The ButchFemmeinist: Gender Norms Edition

Note: Dear readers, we are stoked to introduce you to a new regular feature on Buzz Cuts and Bustiers: The ButchFemmeinist! We (Bren and Maddie, that is!) will debate all sorts of butch-femme topics – with a tasty feminist twist – in a chat format (we are *so* down with technology). First up: GENDER NORMS! As queers and gender outlaws, we’re uneasy about anything regulating gender expression, but as butches and femmes, we know how awesome playing those roles can be. How do we deal with that? How do we distinguish butch masculinity and femme femininity from heteronormative masculinity and femininity? Hold onto your garter belts and packing harnesses, folks, ‘cuz off we go!

Maddie: Hey, Bren!
Bren: Why, hey there, Maddie!
Maddie: I have a question for you. You like femmes, right?
Bren: I sure as shoot do!
Maddie: What is it you like about femmes?
Bren: That is quite the question!
Maddie: I mean, “femme” basically just means a dyke who doesn’t look like one, right? So is your favorite thing about them perhaps their indistinguishableness from straight girls?
Bren: I like so many things about femmes, but not one of them is their straight-girlishness, because I don’t see them as anything like straight girls.
Maddie: WHAAAAT? Do elaborate!
Bren: I mean, sure, they might wear the same skirts and heels and lipstick (all of which I like very much, please-and-thank-you), but under that is a way of being that is queer, queer, queer.
Maddie: And you’re saying you LIKE that queer queer queerness?
because, see
there was once this girl
who told me that when she met me (at a dyke bar) she knew I had to have been either straight or bi (I was the latter, at the time)
….because, she said, she was attracted to me. As in, the existence of her attraction was proof of a person being Not a Total Dyke.
Bren: Girl, that makes little to no sense whatsoever.
What does that even mean?
Maddie: Well, to me it meant, “UGH WHINE why are all the hottest girls straight?! I’ll put up with queer-ish girls since those are the ones who are attracted to me. But really, straight girls have the femininity and hotness market cornered. The more adjacent to straight culture, the better.”
(Because, as we know, bi girls are distinguished from gay girls by being queer-lite. No such thing as a radical queer feminist bi girl.)
Bren: BRB, need to vomit.
Ok, back.
You were saying about this douche you once met?
I imagine that the same sort of person who would drop a gem like “I’m attracted to you ‘cuz of the straightness” would question the very existence of queer bi girls.
Maddie: Well, she was a baby at the time. And had only had one same-sex relationship, with someone even younger than her. Hopefully as she matures and discovers more about the Big Wide World of Manifold Gender Identities and Expressions, Sometimes But Not Always Correlating to Sexual Identities and Expressions, she will learn a thing or two about her previous ignorance re: gay girls
and their AWESOMENESS
and DIVERSITY.
Etc.
Bren: TRUTH.
You know, this makes me think about myself when I was a wee babybutch.
Maddie: Storytime! Do tell.
Bren: I gotta be honest: I was kind of a dick.
Maddie: Oh no!
Bren: I was all gung-ho about strip clubs and porn (not the good, affirming, feminist kind) and checking out girls’ asses.
It was bad news.
Maddie: Hm!
Bren: But, in my defense, I didn’t know any better.
And here’s why!
I had no mentors. No old, wise butches around to explain the thing that seems so obvious now: butch masculinity isn’t a parody of cismale masculinity.
Or at least, it shouldn’t be.
So, who did I have around me as masculine mentors?
A bunch of college dudes.
I imagine your Chauvinistic Baby Butch had the same situation.
Maddie: WAIT BUT THAT IS SO CRAZY. Cause, see, I TOTALLY THOUGHT that that was the whole thing about butch identity, that butches are these female lady-girls who are, like, “Hey, I’m gonna act like a dude now,” so they, you know, parrot dude-things done by real, which is to say cis-male, dude-dudes.
Bren: Oh, my. How wrong you are, my dear femme! Because butches are so NOT fake dudes.
I agree with butch writers like Ivan Coyote and S. Bear Bergman, who regard butch as somewhat of a gender unto itself.
Maddie: Are you saying that butches can maybe have an organic, female-person-derived masculinity of their own? That can maybe be free of oppressive notions of gender?
Bren: Eeeexactly!
You sure learn fast for someone with a woman brain!
Maddie: Ha, ha!
Okay, wow, that sounds awfully hot.
Bren: Oh, it is. We are.
