Searching for My Butch Mentor, Or, Being a Total Creeper

You guys, I’m having all kinds of feelings right now. Feelings about history and community and heritage. I got all Public Broadcast-y the other day and watched the new American Experience documentary Stonewall Uprising (thanks, free PBS streaming video). It tells the story of the 1969 Stonewall Riots – otherwise known as the Birth of the Gay Rights Movement and Also Pride Month (Gay Christmas) – through pictures, video, newspaper clippings, and interviews with real, still-alive Stonewall veterans. Oh, and it has a bunch of clips from old PSAs about The Evil Homosexual Menace to laugh at/be horrified by. It’s basically really friggin’ awesome and you should watch it.

After watching Stonewall Uprising, I got to thinking (as I sometimes do when there are no good Millionaire Matchmaker reruns on) about how damn lucky I am. I know it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, what with all the gay marriage bans and bullying and conservative idiots screaming on TV about our Agenda, but right now is the best time ever to be gay in America. The fact that I can kiss my girlfriend in public and go to a dyke club and wear mens’ clothing and NOT GET ARRESTED makes right now a million times better than any time before – or even right after – Stonewall.

Whenever I see an older lesbian, especially an older butch, I always have this overwhelming urge to run up to her and be like: “WHAT WAS IT LIKE AND HOW DID YOU SURVIVE AND WOULD YOU LIKE TO COME TO MY APARTMENT FOR DINNER; I CAN COOK MAC ‘N CHEESE?” (Note: I have yet to actually do this. Yet.) For example, I was in the grocery store a couple of weekends ago and crossed paths with a late middle-aged butch-femme couple. I immediately forgot about whatever foodstuffs I was planning to purchase and stared at them. Just stared, like a total Grade A creeper. I wanted them to look at me so badly, to see me as a fellow queer and a butch and, maybe, as family. But they didn’t. The femme glanced in my direction, but didn’t see me – or at least didn’t acknowledge that she did – and the butch didn’t look at all. They left the store soon after and I just half-heartedly poked at some loaves of bread for a while before leaving. I felt weirdly and acutely rejected by the entire interaction (or lack thereof). If they, the wise elders of the tribe, didn’t immediately recognize me as one of their own, did this mean I was somehow lacking?

All this has made me realize that I, age the tender age of 26-and-a-half, need a butch mentor. A diesel dyke Big Sister. A lesbian sensei, if you will. A part of me longs for the bar culture that you read about in books like Stone Butch Blues, where the old butches would take a newly-hatched babybutch under their world-weary wings and teach her everything they knew about being butch, dating femmes, and surviving the hetero world. Nobody ever taught me how to be butch. There was no one around to ask the thousands of questions I had about clothes and swagger and cologne and clubs and sex and coming out and being out and living. I still have a lot of questions.

I wish there had been a butch mentor around to help me buy my first tie (which was ugly), or deal with my first breakup (which was uglier). I wish there were a butch mentor here now, to tell me if I’m being a whiny little jerk as I write this.

Maybe I’m living in the wrong place (which is doubtful, as Boston is über gay), but I see almost zero interaction between young homos and the Stonewall era generation. Maybe the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts has sent all the older dykes off to the suburbs to raise their 2.3 children and their golden retrievers. Maybe they have no interest in singing karaoke with a bunch of drunken 20-somethings (but we’re fun!) in a tiny club on a Thursday night. Or maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places.

Beyond my own selfish intentions, I think this lack of interaction is something we should all be concerned about. I wonder how many babygays today even know what Stonewall was, and why it’s so important to our collective queer history? The thought that these memories, these flashpoints in the Gay Rights Movement, are not being passed onto the next generation is sort of frightening to me. If we don’t know where we’ve been, how will we know where to go next?


8 thoughts on “Searching for My Butch Mentor, Or, Being a Total Creeper

  1. Absolutely! I came out in 1972 at age 19. I’d be happy to share some of my personal history, I’m documenting at the moment, some will be blogged, but I think I have a book in me.

    • Thank you for reading! I think it’s natural to seek out those who are like us, or are like the “us” that we aspire to be. We butches just have fewer options for this sort of company, unfortunately.

  2. I actually found one, and I’m trying really hard not to be creepy or clingy or over-eager and maintain a reasonable butch exterior. We exchange firm handshakes and I want to jump up and down and squee (this may also be a fundamental characteristic of the generational split, and of course I didn’t.)

    Anyway, I just found your blog, am also in the Boston area. I don’t want to splash a bunch of details all over the internet, but I’d be happy to swap tips on how to find/found a community around here in this somewhat-of-a-butch-wasteland.

    • Hey there, fellow butch Bostonian! That’s awesome that you found yourself a mentor (and managed to not squee too much in the process). If you wanna share any info privately, you can email me at or send me a Twitter DM (@buzzcutbustier). Thanks! 🙂

  3. I went to a community band with my friend where people just come with their instruments and play together and, before I left, the only other butch in the room approached me. I can’t judge her age because she’s a butch and we look 14 for most of our lives, but she was significantly older than me. She couldn’t look at me without beaming. We talked a bit about music, and drifted closer and closer to each other until she had one arm around my shoulder. I’ve got a waiting list for physical contact, but I let her touch me and didn’t brand her as a creeper because I saw in her eyes exactly what you describe here, but with reversed roles. I could tell that she wanted to blithely go up to every gay kid she saw and smother them with kisses and tell them the secrets of the world and let them know,”hey, it’s okay to be this way!” Obviously society mostly frowns upon random stranger contact. Potential mentors have to restrain themselves as well, not just young butches looking for recognition and acceptance behind every corner. She was aiming to capture a baby butch, but I am taken by the best butch mentor in the multiverse, so our relationship did not continue after I lost my ride to the band. But had I been a lone baby butch yearning for the guidance and companionship of a seasoned butch, her positive attention would have dumbstruck me and I’d be listening to every word she’ll ever say right about now and attending every band practice in anticipation of hanging out with her. When I go to the grocery store, I see elders furtively glancing at me bright-eyed as their partner drags them down the next aisle, and when I’m waiting in line to order food, the butches will stand a little taller and speak a little louder as they try to shield their jubilation at seeing a young-them inhabit the same room. I do see older generations readily connecting with younger generations and hoping for opportunities to strike up interactions. Their problem is they’re just as shy and secretive as younger ones, and rarely as bold.

    • Tobes, thanks for sharing! I guess I never really thought that older butches could be shy/nervous around a young pup like me. That puts some things into perspective! Personally, nothing gives me a bigger thrill than connecting – either through eye contact, nods, or *gasp* actual conversation – with another butch while I’m out and about. Makes me feel part of something big, which in turn makes me feel all cozy and safe. Yup, I’m a sap.

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