Empty Mirrors: The Importance of Queering Body Positivity

My body and I have an uneasy truce. Over the years, we’ve had many disagreements. Sometimes, these disagreements are over something as banal as I want to go for a run, but my body wants to stay in bed for an extra hour. Or maybe I want to lift a very heavy object and look tough, but my body thinks that’s silly and refuses to comply. Other times, it’s more serious. I want my body to be taller, but it’s done growing. Or I want my chest to be flatter, my abs toned, my arm muscles defined, my hips small and square. My body is defiant in its curves and softness and sometimes, I think it’s being feminine just to spite me. Indeed, there are even times when I downright despise my body, and I’m sure it feels the same way about me.

The truce comes from the acknowledgement that this is the body I have. Barring the existence of reincarnation (please, let me come back as a pampered housecat), it’s the only one I’ll ever have, and my mind is the only mind it will ever have, so we both better learn how to get along. The truce also comes from the fact that we are both outlaws in a world which tells us every day that we should not exist.

Now, I am not talking about the world of blatant, undeniable homophobia. That world of Westboro Baptists and Pat Robertsons and Anita Bryants and DOMAs is rapidly losing its strength. I’m talking about the world where people who look like me simply are not a part of the picture, both literally and figuratively. I’m talking about the world where only queer people who fit a certain aesthetic, a certain body type, are visible. I’m talking about our collective queer body diversity image problem.

In my search for this diversity, I’ve long ago given up on mainstream media. Yes, there have been some significant strides toward visibility made in recent years, what with all the queerfolk popping up in shows like Glee, Pretty Little Liars, and Degrassi. And that’s super! I’m sincerely stoked to see more characters on TV that lonely babydykes in Middle America can look to for hope. But wouldn’t it be extra super if any of these characters didn’t look like your garden variety heteronormative “hot” girls? Wouldn’t it be utterly fantastic if there was just one queer female in the picture box that didn’t have to first pass the rigid Male Gaze Approval Process?

That process, by the way, is: 1.) Do straight guys want to bang your female character? 2.) If yes, congrats! Your female character is allowed to exist. If not, then sorry – maybe if your female character is real lucky, she can be a throwaway punch line. (And man, have I ever seen my share of fat masculine female characters utilized as walking flannel-clad jokes. OVER. IT.)

I suppose since I don’t expect too much from mainstream media, I am rarely disappointed by it. The disappointment – which sometimes feels uncomfortably close to betrayal – comes from queer media. You may have noticed that, in recent years, there’s been a surge of new blogs, tumblrs and fashion sites dedicated to celebrating masculine-of-center, often female-bodied queerfolk. I can even think of at least five clothing companies off the top of my head that are targeted toward this very audience. I think all of this is absolutely amazing, especially when I remember that none of these resources were available when I was first coming into my butch identity. Let’s just say I sure could have used the fashion tips back then.

However, my joy at seeing so many more images of butch and MOC people has become increasingly bittersweet. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the vast majority of models used in these photo shoots share certain physical characteristics: Thin. Flat-chested. Small-hipped. Straight-haired. Able-bodied. White. It’s almost as if the queer beauty aesthetic is indiscernible from the straight beauty aesthetic. But how could that be? Or, more to the point – how could we have let that happen?

Please note that I am not saying that these are not bodies that should be celebrated, because that is certainly not the case. But they should be celebrated in equal quantities with fat bodies, brown bodies, bodies with disabilities, and bodies with large chests, wide hips, and big, unapologetic asses. Because when one body type is depicted with a much greater frequency than others, then that body type – intentionally or unintentionally – becomes the norm, the standard, the ideal. In turn, anyone who doesn’t fit that ideal becomes an Other. Most of us have felt like an Other before out there in the wide, heteronormative world. We don’t want to feel that sting again among our own tribe.

It’s difficult to explain that my hunger to see more images of people who look like me isn’t born from some latent narcissism, but from a sort of desperation to confirm my own existence. There’s a quote from Adrienne Rich (who knew a thing or two about queer visibility) that expresses this sentiment beautifully:

”When those who have the power to name and to socially construct reality choose not to see you or hear you … when someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in the mirror and saw nothing. It takes some strength of soul – and not just individual strength, but collective understanding – to resist this void, this non-being, into which you are thrust, and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard.”

Human beings do need to see themselves reflected in the world around them. Besides making us feel a whole lot less lonely, this reflection also tells us, “You’re ok. You are fine just the way you are, because look at all the other people out there who are like you.” Hell, we queers should be the pioneers of a body acceptance revolution, because we all know what it feels like to live outside the box. There can be a thousand different butch style blogs out there, but if the parameters they’ve set for queer female masculinity don’t leave any room for female body parts of various sizes, then half (or maybe more) of the readership is shut out. In other words, you’re doing inclusivity wrong. How do we teach all masculine queer women/FAB people to love their bodies, if we only show masculine queer bodies without visible breasts or hips? The message is: You better find a way to hide those parts if you want to be taken seriously.

