One of my favorite newish bloggers, A Lesbian in Pensacola, contacted me and said she'd like to post on BW about suitable butch beach gear. I agreed; it's hard to get more beach-experty than Pensacola, after all! Here she is:
Memorial Day Weekend is almost here, and tens of thousands of queers will head down to Pensacola Beach for a massive party. Whether Pensacola is your destination or you choose another beautiful beach this summer, a few essentials will keep you happy and healthy while enjoying your vacation.
The first rule of beachy butchness: nobody likes the boiled lobster look. Wear sunscreen (regardless of your natural skin color)! The beach is a lot more fun if you can go back the next day instead of lying in bed with ice packs and Ibuprofen.
[BW note: Not all tankinis suck. See?]
If you're a softer butch, your style options have expanded in the past few years. Tankinis that used to consist of generic-looking shorts and squared off tank tops now run the gamut of triathlon-ready to super femme. Athleta offers tons of sizes, and while a lot of them might be too femme for some, I love the running-ready variety. The tops fit like sports bras, and solid colors abound. [BW note: what do you wear under that for a bra? 'Cuz my girls aren't gonna be tamed by that tankini alone.] What we call the "classic Pensacola dyke" look is easily achieved with a women's bra-style top and men's boardshorts.
[BW note: I have this one.]
Rashguards will keep your skin burn-free and scrape-free. If you’ll be surfing, snorkeling, or on a boat, a good rashguard will be your friend. Rashguards are also a stylish way to cover your upper half, if you’re not excited about any of the bathing suit tops.
[BW note: Non-pastel colors!]
For butches who hate wearing women's swimsuit bottoms, the ever-present boardshorts are still ragingly popular. Women's boardshorts are often short, fitted, and involve pink. But there's been a lot of color and style progress recently, though most men's boardshorts will do just fine, as long as they're not so long as to inhibit your knees when you're playing in the water. It's maddening to try to stand on a surfboard and get stuck in a squat because your knees are locked in your shorts.
Other beach necessities include:
Safe travels, and see you on the beach!
[BW note: Thanks for those awesome recs, Pensacola Lesbian! You've not only inspired me to consider putting a "beach" section in the Butch Store, but you've made me want to visit Pensacola!]
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:
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!
This is a hard entry for me to write, since it's perrrrsonal, but it's important.
A lot of women hate going to the gynecologist. But when I say that I hate it, I mean, I HATE it. As in, I would rather get a cavity filled, clean my toilet, or run a mile with my old PE teacher screaming at me.
A few years ago, I finally found an OBGYN whom I love. (I'll call her "Superdoc.") Superdoc is a lesbian, was wholly unassuming when I was asking about lesbian sexual health while trying hard not to seem (or be) gay, and best of all: she has very small hands. But Superdoc is on a long medical leave, so I had to see someone else. Alas.
As soon as the new doc came into the room, I knew I'd made a mistake. (Also, she looked like an old-timey schoolmarm, so I'm going to call her "DSM" for "Dr. School Marm.") She didn't shake my hand (bad sign), and sat at her computer while I sat naked beneath my dopey little robe. Then she started asking me questions. The conversation proceeded thusly:
DSM: When you came here last, you and Superdoc talked about PCOS?
BW: Yeah. But I think I don't have it, because I got an ultrasound and they said my ovaries weren't polycystic.
DSM: That's not the only way we diagnose it. Do you remember what Superdoc said would happen if you didn't have a regular period?
BW [more subdued]: I had a CAT scan for an unrelated reason and I asked about my ovaries and they said they were OK.
DSM: [laughs consescendingly]: well, if they didn't look specifically at that, then they can't tell you. You have to do calculations.
BW: [very softly, looking away] Oh. I... I don't know, then.
DSM: Look, I'm not trying to convince you that you have PCOS. I'm trying to make a diagnosis here!
BW: [even more softly] Oh, yeah, I--I don't... um... Yeah, I mean, I'm not saying I don't have it, I just thought... Well, one thing is my hormone levels are normal. They took blood and--uh--they're in the normal range. I--uh...
DSM: That's not dispositive.
BW: Oh. [Feels small.]
DSM: It says here you had an IUD.
BW: Yeah. I did. Maybe five years ago? Six? Or four?
DSM: What was your period like then?
BW: I don't--I'm not sure. It was, um, I... I don't know. [Melts into a puddle of shame, embarrassment, and discomfort.]
