started this blog, I swore that I was never going to apologize for not posting frequently enough. I'll just post whenever I want
, I thought. It's not like I'm going to feel guilty if I don't
I'm going to go back on my word: sorry it's been so long since I posted! A few things have happened in the last month-ish of time that have taken me away from blogging. Want to know what they are?
So there it is, dear readers; you're totally caught up on my life. Now stay tuned for our regularly scheduled programming...
- Someone I respect immensely recommended a job to me that I wouldn't have considered on my own. Now I've applied and have that kind of excitement that buzzes around in your head and throat and prevents you from doing anything useful. I'm not sure if I'm more scared that I won't get the job, or that I will. Either way, it's shaken things up in a way that is not at all unpleasant.
- I am taking two classes, just for fun. Haven't done this in a while. Readings! Homework! Papers! It's madness, I tell you!
- My DGF and I turned some kind of indefinable "corner" and I feel closer to her than ever.
- I broke my foot and it has to be in an "air cast" for two more weeks. Then I get another x-ray. And only then am I allowed to even think about getting back to hiking. Gah!
- My DXH and his DGF are engaged! Whoa! I am immensely happy for both of them and excited because they are totally happy and make a phenomenal couple. (Actually, they got engaged more than a month ago, but they sent me their wedding website the other day, and that was when I realized: OMG. They're getting married!)
- I met Butch on Tap when she took a work-related trip to my neck of the woods. It was fun! We agreed that we are officially friends, and I'm hoping we'll collaborate on some stuff in the future. Stay tuned...
- I thought lot about the gay marriage arguments, listened to the oral argument in Windsor, and started to write a couple of different pieces about it, none of which came to fruition because they all devolved into rambling about how much I admire people like Edie Windsor, and how grateful I am to the LGBTQ folks who paved the way for us.
Mad 4 Equality is on! I'm partnering with Bess Sadler
and the Feral Librarian
(pictured left as a sports-loving dyke-in-training) to run a women's and a men's tourney to benefit the Trevor Project
and the Campaign for Southern Equality
Fill out your women's bracket before the first game on Saturday
, and the men's before Thursday's game tips off. Winner gets 1/3 of the pot!
Things You Need to Do for Entry:
- On the PayPal links below, buy an entry ($10 minimum, but you can donate more; it's for LGBTQ equality and youth suicide prevention, after all!). Be sure to name your bracket!
- Sign up for a free ESPN account and fill out your bracket using the same name you typed into PayPal.
- Join the Mad4Equality and/or Mad4Equality Men's group.
We'll also be giving prizes for creativity, so don’t be shy about entering your best theme-based bracket (e.g., cutest mascot or gayest coach).
Yay! Let's go @mad4equality!
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.
Butch Wonders is teaming up with the Campaign for Southern Equality
and a few other folks to host a March Madness NCAA tournament for charity! Here are some deets:
- $10/bracket to enter (it will be for the regular tournament. Maybe we'll also do something for the men's tournament--not sure yet)
- No limit on number of brackets
- Proceeds will be split between: (1) The winner(s); (2) The Campaign for Southern Equality; (3) An LGBTQ organization chosen by BW readers.
- You don't have to know anything about basketball to enter. We may even have a prize for the best "themed bracket" (where you pick the winners based on some arbitrary-but-amusing trait, like how cute the mascot is or how many of your exes attended the school).
So what I need from you
is a suggestion for a great LGBTQ organization this tourney could benefit. Please put your suggestion, and your reason for thinking the charity is awesome, in the comments.
On Monday, I'll post a poll based on your suggestions, and BW readers will get to vote on which charity we'll support!
More details to follow. I'm looking forward to your suggestions! (And if you feel compelled to tweet this, which I hope you will, use #mad4equality.)
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.