September is movin’ right along, my friends. For little ones, that means it’s the beginning of a new school year – a time for freshly sharpened pencils, crisp notebooks, and Lisa Frank erasers. Ok, well, it meant all that when I was in grade school back in the Gay Nineties. If you’re a college queer, it means a whole new crop of bright-eyed freshman to awkwardly flirt with in your school’s GSA. Ok, well, it meant that when I was in college a frightening number of years ago, but it probably still means that now.
As I am an Old Person who no longer attends classes and can’t find the time/money/enthusiasm to work toward an advanced degree, all I can do during back to school season is reminisce about days gone by (old people fucking love reminiscing). I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve learned about butch life, love, and other gay stuff since I was a wee babydyke. It’s been about eight years since I came out, which doesn’t sound very long in Standard Time, but is an eternity in Gay Time. (Example of Standard Time to Gay Time conversion: One year of dating in Standard Time = 20 years of marriage in Gay Time.) Sometimes I’m amazed by how much I didn’t know when I first came out. I was such a n00b, guys! The road to becoming the Big Grownup Butch I am today, ’twas a long one.
In the spirit of higher learning, self-betterment, and all that jazz, I’ve compiled a list of 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was a Baby Butch:
1.) Get the haircut you’ve always wanted. Whether this is a buzz cut, a mo/faux/frohawk, a mullet (judging you), a Biebercut (judging you harder), or whatever floats your shiny new butch boat, get this ‘cut and get it as fast as possible. Spending years burdened by a gender-conforming cut you hate, just because you’re afraid to take that “final step” toward Total Queerification, sucks hardcore and will seriously hinder your swag. Speaking of swag:
2.) Learn the difference between confidence and asshattery. When you’re looking for masculine role models, don’t look to the popular jock at school or the cast of reality TV shows (unless that TV show is Iron Chef, because everybody on there is awesome). Those people aren’t masculine; they’re douchebags. Don’t be a douchebag. Misogyny, bragging about sexual conquests, getting wasted and starting bar fights – these are not good looks for anybody, and especially not for an aspiring upstanding butch. Find role models in community organizers, activists, artists/writers (ahem), and people who work to make this world a more positive place.
3.) Don’t crush on straight girls. Just don’t do it. Seriously, don’t. I see you doing it right now, stop. All the toasters in the world are not worth the resulting self-pity and sexual frustration. The “recruiting” mindset is not only based in pure fantasy, it’s also pretty disrespectful. Would you want some straight dude trying to “recruit” you? Didn’t think so.
4.) Being mistaken for a guy is nothing to be ashamed of. Do you know how many times I get called “Sir” by strangers? A whole lot. Do you know how many times I care? Zero. This would have been horrifying to me in my teen years, but now I look at it as a badge of honor, a public recognition of my masculinity. Plus, it makes for some funny stories to tell at the local dyke bar.
5.) Don’t be afraid to make the first move. Approaching an attractive lady for the first time is about as frightening as wrestling a rabid tiger in a pit filled with glass shards. Still, you gotta do it. Cowbutch up. No day but today, as you theatre queers say. Here’s a little secret that I’ve learned from my femme informants: an assertive butch is a hot butch. If you want to talk to someone, talk. If you want to ask her on a date, ask. If you want to kiss her and she seems to want to kiss you, too, then pucker up. Maybe she’ll say no; that’s OK. Rejection isn’t the worst thing in the world. I mean, it’s pretty bad, but there’s also disease, famine, war, and the Twilight books out there. Perspective.
6.) The sooner you purchase your first strap-on, the longer you have to practice with it. And practice makes perfect. Bonus advice: get a harness that’s machine washable; I recommend anything by SpareParts HardWear. And while we’re on this subject:
7.) Always, always, always have lube handy (pun intended). Buy lots of it. Gallons. (I can’t wait to see how many people find this site by searching for “gallons of lube.”)
8.) Lesbian circle incest will happen. It doesn’t matter if you live a city with millions of people or a tiny podunk town: you will date someone who is an ex of an ex/friend/coworker/roommate/teammate/regrettable drunken hookup. It’s just gonna happen. Accept this, make peace with it, and move on. And for the love of Sappho, don’t avoid awesome queer events just because an ex will be there with her new GF who is the ex of YOUR new GF. Just laugh at the universe, make out with your lady, and have fun.
9.) Take the time to find clothes that fit. Believe you me, I know all about how frustrating it can be to find mens clothing that actually fits your female-built body. Still, don’t just throw on a tent of an Old Navy T-shirt or your uncle’s ratty old jean jacket. There are clothes out there that actually look good on you; you just need to take the time to look for them. If you’re broke like 99.9% of the people I know, there’s absolutely no shame in thrift store shopping. And, if you can get second-hand clothes for wicked cheap, you can afford to make any alterations needed to get that perfect fit. Suits especially are worth the price of a tailor.
10.) Don’t “femme it up” to please anybody. There are many occasions when not looking butch would come in handy, such as winter break home from college, a job interview, a wedding, church, whatever. Some people may disagree with me, but I think it’s so worth it to just soldier through these situations in head-held-high butch mode (the obvious exception being when presenting as masculine would put you in physical danger). Compromising or hiding your identity to avoid awkwardness may work for that moment, but eventually all those compromises make you feel pretty confused, lonely, disingenuous, and generally shitty. If people can’t accept you for the awesome butch dyke you are, then they’re not worth your time, in my humble opinion. As the great philosopher and fellow Baystater Theodor Seuss Geisel once said: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”