DSM [incredulous; annoyed]: You don't know?
At this point, I am looking away, basically mumbling softly and incoherently, and--I kid you not--very close to tears, which DSM does not notice. I decide I'm not going through with the exam. Then I think about how folks in their 30s can get various kinds of nether-region cancer. And then I feel worse. And then DSM tells me that irregular periods put me at risk for endometrial cancer. And I think about dying.
More awkward conversation ensues. Some highlights:
When she gets up to do the exam, Kelli Dunham's refrain keeps going through my head: Get your bits checked out. I will mentally dissociate, I think. I'll pick a spot on the ceiling. I will notice absolutely everything about that spot. Bit-checking will be over before I know it.
But while conducting the breast exam (which, yes, I also loathe), DSM asks if I wax or pluck. I tell her that yes, about every other month, I get my upper lip waxed (I don't have a lot of lip hair; I just don't want any). Then, she asks if, although she can't see any facial hair, do I ever have to pluck a hair from my chin. I say sure, sometimes. She says it isn't normal for women to have hair anywhere besides their heads, and that this is probably because of PCOS (which, it is now clear, she has affirmatively decided I have).
Because my brain clicked off, I neglect to point out that countless businesses are sustained by the presence of hair on women's faces. That "lip-wax" and "chin wax" are actual menu items at many beauticians'. That this fact is excellent evidence that I am not a freak of nature for having unwanted hair.
So instead, I say nothing. I am silent. I imagine a carnival barker yelling, "Get your bits checked! Get your bits checked right here, folks!" I find a spot on the ceiling. I stare at it. She conducts the exam. It is uncomfortable, but lasts five minutes, tops. My bits check out fine. She leaves and I put my clothes on and get out as fast as I can.
Basically, it was an awful morning that reduced me nearly to tears, and I had to be consoled by my DGF (lucky for me, I was seeing her right afterward). But I did it. And now I don't have to think about it, and I've taken care of myself, which is an excellent feeling.
If I can live through that whole freakin' ordeal, you can, too (and chances are, your experience will be better than mine!). Get your bits checked out. I promise you'll live through it, and it can save your life.
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.
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:
#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?
I'm excited to share this guest post from a BW reader who's working as a Peace Corps volunteer. I hope you enjoy her insights as much as I did! For reasons that this piece makes clear, she's chosen to remain anonymous.
Discovering the Lesbian Underground in Rural South America
Peace Corps is a two-year commitment to do development work in impoverished countries. I am an Agricultural Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in South America. My site is a very rural, impoverished, and conservative village in a conservative country.
I generally present myself as androgynous. Short hair, comfortable clothing, and a slim build make this easy. I didn’t tell my Peace Corps recruiter about my sexual orientation, but I scoured the internet trying to find information on queer life in the small, culturally isolated country to which I was assigned (and on the experiences of queer PCVs worldwide). To my dismay, I found little information. The Peace Corps welcomes queer PCVs, but warns that in many countries they will have to stay closeted—sometimes to work smoothly with host country counterparts, but frequently for the safety of the PVC.
In my village, miles away from paved roads, surrounded by banana and pineapple crops, I am very deeply in the closet. I still dress androgynously, but I have not, and likely will not, tell anyone in my community the direction in which my romantic interests generally lie – the señoras trying to match me up with their sons don’t know how much of an uphill battle they face. Due to my unfeminine hair and clothing, I also receive far fewer cat calls and less sexual harassment than other female volunteers.
After working with men in the community to rebuild a wall of my house, someone joked that a "man" would be moving in: me. This comment from a community member made me anxious, and led me to worry about every interaction—to an unhealthy extent. Indeed, my self-censorship has been one of the most stressful parts of being here. I am fearful that they will “guess,” but I actually haven’t altered much. I don't change my appearance or flirt with men, though I certainly don’t flirt with women in my site either. My second year, I’ve loosened up because I know the people in the village, and they know me. For example, when señoras would ask me if I had a boyfriend I used to say, “not right now,” but now I say, “I don’t need a boyfriend.” It’s a small, but significant, difference.
One of my queer volunteer friends says that this is a country of “open secrets:” Secrets everyone knows, but tacitly agrees not to talk about. It makes me wonder, am I living an open secret too? Is it possible everyone in my site knows and are electing to keep quiet?
