Butch Symposium, part the first.. Boxer Shorts & Bras

Call for submissions for bloggers & writers: The first Symposium (Sinclair Sexsmith)
I am planning to launch the new project’s monthly Symposium with the site’s launch on November 15th, and I need your help. I’m looking for writers who have something to say about butch identity, who are wiling to post their thoughts on their own blog (or email them in, if they don’t have a blog) and link back to the Symposium in exchange for the promotion within this project. Here’s the topic for the first Symposium:
Symposium #1, November 2010: What is butch? How do you define butch? What do you love about it? What does it mean to you?

I am a butch woman, a butch lesbian, a butch dyke – so my interpretation of butch stems directly from that. Beyond that though, butch is an adjective I use to describe the way I look, the way I walk. For me it’s about style, not gender. It’s the hipster jeans, the sneakers, the wallet chain, the watch, the heavy silver rings, the fact that I wear men’s clothing but refuse to accept masculinity and femininity as my gender labels. It’s my reclaiming of stuff that society says is just for boys and men. It’s liberation. It’s boxer shorts and bras.

A pause here to reassure sensitive folks that I am only speaking for myself and only about my own private perception and expression.

My masculine traits and appearance are seen as masculine, because that’s society’s definition, not mine. My voice is deep – so was Marlene Dietrich’s … er … OK so maybe she was butch. I walk loose-limbed like a man, not with the supposedly femme hip-sway. It’s just the way I walk, it’s comfortable and often it tells potential muggers that I am not afraid. It’s important for me to feel safe on the streets – my comfortable shoes, sneakers, boots are all practical in case I have to run.

Female and woman are terms I can claim for my sex, biologically. I don’t give much of a shit about gender – mine or anybody else’s. My sex matters a lot to my sexuality though.

What do I love about butch? Well, I’d look and be who and what I am whether there was a word to describe it or not, but the fact that the word “butch” exists has some lovely consequences. To quote that ole politically incorrect thing, “chicks dig it.” I’m a “type” for some women (yay!). “My handsome butch dyke,” she says and I fairly strut about like … something that struts about in a particularly pleased way. Ahem. It gives me cohorts too, a tribe, a family within my queer family. Women to talk about clothes with, for example. There’s solidarity when the world rejects me, when kids on streets mock me, when people mutter that clearly I really want to be a man. It also means, simply and profoundly, that I have given myself permission to dress how the hell I want, to be me.

The things I love about butch give butch meaning to me – but of course there are some negatives too. “What are you? A man or a fucking woman?” from some twelve year old on the streets of the UK. “Obviously you’re the man in the relationship,” from a friend in South Africa. Assumptions, insults, general fuckwittery. Times when people start to get violent about it … but then the courage needed to still be oneself adds such positive meaning to anyone’s life too, right?

Language is shorthand for thought. Butch is a proud, strong word. It doesn’t beat anyone else up, it’s just one of many, many aspects of who I am. And who I am is alright.

Loads more waffle and cartoons about butch.

About ulla

queer. antisocial. verbose. View all posts by ulla

29 responses to “Butch Symposium, part the first.. Boxer Shorts & Bras

  • Kyle

    “Butch is a proud, strong word”

    Yes it is. It doesn’t have to be pushy, it makes its point by just standing there, unapologetically being itself.

  • ulla

    And thinking that way often negates anyone’s use of it as an insult, right :)

    *waves fist around*

  • Holden

    Great post Ulla. I have to say this bit really made me smile;
    ‘“My handsome butch dyke,” she says and I fairly strut about like … something that struts about in a particularly pleased way.’
    It just describes that feeling so perfectly!

  • ulla

    :) we can be v predictable eh? Lol!

  • queerfindingsanity

    This looks like a great project! I’ll be interested to see future Symposium prompts.

    To be honest, sometimes I forget that there are as many varieties and understandings of ‘butch’ (or masculine spectrum) as there are of femme (feminine spectrum) folks.

