I just received a note from a reader who's having trouble communicating with her butch DGF ("dear girlfriend"). She asked if I could "translate" some common butch idioms.
One mistake many butch-lovers make is assuming that butches are just like the stereotypes they have of heterosexual men. If you Google "what men really mean," you'll find hundreds of sites purporting to explain exactly this. Let's leave aside for a moment the offensive nature of most of those articles, and assume for the sake of argument that there's some truth to them. Even so, [non-male-identified] butches are not men, and "rules" of "understanding men" apply to us only sometimes.
It's impossible to write something like this without giant, whopping dollops of stereotype. I figure I'll get flak for this, but I went ahead and made a list anyway. I'll will be interested to learn whether any of it resonates with you.
IF A BUTCH SAYS:
"Nothing is wrong."
"I guess you could invite your friends."
"Are you tired?"
"I was not checking her out."
"Nah, she's not hot."
"I'm not looking for a relationship right now."
"I'm not looking to commit."
"I'm going to go take a walk."
"Sarah is so cool!"
"It's more romantic with the lights off."
"We should probably get going soon."
"I'll fix it later."
A BUTCH MEANS:
"I'm not ready to discuss it."
"But I wanted it to be just you and me!"
"Are we having sex tonight?"
"I'm embarrassed--can't you give me a pass this time?"
"Maybe she's hot, but you're the one I find attractive."
"I don't want to date you (but I might sleep with you)."
It could mean exactly that, or "I'm just not that into you."
"I am mad or sad, but I have to think about it alone for a while."
"Why are we still talking about this?"
"Maybe Sarah can be our friend." (Note: this is not the same as "I want to sleep with Sarah.")
"I'm self-conscious about my body too, you know!"
"I am faint with hunger and my stomach is digesting itself."
"I have no idea how to fix it, but I'll Google it in secret."
(Writing this, I realized that while I would like to think that I'm incredibly straightforward and literal practically to a fault, that's not always true...)
How about you? Did any of these examples sound familiar? What's some other "butchspeak" that needs to be translated?
You've probably heard of the "half your age plus seven" rule of age differences in dating. The idea is that you divide your age by two, then add seven; that's the youngest person you're "allowed" to date. It's silly, but functions as a supposed "guide" to "acceptable" age differences.
Tons of people reach Butch Wonders by searching for things like "lesbian age differences," "age difference formula gay," and "what's the rule for gay age differences?" I can yammer on for days about how it's silly to have a "formula," how all relationships are unique, and yada yada yada. But at the end of the day, people want an easy answer.
So here's your easy answer. In the gay community, we get a bit more leeway. The acceptable age difference for us is wider than it is for straight people, and the difference grows as we age.
The age difference formula for same-sex relationships is graphed below. We are in blue; opposite-sex relationships are in red. (I know this doesn't take into account bi-gendered people and many other shades of queer, but that involved parabolas and was just too complicated.) The formula is one-third your age plus ten years.
This took extremely difficult, comprehensive, and painstaking research on my part--not to mention, many sleepless nights. Now let's practice.
If you're straight and 30, you can date a 22-year-old. If you're gay and 30, a 20-year-old. 48 and straight? A 31-year-old. But 48 and gay? a 26-year-old. Ka-bam! You've got it!
So, now you know. There's your formula. One-third your age plus 10. If you deviate from it simply to make yourself "happy," or because you've "fallen in love" or whatever, know that you're contravening science itself.
A number of you have asked what you can do for your butches to let them know how special they are. Here are some sweet everyday gestures that say "I love you." Though the list was written with butches in mind, most of these apply to pretty much any object of your affections. (And thanks to the excellent BW Facebook fans who contributed some of the ideas on this list!)
#1: Love Notes
I don't usually pack my DGF's lunch, but when I do, I like writing a little note or silly poem for her. My mom used to do that in my school lunches when I was a kid, and the idea stuck with me. It just makes a girl feel special.
You can also leave a note around the house for her (e.g., fridge; bathroom mirror), or send her an email in the middle of the day mentioning something you love about her. If you go to sleep after her, leave a note for her to find in the morning. If you get up earlier, leave one she'll find later that day.
#2: Food Many butches say they love when their DGF cooks them a meal. Whether it's beef bourguignon or peanut butter and jelly, there's something special about being cooked for. (I swear, even coffee tastes better when my DGF makes it for me.)
