The Beaver Whisperer and the Gender Presentation Speculation

Q: Dear Almighty Beaver Whisperer,

Some background: I have been out for about a year, and have only had one serious relationship. So I’m fairly inexperienced. I would say that I’m masculine of center, but will femme it up on a regular basis. So here is my question:

I feel like I don’t have a clear place where I sit on the spectrum of femme to butch. I work in a male dominated field, so I’m often required to do “butch” things like build things and paint and carry heavy things. I feel totally comfortable doing that. Then when I wear a dress or something with ruffles, it draws a lot of attention, which then makes me feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to pick, I like being able to do both. How can I feel more comfortable in my own skin in regards to presentation?

Thanks for everything you do. I do love reading your blog!

xoxo,
L

A: Dear L,

Butch and femme aren’t your only options. Not every dyke is clearly butch or femme, and neither do they want to be. You don’t have to make any decisions or try to be something that you’re not. You also don’t have to be a butch in order to date a femme, nor do you have to be a femme in order to date a butch. That said, there are many people who identify as “soft butches” who regularly wear women’s clothing and even some make-up while still feeling masculine of center. This may be where you fit in, but don’t try to force anything.

I’m a femme, and I have worked jobs where I’ve had to paint, load/unload, set up, and break down heavy equipment. I’ve built things, and I’ve worn a unisex uniform. None of these things made me butch. Butch and femme aren’t what you do, they’re who you are.

When you are dressed up in a dress or something with ruffles, and you draw attention, is it the attention itself that makes you uncomfortable or is it what people are seeing you in? What would you choose to wear if you wanted to look fabulous, but only for yourself, if no one else was going to see you?

You say that you don’t want to pick and that you like being able to do both. That’s great! You don’t have to pick and you do get to do both! Feeling comfortable in your own skin is an often difficult goal to reach. There are all sorts of reasons beyond gender presentation why this can be difficult. The best advice that I can give you is to continue presenting only in ways that you are comfortable with and be proud of who you are, even if you’re not sure who that is yet. If there’s something that you want to try wearing, try it. If you like it, keep it. If you don’t, donate it. It can be a long road to find the style that works best for both your body and your soul. You are fabulous, now don’t you forget it!

I’m glad you love the blog. I love being a columnist for Bren and Buzz Cuts and Bustiers. She’s a great boss, but she doesn’t pay me enough (read: anything). 😉 It’s ok – as long as we have readers like you, I’ll keep working for free!

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A Holiday Teese

Ho ho holy crap, it’s only three days ’til Christmas! When the hell did that happen?? Probably while I was engulfed in a twister of end-of-year projects, articles, shopping, planning, drinking, and all the Really Important Stuff that made me too busy to give you guys a decent post this week. ‘Tis the season for excuses

But before I hop on the Peter Pan Bus to Springfield (AKA the Ghetto Express) and a weekend with the family (wish me luck), I’m going to leave you all with an early present. I take absolutely zero credit for this, as it is the creation of the wonderful la.donna.pietra. Inspired by the ever-multiplying Ryan Gosling Hey Girl Tumblrs and the dykier Kristen Stewart version, here’s the lovely Dita Von Teese (my celeb crush) with a very special message:

Think she'll fit in my stocking?

Queery Christmas and Happy Homodays to all! See you next week!

