Thursday, December 13, 2012

To the PowerLife Butches and Studs

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This is for butch and/or stud women and those who love us. Butch women claim power by overtly challenging society's gender expectations. We are women who--without apology--dress, sit, love, walk, talk, work, and play counter to what society deems acceptable for females. Women who are strapped, wrapped, hung, and happiest when we face life on our own terms. We can be found in every corner of the world and that makes us global. The theme for this post is uniquely together in power at the edge of the gender line.

In a world where technology allows us to know the sex of our babies before birth, change our sex as adults after birth, and anonymously explore our fantasies through the Internet or private clubs, we are free to avoid the effects of not fitting neatly into one of society’s gender categories. 

For instance, as parents if we prefer sons over daughters, we can avoid facing our motives through a quick ultrasound. If we are uncomfortable living as a man, we can avoid understanding why with hormones. If we enjoy unconventional sex we can avoid thinking about what this means through videos, chat rooms, and private communities. 

Often, as so many take advantage of the freedom to align how we look with how we feel and the expectations of society, those of us who choose to live on the edge of the male/female gender categories become invisible. Often, those of us whose very presence reveals the fact that how we look and how we feel is counter to society’s expectations are ostracized. 

For example, the fact that butch women are easy targets for people who need scapegoats for their feelings of insecurity is seldom addressed. The reality that butch women are economically penalized because they do not look the part is under recognized. Butch women are sometimes even avoided by women who do not want to be labeled as lesbian, which is a form of homophobia that is often ignored. 

Because of these reasons and more I write. I write to bring my power to life by reclaiming my butch/stud identity. I write to acknowledge the butch woman who took me under her wing and showed me how to swagger. I write to atone for the time, brief though it was, when I avoided the effects of my connection to the butch community by yielding to pressure to femme up.

During my yielding time, I discarded my handmade pipe. Gave away my ties, cufflinks, and dress shirts. Traded in my tailored suits for Land's End women's slacks, and replaced my comfy dress socks with Knee Highs. I exchanged the men's shoes that fit like a glove for women's that either confined my foot like a vise-grip plier or flopped like a bedroom shoe.  

Yes, there was a time when my own actions revealed that I wanted to avoid facing the fact that I did not neatly fit into one of society's gender roles. I betrayed my butch community; I denied an integral part of me. This became crystal clear a few days ago as I prepared to attend my first lesbian dance as a single butch woman. I was getting dressed and fumbling around with tying my tie (my skills in this area had become rusty from lack of use) when a woman from my past came to mind. 

This was the first time that I had thought about her in years and her memory stopped me in mid-tie. Then a smile came to my face as I realized that I was currently feeling a little like I felt when this woman was in my life. It was the early 1990's and I was preparing to attend my first dance as an out lesbian. I guess you could say that I was a baby butch back then. The woman I remembered was the one who took me to get my first butch outfit; she was my butch mentor for my first dance.

Chuckling to myself in present time, and still fumbling with tying my tie, I remembered the past and how excited I was as I followed my mentor into the men's clothing department. I felt totally lost, and expected someone to yell Hay! Get out of here and get back to the women's section where you belong with each item of clothing that I considered. My mentor took me under her wing and helped me figure out what I needed to know. 

Standing in front of my mirror, having finally tied a decent knot in my tie, I suddenly remembered that I never thanked her for being my mentor. I also realized what butch/stud community can be and is. At that point in time, we were uniquely together as she demonstrated for me how to claim and live butch power. She showed me how to swagger through the world without apology. Together we met at the edge of the male/female gender categories, and she took my hand so that I could take my next step. I will always be grateful for that.

Today, the world is very different from the time when I first came out. In many countries we have same gender marriage; our country is trying to catch up state by state. The butch community is becoming more organized, through the work of groups like Butch Voices, and others. We even have clothing designers who cater to the needs of butch style.  

Part of me misses the time when I was a baby butch. There was a certain excitement that came with the newness of it all. I remember when I put on my first suit, for instance, and how happy I was. At the same time, part of me is happy to be right where I am today--unafraid of feeling my power, comfortable with expressing my needs, and excited about renewing my connection with butch community.

Merry Christmas,


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