One butch wrote, "I get a special little tingle when I come home to the smell of fresh baking." +1.Not a kitchen wonder? Check out some food blogs, starting with A Butch in the Kitchen (pictured above, right is her latest creation, low-calorie blueberry scones--yum!). You can also have a picnic in the middle of the living room, complete with blanket, bread, cheese, and music.
For many of us, being pampered is awesome. This might take the form of a foot rub (with eucalyptus lotion, mmm), a back massage, a bubble bath (for one or for two...), or a scalp massage.
Of course, while I love all of these things (as did most butches I asked), not every butch is cool with feeling passive, so know your boi or grrl before plunging in.
Pampering can also take other forms: making a batch of hot buttered rum and sipping it together by the fireplace, insisting she play one more round of Angry Birds while you bathe the dog, or doing a chore she usually does but dislikes (hm, I bet my DGF would love if I dealt with the recycling for once).
This post is about gestures you can perform, not stuff you can buy. Still, a small, thoughtful gift can be a gesture in itself--especially if it's something you make for her.
Some cool stuff to give your sweetie:
- Homemade coupons for things she'd love: breakfast in bed; an at-home movie night where she gets to pick the movie (yes, even if Jonah Hill is in it); a foot massage... use your imagination!
- A surprise detailing of her car or truck.
- An interesting new kind of beer, coffee, or whatever she likes to drink.
- Get some pictures--yes, physical photographs--of the two of you developed, and make a surprise collage on the fridge.
- A behind-the-scenes tour of a place she really likes (e.g., the stadium where her favorite team plays, her favorite theater company, a wildlife refuge, a concert hall).
- Flowers! Yep, some butches like flowers (or other plants), too--if yours does, don't forget it. My favorite is orange tulips, though I also have a weakness for (read: obsession with) succulents, and my DGF made me swoon a couple days ago by bringing me a cool little aloe when I'd been in a bad mood.
#5: Adventures, etc.
More than anything, we want to do (1) stuff we love doing with (2) the woman we love. Sometimes those two things don't mix--so mixing them is a surefire hit.
Offer to go somewhere with her that you'd usually turn down (and don't complain while you're there). Does she love action movies, but you hate 'em? Take her to "Skyfall." Does she like arcades, but you think they're dull? Take her to an afternoon of video games and air hockey. Dates like this are a big deal; they tell her you're willing to do things you don't normally like just because she enjoys them.
Other ideas for adventures include high-adrenaline stuff (like skydiving or off-road quad biking), activities that will make her feel like a kid (think laser tag, paintball, sledding, or batting cages), or something sexy (e.g., go on a blind date: tell her where to be, both show up separately, then hit on her!). (Some smash-hit sexy ideas if you guys have the butch/femme thing going: new lingerie for her to see you in; a lace bra/garter belt set; a sexy lap dance; picking her up from the airport in a trench coat and stiletto boots. Are you a butch-butch couple? Awesome: two pairs of silk boxers!)
The bottom line? No one knows your DGF better than you do. Especially if you're not naturally observant, pay attention! Make mental notes about what she likes, stockpile your ideas, and brainstorm ways to make her feel special. Even if your idea isn't a home run, she'll love the effort. One reader put it perfectly: "Simply having the woman you are with think that you are amazing just as you are and precisely as you are is the best gift of all."
What have you done to make your butch feel special? What has she done that's made you feel special?
Sometimes I get questions from readers in which the reader is essentially asking me if he or she is some kind of weird outlier. For example:
- Do some gay men find trans men attractive?
- Do some femmes date other femmes?
- Are some people mostly attracted to older lesbians?
- Are some FTMs into bi cis guys?
Due to the sheer, huge, incredible range of human interests and preference, whenever you're asking if some people X, or whether some people of type Y find people of type Z attractive, the answer is always the same: yes
.In fact, we could make a mad lib of it:Do some [type of person, plural] find [adjective] [gender or sexual orientation] attractive?Yes, yes, yes. Some butches are only into other butches (BW raises hand). Some non-binary trans people only want to date femmes who wear leather. Some guys who identify as gay are attracted to masculine cis women. Whatever your preference, identity, interest, or sexual proclivity, I feel safe saying: you are not alone. Just because you haven't met anyone in your town who's like you doesn't mean that there aren't tons of them in the wider world. Heck, it doesn't even mean there isn't anyone in your town like you. Many people are scared to be out and proud about their preferences because they're afraid other people will laugh at them, or tell them they're weird.Well, I'm here to tell you that there's nothing "weird" about knowing what you like. There's nothing odd about having preferences that seem different from other people's (assuming those preferences are legal and don't hurt anyone, of course). And there's nothing wrong or strange about having your attractions change over time. After all, you didn't come out as queer to be like everyone else, did you? Why the heck would you want to start now?