The ButchFemmeinist: Winter Break Without Breakdowns Edition

Bren: Hey Maddie – Merry Holiday Of Your Personal Choosing!
Maddie: Hi Bren! Happy season of replacing natural life-giving daylight with lots and lots of candles and warm beverages and loved-ones-togetherness for those of us residing in the Northern Hemisphere!
Bren: Yes, just as our Founding Fathers would have called it.
I gotta confess something: I really fucking love this time of year.
Also, I’m an atheist.
Weird, yes?
Maddie: NOT WEIRD!
I identify with a wholly non-traditionally eclectic pastiche of THINGS THAT STAVE OFF SEASONAL DEPRESSION WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE RELIGIOUS ROOTS when it comes to winter holidays, so.
Bren: Good plan! I like presents and baked goods and pretty lights and claymation reindeer.
Maddie: It has less to do with my religious beliefs than my non-traditional/eclectic family and upbringing and my fragile brain chemistry, for me.
These are wonderful things, Bren.
Bren: Hey, speaking of families and upbringings and such, there is one part of the holidays that is très stressful: going “home.”
I say “home” because I really mean “where you grew up/where your family resides,” not “where you reside, hopefully very far away in a queer-friendly urban setting.”
Even the merriest queermos among us can only stomach so many arguments with our parents about hairstyles and clothes and “lifestyles,” ya know?
Maddie: I do know.
Or… I know, in the sense that I certainly have felt that terrible, soul-squelching moment of deflation when going from a supportive, affirming, queer-positive stew of chosen family to a hostile or misunderstanding environment.
Bren: (Mmm, stew.)
Maddie: I am lucky, myself, to have a supportive family that may ask some awkward questions whenever I decide to plop matters of queer sexuality down on the dinner table, but are generally as loving as I could ever hope for.
Bren: That is very lucky indeed! Hooray for your fam!
Was it always like this? I mean, what about before you came out?
Were you ever afraid of saying the “wrong thing”?
Maddie: Well, that’s probably just it: no, not really. I didn’t feel like I would be scolded for being my authentic self. I should clarify that my family bickers and accuses and misunderstands and falters in the support-giving and all that fun stuff, but there’s a pretty strong philosophy of accepting self and accepting others underneath it all.
Bren: That’s seriously awesome, yo.
See, for me, pre-coming out meant extremely unhappy trips home.
I was going from college in Boston, where I was able to be my free, dykey self, back to East Bumfuck, where I had to shove myself forcibly back into the closet.
It was painful. I was always miserable, always bickering with my parents about stupid petty crap, because I couldn’t be real about what was actually up.
It really killed holidays for me.
Now that I’m out, well, there’s still a lot of fighting, but at least it’s honest fighting, ya know? Shit is out there, which makes it easier to handle.
Maddie: Absolutely. Even though re-closeting wasn’t a big thing for me visiting home, I am definitely my most callous, petty, argumentative, sullen self when someone close to me is pushing me on a topic that I’m just not ready to talk about.
Bren: Right. So, I worry for all the babygays who aren’t out to their families and are going home for winter break.
I worry about their emotional states. I’m turning into a Mother Hen-Butch, I think.
Maddie: Well that is adorable.
Bren: Aww, shucks.
Maddie: I love that as a community we really try to take care of our own.
Bren: Somebody has to take care of us, and, well, it might as well be us.
What would you say to a babygay who’s facing a holiday like that? Any elder-queer words of advice?
Maddie: Brand-new fluttery little wings are oh-so-tender, and having to stuff them back down under something just when they’re starting to grow and stretch… well, it hurts!
If you are going back for an extended period of time, like winter break from college, keep in touch with your queer community.
This can be harder than it sounds, because people get so busy during the holidays and might be online or by their phones less than while at school.
So, I would suggest being up front about it from the start: see if one of your friends can make a pact with you to be in touch a couple of times a week. Just so you maintain a life-line with someone who reaffirms the fundamental rightness of who you are.
Bren: That’s a goddamn beautiful idea. I love it. A Queer Buddy Program.
Along those lines, I would highly suggest staying active on social networks during break, ESPECIALLY Twitter. No, I’m not getting paid to say this, BTW. But for real, Twitter has such an incredible, supportive, vibrant queer community.
I’ve made so many friends/contacts/indispensable connections on there.
And the best part of Twitter is that there’s ALWAYS somebody on to talk to.
Queer Twitterers never sleep, it seems.
Maddie: OH AND THE BLOGS. Don’t forget the blogs.
Bren: OH RIGHT, BLOGS.
Maddie: Wait, I said that even before thinking about how this is going to appear on a blog.
Bren: *Cough* Hrm.
Maddie: I don’t JUST mean BC&B, although, naturally, we love seeing your bright, shining avatars around here.
Bren: WE SURE DO.
Maddie: But web reading takes up such an enormous portion of any given day of mine that I have to count even the words of people I haven’t corresponded one-on-one with as a part of the queer community that defines me.
Really, one of the best things I can do to punch “reset” after getting all heart-poundy and blood-pressurey from some hostile little microaggression in daily life is to run on over to my favorite web writers and start breathing again.
It’s like going from a long shift in a refrigerated warehouse with mean coworkers right into a nice warm bath of identity-affirming, feminist awesome.
Bren: That would be a great commercial for spa treatments.
I agree, by the way. My blogs (not just this one) are a hugely important part of my day.
They ground me in the knowledge that I’m not alone and that are many others out there that share my thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Which is critical to remember when one is trapped in Heteronormland.
Maddie: THE UNHAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.
Bren: Aaaaand, let us not forget those other vessels for queer reaffirmation.
Um, the paper things. With words. Kinda rectangular?
BOOKS.
Kids, don’t forget books.
You can read e-books, if they’re less intimidating.
But check out authors like Ivan E. Coyote, S. Bear Bergman, Kate Bornstein, Joan Nestle, etc.
Carrying these narratives, poems, lives around with you can give you strength.
Maddie: Yes absolutely yes!
Books!
They’re handy in stuck-at-home-with-family situations because they’re portable and hide-able and bookmark-able and it can just be easier to go running off to your room to read a poem or two when you just need a pause in the norms-pushing.
Bren: Indeed! And, if your parents grill you, tell them it’s required reading for one of your spring classes or something.
Little white lies are sometimes necessary.
Maddie: Indeed.
Bren: Most of all, remember: This too shall pass. You’ll be back among your homo-hippie-socialist-college commune before you know it.
And if all else fails, spike the eggnog.
(Kidding.)
(Sort of.)
Maddie: I actually think that’s a very important point—you can’t change other people to suit your needs, but you can’t ditch family as freely as you can ditch other stress-producing people in your life. So it’s easy to feel stuck. But the great thing about moving into adulthood is building new family.
You have probably already begun that process, and even though being back at home might make you feel like you’ve lost all your progress, you haven’t.
You will pick it back up.
Bren: Yes! Coming out is a process and, like any process, there are some steps that are leapt and others that are tip-toed. But only you can decide if any of those steps go backwards.
And remember: There is no shame is taking your time. Just because you’re out to your entire dorm, that doesn’t mean you’re obligated to be out to your entire bio family. You decide the timeline for your own journey, and don’t let anybody shame you for not being loud and proud in every area of your life.
You’ll get there when you get there, and then you can look forward to a whole new host of arguments over Christmas dinner, like “when are you and [girlfriend/partner/etc.] giving us grandkids?” or some nonsense.
Maddie: Or you can look forward to the day that you get to choose if you go back at all, and for how long.
Bren: That too! All in all, choice shall be yours!
Until then, watch Home Alone on repeat and drool over how hot Brittany and Santana look in their Glee Christmas outfits.
(Or maybe that’s just my method.)
Maddie: Or light a lot of candles and stare into the flames until you regain a sense of peace and warmth and faith that sunlight will return eventually.
Bren: That too. Or you could donate all your extra heat lamps to Maddie, who clearly needs them.
Maddie: I keep meaning to throw a sunlamp party, but the instructions say to only use them in the morning, so it might have to be a fabulous boozy mid-winter brunch or something.
Bren: That sounds awesome. Guys, let’s make “fabulous boozy mid-winter queer brunches” a thing, OK?
Maddie: ON. IT.
Bren: On that note, I hope you all have a safe, happy, and queer-reaffirming holidays, dearest readers!
And if you need someone to talk to, hit up the @buzzcutbustier Twitter account. I check my phone obsessively and will see your Tweet.
Maddie: Stay safe and warm, beloved queerlings!