On a slight tangent, it’s also important to note the class difference in butch style back in the day vs. the “dapper dandy” look that is popular now. Old-school butch style was very working class – loose jeans, work boots, flannel shirts, plain white T-shirts. Today’s butch style is much more “upper-class white dude on a yacht” – skinny jeans, prep shorts, slim fit dress shirts, bow ties, boat shoes. When exactly did we decide that we wanted to look exactly like the people with the most power in this world? And what does that say about our shifting priorities?

Speaking of the old days, my small personal Queer History library tells me that there was a time when large, sturdy butch bodies were appreciated – even idolized. Now the pendulum has swung the other way. Why does visibility always end up being a zero sum game? Our femme sisters are miles ahead of us butches when it comes to finding balance here. When I look at femme-themed tumblrs, for example, I see a whole world of body sizes, shapes, and colors. In fact, femmes are very much leaders in the fat acceptance movement and have been for years. Why don’t I see my fellow butches following suit?

I’d love to see more size acceptance work done in masculine queer communities, because when the celebration of curves only occurs in feminine communities, it reinforces the notion that curves equal feminine. That is exceedingly isolating for curvy butches and masculine queers like me. In other words, if queer media has decided that masculine means an absence of curves, then does my curvy body fail at masculinity? Who gets to judge? On a very personal level, it’s taken me a long time to realize that I didn’t buy a binder because I wanted one, but because I thought I was SUPPOSED to want one. Why did I think that? All of these questions can be rolled up into one even more difficult question: Do I hate my female body because it doesn’t fit me, or because it doesn’t fit what I’ve been told is the norm?

Because I cannot have a queer community-related thought without sharing said thought with my entire queer community, I recently had a conversation with fellow blogger and tweeter eL about navigating the word as a plus-sized butch. In eL’s own words:

“As an adult, I have always been between size 14 and 20 in women’s pant sizes.  This leaves strong limitations for buying men’s clothes. I am more of an hourglass shape, leaning a bit toward pear. Because of this, my hips are too large for many clothing items geared towards men. I often struggle to find men’s shirts that fit me, due to having a short torso and large hips. My broad chest has never been an issue and I am actually somewhat on the smaller cup size up top, proportionally.

That being said, I have never seen myself or anyone who looks quite like me/my body represented in queer media. Around 10 years ago, I identified as a queer femme and still, at that time, didn’t quite feel like I fit in. I was a short haired femme, which, at the time, I didn’t see represented. Also, I wasn’t a heavily made up femme. I was definitely never the femmiest femme that femmed, though I did enjoy a good skirt from time to time.

As a queer butch, I struggle to find clothing that makes me feel as comfortable on the outside as I know I am on the inside (in my own body). I tend to end up buying women’s jeans, due to the large difference between my waist size and my hip size. I can usually fit into men’s shirts, provided that they are not too long for my torso. I don’t often wear button-up shirts, due to the fact that if I can get them to fit my hips, they end up being way too big in the chest. Or, if it fits in the chest, it hugs my hips tightly.

I do feel that the ‘butch ideal’ presented in media and in blogs is that of a thinner, androgynous butch, who can easily fit into men’s clothing. While my face and haircut may be more on the androgynous side, my hips and curves are most definitely not.”

Obviously, I’m not the only one with a lot to say about body diversity in queer media, or rather, the lack thereof. I’d love to hear some thoughts from all of you out there in the digital ethers. Do you think we have a body diversity problem on our hands (and on our sites)? If so, what can we do about it, besides write overly-long blog rants? I bet you have some ideas.

Our Bodies, Our Binders: An Introduction to Chest Minimizing Magic

Hey, team! Remember how last week I promised I would keep you all posted about my Quest for the Holy Binder? Well, I think I’ve finally completed my mission – or, at the very least, I am satisfied enough with current results to rest on my laurels for a while.

Originally, I was just going to write about my own experiences with the magical “order, try on, get super frustrated, mail back/exchange, repeat” process known as binder shopping. In a fit of altruism, however, I decided that I should do what I can to help other butches/trans guys/gender-fuckers have a less stressful experience. As my version of “doing what I can” usually translates into “writing something for the internet,” I came up with a sort of Binding 101 post for my Diffuse 5 fashion column this week. Open your college ruled notebooks, kids, because class is in session:

Diffuse 5 Presents: Binding for Beginners

Dandy Butches, Gender Theory, and S. Bear Bergman – Oh My!