A-hem.
Maddie: In FACT that sounds an awful lot like, say, what I, as a female-identified, qualified-feminine, oh-so-very-queer lady am… attracted to. Not, you know, “males” per se, or people who “act male.” But a separate thing entirely.
Bren: Yes, and it’s interesting, because the queer femininity thing you’re doing? That’s what I, as a female-identified, qualified-masculine, also-oh-so-queer-but-not-quite-a-lady, am totally into.
Maddie: QUEER HIGH-FIVE!
Bren: *QUEERFIVE!*
Now, riddle me this, if you will:
Maddie: Go!
Bren: As I was saying, butch is not dude-lite.
Something that I can’t stand, really can’t stand, is when I hear “But if I wanted to date a man, I’d date a real one.” What would you say if, say, a fellow femme who isn’t into the butches were to say to you, “If you’re a lesbian, why are you attracted to people who look like men?”
Maddie: Well, ASSUMING I had some compelling reason for talking to such an ignorant person at all, I might explain it like this…
Bren: Oh, snap! You know what one of my favorite things about femmes is? You ladies are TOUGH. For real. You don’t take shit from anyone (including me), and you don’t take it while wearing stilettos. That’s hot as fuck.
Maddie: 1. WTF, butches don’t look like men, they look like really effing hot women being all like, “Suck my silicone, gender norms!”
Bren: I believed that person would, as the kids say, have been served.
Maddie: 2. There is an element of deliberateness that I go all weak-kneed for. Butches who have fully come into their own, who have a polished and individual style and way of expressing it, something that reflects an inner identity as well as an intentional craft, I frickin swoon. It is brave and it is defiant and it is CREATIVE and I love it.
3. There is also an element of this-is-who-I-am, that is not deliberate or studied at all, and I can’t tell you why I love that. I just do. You find me a butch who hasn’t quite embraced butch/masculine style yet, who is maybe still getting haircuts she hates and wearing clothes that aren’t quite right because she hasn’t found her role models yet, and my chest will still do funny things and I will want to hug her. I mean, why do you, hypothetical butch-misunderstanding gay girl, like girls who “look like girls”? I’m assuming and hoping it’s not actually because you are so very enamored of societal gender policing that you can only conscience the thought of being with someone if she toes that line obediently. That instead it’s because of something in the way those girls feel and smell and move and smile and look at you. Something about them as people. Same for me!
Bren: You know, that part about the butch who has hair and clothes she hates, because she hasn’t found her role model or her identitity yet? I was that butch for a long, long time. It’s difficult to deprogram yourself from a lifetime of “You’re a girl and this is how girls look/act/dress.” But once you do, once you finally at long last get that haircut and buy those boxer briefs and swag that swagger, it’s some sort of phoenix being reborn awesome cliché.
Maddie: Which! I would suggest is perhaps somewhat parallel to that day when you realize that you can make the CHOICE to look/act/dress “like a girl,” and do it on your own terms and in your own time and in your own way, and not because you fear being exposed as an ugly fraud.
Bren: On that topic, what do you, as a femme, think is the difference between straight femininity and queer femmeness, besides the whole liking other chicks thing?
Maddie: Choice.
Rather than compliance.
Obviously, it’s more complicated than that, in that there are, i’m sure, femme-presenting gay ladies who don’t think about it that way, who do have a lot of anxiety about appearance and pressures to comply with external expectations…
(just like there are a lot of butches who aren’t making considered, feminist choices about masculinity and misogyny)
(AND also straight women who see their femininity as a choice and a crafted performance, rather than obligatory)
…but for me, that is what makes queer femme-ness feel so damn awesome, and what made straight, heteronormative femininity feel gross.
Bren: I see. So, it’s like hetereonormative femininity is something you inherit, while queer femininity is something you adopt?
Maddie: Again, I don’t want to suggest that it is that cut and dry, but I would say that the widely-accepted beliefs surrounding heteronormative femininity are that it should be natural, it should be “real,” it should not be studied or crafted or an act to put on and take off—and that within queer circles there is more often an understanding that femininity is a choice and an art, and that “more natural” isn’t always equivalent to “better”