An Ode to Clark Griswold, My Butch Holiday Icon

I need to discuss something very disturbing with you, dear readers. Did you know that today is December 6th? Did you also know that I reside in Boston, Massachusetts? Did you also know that it was 60 degrees here yesterday? 60. Six zero. In December. In Boston. In this realm of existence. Might I remind you that this is after we had a friggin’ snowstorm Halloween weekend? I think that, perhaps, the wildly-misinterpretated Mayan calendar may be right after all and 2012 is it. The end. Fin. So I suppose if next year we’re all gonna die in a firey tornado-tsunami (tornami?) filled with ice and wolves and meteors, I really should make the most out of Christmas 2011.

In this spirit of celebration/impending doom (which I guess could be the spirit of any holiday that involves family), I’d like to dedicate this post to the greatest character from the greatest Christmas movie of all time: Clark Griswold of the classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

As you know, I’m usually all for respectful debate over the internet, but this is an exception. Please don’t try to argue that Christmas Vacation is not the greatest Christmas movie of all time. This is simply a fact. Yes, Home Alone and Elf and Muppet Christmas Carol are awesome movies too, don’t get me wrong. But, much like the Highlander, there can be only one superior holiday film and this one’s the champ. Cry me a sea of swirly, twirly gumdrops, Buddy.