I try to not do this very often, because it feels weirdly like cheating (the blogger’s version of “double dipping,” maybe) and I harbor much internalized Catholic/Jewish guilt, but today I’m going to direct your attention to a piece I just wrote for Diffuse 5. Typically, my focus on D5 is informing stylish queers about sweet things to buy and where to buy ‘em. This week, however, what started out as an innocent, fun little post about dapper fashion somehow morphed into a full-blown feminist rant about social constructs of masculinity and femininity, institutionalized misogyny, and gender policing in the queer community. Clearly, I was wearing my (well-tailored) Serious Pants when I wrote this. Or maybe I just really need a vacation. I’ll let you all decide for yourselves. Das link:

In Defense of the Dandy Butch

Ugliest Outfit: There Can Be Only One

Take it from a pro: Looking good is hard work. Putting together an uber-dapper, super-chic ensemble can be exhausting, and that’s why you sometimes see people plodding around the grocery store at 10 AM on a Sunday like so many hungover wildebeests, draped in faded Old Navy Famous $5 Flag T-shirts and 10-year-old sweatpants with questionable stains.

But what if, for one magical day, the ugliest outfits out there were honored – nay, awarded - for their sheer, unadulterated atrociousness? Well friends, that day is coming on April 10th! Dyke Duds and Unbound Apparel have teamed up to bring you the Ugliest Outfit Contest, a celebration of fashion faux pas and style sacrilege. You could win Unbound Apparel clothing, an Adam Mardel CD, and the adoration of slobs – sorry, I mean “fashion-challenged” individuals – everywhere. The deadline for submissions is April 8th, which is quite soon, so you better hop to it. Oh, and did I mention that I’m a judge? I like to think of myself as the Randy Jackson of the panel, mostly because I enjoy calling people “dawg” and overusing the word “yo.” Here are the official rules:

Submit your picture at dykeduds.com/submit with “Ugliest outfit contest” in the title. Include your email, phone number, and name you wish to be displayed. Your personal information will be kept private and only used for getting in touch with you if you win. Photo quality will be taken into consideration. The picture must be of you. Nuddie photos will be disqualified.

By submitting photos, you are giving permission for your picture to be posted on all Dyke Duds and Unbound Apparel online materials.

Well, don’t just stand there – go put on something hideous, STAT!

Butch Suit Shopping: An Odyssey

There comes a time in every butch’s life when she must embark on a journey of mythical proportions. The road is long and fraught with peril: gender-segregated dressing rooms, perplexed sales clerks, hostile tailors, and colossus-sized price tags. I’m talking, of course, about suit shopping. This past weekend, my own epic quest finally came to an end and – spoiler alert – it was a happy one. But getting there? Well, it was rocky, to say the least.

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start): Two of my good friends from college are getting married in May, and I need something decent to wear. Generally speaking, decent people wear decent suits to decent events such as this (decently), and I was sorely lacking in that particular wardrobe department. The last time I bought a suit, it was my senior year of college. The year was 2008 and the U.S. economy had already begun its free-fall into the seemingly bottomless pit of recession and unemployment. While it wasn’t yet clear just how much the job market would come to suck in the following years, the Class of ’08 was acutely aware of the quiet, but persistent voice in the back of our heads whispering with sinister glee, “Wow, you are fucked.”

Against this backdrop, my one singular thought during the Spring of 2008 was, “Holy Mother of Perpetual Bills, I need to get a job.” That was my mindset when I bought my first suit – a women’s suit – from Macy’s and had it tailored to fit as a women’s suit “should” (according to society/patriarchy/Vogue Magazine) fit. I needed a damn job, guys, and I was convinced that I couldn’t get one if I showed up looking “too butch.” It was a sacrifice that I felt was unavoidable. And, well, after a few months of panicked Monster.com application-a-thons, résumé revision after résumé revision, and exceedingly awkward interviews (I even, in a particularly desperate moment, interviewed at Abercrombie and Fitch), I did get a real Big Person job. Fortunately, said job came with a very casual (read: nonexistent) office dress code, so after that, Lady Suit was exiled to the darkest corner of my closet.

Fast forward to modern times, where I am now stubbornly entrenched in “I’ll never wear women’s clothing again and you can’t make me, nyah, nyah” territory. Unfortunately, in this territory, I was suitless. And what is a butch without a proper suit? She’s like a cupcake without frosting. A Christmas tree without a star. A lolcat without a cheezburger. It was a sad situation, indeed. But, until my friends’ upcoming nuptials forced my hand, I had avoided buying a new suit for three reasons:

1.) Suits are $$$.

2.) 99 out of 100 suits do not fit my dimensions.

3.) Men’s suiting stores are intimidating as hell.

So it was with great trepidation that I stepped into the suit department at K&G. I thought I would have a less scary experience there, as it was a store that sold clothes for both sexes, meaning I wouldn’t immediately be seen as an interloper. The guy who cuts my hair – an awesome tattooed, Rockabilly lesbro who shares my love of comic books and women – suggested this store to me as a good place to get suits on the cheap. He’s a husky dude, I’m a husky butch, so it seemed the size options there would work for me. Not so much. First off, finding a suit in 46S that didn’t hang off my shoulders like football uniform pads while also somehow straining against my chest was a Herculean task. When I did find a few jackets that fit me the way a human being’s clothing should fit, the pants they came with were either too tight on the hips or too massive in the legs. (BTW, “wide leg” suit pants? Really, people? I know we’re experiencing a 90s revival right now, but some things – like MC Hammer pants – need to stay dead.)