Bren: You know, I think that may be another thing that I love about femmes.
Their femininity is so strong, because they understand the art behind it. The study it so long and so well.
And the end result is a thing of beauty and of power.
Maddie: WE WIN!
You know, though, butches too:
because their masculinity isn’t compulsory in the same way as it is for cis men (and is, in fact, totally transgressive), I think it seems both more honest and more careful, more thoughtful.
Bren: I like to believe that butchness, at its core, is made up of all the best things about masculinity and masculine performance and none of the bad things.
Whether this is always the case, well, that’s debatable.
But it’s good to have goals.
Maddie: I think that it is a laudable goal, and that butches, on the whole, are a lot closer to that ideal than cis dudes. Across the board.
And I think that masculine-of-center people who are already in the margins, who are already transgressors, amongst them there is much more of an opportunity to boil masculinity down to its purest form.
Bren: I would have to say the same thing about marginalized feminine-of-center people and femininity. It’s easier to get a clear view of a performance from the audience, rather than from the stage.
It also allows us on the margins to reflect on the aspects of mainstream masculinity and femininity that we dislike, that we find regressive or damaging, and make a conscious choice to reject those aspects.
Maddie: YES.
I enjoy doing that.
I like to think, too, (although we most certainly fall prey to internal policing, which is an utter shame but very much the reality) that we give each other/ourselves a lot more latitude for mixing and matching from all different sides and angles.
Example!
You know those TOTALLY LEGITIMATE and WHOLLY SCIENTIFICALLY FACT-TRUTH test-things that are, like, “How male or female is your brain?!”
They quiz you on things like your empathy and spatial cognition and whatnot, and then spit out a percentage male and a percentage female, and the two numbers always add up to 100?
Like, “Hey! You are 38% male and 62% female!”
Bren: Oh, I know them well.
Maddie: SO MUCH BULLSHIT. SO MUCH BULLSHIT.
Specifically, the idea that the two numbers have to add up to 100. That the higher you rate in one means the lower you rate in the other. Why should one subtract from the other?
I like to think that I am maybe 89.6% female and about 37% male.
That’s something I get to play with much more in queer circles.
Bren: Well Maddie, I’d like to ask you one more thing, if I may.
Maddie: Anything at all, you courteous butch!
Bren: If you could give one piece of advice to anyone, butch or femme, who worries that they’re not doing their gender the “right” way, what would it be?
Maddie: YOU’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK, BABY, YOU WERE BORN THIS WAY!
Wait, no, just kidding.
Sort of kidding.
1. There is no right way.
2. Whatever feels true to the way you were born is probably the “right” way
3. However, what you are is also what you do and what you create and what you perform, not just some deep, innate, essential constant. Do what feels right for as long as it feels right and then find the next thing that feels right and FOR GOD’S SAKE HAVE FUN.
3a. Actually, maybe, that’s the most important part of my advice: HAVE FUN. GENDER SHOULD BE FUN. OMG IT IS SO FUN WHEN YOU START HAVING FUN WITH IT. GO FORTH AND PLAY, MY BEAUTIFUL QUEERLINGS!
And you, any parting words of wisdom?
Bren: That was some damn good advice, I gotta say. As for my advice, I only have this to say: Whatever you are, whoever you are, and wherever you are in your journey of identity-discovery, you only have to always, always, always do one thing: Remain the best possible version of yourself. Whatever that is is 100% up to you and no one else to decide. Be the you that you want to see in the mirror and the you that you want to spend time with and the you that will leave a positive mark on this crazy giant spinning dirt ball.
Maddie: Well I am just downright inspired now!
Bren: We aim to inspire! And entice! And other sexy, norm-defying things.
Maddie: ALWAYS!
Mmmmmmm norm-defiance.
Bren: Om nom nom.
On that delicious note, we’re all out of time for today. We hope you enjoyed the first ever ButchFemmeinist chat! Stay tuned to this channel for more queer goodness to come.
Maddie: Woohoo!