I've been troubled lately by some writings by butch authors. Things like:
I'm paraphrasing, but not by much. These kind of sentiments strike me as sexist/misogynistic. I mean... we all have the right to preferences--I don't dispute that. But imagine that a heterosexual cis man wrote the things above. ("Women are so emotional. I'm not. It's a guy thing." Or insisting that only he gets to BBQ or fix things.) Sure, he has the right to prefer those things, and they would probably lead me to suspect that he was a sexist, and someone I wouldn't like very much.Why should these kinds of sentiments be different when a butch expresses them about a relationship she wants with a femme? Is it inherently different simply because they're both female? I'd argue that it's not.
- I want my femme to look good all the time. I expect her to dress up, put on makeup, etc., whenever we go out.
- Don't open the door for me. I'm the one who opens the doors, BBQs, and fixes things, thank you very much.
- Femmes are so emotional. I'm not. It's a butch thing. Don't expect me to know what you're thinking, and quit crying all the time.
When mentioned this to my DGF (dear girlfriend), she laughed. "Don't you know that's how most people think of butches?" she asked. "When people think butch
, they think of people who want to play a traditionally 'male' role in a relationship." She went on to explain that this is part of the reason she doesn't identify as butch herself, even though (trust me) she totally is.This all gave me pause. Sure, my DGF is more than a decade
older than me, so maybe her sense of people's perceptions of "butch" are different for that reason. Or maybe there's just something I'm failing to comprehend about butch-femme relationships, since I don't prefer to be in them myself.What do you all think? Do the kinds of comments I bulleted above strike you as sexist or misogynistic
? Are they the kinds of things you assume a person thinks when she tells you she identifies as butch?
I've talked about how you can tell if a butch likes you
, but what about the other way around: what are the best ways to flirt with a butch? I list ten top ways below. They're targeted largely toward femmes, but most are adaptable to anyone who wants to flirt with butches. So read this and get out there!
Via the Lesbian Confessional
Butches, what are your favorite ways to be flirted with?
- A good, old-fashioned wink. Unprovoked, unexpected, in the course of everyday business. Then continue on as if nothing happened and leave us there to melt.
- Goad us a little about our favorite sports team. "Houston lost again, Dee. When's your team gonna make a comeback?"
- Touch us on the arm or shoulder, either while you're making a point or playfully when you're joking around.
- Compliment our hair. We are suckers for hair compliments.
- If we're good at something, ask us to do it for you: fixing your computer, changing your oil, editing your paper, whatever.
- Make a bet with us about something--anything. Bet a cup of coffee or a beer; that way, you're basically setting up some time together no matter who wins.
- Maintain eye contact just a little longer than usual or necessary.
- Ask questions about us. What do we read? What do we do for fun? Keep 'em light. Ask follow-ups.
- Express interests in our interests, particularly the nerdy interests that we're a little shy about.
- Call us out on something: "Oh, sure you can make five three-pointers in a row." Or, "Oh sure you've hybridized a new variety of fern." Keep your tone light and playful--you're inviting us to prove it.
via Creative Commons
You're single, talking to a gorgeous single dyke. She asks if you want to grab coffee; you eagerly accept, your mind already swirling with visions of U-Hauls and organic, home-baked bread. But then she drops the bomb: "Let's meet at 3. I pick my son up from daycare at 5."
You try to act nonplussed, but a hundred thoughts swirl through your head: Did she used to be married? How old is this kid? When do I have to (or get to) meet him? Am I really old enough to date people who have kids? Do I even want kids? And what implications does this have for our U-haul, camping excursions, and mornings at the farmers' market??
Like it or not, dating a woman who has a kid can be vastly different from dating a woman without one (or two, or three). Here are a few things to keep in mind as you embark on this chapter in your dating life.