The cherry on top of this Suck Sundae was my fitting room experience. In this store, the men’s room and the women’s room were right next to each other (both located at the back of the men’s suit section), so I figured I might as well go into the women’s room since I’m, you know, a woman. My mistake. As I was walking in, I noticed a teenage girl who was watching my approach with the sort of wide, fearful eyes usually reserved for a wildebeest stampede or Genghis Khan’s invading army. The second I got too close, she snapped, “This is for FEMALES!” Already emotionally exhausted and in no mood to argue that I did indeed have all the anatomical trappings of “female,” I muttered something unintelligible and looked away. My GF, however, swooped in like a femme fighter pilot and declared to Lil’ Miss Nosey that I was “fine,” and then pushed me in the direction of a stall. She later informed me that she stood outside the curtain while I changed, giving the girl a death look until she finally slunk away in embarrassment. This, my friends, is why every butch should have a shopping wingfemme.

After all that, K&G ended up being a total bust. We moved onto Plan B – Men’s Wearhouse. I had really hoped to avoid that chain, since I’ve had bad past experiences with rude, unhelpful sales clerks who treated me like an alien life form, but desperate times called for desperate measures. When we first got to MW, it seemed this experience was going to echo the last one. Nobody was helping me. The sales clerks around us pretended they couldn’t see our queer little group digging through endless rows of suits. Then, just when all seemed lost, one brave clerk stepped forward and asked if we needed help. I told him the dimensions, styles, and colors I was looking for and he went to work. I was taken aback; this guy was treating me like I was any other customer. Maybe he thought I was a man? Well, that illusion was shattered when he introduced himself and asked for our names; he didn’t flinch when my butch buddy and I told him ours. Wow! This was really happening! In the flurry of trying on different jackets, pants, and vests, I didn’t even realize that he was dropping subtle hints into the conversation: mentioning where he and his “partner” lived, talking about how much he loved the Western part of the state where I grew up – particularly Northampton. My GF and friend later informed me that the sales clerk most definitely played for Team Rainbow. Talk about finding allies in enemy territory! Boston area butches, if you’re in need of a suit, call the Men’s Wearhouse in Medford and ask if Woon Cheul (pronounced “Winchell” is working). He’ll take care of you.

Finally, the impossible was achieved: I found a suit that fit me – or rather, would fit me with a little tailoring. The older gentleman who was the store’s “master tailor” was far less friendly towards me. Unsmiling, he followed the clerk and my fitting instructions with the sort of body language that suggested he really didn’t want to touch me. The gay, you know, it’s totally passed through bodily contact. He kept trying to walk away at every opportunity and Woon Cheul had to keep calling him back to tell him he wasn’t done taking my measurements. My GF was annoyed, but my mindset was more, “Whatever, fuck this douchenozzle – I have a suit.“A suit that, in the end, cost about three times the amount I wanted to spend, but a suit nonetheless. (Good thing I like PB&J and Easy Mac.)

A week later, we returned to pick up my beautiful, tailored, black pinstriped three piece suit. It fit perfectly and I was elated. The cherry on top of this Stupendous Sundae was that one of the same sales clerk who had been afraid to approach me a week earlier came right up to greet me with a big smile, even magically remembering my name. My GF pointed out that I may have “popped his butch customer cherry.” Next time somebody who looks like me walks into his store, maybe he won’t hesitate to help them.

And that, my friends, is what we call progress.

In Which This Butch Gushes Shamelessly About Her Love Of Hats

We cover a lot of heavy topics here at Buzz Cuts and Bustiers, from coming out and living with STDs to gender dysphoria and healthcare inequality. Sometimes, we just need to break up all the Serious McSeriousness with a light, frivolous, fun post, ya know? Well, I don’t have any new Dita Von Teese pictures to share with you (much to my dismay), so let’s talk about something else we all enjoy drooling over: hats!

Even the straightest of the straights and the freshest of the babygays know this to be a fact – dykes fucking love hats. It’s encoded into our Gay Gene, much like our innate need to over-analyze every sexual act or our inability to maintain long fingernails. Go into any lesbian bar on a Saturday night and you’ll see more hats than this guy could fit on his head. Baseball caps! Fedoras! Flatcaps! Beanies! Even cowboy hats, worn ironically or sincerely! The Mad Hatter was totally queer (look at that sassy pose).

Full disclosure: I, Bren, am a hardcore hat addict. (I’m also a hardcore tie, vest, and action figure addict; my episode of Intervention would be the most dapper/geeky ever.) Last year, Goorin Brothers opened a store in Boston and my wallet trembled in fear. If you’re a dyke – particularly a butch – who hasn’t yet heard of Goorin Bros. and is on a budget of any sort, stop reading now. It’s the chapeau-lovers answer to a candy store, or rather, a candy store where the best candy costs like $100. I really feel like I should just have an open tab at their Newbury St. store; I already have a customer loyalty card (only six more hats until my freebie!), which is just as dangerous.

