As a kid, I loved dressing up. My mom, a master seamstress and creator, would collaborate with me to create all kinds of Halloween costumes. Among my favorites were a robot, a mad scientist, and a pirate. (And when my brother and I got too old to trick-or-treat, my family developed a tradition of dinner and a movie on Halloween, which was actually even more fun than trick-or-treating.)
Halloween is special for a lot of queer kids because it's the one day a year where it's "okay" to be in drag--where no one looks askance at a lady in a tie or a guy in a dress. Little Sally wants to be a construction worker with a hard hat and mustache? Great! Little Suzy wants to wear her dad's tie in front of all the neighbors? Fine! And let's give her some candy, too!
I wasn't consciously "trying out" different forms of masculinity when I donned a costume, but I do know that most of the costumes I chose were more masculine than not. (In fact, once, in third grade, we were allowed to dress up as any character we wanted from any book we'd read. I scanned book after book until I found one that contained a tie-wearing man, just so I could wear a tie to school.) It's not as if my parents made me wear dresses every day, but the fact that I could be openly masculine in costume was kind of thrilling. Thinking back on my costumes, there was a definite pattern.
Wondering if other butches experienced something similar as kids, I asked BW Facebook page fans last week what their favorite Halloween costumes had been. Yep, there was a pattern, all right. (Where, oh where, were you all when I was growing up? We would have been best buds!) Here were some of the responses I got, along with a few amazing pictures.
I can't tell you how happy these make me (especially the pictures... SO cute!), in part because they make me remember how much fun it was to dress up in costume, and in part because they remind me that when we grow up, lots of us find ways to become ourselves that don't require us to wait for Halloween to come around every year. Tomorrow night, I will be giving out Nerds, Junior Mints, and Skittles to hoardes of little ghosts, goblins, baseball players, and Disney princesses. And if I see a little boy dressed up as Elsa, or a little girl wearing one of her father's neckties, you'd better believe they're getting an extra big smile from this former pirate.
My name is eL. I am a butch, queer genderqueer (oof, that's a mouthful) and my preferred pronouns are they/them/their. I blog occasionally and tweet often, and I've guest blogged on Butch Wonders before, like I'm doing today. I recently had a fun twitter back-and-forth with BW after reading her recent blog post on butch-butch relationships. In the past, I contributed to this post and this post on the topic of butch-butch love.
I have had relationships with three people who were solidly butch-identified when we dated, plus one who felt she "looked butch on the outside, but felt femme on the inside." I have also dated femmes. Four, to be exact. I would say only one counted as a "relationship." I have also dated a few people who didn't really identify either way, and I am dating one of those fabulous people now.
So, how does it feel different to date people of varying identities? How does perception of yours elf and other people change based on who you're dating? Well, for me at this moment, there are a host of complicating factors.
To answer the initial question BW asked me ("Notice any big diffs in dating not-butch, either re: how you feel or re: how others treat you?"): Yes, I do. So here are some of the differences--the differences for me--I certainly don't speak for anyone who is not me.
When I date femmes, I feel generally more protective. I fall into a bit more of the security guard role. I suppose it helps that I am tall, broad-shouldered, and "look intimidating." Though I certainly don't *feel* intimidating much of the time. In most relationships, I have been read as "more butch" than folks I've been with based solely on my height and frame. This is fine with me, but also hilarious, as I am certainly not the butchest butch that has ever butched. I don't even drive a stick shift!
When I date butches, there seems to be more of a tradeoff. If the butch I'm dating is much smaller than me and doesn't have a Napoleon complex, I do feel like I take on a bit more of the protector or "more butch" role. If the butch holds their own (as far as acting from a place of confidence), then not so much. This really varies person-to-person. When I date non-butches or non-femmes, it varies even more. Regardless, I still feel quite butch and secure in that/my identity.
My current girlfriend is struggling a bit with my neutral pronouns. She uses them just fine, but is frustrated with what term to use to refer to me in the context of our relationship. As far as I can find, there are no gender neutral relationship terms that are equivalent in meaning and generalized understanding and seriousness to "girlfriend" or "boyfriend." Prior to dating her, I didn't really think much about what folks called me. (Most said "girlfriend," one called me her "Mister," and another called me her "Beau.")
My girlfriend and I generally get read as more "lesbian" so far than I've been read as in a bit. In the past, I think people didn't read me as lesbian as often when I dated other butches. I dated one butch, in particular, and we were often read as gay men. Otherwise, I'm not sure how I was read, only that people would assume that I wasn't with the person I was with because we were both "butch." When I dated femmes, once in a while, we were read as a straight couple.