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Rachel Maddow Says Closets Are For Clothes, Not Anchors

Happy Discount Easter Candy Day, dear readers! Today, I come bearing a Moral Dilemma for you to mull over while you nurse that Cadbury Creme Egg hangover. As you may have heard from every other queer news site/blog across this crazy virtual land, Rachel Maddow wants you to come out of the closet. Like, now. Seriously. She knows you’re in there; she can hear you breathing.

In an interview with those wacky Brits over at The Guardian, Maddow – helpfully identified here as “one of the very few gay news anchors in America – well, one of the very few openly gay news anchors” (zing!) – drops this fat nugget of truth on us all:

“I’m sure other people in the business have considered reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing, but I do think that if you’re gay you have a responsibility to come out.”

Predictably, this quote has ignited quite the e-shitstorm across the queer community. It seems that everyone assumes she was alluding to Anderson Cooper, America’s favorite poster boy for the glass closet. Maddow, however, posted a “hold your rainbow-colored horses, pardner”-type response on her blog this evening:

“I wasn’t asked about Anderson Cooper, I didn’t say anything about him, he literally was never discussed during the interview at all — even implicitly.”

Well, that settles that! Looks like Rach will be invited to Coop’s annual Ugly Sweater and Pink Martini holiday party again this year after all. She went on to clarify that whole coming-out-is-a-civic-duty thing too, carving her Three Gay Commandments into a fresh stone slab from Home Depot (‘cuz she’s a lesbian, natch):

  1. Gay people — generally speaking — have a responsibility to our own community and to future generations of gay people to come out, if and when we feel that we can.
  2. We should all get to decide for ourselves the “if and when we feel that we can” part of that.
  3. Closeted people should reasonably expect to be outed by other gay people if (and only if) they prey on the gay community in public, but are secretly gay themselves.

I’ll give my fellow (if a gazillion times more rich, famous and worldly) butch credit here; she worded this very well. It was more of a gentle prodding than a condemnation of all those still hiding in that darkest of places. Thank goodness for that, because, having spent my share of years crouched amongst the moth balls, I can say that the last thing a closeted person needs to hear is: “Come out now or you’re a coward and a failure and a Bad Gay.”

I think the sentiment expressed in numero dos on that list should be sewn onto a million throw pillows and distributed at every Gay Pride parade, GSA meeting and women’s rugby match in the world – only you can decide when the right time to come out is, because only you know everything there is to know about your situation. It’s ok if you want to come out to your friends, but not your family, or your roommates, but not your coworkers, or your dog, but not your cat (I know cats can be kind of judge-y); nobody can tell you when and where and how to make that step, and if someone tries to, screw ’em (not literally, unless you think that would make everyone involved happier).

Now as far as having a “responsibility” to future generations go, I understand what she’s saying here and agree to an extent. We Queers of Today do owe something to the Queers of Tomorrow, but I think it’s on a much broader scale than individual decisions regarding coming out. It’s true that visibility is extremely important and the more here-I-am queers out there, the more “normal” (or at least numerous) mainstream society will see us as. However, I bristle a little at the suggestion that coming out is the only way to Make It Better for the future. For every People Magazine cover, there are thousands of people volunteering or donating to organizations that combat bullying, hate crimes, and political injustice. There is bravery and sacrifice in those actions, just as there is bravery and sacrifice in every coming out story, public and private.

Maddow’s third commandment? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Sorry, All Those Gay Sex Scandal Republicans That I’m Too Lazy to Name; you can’t hide in the closet while sniping those outside of it.

Enough from me. I bet you are feelings all sorts of feelings about this whole thing, dear readers (queers love feelings), so tell us about them. Sharing is caring.

Message From a Future You Cannot Imagine

More thoughts on It and the Getting Better thereof. To the proto-femmes and others for whom conformity is an option, but a treacherous one.

Right now, you do not know that it will get better. Partly, this is because the worst things have a way of seeming eternal. Partly, this is because you do not even realize how much you are suffering.

Your pain is somewhat invisible to you. To you, it seems like the natural order of things: logical, inevitable, appropriate. You think your loneliness is nothing but evidence that you are unattractive and unrelatable and uncool. You think that people who scorn you are showing their good taste. You think you have nothing to give.

You think if you ask for anything you will be denied and humiliated, so you refuse to want more than is offered. You believe that what is offered is an indisputable indicator of worth. You have concluded you are only worth the cast-aside scraps of affection you can scavenge.

You believe that anyone—everyone—has the authority to determine your value. That a single rejection proves you are not good enough. That one person not wanting you makes you a failure. You need to be every person’s every fantasy, and have no idea how much injury it is doing to your soul.