Last weekend, I visited Goorin with my GF and a butch buddy of mine. We were the only customers in the store and the clerk was a fellow gender-nonconforming queer, so we had a blast trying on all manner of hats. Oh, should I say, my buddy and I tried on hats while my GF gave us the Femme Caesar thumbs up or thumbs down. Due to my ridiculously tiny head, which makes finding a good hat (fedoras particularly) a challenge, I got way more thumbs down. Or maybe she’s just a tougher critic when it comes to me; who knows? I finally ended up with the Lucas flatcap, while my buddy got the Andrew fedora. We were quite the stylish group, if I may say so myself.

When I asked my awesome butch, stud, boi, and genderqueer Twitter friends what kind of hats they like to rock, I got answers as diverse as our big LGBT family. Let’s explore some of our favorites, shall we?

The baseball cap. A wardrobe staple for sporty dykes everywhere, baseball caps are a great casual hat to throw on when you’re working outside, running to the store, or having a bad lesbian hair day (we all have ‘em, even us short-haired types). Fitted or adjustable (or “snapback,” as the kids call it), there’s a cap for every taste. I like the trucker look myself, despite it being tainted by Ashton Kutcher. (Totally buying that beaver hat, BTW.) Since I’m about as interested in sports as I am in men, none of my ball caps have athletic logos on them. But I don’t like the plain Jane look either, though it can look kinda cool and vintage. So what kind of baseball caps do I rock? Superhero ones, ‘natch. Geek: wear it loud; wear it proud.

The flatcap. Also known as the driving cap, ivy, cabbie, or scally, flatcaps are my personal fave for adding a dash of dapper to any outfit. I have roughly 40 million of these guys tumbling out of my closet: plaid ones, striped ones, wool ones, cotton ones, linen ones, you name it. I like pairing them with a suit vest and tie for a sort of turn of the century casual gent look. The flatcap seems to be a popular choice for butches, based on my Twitter research and the crowd at most Boston queer events. And fellas, let me tell you – the femmes go crazy for them. Just putting that out there.

The beanie. Beanies are classic cold weather gear, but they’re not limited to blizzard conditions. I see dykes beanied-out right in the middle of July. While I get hot just looking at them (not necessarily in a sexy way), many can totally pull off the SoCal hipster-skater look. We queers are versatile like that.

The cadet. Atten-TION! At ease, soldier. The cadet, which also goes by the army cap or the unfortunate “Castro” – a shout out to that stylish Cuban – is a favorite of socialists and hip young urbanites everywhere. I have a Kangol cadet that I sometimes think I look really awesome in and other times feel really dumb in, so your mileage may very.

The fedora. This may be one of the hardest types of headwear to pull off. Do it right, and you look like a super classy, Sinatra-esque smooth operator. Do it wrong, and you look like an aging rock star and/or a douchebag. I recommend saving your fedoras for dressier outfits – a full suit, or at least something involving a button-down. If you’re pairing your fedora with a T-shirt (or, worse, a sweatshirt), you’re gonna look kinda toolish. Just sayin’, man, just sayin’. Since fedoras are not my everyday hats and can be quite pricey, I only own a couple right now. My spring/summer fashion goal is to procure a straw fedora that doesn’t look completely ridiculous on me. I’ll keep you posted on my search.

But enough about me (not that you could ever get enough of me, amirite?) – what are your favorite hats? How do you rock ‘em? Pics or it didn’t happen!

The Joy Of Butch Underwear

Today, I’d like to discuss a topic that’s very close to my heart, and by “heart,” I mean “nether regions”: underwear for butches, studs, and other MOC people who have butts. You might be wondering how and why I decided to dedicate an entire post to something as seemingly mundane as skivvies, unmentionables, tightie whities, bloomers, or whatever cutesy nickname you prefer. Maybe you’re not aware of this, but speaking in general terms, butches love clothes. Some of us may even be a wee bit obsessed. My theory? After x number of years spent being forced into skirts, heels, bows, and other girly trappings, being able to finally dress the way you like and feel is a goddamn exhilarating moment. Some of us never come down from that high and will most likely spend the rest of our lives eagerly asking our oh-so-patient GFs whether Plaid Shirt A or Plaid Shirt B looks better with Tie C.

One of my favorite articles of clothing to buy (besides shirts, ties, hats, boots, sweaters, vests, sweater vests, and jackets) is underwear. I just can’t get enough, though the overflowing top drawer of my dresser might beg to differ. I love the variety of styles, patterns, colors, and fabrics; I own boxer, boxer briefs, and athletic trunks, but I’ve been favoring boxers as of late. Another thing I love? How downright studly I feel in a crisp new pair of boxers, with the waistband peeking out the top of low-slung jeans (pro tip: femmes love this, too). I feel like a champ.