I feel lucky in that my girlfriend is pretty darn attracted to butches, and has been. Seems to be an important part of her identity, and I dig that. If my girlfriend wasn't openly into butches, I might feel differently. Do I have to "tone down" the butch? Something like that. But, I don't. I am just unapologetically me right now, which, I'll admit can be pretty awkward at times. Butches + nursing bras = certainly not my favorite thing and has evoked much frustration and drama including exclaiming things such as, "I don't even wear bras like this! Ugh!" (I usually wear sports bras and/or the occasional binder.)
Overall, I feel more comfortable dating butches and folks somewhere in the grey area. This is due to past not-so-positive experiences dating femmes. I have had femmes judge me as "too butch," I have had femmes hit on by men in front of me and not rebuff them - I have, unfortunately, had some disappointing experiences dating femmes. I have found butches. as a whole, to be more accepting of my own butch identity. I have also found that I have stronger chemistry with lesbians / queer folks that lean more butch / masculine on the spectrum of gender.
I think the best way to not have stress regarding how you're being read is to be confident in your identity. Own who you are. Own your challenges, own your changes. Be confidently you and keep putting that message out. Stay strong, be yourself. Folks will get it.
It's National Coming Out Day, dear readers! I had dozens of mini-coming out stories submitted to my little contest, and wanted to share my top 10 favorites with you:
I was 18 in Idaho in 1980 when I fell in love with a girl. I came out, got fired from my job, kicked out of an apartment, driven off the road, threatened with a shotgun and blacklisted in the town I lived in. I moved to Los Angeles.
Told my parents I was bisexual. They asked, "Are you sure you're not a lesbian?" Oh, good job.
Told my mom. She cried. Then I got a girlfriend, told everyone at my Catholic school I liked girls, and buzzed my head. She got over it.
Me: (on ladder in Mom’s apartment, hanging paintings)
Mom: Honey, why do you dress like a man?
Me: (gets off ladder. deep breath) Because I’m gay, Mom. Actually, I’m bisexual, but gay will do.
Mom: (shocked pause) Does your husband know?
Mom: (thoughtful) Oh. My goodness. Okay then.
37. Dyke teacher. Dream. She actually had a two flat. One and a half hours of "ummm"..."ah"...and silence. Her patience. My revelation. Coming Out group. Me to therapist "I just realized I'm a lesbian and I'm happy. Is that normal?" Validation. A femme is born.
Was on the phone with a friend, joking that telling my parents I had a girlfriend wouldn't be a big deal, but since they had always said I was the son they never had but this might be taking it too far. Mom walked in, said "your dad owes me money. I won the bet."
I won this huge ass button that said, I like boys, at a carnival when I was 11. The next day in the girls bathroom at school, I asked a friend if she wanted the button. She asked me why I didn't want it and I said " I like girls."
Coming out to my grandfather. Everybody in the family thought that this would kill him. Me: "Pop, we have a huge thing in common..." He: "...?..." "Well, we both fall in love only with women - this is still great, isn't it?" He: "...*pondering*...*penny has dropped*...*beaming*..."
I was 24 and engaged to a guy. Decided to go camping overnight with a couple of old high school friends who were lesbians. Played truth or dare and stated that I really wanted to kiss one of them. It happened. Next day I dumped my fiance and moved out.
I was 22 and married when I started to get those "uh oh" moments. I didn't know who I could tell, and for some reason I went to my 17-year-old sister, terrified. Now, we share that day as our coming out day to each other!
My daughter came out to me one day when we went out to lunch and that gave me the strength to come out, 2 weeks later! That was about 15 years ago!
I picked that last one as the winner. Something about the idea of someone from the younger generation giving someone from the older generation the inspiration to come out just really moved me. Thanks to everyone who shared their coming out stories. I know how hard this can be, even if you always seemed like a lesbian . (Longtime readers will remember that I shared mine in five parts back in 2011. See Butch Wonders, Coming Out Married, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.) Happy coming out day to everyone who is out, as well as everyone who is thinking about coming out. We're rooting for you!
National Coming Out Day is Sunday, October 11, and I want YOUR coming out story!
Here's the catch: I want it in 50 words or less. Think you can do it? The more creative the better.
Email your entry to email@example.com. Best entry wins a prize, and a few of my favorites will be featured on this blog, where they will be seen by thousands of readers.
And here's why. Below are two maps of the Netherlands that a friend just showed me. The one on the left is the Netherlands today. The one on the right is the Netherlands without dikes (via Reddit).
The moral of this story? Without dykes, we'd all be underwater.