Tag Archives: butch

In conjunction with this weekend’s BUTCH Voices Conference…

Two fantastic workshops are being presented by members of the newly-forming Butch Nation at the Oakland Marriott.

From Sasha Goldberg:

This Saturday (8/20), 12pm. BULLDAGGER: For Women-Identified, Female-Pronoun Using Butches.

This Sunday (8/21), 12pm. “Exploring Our Masculinities While Keeping Our Feminisms.” Oakland Marriott.

The room is under the name Goldberg. Butch Nation will be there. Free and open to the public. Post widely.

Also, a femme and ally discussion is being held:

FEMINIST FEMMES & ALLIES: Holding the Butch Space
SAT 8/20 12 NOON Oakland Marriott 2nd Flr. Free and Open to the Public.

Let’s talk about our love and support for woman-identified butches. “We have a stake in this, not because we can’t exist as femme without butches but because butches are family to us.” Bring your thoughts, words & analysis to our Femme and Ally conversation.
Meet: Cozy couch area north of 12 Bar Lounge 2nd flr. (look for sign)
[H/T to fierce femme Staci of Owning My Truth blog].

Additionally, a “Town Hall” meeting will be held on Friday (8/19) at the Oakland Marriott in the Jewett Ballroom to discuss the recent events surrounding BUTCH Voices. This meeting is free and open to the public and Butch Nation members/supporters are encouraged to attend.*

I think all of these events sound wonderful. Obviously, I’m all for a feminist femme discussion surrounding the butches we love. And the first two workshops are vitally important to our community. Feminism and fighting misogyny can only help us grow (perhaps with the exception of transphobic radical feminists like Sheila Jeffreys, but you all know my stance on that particular brand of feminism). I’m glad that BUTCH Voices is having the Town Meeting because I think community members need to talk about everything that has transpired, really talk about it, rather than just reading press releases and blog posts. I, for one, am anxious to hear more about why the Board of BUTCH Voices is so opposed to including ‘feminism’ in their mission statement and I want to know what they have to say in regards to the accusations of misogyny and ageism, none of which was ever fully addressed in those aforementioned press releases (aside from just flat out dismissals).

For those who are attending any of the events this weekend, have fun! I’ll be there in spirit!

*Unfortunately, it seems that members of Butch Nation were never contacted about this meeting and since it is being held midday on a work day before the conference actually begins, no one from Butch Nation can actually attend. They are calling for BUTCH Voices to either move the Town Hall meeting to Sunday or hold a ‘part two’ meeting so that they may take part in the discussion. More info here. I will update this post with any changes if they occur.

UPDATE: According to the BUTCH Voices Facebook page, the Town Hall meeting held Friday was the first of two, with the second scheduled for Sunday. I have heard 2 pm but the time and location of the second meeting weren’t actually listed in the FB post.

Family Solidarity

Over the past week, a controversy within a corner of the queer community erupted. I fully realize that I might not make friends with a lot of folks with this post, but I need to throw down my allegiance. I must preface this by saying that I am not involved in any way nor do I personally know anyone involved. Therefore, I can only give a summary of what I know based on what I have read.

Apparently, sometime last year, BUTCH Voices changed the language of its mission statement, deleting the word “butch” from the first sentence and changing it to “masculine of center (MoC).” Understandably, this upset many people in the butch community, including some of the steering committee members. There was also frustration over the refusal to include “feminism” in the mission statement. Either in addition to this language change or because of it (perhaps both), concerns of misogyny and ageism were voiced but left unanswered by the board. Additionally, committee members were required to sign contracts that included a confidentiality clause. All of this resulted in several committee members resigning, just weeks before the conference, and a new organization being born, Butch Nation. (You can read a much more detailed internal account as well as background information here and here by Sasha T. Goldberg. There is also a letter from the founder of BUTCH Voices here and one from the board president here.)

Perhaps the most troubling thing is the reasoning behind the adoption of MoC. From founder Joe LeBlanc’s recent letter:

As an organization, we decided that “masculine of center” lacked the stigma and wounds that so many of us associate with having been called terms like “butch” or “aggressive” or “stud” in a derogatory manner.  We stand by this and believe that the term can and will only begin to carry wounds and stigmatize others if we allow it to; if our personal biases recreate cycles of oppression and “othering.”

Any stigma attached to butch should be the exact reason to reclaim and celebrate the word. (Though I would argue that there are many other words within the larger LGBTQ community that carry a much larger stigma.) It also seems disingenuous to only now decide that butch is too problematic a term, after naming your organization BUTCH Voices and putting together two national and several other regional conferences around said name.