For me – and, I would wager, for many butches – undies were the Last Frontier of masculine fashion to be explored on my pioneering journey of personal style (go West, young butch). Underwear shopping in person, far away from the safe, anonymous bosom of the internet, is a universally awkward experience. You’re basically forced to choose your most intimate items of clothing in a very public setting and then present them to some random cashier. “Hi *squints at name tag* Mackenzie! Thanks for ringing me up today. Here are some things that I’m going to put in my pants.” Now add in the nervousness/full-blown panic that comes with purchasing clothing from a section of the store that you supposedly don’t “belong” in. “Hi *squints at name tag* Steve! Thanks for ringing me up today. Here are some masculine-gendered things that I’m going to put in my pants, on top of my female sex organs. Can you break a $20?” So it’s no wonder that many of us make the switch to men’s underwear long after we already made the switch to, say, men’s pants or shirts.

I wish I had some really spectacularly wise advice to offer here, but all I can do is shrug and say, “You gotta get over it, buddy.” Or, I can also shrug and say, “The internet is your best friend; treat her well.” I buy a lot of undies online, but that’s because I’m lazy and buy a lot of things online. Don’t sweat over whether or not your new manly drawers will fit your womanly shape, because men’s underwear is sized the same way as men’s pants – by waist inches. If you know your jean size, you can figure out your boxer size. Most U.S. manufacturers use a conversion chart like this:

XS: 26-28

S: 29-31

M: 32-34

L: 36-38

XL: 40-42

…And so on. Now for the fun part – choosing your butch underwear style. I’ve outlined the pros and cons of each option below. Why? ‘Cause I love ya.

Boxers. These roomy bloomers are my personal favorite for a couple reasons: 1.) They provide ample leg room for my big ol’ thighs and 2.) the waistbands don’t roll down over my birthin’ hips. Basically, boxers are good for chubby (though I prefer “solid”) butches like me. Here are some of my recent picks (yes, they’re all from American Eagle, because I’m a brand snob, and yes, now you can more easily undress me in your mind). For those of you who don’t like the wide leg opening on traditional boxers or wear skinny jeans (I’m trying not to judge), there’s a new slim fit boxer style to consider.

Briefs. Full confession: I can’t look at briefs without thinking “Dad underwear.” This probably comes from growing up in a household where my father’s mountain of identical white Hanes briefs towered over each laundry day. I love him, but my Dad isn’t the most fashion-forward guy out there. While this style isn’t for me, there are plenty of butches who rock it and I’m sure look just as hot as Gina Gershon in Bound.

Boxer briefs. My informal Twitter poll (as opposed to all those very formal Twitter polls out there) found that this is the most popular style amongst MOC people who follow me and are therefore awesome. Boxer briefs pair the close fit of briefs with the leg opening of boxers. My favorite boxer briefs are from H&M and have superheroes on them (they currently only have Superman in stores, which is unfortunate, because Superman sucks). One of the best things about men’s underwear is, after all, the endless graphics possibilities. And the extra room for packing (link awesome, but NSFW).

Trunks. To complicate things further, there’s something between briefs and boxer briefs: the trunk. There are low rise and athletic styles, all of which fit snugly. I don’t recommend these for butches with big thighs, as the short leg openings will roll up awkwardly when you’re sitting. They’re great for playing sports or working out, though, and have the smallest “banana pocket” (gross) of all your options. Keep in mind that trunks don’t have front openings, so if you wanna pack and play on the go, these might not be your best bet.

A brief (heh) note: Wearing men’s underwear, much like wearing anything, is not a prerequisite for being butch. If you wanna sport a lacy G-string under your cargo shorts, then you do you, and don’t let anybody tell you you’re “not butch enough”. Gender policing isn’t cool, people. </after school special>

Because I’m a social media addict, I just had to ask my Twitter followers lots of inappropriate underwear-themed questions. A couple of these were, “Do you like wearing men’s underwear? Why or why not?” Here are some of the fantastic responses I got:

“Wear them every day. Love it. Makes me feel more in tune with my body.”

“Men’s underwear is all I wear. I prefer boxer briefs and athletic trunks. They fit your body better than boxers.”

“Boxer briefs. I wear all men’s clothes. Can you imagine taking off my clothes and seeing a thong? Have to wear men’s underwear. Plus way mire comfortable. Boxer briefs better than boxers don’t like #freeballing.”

“Yes I know I do. They’re more comfortable than women’s underwear and aren’t pink with hearts and shit.”

“LOVE it. They make me feel sexy and confident. Unlike women’s underwear, they make me feel more like myself. Just the right amount of masculinity.”

“I haven’t worn women’s underpants in years. Men’s [are] more comfortable in so many ways. Also, they last longer. #thriftybutch”

“Yes, because it’s comfortable and makes me feel hot.”

Would you too like to wax poetic about your intimates? Share a sonnet on your skivvies? Go wild and crazy in the comments! And if you really wanna improve my Google Image Search results, pics are welcome and encouraged. Stay sexxxy, my friends.