    Im so glad Butch doesnt beat anyone else up and that you compared your voice to Marlene Dietrich! :o)

  • ulla

    Bahaha I’m n0000thing like marlene…but yeh..and hugs for the comment and for your blogfriendship in general. Btw both roxy and vic (who have commented on my blog a coupla times) have written for the symposium, from a non-butch perspective. It’s v cool! Not to mention flattering.

  • pasupatidasi

    don’t know what butch means really…
    my lovers have often accused me of being butch.
    i don’t wear make-up
    i wear my hair short, my shoes comfy and my clothing loose.
    if butch only means; ‘being myself’ rather than ‘man-like’ (whatever that means) then i guess i am butch.
    one of the women i hooked up with once, surprized by my ‘bottom-behaviour’ chanted “butch on the streets, femme in the sheets”
    as for my choices in lovers, i like the ones who don’t ascribe to the dominating cultures notions of what a woman is…so often, i have been with someone ‘butch’…or, maybe just butcher than me!
    (is butcher a word?)
    smiling now.

  • ulla

    My favourite butch photo was in diva magazine – a butch had “but c her” tattooed in heavt gothic script across her shoulders. The butch thing isn’t something I give a shit about except in terms of style and sex and then for me, it’s supposed to be quite a lighthearted role. I don’t know though. I’m growing confused myself.

  • alonesomesoul

    Great blog! I’m starting from the beginning and working back up to this one.

  • reesielady

    Is it odd that little “femme” me has a post for this. I am working on it and I’ll send it too you….I have a different feel for the word butch. Because I am the butch in my relationship…

    Figure that one out =P

  • ulla

    @alone – wow, thanks

    @reesie – little? No it isn’t odd at all. Sometimes I think butch just means assertive. And I am far from “butch” in many ways. I will write about that too some day.

    Thanks for comin by, both of you.

  • solotus

    wish your butchness could be geographically located at boulders beach this week ;)

    in the shuttle from the airport, avoiding conversation, re-read this post. you really articulate it well – think i must get thandeka to read it.

  • ulla

    Make sure she reads it before I get my nervous butchdown confusion post written..

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  • Jolie

    I don’t comment on your blog nearly often enough. (Do I ever comment on your blog? :/ I’m woefully behind on commenting in general.)

    I enjoyed reading your take, and I’m glad you’ve participated in the Symposium. I’ve gotten the impression, from some of our exchanges, that this was how you looked at the word. I like that you’ve reclaimed it for your own perspective and applied it where it works for you.

    This: “It gives me cohorts too, a tribe, a family within my queer family.” I love this. It makes me happy to see it in your post.

    And to you and Holden, both, that strutting thing in response to compliments? A-freaking-dorable. One of my favorite things about butches. ;-)

    Lovely post all around. xoxoxo

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  • J-Rob

    I so love reading what it means for others to be butch. I don’t have a community of butches around me geographically, but knowing that you’re out there makes me go all warm and fuzzy. And I love reading about experiences that are different from mine (for me being butch is all about embracing the masculinity). Thanks for an awesome post (and how did I now know about your blog before?).

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  • Cath

    Hi there

    Very interesting project, this sounds like you could be writing about me lol.

    It has been joked that Im not really butch, but that Im fall under the guise of androgany.
    And no mater how many times I get called sir, or looked at strangely in the ladies toilets… I beleive that I am an ‘old fashioned butch dyke’. A dying breed apparently?

    I believe that the androgany falls to the hetrosexual community and how they view me and see what they want to see, or what they feel more comfortable with. Sadly this is all too often, with me being viewed as a man.
    But after being out for 24years, its like water off a ducks back… a way of living… an acceptance almost.
    Make sense?

    Butch to me is far far more than about clothing/ dress style/image domenant roles, stereo types… its about how I think, how I feel, how I react to things. My manerisms, my principles, my morals, my ‘instincts’ etc
    How I sit, how I walk, how I talk… is just me.

    Hope this makes sense… Wish you well with you work


  • ulla

    hi cath, thanks a lot – you sound like someone i wished lived nearer so we could be buddies.

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