- The kid is number one. Period. And isn't this the way it should be? It may occasionally suck to be one-upped by an eight-year-old, but face it; the kid was in her life before you were, and always will be in her life, no matter what happens with your relationship. This means you will have to deal with planning around recitals and soccer practice.
- She's likely shopping for a co-parent, not just a partner. Unless she's made it explicit that this is not the case, it's safe to say that child-rearing potential ranks high on her list of qualities for an ideal mate. The younger the kid is, the more true this is likely to be.
- If you're not ready to be a parent now, it's (probably) okay. You've got plenty of time to get used to her, to get to know the kid, and to grow into the idea (or not). Heck, you may fall in love with the kid (in a parental way, not a Woody Allen way) and decide that the whole family package is perfect for you. On the other hand...
- If you know that you never want to be a parent, be honest. If you know that kids aren't in your future, don't string her along. She may say that she's looking for a partner, not a co-parent, but regardless of the kid's age, your future DGF's motherhood will be a big factor in your relationship.
- Accept her relationship with an ex who's a co-parent. lt can be hard to accept that our partners used to be in love with other people--and this is underscored if procreation, adoption, and/or child-rearing were involved. Your new love may need to talk to a former love frequently about the kid. Maybe they're friends; maybe not. Either way, your role is to support her, not mediate or badmouth.
- Let her call the shots. She knows her kid best--let her decide when you're going to be introduced, and whether it's as "Mommy's friend" or "Mommy's girlfriend." Offer, but don't push.
- Provide support, not advice. You don't get to tell someone else how to discipline, deal with, or talk to, their kid. Unless she asks for advice--actually, even if she asks for advice--don't tell her what to do. This applies even if you've spent a bunch of time around kids (and even if you have your own). No one wants unsolicited parenting advice.
- She doesn't expect you to be an expert, but she does expect you to try learning. If you don't know how to warm up a bottle, pack a school lunch, or braid hair, that's okay! Your open heart and willingness to learn will mean everything to her.
Of course, not everyone hesitates at the prospect of dating a woman with kids. A dear friend of mine was intrigued when she learned that the object of her budding affections (who is now her wife, also a dear friend) had a kid. Now the three of them are one of the most solid families I've ever known, and I know that none of them can imagine life without the other two. So what's the moral for single moms? There are two:
(1) Don't assume that being a mom will work against you in the dating world;
(2) Remember that you deserve to have someone who loves you in part for
being a mom, not despite
it. So, dear readers: Have you ever dated a woman with kids? What obstacles did you face? How about my readers who are (current or former) single moms? What advice do you have for BW readers?
The butch bridesmaid
post I wrote past week has been getting an ungodly amount of traffic, mostly from Google searches. It seems that bunches of straight people are unclear on certain matters of etiquette when it comes to The Gays. This results in much consternation and awkwardness on their part, most of which could be easily avoided. (Note to straight people: if you're nice and well-meaning and not a homophobe, we probably won't think you're being a jerk. Trust us--we've encountered jerks, and they're not you.)Here's my best advice to straight people in various situations that seem to make everyone feel awkward. Thanks to my excellent BW Facebook fans for lots of these ideas.Situation A
: You know someone's gay and you're curious whether they're dating anyone. You know them well (maybe they're your kid, maybe your gay brother, lesbian sister, whatever). What not to do
: Say, "Do you have any new friends
?" I hate it when people refer euphemistically to my partner/DGF as my "friend," especially when it's preceded by an awkward hesitation. Something else not to do: avoid it like the plague. Act as if conversation about their romantic life is totally off-limits, even though you'd talk about it if they were dating someone of the opposite sex. What to do instead
: Ask the question exactly as you would if they were straight, except switching the pronouns where applicable. "So, are you dating anyone these days?" is totally acceptable. Situation B
: You don't understand why your lesbian friend/daughter/sister/whatever is wearing men's clothes. What not to do
: Say any of the following: (1) "But you'd look so cute
in something pink/frilly/fitted/from the women's department!" (2) "But you have such a great figure!" (3) "But those clothes are so masculine
!" What to do instead
: Respect our choices. We are well aware