You do not yet know about butches. God, I cannot wait until you find out about butches. You do not yet know about the chest-achingly, gut-meltingly, knee-tremblingly sexy people out there—some of whom are giving, are understanding, have also been through the fire, who treat their partners as allies and not adversaries, some of whom will complement you on more levels than you currently know exist. (And—to the dear butch, genderqueer, transmasculine, masculine-of-center, gender-non-conforming, beautiful beautiful people: please live. Please. We need you. You: we need you. We will discover so much more beauty when we discover you. We will recognize so much more of ourselves when we meet you. We will understand just how much we have to give when we find you.)

You do not know how right it will feel when you become subversively, defiantly queer. Same-sex attraction is a thing you acknowledge, but it does not interrupt your need for patriarchal approval. You think that not-straightness does not have to mean queerness. You think queerness makes everything worse, is the problem. You cannot imagine that it is the solution. That it is freedom.

You think that rejecting those authorities, defying those norms, means giving over to all the parts of yourself that you find despicable. You think that toeing their line keeps you from being a revolting version of yourself, unlovable through and through. You do not realize that freedom will allow you to unfold into your best self. You do not realize that rejecting the systems that oppress you will ignite and fuel something inside—will illuminate you irresistibly.

There is bad news.

First, it gets worse. First, you will be battered and distorted and minimized by these forces you are begging to love you. You will be crushed and twisted. You will be beyond recognition. It will be nauseating and bleak and confusing and hopeless and everything will feel more wrong and unsalvageable than it ever has before.

But. When that happens—in amongst the wreckage, you will find the core, the pit, the tiny, irreducible kernel that refuses to yield, that has been buried somewhere all along. It is then that it takes over. It is then that you recreate yourself: it is then that you finally become yourself.

That is when it does not just get better, but when you begin to make it better, fiercely, by your own hand, day after day. The process is quiet and slow and unmistakable.

And then one of those days you are going to notice that you are THERE. That it would take you hours to name all the people who love and understand and value you. That you love and understand and value yourself. That your body is hot as fuck, as much for what it can do as for how it looks. That your mind is original and sharp and ever-expanding. That you can put together a killer look on a nothing budget, and cook and write and dance and resist. That the love you offer others is accepted and cherished. You’re going to think about your community of courageous friends, and the fabulous older femme who wants to take you under her sequined wing, and the acquaintances who admire you, and the strangers who relate to your words, and the sexual partners who made you feel like more of a human being, not less of one, and the people you trusted with your heart and who hurt you in unimaginable ways but did not break you, did not reduce you—and you will sit on the deck of the house you share with your radical queer co-matriots watching spring in its very moment of arrival and feeling like you are in the center of all the love of the universe: that all of it, ALL of it is rushing towards you, that all of it, ALL of it is radiating from you and beaming upon all creation, and you will not be able to breathe for joy and for gratitude and for wonder that this is your life. You will.

You will still share the world with many forces who seek to diminish you, but you will call out their bullshit and will not internalize their oppression. You will spit fire and hold your ground.

You will discover that beauty, sexiness, femininity, charm—all those things you worry you do not possess—are not things at all, but performances to be mastered. You will perform that shit like nobody’s business and come to understand that even when a performance is not constant it is still very real.

You will begin walking away from the bad and walking towards the good. You will begin building on the good. It will still be hard. You will be up for the challenge. You will remind yourself thousands of times that every failure is a step toward success.

You will find your people. You will become all the things you once admired and envied. You will live the fucking dream. You have no idea. You have no idea. It gets so much better.

Guest Post: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Being Bi

Bren’s note: Ladies and gentlebutches, I’m very happy to introduce our first guest post! This one’s from bad ass femme la.donna.pietra and continues the It Gets Better theme that started yesterday.