One of the biggest personal changes I have experienced here is the role my sexual identity plays in my sense of self. Like many people in their mid-twenties from accepting backgrounds, I never viewed my orientation as a big deal. However, here in rural South America, I needed to hide this part of myself for the first time in my life… so it has become more important. I am open with other volunteers and the Peace Corps support staff in-country, but I miss being in an active queer community.
Once every month or two, I travel to the country’s capital to get mail and to socialize with other PCVs. If possible, we visit one of the few gay bars in the whole country. Unsurprisingly, it’s usually full of gay men. However, after a conversation with a posse of local gay men looking out for me, we got directions, scrawled on the back of a napkin, to a rumored lesbian bar. It was months before we found the place. When we finally did, we discovered that we had to get past the guards, ring the bell, and wait for someone to come unlock the door. They’re only open one night a week, but have information regarding human rights campaigns, queer film festivals, and Pride activities. Despite their limited hours, it was nice to know that such a locale existed.
However, I still needed a queer community closer to where I live, and as luck would have it, I stumbled across one! There is a town an hour and a half away, and during my first few months, I traveled there frequently to buy supplies to build my house. A PCV there introduced me to a friend of hers (I’ll call her B), a female firefighter. This PCV told me that B was a lesbian and told B the same thing about me. A few months later, B invited me to a secret, underground drag show! Out here, in the middle of nowhere, there was a community! The event was invitation only, with the location announced a few hours ahead of time. Secrecy was a big priority. Drag queens from all over the country performed, and under a blanket of stars, the rest of us queers watched. It was great! But the most valuable part of the experience was finding out that there is a network, even out here in the rural countryside. However, it’s distressing that such a high level of secrecy is necessary.
Now I find myself dating B’s ex (I guess lesbians are the same world over). This chapter is unfolding day by day…Our interactions are full of cultural misunderstandings and poorly translated endearments. (Also, how on earth does one discuss strap-ons in a country without toy shops?) She is closeted even to those in her family who would be accepting. I worry that I overestimate the level of acceptance around her, and thereby put her in danger. Her internalized homophobia and self-hatred is another challenge altogether.
I am pleased to have been admitted into the secret lesbian underground of this country. I’ve never met any established lesbian couples, but supposedly several pairs live together, frequently raising children from their past relationships. One of the pairs was comparatively wealthy and lived somewhat more openly, and the other pairs just quietly lived together as “housemates.” I never heard of couples in the countryside, only in town. I also met people who had been part of the lesbian community but ended up marrying men. For some of them, marrying was one of the few avenues of independence they had. Outside of the capital, most people don’t leave their parents’ house till they get married.
I can be an example of a happy, queer, woman within the underground lesbian community. Their eyes went wide when I mentioned that my mother once asked my (ex)girlfriend which of the states with legalized same-sex marriage we would be moving to. I’m not sure what blew their minds more, the fact that marriage was an option for us, or that my mother treated our relationship legitimately. I introduced terms like “family” and “gaydar,” and exposed the underground to television shows like The L Word and Modern Family. Seeing queer people on TV just like any other telanovela was a very significant, empowering experience, especially for my girlfriend. It’s been powerful for me as well: by seeing it from the outside, I truly appreciate the strength of the queer community in the US.
Clearly I can only base this off of the lesbians I know, but but at least in this country, there seems to be less gender nonconformity than in the US or other South American countries. But maybe that’s because all the lesbians I know are from the countryside (the town is in the middle of nowhere. The only real “city” is the capital.
Lesbians here either never find each other (sad but true), or find one other lesbian or gay man who introduces them to her or his friends (like what happened to me). Some of the most important work I’ve done my last few months in the site, has been introducing a few teenagers (males) who came out to me to the community in the town. Additionally, I introduced the community in town to the resources and clubs in the capital.
My Peace Corps experience has changed me in many unexpected ways, including strengthening my identity as a queer person. But more importantly, it has highlighted something else to me, the fact that who I am is not just for me alone. I'm a member of a beautiful community, not just underground in a small country and not just causally out in my hometown: it’s a community that's everywhere, worldwide, where I'd most and least expect it. When I pack my bags, say my goodbyes, and leave this country, I'm taking that lesson with me.
Many thanks to the guest poster for sharing her story. She also wanted me to pass along this link for LGBT Peace Corps Alumni.
Do you have an experience worth sharing? I welcome guest post submissions; email me at email@example.com for more information.