that we're wearing gender nonconforming clothing. We're not doing it to hide our figure or because we think we're unattractive or because we want attention or because we don't know how to shop for women's clothing. We doing it because we are much, much more comfortable this way. Many of us actually hate standing out, but we wear gender nonconforming clothing anyway because it feels like "us." Wearing girls' stuff often makes us feel like we're in drag. It's awful. If you want to gift us with clothing, please choose something that goes with our style. If you're confused about our style, inquire further (or do not gift us with clothing). Situation C
: You don't understand how a same-sex relationship works (physically, emotionally, whatever). What not to do
: Ask, "But who's the guy?" or "How do you have sex?" What to do instead
: If you're genuinely curious, there's a plethora of info on the Internet about emotional and physical aspects of LGBT relationships. Don't put us on the spot with such heteronormative silliness. JFGI. Once you've actually made an effort to learn, your questions will be thoughtful and that will be obvious and most of us will be happy to chat about them. Situation D
: You call someone "sir," then you realize the person is female. What not to do
: Freak out. Or be awkwardly silent, as if it never happened. What to do instead
: Don't freak out. It's happened to us before, and it will happen again, and when you're butch it comes with the territory. It's fine to say, "I'm sorry," then move on. Chances are, we feel more awkward than you do. (But comping us a drink or a cup of coffee never hurts.) Situation E
: A lesbian couple announces that they're having a baby. What not to do
: Ask, "Where did you get the sperm?" or other details of how the pregnancy came about. That's on par with asking a straight couple, "Was it an accident?" Unless they offer it or
freakin' good friends, keep your curiosity to yourself. What to do instead
: Say, "congratulations!" Express joy. Attend the shower. Ask if they have a name picked out. The usual stuff. Situation F
: Two women are out to dinner. At least one of them looks like a lesbian. They're not holding hands or anything, though. What not to do
: Assume that they are on a date. What to do instead
: Make no assumptions. If they indicate they're together or hold hands or something, great--then
treat them just like you'd treat a straight couple. But I hate it when I hang out with a female friend and people think we're together just because I look butch. Situation G
: A gay person of your sex compliments what you're wearing. What not to do
: Assume they're hitting on you. Become uncomfortable. Make sure to work in a reference to your own sexual orientation immediately, just to clear up any confusion. What to do instead
: Say thanks. Situation H
: You know someone's gay because a mutual friend or co-worker told you. But then the person himself or herself tells you they're gay. What not to do
: Feign surprise so the person doesn't think they're the subject of gossip. Or worse, say something like, "You don't look gay." What to do instead
: Nod politely or say (calmly) something like, "Cool." Ask about the person's significant other like you'd do if they were straight. Bonus tips
Hope this helps. Straight readers: any other awkward situations you encounter with gay people and don't know how to deal with? Queer readers: any other situations that tend to come up in your lives?
- Don't refer to our boyfriend or girlfriend as our friend. Don't say (of other gay people), "I think she lives with a friend." Unless, of course, she really does live with someone who is just a friend, and not a romantic partner.
- If you think someone might be in the wrong bathroom, don't confidently inform them that they're in the wrong bathroom. Instead, you have two options: (1) Say nothing. (Of course, if you think it's a guy and it's a safety issue, don't go with this option.) (2) Say something like, "Hi there," or, "Isn't this restaurant great?" or, "Do you know where the paper towels are?" to get the person to respond. If it's a guy, he'll realize you're not a guy and that he's in the wrong bathroom. If it's a woman/genderqueer person/other person who is using the correct restroom, they'll respond politely and you can go about your business.
- Some of us always knew we were gay. Others of us didn't. No need to do a triple-take when I talk about my ex-husband.
- Don't talk about equal rights as if they're an inevitability and we just have to "wait" or "be patient." In most states, we can legally be fired for being gay. We can't claim our partners on our taxes. We face huge obstacles to things like adopting kids, making a will, or visiting our partners in the hospital. It's absurd and unjust. In many places, we can get harassed--or worse--for being us. If your rights were stripped away, I bet it wouldn't be much comfort to know that things would get better in a generation or two. Don't just excuse our rage; join us in it.
- It's okay to invite us to a party, dinner out, whatever, even if we'll be the only gay couple there. As long as everyone's nice and doesn't have antiquated notions about sex and gender, it'll all be copacetic.