Obviously, I am not butch. But I still have a stake in this, not because I can’t exist as a femme without butches but because butches are family to me. And I fight for my family. It’s not that I’m against the identifier ‘masculine-of-center’. I’m not. But in this context, it’s not appropriate. The conference is BUTCH Voices, not MoC Voices. That’s certainly not to say that people who identify as MoC shouldn’t be welcome there (or trans or boi or stud) but that butch has a specific history that the conference originally intended to address (obviously, hence the name) and that by removing the word butch from the mission statement, the board is burying that history.

There have been accusations of non-inclusiveness and transphobia. I disagree. Wanting to preserve a space for butch dykes is not transphobic. (And can we talk about the invisibility of butch dykes who are trans women?!? They exist, dammit, let’s stop forgetting them please!) The fact is that while trans masculine folks and female-identified butches may certainly be allies, their struggles are not the same; their realities are very different. By lumping butch under one big MoC umbrella, lines become too blurry and identities get erased.

I know lots of folks get quite indignant about the use of labels and even call them useless, claiming to defy them all. And that’s great if that’s your truth, but it’s not mine and it’s not the truth for a lot of people, so please respect that. Identifiers are powerful for so many of us and when one resonates with you, it’s like you’ve found your home. There’s no reason to tear down someone else’s home to make your own more comfortable. The two can co-exist side by side, allied within a larger community, without harming one another.

Butch dykes played a huge part in the creation of the queer rights movement (alongside my femme forebears). They have a rich history all their own and deserve a space to celebrate that history. I stand with Butch Nation.

(For a beautifully written piece on this discussion from a butch perspective, please read this post at Butch Enough.)

Hard Femme Clarifications

The other day I was alerted, via Tumblr, that the author of the On Being Hard Femme zine, which I critiqued in Butch-Femme: Who you callin’ reductive, had responded to criticisms they had received about the zine. I’m so glad to say that I was wrong about this author’s feelings on butch/femme and on femme as an identity. I’m thankful for the response because it did indeed clarify the things that were bothering me most about the zine.

With regards to the insinuation that butch-femme is reductive, the author responds:

Nowhere in the zine do I say that butch and femme identities in themselves are bad, nor do I think that a butch-femme relationship is somehow less radical. I have big love for folk who strongly identify as femme or butch…especially since I sympathize with the movement to reclaim femme identity and counter femme-hating radicals who equate femininity with patriarchy and weakness. Also, the butch holds an important place in my heart and I am adamantly opposed to the idea that female masculinity or trans masculinity makes you a traitor to women and feminism. Whenever I read about the supposed “death of the butch,” my reaction is always “Noooooooooo! The butch is not dead and cannot die!” The comment in the introduction about the “dichotomy that people set up” (in other words, the generalized norm) is specifically brought up apropos of a discussion of how people would always harass my ex and I about who was the “femme” and who was the “butch” (or who was the “man”/”woman,” or who “wore the pants”). Our relationship and our gender expressions did not make sense within a binary schema. So when I say that the dichotomy that people set up is reductive, it doesn’t mean that being butch or femme is reductive or less queer, it means that conceptualizing of queer/lesbian relationships exclusively in those terms does not account for the range of possible identities and combinations of people/expressions. A dynamic way of thinking about gender and sexuality would certainly include butch-femme relationships while contesting the idea that there is no other type of queer/lesbian relationship possible.

I definitely agree that there is a wide range of identities and relationships within the queer community and butch-femme is settled comfortably in there somewhere, and always will be.

The author also addresses a concern that I had about setting up a sort of femme hierarchy by creating a new label:

Nowhere in the zine do I say anything that should lead someone to believe that hard femme is better than other identities, or more queer, or completely separate from femme identity. In the zine I advocate for open ways of thinking about identity that can accommodate a range of possibilities while prioritizing a “vision of how to exist in the world in ways that make up feel confident, strong, comfortable, and empowered.” I even claim femme identity for myself while re-articulating what femmeness is to me (because I am more interested in integrating and playing with femmeness rather than degrading and disowning it altogether). Toward the end I write, “I like being unconventionally femme, unconventionally Asian, unconventionally tough, and stirring it all up, overturning expectations while laying claim to these categories. But without allegiance. With movement.” (Author’s emphasis)

I’m glad that conversations like these are being had within the femme and larger queer communities. And I’m glad to know that there is another outspoken, unconventional femme and fellow butch-ally in the world.

You can read the author’s full response here.