To be butch is to be able to pass as lots of things, and at the same time to fail people's little "passing" tests constantly. It's a weird space to be in--a little vortex of contradictions. Here are all the things I, personally, often do not pass as (whether or not I want to).
Things I frequently can't pass as:
1. Female. "Can I help you, sir?"
2. Male. "Can I help you, ma'am?"
3. Cool. Every time I go to SF or NYC, I am reminded of how uncool and unhip I really am. I don't even have any tats or interesting piercings!
4. Boring. Because some people seem to think that all lesbians know where the cool clubs are... Little do they know that my idea of "partying" is to curl up on the couch, trying to prevent my DGF from trouncing me in Words With Friends. Sometimes I "party" HARD.
5. Under 35. I'm starting to get grey hair.
6. Over 35. Because surely someone with my education who is over age 35 would be more established in a career, right?
7. Butch. As in, "You're butchish, but you're not really butch."
8. Cisgender. Because some people who are trying really hard to be trans*-inclusive assume that all gender-nonconformists are on a trans* spectrum.
9. Working or lower-middle class. Even though it's the class background with which I identify, I traded in 90% of my street cred for fancy degrees.
10. Upper middle class. Certain mannerisms and ways of being are imprinted on you at an early age, and you'll never feel like you really belong in certain places... or at least, I won't.
11. Non-genderqueer. Seriously, I had someone say last year, "I identify you as genderqueer." I was like, "Um, congratulations, but you don't get to identify me!"
12. A responsible dog parent. Because my dog literally screams when we are walking away from another dog and she wants to stay to play/fight/sniff.
Name me one thing you can't always pass as.
I've been thinking a little about what it means to "feel butch"--not in general, but for moi. What is it about feeling butch, exactly, that's different from self-confidence, or different from just feeling "masculine?" I suspect that this varies a lot from person to person, but for me, at the core of it, there's some kind of inner strength that comes from being a little different, from being a strong, confident woman with masculine qualities--and even more importantly, who is okay with those qualities, okay with being different, and maybe even a little proud of who she is.
Certain songs give me this feeling. Not necessarily because of the lyrics or the singer or even because I think the song is particularly fabulous. But I thought I'd share some of those songs here, and what I'd really like is if, after reading these, you could share the names of one or two of your own songs that make you feel butch--whatever that means to you.
Here are some of mine. I don't pretend to have sophisticated taste. :) I put links to these in case you don't know them and want to see if you like them.
So there you go. What are some of yours? And what other song lists would you like to see? Songs that make me cry? Best breakup songs? Best roadtrip songs with your girlfriend? Best pride songs?
Starting in 2004, the Lesbian, Gay, and Queer Research Foundation (LGQRF), has been keeping track of queer sub-populations in the U.S. They have ALL kinds of quantitative data, both about self-identity and lifestyle. They don't list "butch" as a self-selected category, but do collapse several indicative variables together, including sporting activities, reading habits, car ownership, occupation, and more, and end up with a startlingly accurate picture of the butch population throughout the U.S.
If you're like me, you're a little hesitant--after all, there a thousand ways to measure the "butchest" towns and cities: butches as a percentage of the queer population, butches as a percentage of the general population, or degree of butchness (that is, how "butch" are the butches there, even if there aren't very many of them?). The GLQRF actually breaks it down in seven different ways, but I'm just going to highlight the top 5 in the categories I think are the most interesting. (The GLQRF lists 50 in each, and that's just waaaay too many for me to include here.)
Butches as a percentage of the queer population
1. Sudbury, Massachusetts
2. La Honda, California
3. Dixville Notch, New Hampshire
4. New York, New York
5. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Butches as a percentage of the general population
1. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
2. Northampton, Massachusetts
3. Oakland, California
4. Provo, Utah
5. Abilene, Texas
Butchest Butches (without regard to # or % of butches)
1. Tracy, California
2. Highlands Ranch, Colorado
3. Friday Harbor, Washington
4. Mitchell, Nebraska
5. Lafayette, Louisiana
Least Butch Butches (without regard to # or % of butches)
1. Seaside Heights, New Jersey
2. Sunnyvale, California
3. Scarsdale, New York
4. Los Angeles, California
5. Frankfort, Kentucky
Most Attractive Butches
1. Portland, Oregon
2. Galena, Illinois
3. Greenville, South Carolina
4. North Decatur, Georgia
5. Eliot, Maine
1. YOU, if you're still reading this. April Fool's! Heehee. Hope you enjoyed scouring the fictitious stats above. I just made 'em up! Have a terrific day. Love, BW
A highly subjective (and probably offensive) list of things some butches do (or that I've done myself) that bug me and/or others. I submit to you, dear readers, the question of whether, in YOUR ideal world, butches would stop doing the following:
Okay, dear readers... lay it on me. Which of these do you disagree with? Which do you agree with?
Okay, I'm hesitating to post this because it makes me seem way more curmudgeonly than I actually (think I) am. Oh well.
I should also say that at least for me, and maybe for other people, none of this applies if you're a close friend or close family member. It's more when acquaintances or (godfuhbid) strangers offer their advice that I blanch.
What you say: There are soooo many options for people who want kids!
What I hear: You're probably too stupid to figure this out, but you can procreate without having sex with a man!
What you say: But you'd be such a good parent!
What I think: I'd also be a good race car driver, occupational therapist, or professional shoeshiner. Natural predilection does not a destiny make.
What you say: Some people are too selfish to have kids.
What I hear: You are selfish and shallow. Unless you have kids. In which case all is forgiven. But I thought better of you. Now you just make me sad.
What you say: You could always adopt!
What I think: No sh*t.
What you say: Lots of lesbians are having kids these days!
What I think: Lots of lesbians are also chain-smokers, alcoholics, drug users, glue-sniffers, head cases, doctors, truckers, and couch potatoes. So?
What you (usually another lesbian) say: My mom didn't fully accept my partner and me until we had kids. But now that she has grandkids, we're closer than ever.
What I hear: Your mother will never fully love you until you procreate.
What you say: There are SO many children out there who need good homes.
What I think: So why didn't you adopt instead of having biological kids? Oh--you're scared you'll end up with a crack baby or a psychopath from a Russian orphanage who's never been held? But I should go for it? Thaaanks.
What you say: NO one thinks they want kids. Then they have them and they're glad they did.
What I think: Am I the only person in the world who's ever heard of cognitive dissonance?
What you say: Are you thinking of having a family?
What I think: So, me + DGF + slightly swollen canine ≠ "family?" Screw you.
What you say: You haven't lived a full life unless you have kids.
What I hear: Your life is invalid. There's only one way to redeem yourself, and it smells like diapers.
What you say: You may think you know what love is, but you don't really know what love is until you have kids.
What I hear: All your feelings are pathetic, shallow, and invalid--mere shadows of what they could have been. Alas!
Okay, so I'm being melodramatic, but you get the idea.
I actually don't think the pressure is nearly as bad for lesbian and gay couples who don't want kids, as it is for straight couples who don't want kids. People basically assume that opposite-sex couples are going to have kids, and that if they don't, it's because there's something biologically "wrong" with them. Instead of just getting asked, "Do you think you'll have kids someday?", people will ask questions like, "Do you think you're going to... start trying?"