- You don't need to tell me that your uncle/friend/cousin/niece/neighbor is gay. It's 2012, so the fact that you know other gay people isn't a big shocker. Nor does it make me feel more comfortable. You can convince me you're an ally just by being your awesome, well-intentioned self and following the advice above. :)
This post was written by Alison C. K. Fogarty, who blogs for Good Vibrations and is a PhD student in sociology! Check out her website here
I’m a 28-year-old bisexual femme living in San Francisco. I had my first sexual experiences with women in college, and while I enjoyed them, I was hesitant to identify as bisexual because these hookups occurred with men present. Involving men in the sexual events provided both me and my female partners the opportunity to explore our attractions to each other in a heteronormative context, which felt safer and less intimidating, but also somehow had me feel like it delegitimized my desire for women. I was also confused because, at that point in my life, I didn’t want a relationship with a woman and so I felt like I'd be a fraud if I identified as bi.
My last year of college, I entered a long-term monogamous heterosexual relationship and shelved my confusing feelings for women for a while. After college, I entered a PhD program in sociology to study gender and sexuality. While preparing to teach an undergrad class on LGBT identities and expressions a few years in, I came across an article called "Two Many and Not Enough: The Meaning of Bisexual Identities" by Paula Rust. Rust argues that it's not experience
that defines a bisexual identity, and that you don't have to be equally attracted to men and women to be bi, nor do you have to want the same kinds of relationships with each. It was while reading this article that I came to fully accept and own my identity as a bisexual.
While I had come out to myself, it wasn’t until my relationship ended a year later that I finally came out to others and looked to find a place for myself in the queer community--a community to whom I was already a long-time ally and advocate. (I realize that there is not one queer community, but I am resisting the pressure to further divide and exclude.) Finding acceptance in this community has proved a difficult process, and three years later, I'm still struggling. I attribute my exclusion to three dynamics, which I detail below.1. Distrust of Femme Appearance
At worst, my femme appearance can cause my queer brothers, sisters, and others to associate me with those who have judged, shamed, and bullied them. At best, I am assumed to be an obliviously privileged heteronormative ally who could never fully understand the hardships of the queer community. It is true that my ability to pass as a "normal" straight woman affords me many privileges in our society. My passability, however, also means that I often am denied access to the queer spaces I so desperately seek. Common experiences of social exclusion are the bonding adhesive of the queer community. Ironically, my inexperience with exclusion from heteronormative society means I am often excluded from the queer community.
A few weekends ago I went to SF Pride, and spent Saturday afternoon blanket-hopping from friend group to friend group in Dolores Park. When I met up with a female lover, I felt like several of her lesbian and trans friends viewed me with skepticism and mistrust, as if I was an outsider infiltrating their space. Of course, it's impossible to tell how much of my fear of being excluded colors my experience (and may even create a self-fulfilling prophecy!). Regardless, I can objectively state that I was not invited into many conversations or invited to join them in their evening Pride plans. On a day when we are supposed to celebrate love and our pride for our queerness and our community, I felt excluded, and that hurt.2. Bisexual Femme Invisibility and Delegitimization
My invisibility as a bisexual is another force that excludes me from the queer community. As a bisexual femme, I am almost always assumed to be heterosexual. When I’m out with a guy, even if he’s just a friend, I am assumed to be straight. When I’m out with a girl, I’m assumed to be straight. Even if I’m making out in public with a girl, I’m often assumed to be a slutty straight girl. It is very difficult to feel like a part of the queer community when no one knows I’m queer. I often feel like I need to shout it from the rooftops wearing my "I’m queer. Yes, seriously." T-shirt.
I end up coming out over and over again, usually facing people who doubt the legitimacy of my sexual identity. Even my mom, a liberal psychologist without a homophobic bone in her body, told me that she thought I wanted to be bisexual because I thought it was "cool." Biphobia, while often unacknowledged, is rampant. I know several closeted bi women who publicly identify as lesbians because they don’t want to face exclusion and ridicule from their lesbian friends
. The sexuality of those who identify as "straight" and "gay" is polarized to tail ends of the spectrum as bisexual behavior is effectively policed with shame by both communities. This delegitimization of bisexuality further conceals our presence in the queer community and contributes to my feelings of being excluded.
3. My Femme-Femme Relationship Preference
One last, depressingly oppressive barrier to inclusion in the queer community is my desire for femme-femme relationships. It is very difficult to find other femmes who want to date femmes, and gender dynamics have often proved difficult to navigate. My attraction to femmes is on a physical level, not necessarily on a behavioral or personality level. I want a partner who enjoys playing with the gender spectrum, sometimes taking a more submissive "bottom" role and sometimes taking a more dominant "top" role, but most often taking neither.