While I’ve loved Christmas Vacation since my parents decided I was old enough to watch it (sometime in high school, I believe), my deep appreciation for the patriarch of the Griswold clan manifested much later, after I began to identify as butch. While watching it during one of my trips home during college (I can’t remember which year it was exactly – maybe Junior?), I suddenly found myself thinking: “This is the kind of parent I want to be. These are the kinds of things that I want to do for my family someday.” A rather bizarre thought for a 22-year-old who was terrible with kids (and at 27, small children still make me nervous), but there it was. I wanted to be the Clark Griswold of my make-believe fun old-fashioned family Christmas.

Someday, I too will raise Juliette Lewis.

Anybody who has the pleasure of being around me this time of year will notice that I’m a tad bit, um, into Christmas. By “into,” I mean I start trolling eBay for Ugly Christmas Sweaters around October, go an hour out of my way to find a Trader Joe’s and purchase Peppermint Joe-Joe cookies (SO GOOD), obsessively organize my Christmas Cheer iTunes playlist, plan entire evenings around looking at neighborhood holiday lights, and have a small nervous breakdown if the tree doesn’t get decorated the weekend after Thanksgiving. Just a small one. OK, maybe a medium-sized one. Maybe, just maybe, I can be a bit of a Christmas Nazi. It’s just, there’s so much to do and the season is so short and I want time to enjoy it; is that so wrong of me?

"ALL OF THE DECORATIONS SHALL BE MIIIIIINE!"

The great irony here is that I’m an atheist. A very firm one at that. Devout, even. Sometimes, people don’t understand how an atheist can love Christmas so much. Some might say, “You can’t have Christmas without Christ,” to which I reply with the popular-on-Facebook retort, “And you can’t have Thursday without Thor!” Just as I don’t have to believe in the God of Thunder to have a great fifth day of the week (though, as a Marvel fan, I am rather fond of him), I don’t have to believe in 8 lb. 6 0z. newborn infant Jesus to have myself a merry little Christmas. I love decorations and cards and carols and gingerbread and snowmen and Rankin/Bass stop-motion cartoons and giving/getting presents. Basically, I celebrate Capitalist Christmas. Got it, comrades?

"Get to the point, asshole."

Back to Christmas Vacation. Throughout his 97-minute adventure, Clark is hellbent on creating an epic Christmas for his family. The lengths he goes to in pursuit of yuletide perfection are Herculean, from magically hauling a 50′ pine tree from the middle of the woods (sans a saw) and stuffing it into the living room to actually inviting his in-laws to stay at his home for the entire holiday. Clark gets Christmas. In one scene, he risks life and limb to personally staple 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights to his roof and plunge the Chicago suburbs into a blackout. Did I mention that he does all this while wearing flannel and a down vest and looking like a complete maniac? This guy is basically my Ghost of Christmas Future.

You know you own that exact same outfit. And that exact same ball o' lights.

You might think that Clark’s actions are a bit extreme. And, of course, you’re supposed to, because that’s comedy and stuff. But while maybe it wasn’t a great idea to yank a back-up tree from the front yard without checking for squirrels first, everything he does is for his family – to give them what he didn’t have. In one scene, he explains that he wants to make things perfect for his kids because his childhood Christmases were always such a mess. As the product of a very dysfunctional Roman Catholic-Jewish family, I feel that. I’ve always wanted a big, happy, Rockwellian holiday and never really got it. So I daydream about how I’ll decorate the outside of my future house, which exists in some alternate-reality timeline where I will ever be able to afford a house. I imagine going sledding with my hypothetical children, who will be roughly 8-years-old at birth and fully potty-trained, able to dress/feed themselves, and capable of intelligent conversations about comic books. And I drag my girlfriend to places like Yankee Candle to look at blown glass German pickle ornaments and giant nutcrackers and $50 holiday table runners that we neither need nor can afford.

My GF makes this face whenever I talk about Christmas.

Now don’t get me wrong – Clark Griswold is not perfect. Yes, he upholds many ideals that I consider admirable – and, if I may, very butch – such as loyalty, hard work, dedication to loved ones, and maintaining a great collection of seasonably-appropriate ties. But he’s also hard-headed and has a tendency to launch into long, obscenity-filled rants in front of small children.

"PEACE ON EARTH AND GOOD WILL TOWARD ALL YOU FUCKERS."

And let’s not forget the whole “lusting after lingerie counter clerks while you should be shopping for your wife who you are very much still married to” thing. Don’t do that thing, folks.

This is NOT an approved butch-son bonding activity.

Despite these flaws, Clark Griswold remains my butch holiday icon, as well as the fictional person I fully intend to blame someday when I inevitably break several limbs while attempting to strap a 8-foot-tall plastic Santa Claus to my roof. Hypothetically.

"Shitter was full!"