I grew up in a teeny little town in the mountains between California’s Central Valley and the Mojave Desert. Up until about six months ago, hardly anyone in GLBTQ circles had ever heard of Tehachapi; now, unfortunately, lots of people recognize the name in the wake of Seth Walsh’s suicide. I can confirm that it was not and is not a welcoming place for anyone who is even slightly left of “normal,” however one defines it. I didn’t meet the definition on a whole bunch of levels:  I was hopelessly insecure, spent most of my time with my nose in a book, had zero social skills, was devoid of any discernible athletic skill, and was really damn liberal. I was also very confused, because I liked girls. I really liked girls. I had hopeless crushes on several of my friends, but I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to be them or be in love with them or do… something… with them. I couldn’t talk to them or anyone else about how I felt, because I didn’t even know what I was feeling. See, I liked guys too. I dated some of them and had crushes on them, so I couldn’t possibly be a lesbian, but what else was there? My Health class vaguely mentioned this thing called “homosexuality,” but it was mostly for men (as far as I could tell), and was also quite bad (as far as I could tell). This was in 1992, by the way. The handy book my mom had bought for me so that she wouldn’t need to talk to me about sex or menstruation said that there was a thing called lesbianism, and it was okay, but as there was one paragraph on the subject in a 300-page book, it couldn’t be THAT great or normal. Clearly, I was hopelessly messed up and fundamentally confused. I read a lot of Anne Rice around this point and concluded that life would be much simpler if I was a vampire.

About halfway through my senior year, my hormones finally took over and beat my confusion into cowering resistance. I started making out with a good friend of mine. I was convinced that we were madly in love and that whatever I was, it was okay if she liked me. I asked her if she wanted to go to the senior prom as my date. She said yes.  I proudly bounced on up to the office to buy tickets the next day. My school, in an attempt to maximize any and all humiliation and/or social conflict, required that prom tickets be purchased in pairs. The person buying had to give the name of his/her date, and if the date was not a student at the school, then the person buying had to fill out a form to get permission for the presumably evil older lecherous date. My good friend had gotten her GED the year before, so she wasn’t a student. Point being: my high school processed all of this without batting an eyelash. It’s pretty bizarre to think about in this day and age of Constance McMillen and other GLBTQ prom rejectees, but I don’t think my high school realized that I, a girl, was taking my girlfriend, who was also a girl, to the senior prom, largely because I wanted to get into her black velvet strapless dress.

However. Custom also dictated that the names of all couples be written in glittery ink on a huge piece of butcher paper that was then strategically placed in the hallway so that everyone could ooh or ahh or sneer at who was going with whom for at least two weeks before prom. So everyone in the entire high school knew that la.donna.pietra was taking pietra.girlfriend to the prom. There was some buzzing at this, but I didn’t care, because DAMMIT SHE WAS GOING TO PROM WITH ME AND I WAS HAPPY!!! (My parents were delighted that I was going to the prom with someone who definitely wouldn’t get me pregnant.  They were slightly unclear on the subject.)

We went to the prom. She had a migraine, so we decided to leave early. I also realized that marching into a room full of super-conservative high school students with a hot woman on one’s arm was not, in fact, the great blow to the establishment that it might have seemed, but was mostly a way to piss a lot of people off. This was confirmed when we went out into the parking lot and discovered that my tires had been slashed. My mom came and drove us home. Two weeks later, my girlfriend announced that she was engaged to my first boyfriend. Confusion levels reached an all-time high. School was terrible, but there were only three weeks left of it. It had been terrible before, too, so not much had changed.

I got back together with an ex-boyfriend that summer, got turkey-dumped after leaving for college at UC Santa Cruz (GO SLUGS!), and spent the rest of my freshman year miserable, lonely, depressed, and confused. On the plus side, if you’re going to be confused about your sexual identity, the Bay Area is just about the best place to be.  Eventually, I started coming out of my shell (and my dorm room). I met some awesome people who made me realize that there was such a thing as bisexuality and it was just fine. I also realized that the only people I should avoid being attracted to were jerks, but it took a while for that to really stick.

And then!  I started going to all kinds of social events geared towards LBTQ gals! I even managed to get sneered at by REAL LIVE HOT BUTCHES for still dating guys, but I didn’t care, because I was having lots of queer-centric arguments with hot womyn about things I hadn’t ever dreamed I would ever be able to talk to anyone about, much less hot womyn, and some of them stopped sneering at me and turned out to be totally awesome. I chopped off all my hair, discovered I had a ton of cowlicks, grew it back out again, got better at hitting on women, got better at hitting on men, discovered the Internets, met a whole ton of interesting people, and got a lot more comfortable with who I am. I came out to my mom. She pretended she hadn’t heard me and kept right on treating me the exact same way, which may or may not indicate progress. I got a degree, a job, a husband, a lot of caring friends, and a bank account that gives me the opportunity to donate money to the Make It Better Project on a regular basis. Life got better.