I recently joined OKCupid in hopes of finding a femme partner, and my experiences have not been successful. Many butch women have contacted me, and although I love their attention and the feeling of actually being seen as queer, I have not been sexually interested in them. Many women in relationships with men have messaged me, hoping that I would join them in a kinky triad, but again I am not interested. Not one femme
has initiated contact with me. So I’ve scoured the site for potential partners, vulnerably sending messages in hopes of a possible connection. Out of the many women I’ve contacted, few responded. Some told me they were looking for a more butch partner, another said she wanted to be the "only queen" in the relationship, and a few said they were open to being sexual with another femme, but did not want to date one. Only one femme was willing to meet, but after she flaked on our plans twice, I gave up. I have had such difficulty finding a femme partner, and my lack of experience contributes to my inability to access the queer community. This exclusion serves to only increase the difficulty I experience finding a femme partner, thus creating a cycle of increasing exclusion.
I decided to share my coming out story and my painful experiences of exclusion because I am committed to raising awareness and sparking dialogue around the challenges queers face in finding acceptance within our own community. Now I have some questions for BW readers:
- Have you ever felt excluded as a result of your gender presentation or sexual preferences?
- How do other identities, such as race and class, also serve as barriers to inclusion in the queer community?
- Have you ever policed boundaries, segmenting the queer community in a way that excludes members of our queer family?
- Are you willing to consider the ways in which you may have perpetrated the same intolerance you’ve experienced in your life?
Although I realize my experience and these questions may be triggering for you, I don't intend for anyone to feel defensive or alienated. Rather, I hope this trigger will generate conversations around this important issue that will ultimately serve to positively impact and strengthen our community.
A reader wrote to me recently and said she's only attracted to trans men, but not "biological men" (i.e., cis men). She wanted to know if that was "weird." Others have written with similar questions. For example, I've gotten, "I'm a butch attracted to butches; is that weird?" and, "I'm a straight guy attracted to butchy women; is that weird?"
My universal answer is: no. It is not weird at all. It may be statistically uncommon, but who cares? High intelligence and the ability to throw a 95-mile-per-hour fastball are statistically uncommon, too. There's nothing wrong with this. If we were all identical, the world would not be nearly so interesting.
Writer Ann Lamott once said, "Nobody knows what you really want except you, and no one will be as sorry as you if you don't get it" (she was quoting from a letter one of her teachers had written to her, and the teacher was quoting Lillian Hellman). Lamott was talking about writing, but I think the same thing applies to relationships. No one knows who really makes you happy except you.
If--for whatever reason--you're only attracted to trans men, but date cis men because you think you "should," I can imagine a number of possible advantages. It's easier socially (in most places), the dating pool is larger, and you never have to explain the trans thing to your parents. But are these things worth dating someone who doesn't make your heart quicken?
When it comes down to it, what really matters in a relationship are the micro-interactions you have with that person: the inside jokes, the intimate moments, the quiet moments, the indefinable something that draws you to that person. You can't fake it. And you can't conjure it if it's not really there.
I tried dating femmes for a (short) while, because I thought I "should." After all, my butch friends all liked femmes, and there didn't seem to be many butch or androgynous women interested in dating other butch or androgynous types. But dating femmes just wasn't me. I knew it, but I tried it anyway, and it felt like role-playing. My heart wasn't in it. However common the butch-femme dynamic may be, and however wonderful it is for so many couples, it is not the dynamic that feels most natural and fulfilling to me. Does that make me normatively "weird?" I don't think so. Does it make me uncommon? Maybe. But again: who cares?
As far as I'm concerned, there is not a lot of value to be gained in worrying that you're a femme attracted to only femmes, or a trans guy only attracted to cis men, or a bi woman attracted to everyone except butches. Sometimes terms like "tranny chaser" or "butch fag" are used in disparaging ways to talk about people with uncommon romantic preferences. I think this is because people are threatened by something they can't relate to. And it's easier to call uncommon things "weird" than to try to wrap your brain around the wild diversity of human relationships. In fact, it's SO easy and SO common to label and police and stigmatize and categorize that sometimes even if no one imposes judgment on us, we will impose it on ourselves.
I advise you not to do that. I advise you to pay as much attention as you can to what your gut and heart are saying. The more carefully you listen, the clearer they'll get. And I bet you'll never hear them utter the word "weird."