A few years ago, I attended a professional graduate school at a good university. Recently, an acquaintance asked me how diverse my 200-person class was.
“Hmmm… I think I was literally the only lesbian,” I said.
“But there were lots of LGBT people, right?” my acquaintance asked. And then she named seven or eight gay men who had, indeed, been in my class.
In the moment, I murmured something like, “Oh, yeah that’s right.” But internally, I raised an eyebrow. Not only were these all men, but they were gender-conforming men, men who went to fancy prep schools, men who use “summer” as a verb and net annual salaries I could live off for a decade.
But in my acquaintance’s mind, we were all people who slept with people of the same sex; we all checked the LGBT box. We were all undeniably, certifiably, and irrevocably queer. So why did I blanch being lumped in with these gentlemen? (BTW, I know a few of them personally, and they truly are great guys.)
I think it’s because the things that made me feel alienated in graduate school did not have much to do with my attraction to women. In the upper echelons of this particular profession, no one cares who I carouse with or wake up beside. The things that made me feel alienated were, in order of their significance:
(1) social class
(2) gender nonconformity
(3) persistent lack of interest in making lots of money
The Nice Gay Men (NGM) of whom my acquaintance spoke shared none of these traits. Yet these are the traits that made me different from my peers, that let me bring a distinct perspective to the classroom, and that will continue to shape my voice in the future. But to the admissions committee, we all looked similar: white homosexuals with good grades from well-regarded undergraduate institutions.
(Obviously, lots of other kinds of diversity are important: race, disability, religion, ethnicity, and others. I’m just focusing on one kind here, which isn’t intended to negate the importance of these other kinds, nor of the intersections of these other kinds of diversity with queerness.)
I’m not suggesting that the NGM’s experience of LGBT life is somehow less “valid” than my own, nor that I embody “diversity” in a way that the NGM do not. But there was something ironic about being categorized with them, since they embodied precisely the traits that seemed so apparently lacking in me: wealth, gender conformity, a lucrative career path.
I bring all of this up mostly to ask the following: when we say that we are striving for diversity, what is it we’re really striving for? People whose experiences somehow bring different “perspectives?” Maybe. But how do we measure that on a form? Do we want people who were statistically unlikely to end up in the application pool? Do we prize phenotypical diversity? Do we simply want the folks with the highest grades and test scores? And in achieving any of these types of diversity, what role should (and does) queerness play?
How to Tip Like a (Butch) Boss
Butches aren't the only ones who dole out gratuities, of course but since we all aspire to be paragons of mannerly charm (RIGHT??), let's make sure we do it correctly.
Tipping practices vary throughout the world; I'll focus on the US and let my international readers weigh in about customs elsewhere.
1. Situations where you'll look like a jerk if you don't tip:
2. Situations in which tipping is optional:
3. Situations in which you should really not tip:
Bonus Q&A Tipping Tips:
Q: What if my server sucks, gets my order wrong, is rude, etc?
A: Suck it up and give the lowest polite amount possible, which is 15% of the bill's total before tax. A few reasons for this: (1) You don't know why they're lousy. Maybe it's their first day. Maybe their dog was just diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Who knows. (2) If you stiff the server, you're also stiffing everyone with whom the server shares tips: hostess, busboy, etc.
Q: So if I use a coupon, I still just tip on the total bill, right?
A: No! You tip on the full amount, as if there was no discount.
Q: So if I get something suuuper cheap, I still just tip 15-20%, right?
A: Technically, I guess you're justified. But if you order less than other tables, add a few extra bucks. If I go to a busy cafe at lunchtime and take up a whole table just to drink coffee, I'll usually leave $5.
What other questions do you have about tipping? Any awkward tipping situations/stories you'd like to share? Put it in the comments!
After reading my Guide to Having Your Lesbian Daughter Home for the Holidays, my mom (whom I did not realize reads my blog pretty regularly --how rad is that?) mentioned that having one's dyke progeny home is not always a walk in the park, either. Even if they want to be fully accepting and supportive, our families don't always know how. So my mom and I have collaborated on this list of how we lesbian daughters can do our part to make family time as joyous (or tolerable, depending on your family) as possible.
Top Gifts for Butches, 2013
This is a mite tardy, but I hope it will help you find the perfect last-minute gift for your butch friends/partners/family. (And yes, there's still plenty of time to get free 2-day shipping on Amazon, so YAY.)
Some of these items are from my own wish list, but most are suggestions from BW readers. Enjoy, and feel free to post your own ideas in the comments!
What's on your wish list, butches? For a few more ideas, check out the Butch Store. Good luck with your last-minute shopping!
We know they love us dearly and want to make us feel comfortable... but sometimes they need a little help, amirite? Here are some do's and don'ts for our well-intentioned straight fams.
DO: Going to buy gifts for your lesbian daughter, but don't know what she'd like? Stick with her list, even if it includes things from the men's department.
DO NOT: Insist on buying her stuff from the women's department if she does not usually buy stuff in the women's department. (If you claim that the socks/sweatshirts/shoes are "just like men's," then you shouldn't care what department you buy them in... Right?)
BONUS TIP: All lesbians love gift certificates. And money. And puppies.
DO: Include her partner in everything, just as you would if her partner was male.
DO NOT: Introduce her partner or girlfriend as her "friend."
BONUS TIP: Not sure whether to use "partner" or "girlfriend?" Ask ahead of time.
DO: Avoid contentious political discussion.
DO NOT: Turn on Fox News, no matter how badly you want to watch it. They sometimes say hostile things about The Gays, which will make your dyke kid annoyed, angry, and/or uncomfortable.
BONUS TIP: This goes for conservative talk radio, too.
DO: Feel free to ask if she's dating anyone.
DO NOT: Ask, "Are you keeping an open mind about dating men?"
BONUS TIP: If a great-aunt asks her, "Have you met a nice man yet?" gently "remind" her: "Actually, Aunt Marge, Suzy dates women, not men."
DO: Carry on with church attendance, if that's part of what you like to do. And invite your daughter--don't assume that she's not religious anymore.
DO NOT: Pressure her. Some of us have a complicated relationship with religion. We might not feel comfortable with the folks at church, the church itself, or some aspect of it. Please respect this.
BONUS TIP: Declining to attend church with you doesn't mean we're not religious or don't believe in God. Attending church with you doesn't mean we're religious, or that we identify with the church's religion.
DO: Group gift exchanges, if you like.
DO NOT:Make them gender-specific gift exchanges (e.g., women bring a "women's gift," men bring a "men's gift," exchanges happen within gender groups). For the gender-atypical among us, that can just underscore the fact that we're not exactly like everyone else, making us feel out of place.
BONUS TIP: Nice scarves, coffee tumblers, a Kindle, a temperature station, or a unisex watch are all terrific gender-neutral gifts.
DO: Compliment your daughter on her appearance, if the compliment is genuine--e.g., "That color looks great on you," or "Those are cool shoes!"
DO NOT: Use a compliment as a back-handed way to get your sapphic offspring to be more gender-conforming or conventional--e.g., "Your hair looks really nice now that you've grown it out a little."
And if you want to be really supportive, wear an awesome shirt like this one.
What else would you add to this list? What makes you feel comfortable (or uncomfortable) when you're home for the holidays?