The Butch’s Guide to Tailoring

Gather ’round, my butch brethren, for I come to you today to discuss an important, yet often neglected person in the lives of masculine-of-center queers: the tailor.

Some of you younger dykes might think that tailoring is an old-timey skill that only Amish people or RPG characters care about nowadays. (Sidenote: the first Google search result for “tailoring” is, disturbingly, a link to a World of Warcraft page; I weep for the future.) But for those among us who aren’t statuesque models that can just “wear it off the rack,” a tailor is the last line of defense between you and an embarrassingly ill-fitting outfit.

You might be thinking, “So what if my clothes don’t fit perfectly? This crazy blue and green space marble will keep a-turnin’ anyway.” This is true (or at least I think it is, but it’s been a long time since I’ve taken physics or geography or astrology or whatever class you learn that Earth stuff in). But let me ask you this, Mr. Smarty-Butch: do you really want to go on a first date looking like you borrowed your dad’s suit? Do you want to go to a job interview with your jacket sleeves flopping all around like Dopey of Seven Dwarves fame? Unless your date is a clown or you’re applying for the position of Chief Clowning Officer, the answer is no.

Now you might be thinking, “OK, enough with the clown jokes already; I get it. But Bren, having stuff tailored is expensive and I’m a poor performance artist/bike messager/community organizer/independent queer blogger!” I feel ya, homeslice. That’s why, unless you’re rich and have already donated to every known charity, I don’t advocate tailoring your entire wardrobe. With most everyday casual wear, you can get away with things not fitting perfectly. Shirt sleeves can be rolled up, jeans can be cuffed, and tees can be baggy. Once you get into the area of more expensive and/or dressier clothing, however, it may be Tailor Time.

So maybe you’ve finally accepted that your new suit jacket could use some customization. What should a consumer butch be considering while typing “alterations” into Yelp? Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting a tailor:

1.) Price. Think about how the cost and quality of the item you want tailored. If it’s a pair of $15 pants from Old Navy, you’ll be fine taking it to the dry cleaners down the street. If it’s a $500 suit from Bloomingdale’s, you need to find a more high-end shop. You gotta treat your threads right, buddy. I mean, you wouldn’t take the Queen of England to Denny’s for dinner (or maybe you would, I guess, depending on how you feel about the British monarchy), right? So never take your expensive clothing to a cheap tailor.

2.) What needs to be done. Make sure you actually know what part of your item you want altered, and how, before you get to the tailor. Walking in and just saying, “This jacket doesn’t fit right; can you fix it?” is obnoxious and makes you look like you don’t know your ass from your elbow. Saying something like, “I’d like the sleeves shortened a couple of inches” sounds much worldlier and will make the whole measuring/price-quoting process go more quickly. And if the tailor tries to suggest “taking in the waist” or “tightening the chest,” beware – he’s trying to turn your menswear into womenswear. Don’t let him dictate your style. Remember: you’re the boss here.

3.) Queer-friendliness. This is the scary part. While a tailor that specializes in menswear is probably your best bet craftmanship-wise, walking into a cis-male-centric space as a non cismale-bodied person can be an extremely intimidating experience. Any butch who’s ever been given the side-eye or treated with outward hostility in the mens’ department or a barbershop or a restroom knows exactly what I’m talking about. I recommend doing a lot of research beforehand. Look online for queer-friendly tailors in your area or just ask your MOC community members where they get their duds done.

If that doesn’t produce any leads, find the nicest-looking shop you can and deploy the age-old BAF method: Bring A Femme. It’s no secret that many a butch has been saved from rude sales associates and drunken meatheads by the wiles of a fierce and fearless femme. “Keep your head down and stay out of trouble” is a basic tenet of butch survival, but femmes? Man, femmes will stand there, armed crossed and eyes flashing, and call bullshit ‘bullshit’ right to its face. We love ‘em for it.

Hopefully, I’ve inspired some of you to go forth and get fitted. If you have any questions or think of something tailor-related that I forgot to offer my sage advice on, hit me up in the comments.

I’d like to close this post with a little shameless bragging about my new, freshly-tailored sport coat. It’s a tweed herringbone jacket from Rugby by Ralph Lauren, and it has elbow patches. Elbow patches are the shit. Observe:

Bam.

Look At This Bunch of Well-Dressed Butches and Femmes

This week, I learned three things:

1.) It’s extremely easy to put gaping, void-like holes in the walls of my new apartment during innocent attempts to hang pictures (sorry, new landlord).

2.) Moving to a first-floor pad means being more careful about not changing in front of the window (sorry, new neighbors – or, maybe, you’re welcome).

3.) Everybody who reads this blog is really, ridiculously good-looking.