It Got Better For This Butch

I know this is only my second post, but I’m already about to get all after school special on you. Bear with me, ok?

Tonight I finished the It Gets Better book, 352-pages of awesome inspired by Dan Savage’s groundbreaking viral video project. This project launched last September, in the midst of some seriously dark months for the LGBT community and really, for anyone who cares about the well-being of our youth. The news was dominated by a sickening string of suicides by gay or perceived-as-gay teens. There was so much grief, so much loss, so much helplessness. When I heard about Dan’s mission to show the world, via YouTube, that queer people can and do lead happy, successful adult lives, I was stoked. While bullied kids may hear “hang in there,” “you’ll get over it,” and “things will get better” from the grownups in their lives, these videos showed just how much better it can get. Like Dan, I wished that something like this had existed when I was a confused and depressed babydyke.

In that spirit, I want to offer my own It Gets Better story for any young (or not-so-young) queer (in all senses of the word) soul who stumbles upon this blog.

I knew I was profoundly different from most kids my age long before I understood the why behind it. I hated wearing skirts and dresses and felt awkward in most feminine clothing. I was a short, pudgy kid with glasses, a Jewfro, and a tendency to stutter when I got nervous. Oh, and I played Pokémon. Basically, I was a bully’s wet dream.

My first crush was a girl in my tiny Catholic school seventh grade class. At the time, I don’t think I even knew what lesbians were, and I certainly didn’t think that I was one. Nope, I just really wanted this girl to like me and be my best friend and be around me all the time and think I’m funny and smile at me and let me hold the door for her and maybe-just-maybe I had daydreams about saving her from nefarious villains. Nope, nothing gay there.

Middle school wasn’t just a time of budding sexual awareness, but self-awareness as well. What I was becoming aware of was this: I was a freak and almost nobody liked me. I had a couple of friends outside of school, elementary school buddies who went to the public middle school during my failed experiment in parochial education. There were a few kids in my new school who took pity on me and gave me someone to talk to at lunch, but for the most part, I was an outsider, a half-Jew dyke in a hetero-Catholic world, who got teased for being fat and closely resembling the SNL character Pat.

As bad as middle school was, it was a spring picnic in a field of daisies compared to high school. High school was the worst four years of my life, plain and simple. I returned to the public school system and, thankfully, my friends, but even they couldn’t save me from the bullies who were delighted to find such fresh new meat to tear apart.

I’ll spare you the gross details, since if you’ve ever been the target of bullying, you already know them. Name-calling, spitting, sick rumors, cruel graffiti in the bathroom, trashed lockers, garbage shoved down hooded sweatshirts, bus rides from Hell, etc.

In the midst of this, I was coming to a new, terrifying realization: I liked girls. I think my mother came to this realization long before I did, years before I would finally come out to her. One day in 10th grade, she cornered me in the kitchen and demanded I tell her if I were gay. I said no, which wasn’t quite a lie, since I wasn’t sure of my sexuality yet. She said, “You better not be” and walked away. Needless to say, it wasn’t an encouraging moment.

Last fall, when I was reading about Billy Lucas and Seth Walsh and Asher Brown and all the other, too many, teens who killed themselves because of bullying, one thought kept running through my mind: That could have been me.

Of all the years, 16 was the worst. I was at my lowest, my angriest, and my most self-loathing. I had no patience for anybody – parents, teachers, friends, myself. I wore spiked bracelets. I listened to a lot of Linkin Park and Staind. I wanted to die.

I realize that “I wish I were dead” is probably a phrase that most teenagers utter at some point, usually whilst being grounded or playing dodgeball in gym class. But some (too many) teens, gay or straight, really mean it. For them, the burden is too heavy and the road is too long. I get it. I’ve been there. When I realized I was attracted to girls, my first thought was, “Great, something else about me is fucked up. Something else about me is wrong.”

Here’s one of my starkest memories of 16: Me, locked in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the tub with a razor blade pressed against my wrist. I was ready to give up. I couldn’t visualize a future where someone as fucked up as I was could be happy, so what was the point? But try as I might, as much as I cried and cursed myself and my 16-year-old world, I couldn’t press down. I couldn’t make myself open up my own vein with a cheap razor I bought at the local pharmacy. Whatever final push was needed to finish what I started, it wasn’t in me.

I hated myself for being weak. That’s what I thought it was at the time, weakness. I thought I was such a loser that I couldn’t even do the one thing it would take to make all my hurting go away. It’s incredible how wrong I was. Today I know that what I had mistaken for weakness was actually strength, a strength so great that I didn’t even realize I had it: the strength to live, despite and in spite of all the abuse being thrown at me. Dying would have been easy. Living? Now that took some hardcore work.

You know how everyone says that life gets so much better after high school? Well, that old cliché is so damn true. The second I left those four walls and entered college, the world was a new place. I moved to a city full of weirdos like me and weirdos who were different from me and everyone was welcoming. I came out slowly, first to myself, then to my friends (who were 100% awesome about it) and, after college, to my parents, who are getting better about it every day. I joined my school’s GSA and shared my experiences with fellow queers. I went to drag shows and sex toy workshops and dyke nightclubs. I graduated and got a big person job and a big person apartment. I flirted and dated and felt joy and had my heart broken and then did it all again and again. I found a wonderful lady and wonderful friends and a wonderful cat and a wonderful, diverse community. I became comfortable in my skin as a lesbian and a butch and a human being. I lived (and continue to do so).

Don’t worry, kids, the after school special is almost over; I just want to leave you with a few self-evident truths to hold. The first is this: Those bullies, douchebags, asswipes, etc. that are making your lives suck? In a few years, they won’t matter in the slightest. Seriously. You’re going to be off being the best version of yourself possible and having these great adventures, and those losers are going to be doing the same lame stuff with the same lame people in the same lame places. You might even feel sorry for them someday. Maybe.

The second truth is this: Throwing away the future is no solution to the present. There was a time when the idea of ending everything sounded pretty good to me. That was before I realized that it meant ending everything – not just what was, but what could be. To give up at such a young age, before life has a chance to really become something substantial, is like closing a book before you get to the really good chapters. What a waste of material!

The third truth is this: No matter how alone you feel, you are surrounded by people who want you to be happy. Maybe you know them already, or maybe they’re still waiting to meet you, but trust me, they’re out there. There’s always someone to talk to about whatever you’re feeling. There are amazing organizations dedicated to helping queer youth, including the Trevor Project, GLSEN and the Give A Damn Campaign. There are adults in your school, community, church, internet forum, Warcraft guild, or wherever that will listen. I’ll listen. Seriously. If you’re feeling alone and need someone to talk to, you can post here or, if you prefer, email me directly at prufrock1019@gmail.com. If you write, I promise to respond. Butch’s honor.

The fourth truth is this: You are perfect. You are exactly who and what you are supposed to be. Don’t go changing for anyone, deal? Good.

It gets better? Hell yeah it does.

Our Mission (And We Choose to Accept It)

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that I’ve spammed the hell out of your favorite blog/forum/social network/subway station/bar mitzvah. Thanks for proving the value of shameless self-promotion! There’s also a good chance that you ID as butch, femme, stud, boi, AG, lesbian, gay, bi, queer, trans or a straight supporter of the gays. (Or maybe you were just looking for porn. Sorry buddy, but no dice; I recommend you try the other 5,789,048 sites that pop up when you search for “bustiers.”) Whatever your flavor, I’d like to welcome you to Buzz Cuts and Bustiers, a blog dedicated to the discussion of all things related to butch-femme lesbian culture.

So what exactly do we plan to do here? Glad you asked. The following is our Mission Statement (presented in an easy-to-read numbered list):

  1. To discuss issues affecting today’s butches and femmes, including politics, social justice, media representation, literature, fashion, music, and daily life
  2. To provide a safe-space to explore, question and disassemble the dichotomy of butch-femme and what these identities mean separately and together
  3. To share the butch-femme perspectives of writers from a wide range of gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, races, ethnicities, and geographical locations
  4. To offer readers the opportunity to share their own experiences through commentary and guest posts
  5. To become a resource and supportive community for butches and femmes of all backgrounds

Sound good? I think so, but I’m a bit biased. What do you think? What would you like to see on this site? Or better yet, what would you like to write for this site? We’re accepting suggestions and guest post submissions now and forever, so don’t be shy. The thing about a community is that it needs people to exist; let’s work together to make this the best little butch-femme virtual community it can be. Thanks, and I look forward to meeting you all.