Amidst the madness of my move last week, I put out a call/plea/cry for help asking readers to send in photos of their sexy selves wearing their favorite fall outfits. In case you didn’t know, fall is my favorite season. There are just so many great things that happen during the autumn months – Halloween, foliage, the anniversary of my birth (will furnish present wishlist upon request), pumpkin-flavored food products, apple picking, all the screaming kids outside my window going back to school, etc. But perhaps my favorite thing about the fall is the clothing. It’s time once again for flannel, blazers, cords, sweater vests, and all the other stuff that makes my heart soar and my wallet weep. If you prefer your fashion advice in numerical list format, check out my 10 Fall Must-Haves for the Style-Conscious Queer.

I must say, when I ask for help, you guys always come through in a big way. Without further ado, allow me to share all the mega-chic entries I received. It’s like our own little Fashion’s Night Out (emphasis on the “out”)!

Here’s Amy, looking colorful and relaxed in a tank and skirt, with a jacket thrown over her shoulder in a classic casually-fashionable pose. Amy writes: ” I live in the tropics, so there’s no fall here.  But I do carry a linen jacket this time of year to put on when I go from chauffering mom to studio voice teacher. This is one of my favorite outfits.”

Then we have Angela, who is rocking the hell out of that trench, scarf, and fedora. Angela has an awesome story to tell about this outfit: “My favorite fall outfit this year took me by surprise. Last weekend, while at a small-town pride celebration in the midwest, I found this fantastic hat for one of my butches. Great pattern, a bit of sparkle – what could be better?! She wore it and looked damn hot all day long. The next morning, as a joke – I put on the hat (I never look good in them!) – and got a surprisingly enthusiastic response! My normally femme-alicious self was all of a sudden transformed…it was fun playing with a new persona in the hat! I put my long hair up, hat on – with dash of dangly earrings, scarf and a fun jacket….voila! New favorite fall outfit.”

Next up we have a butch-femme style two-for-one deal (don’t you just love a bargain?) with E and Amanda. Amanda gets an A+ for her essay: “This fall, we go back to school in style. E keeps it casual in well-fitting jeans and an easy, plaid button down. Her accessories – specs, watch, belt buckle – blend function and nerdy style in a way that says, “Yes, I’ve done my homework.” Amanda brings summer dresses and all eyes to the front of the classroom by donning leather boots, a denim jacket, and a hand-me-down scarf. We’re queering up the classroom in different ways, from different states.”

Last, but certainly not least, is Ashley, CEO and founder of Diffuse 5 and Boston’s unofficial Lesbian Wrangler. Ashley gets mondo points for combining an argyle sweater and a blazer, two of the greatest items of dyke clothing ever. Applause!

What an excellent and well-dressed collection of queerfolk, amirite? Thanks to all of you for sharing your style with the butch-femme webiverse!

As a bonus, I’ve thrown in a few shots of myself wearing some of my favorite fall items. Mine don’t look nearly as nice as the ones above, since my digital camera somehow died during the move, so all I had to use was my not-very-smart-when-it-comes-to-photography smartphone. Grainy pics, ahoy!

Here I am wearing one of my new(est) plaid shirts, bootcut jeans (skinny jeans = bad), a black tie (skinny ties = good), and a wool vest that I scored for $12 at Buffalo Exchange last week. Yes, that is a Dark Knight poster in the background.

Orange is the color of fall, people, and here I’ve managed to get it into my plaid AND my tie. Success. I’m also werqing a brown menswear fedora that still needs the perfect blazer/sportcoat to compliment it. That search continues…

My new greatest accessory: A wooden watch by Flud. I can’t wait to wear it while jumping into a big pile of leaves or chowing down on pumpkin pie.

Speaking of pie, here’s my lady modeling the newest addition to her fall wardrobe: a vintage-style apron. Yes, please.

Have a Happy Fall, everybody!

Do Your Little Turn on the (Fall) Catwalk

Kiddos, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that it’s thiiis close to being Fall, AKA the Season Superior to All Others (an indisputable fact). I’m also thiiis to moving into my new apartment located in a very gay-friendly neighborhood. The bad news is that I’m still in the fray of the packing/cleaning/sobbing-quietly-while-rocking-back-and-forth-in-a-corner phase of moving and I don’t have the time/mental fortitude for a proper post this week. I’m very sorry and will buy you all flowers to apologize once I become rich.

The post that I originally planned for this week (now postponed til next week) was about fall fashion – specifically, butch fall fashion, as I am butch and really don’t understand the mysterious trinkets and baubles that they sell in the women’s side of stores. I was going to take pictures of my autumnal wardrobe additions thus far, but I forgot and now they’re all packed up in boxes and bags with the rest of my life, so that’ll have to wait.

But wait, there’s more good news! In a fit of magnanimity, I’ve decided that it doesn’t have to be all about me all of the time (just, you know, most of the time). So instead of next week’s post focusing just on my style, I want to hear about your fall fashion choices as well. Butch or femme or somewhere in between, share your best fall clothing, accessories, or entire outfits. Pics are greatly encouraged! You can also email me your chic suggestions at prufrock1019@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter. Next week, I’ll put everything together and we’ll have ourselves one hell of a good-lookin’ new post.

Now, werq!