Ask Your BFFs: Where My Butches At?

Where do the boyish girls like to hang out? Where do they shop? What kind of stores would I want to pretend I need to buy something in?

I’m pretty sure they are not out shopping at the shopping districts or malls. I guess butch girls are not into shopping unless they are being forced to hold bags by their femme?

If a girl wants to meet butch girls just in everyday life, where does she go? Are you all sitting at home on the couch playing Xbox?

Obviously there are the clubs and bars which are fine, but I am not talking places like that, where the intention is to meet someone under the influence of alcohol. I want to know where I might meet a cool chick just doing what she likes to do – which is…?

Bren: You’ve made a couple of false assumptions here – which is totally fine and understandable! Nobody is perfect, not even queer bloggers. First off, you’re assuming that all butches are interested in the same stuff and all hang out together in some tree house that they built with their own work-worn hands and filled with beer and footballs and flannel. Sadly, such is not the case. I’m afraid there’s no Butch Elks Lodge or Butch Skull and Bones (if there actually is and I haven’t been invited, I’ll be very hurt). We butches are unique and special snowflakes, each with our own hopes, dreams, and favorite place to buy khakis.

Speaking of buying khakis, let’s discuss your second false assumption: that butches hate to shop. I’m always surprised when people think that my femme has dragged me, kicking and screaming, to the mall just because I’m masculine-presenting (it’s actually quite the opposite; my GF has very limited patience for shopping). I imagine that this assumption comes from the whole “men hate shop, like kill buffalo, eat meat, grunt grunt” stereotype that you see in hetero entertainment. Whether we like to admit it or not, we queers internalize many of the gender roles that we see in the mainstream media; one result of this is the idea that masculine people and feminine people all act a certain way (femmes be shoppin’, butches be, uh, holdin’ bags).

The truth of the matter is that the majority of the butches I know fucking love shopping – clothes shopping, specifically. Think about it this way: if you spent much of your life being forced to wear things that you hated and made you feel so incredibly not yourself (in this case, feminine clothing), wouldn’t you be stoked to get out there and finally build a kickass wardrobe that reflected who you really are? The answer, for me at least, has been a resounding “hell yes.”

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get back to your original quandary: where can you meet butches? Here’s my maddeningly vague answer: everywhere. No, seriously, we’re all over the place. We are legion. The trick really is just paying attention when you’re out and about. As Mad-Eye Moody would say, “Constant vigilance!” I’m always spotting other butches, but that’s because I’m always looking for other butches. Here’s a list of just a few of the places where I frequently have sightings:

  • The grocery store – There are tons of queers at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods (not surprising), and, for some reason, Stop ‘n Shop
  • Independent bookstores – If it’s a used bookstore or, even better, a queer and/or feminist bookstore, your chances of a spotting a butch skyrocket. Cafes – There are just as many butch caffeine addicts out there as there are femme.
  • Thrift stores/consignment stores – Maybe we’re all broke, or maybe we just like vintage clothing, but you’ll often find us MOC peeps poking around the racks at Buffalo Exchange or Goodwill.
  • Open mic nights/indie rock shows – Everybody likes music and slam poetry and cheap crappy booze, right?

Those are a few places to start your Butch Hunt 2012, but remember: butches are just people, and people are everywhere. Keep your eyes peeled and your lashes reading for batting, and I’m sure you’ll spot one of us before you know it. Good luck!

Maddie: I really couldn’t agree more with Bren, here. Well, except on one item: I perhaps have a wee bit more sympathy for our dear questioner’s BUT WHERE ARE THEY ALL THEY MUST BE HIDING feeling. Not that Bren is incorrect that butchies are plentiful, just that sometimes you go longer than you would like without crossing paths with such a person. And then when you finally do, it’s while you’re hurtling down a lane of traffic on your bike and you can’t even put your well-honed eye-contact technique to use without endangering lives and then she’s gone and probably didn’t even see your cute alternative lifestyle haircut under your helmet. ARGH.

But, well, that brings me to an important point: dear questioner, I have some bad news. Running into someone cute does not, with reliable frequency, turn into meeting someone cute. Even if you find the perfect retail establishment that 90% of area MOCs frequent (already impossible for Bren’s our-demography-is-not-a-monolith reasons given above!) and lurk around hopefully, your odds of having prolonged conversations with the cuties you encounter are still just so much lower than if you were to encounter the same people in a specifically social setting.

SO. With that in mind, let’s consider where people who want to meet people go to meet people! You say the reason you’re looking for something other than bars and clubs is you aren’t interested in places where “the intention is to meet people under the influence of alcohol.” Well, plenty of people in bars aren’t there with that intent, exactly, but it’s true: somewhere in between the dim lights, the conversation-drowning/lust- generating dance music, and, yes, the availability of alcohol, perceptions can get altered. If that’s not what you’re into, that is quite fair.

Bars/clubs come with two big advantages, though, which are important in your search: 1. people who want to meet people go there to meet people, and 2. they can get a bunch of gays into the same place at the same time. IF YOU WANT TO FIND AND MEET COOL GIRLS OF YOUR TYPE, START WITH THESE TWO THINGS! I suggest getting social, but gaily so. Look for activities and meetups with a gay/queer focus. There are gay/queer sports leagues, book clubs, language groups, bike gangs, hiking clubs, knitting circles, vegan locavore picnic societies… you get the idea. You’ve read this blog, so I can safely assume you’re already past Step 1, which is: Find the Internet. Step 2 is Use it to Find and Attend Awesome Local Shit. There’s another advanced step that you should know about, for when you’re ready: Use the Internet to Start and Hype Awesome Local Shit. You can always add to your local queer offerings, don’t forget.

But for now – go google where the gays go and get thyself to some nice gatherings. Find the gays, then find the cute gays, then find the cute gays who think you’re cute. It can be a long process, since only persistence over time will make up for the factors beyond your control… but luckily, the process is a lot of fun, too. Good luck!

Ask Your BFFs: Fixer-Uppers, Defining Butchness, and Keeping It Old School

Why are women attracted to other women who don’t have their shit together?

Bren: I couldn’t have asked it better or more eloquently than that, dear reader. I have to say that I think this is a universal human problem and not so much an exclusively lesbian problem. However, lesbians are to drama as cats are to catnip (we get high by rubbing it all over our faces), so we probably fall into this trap more often than your average Joe/Jane Heteroschmo.

Back to the question at hand: Why indeed do we get so gaga (the crazy, not the Lady) over people whose lives are basically flaming train wrecks speeding towards the edge of Failed Adulthood Gorge? Because we’re fixers, my friend. We dykes just love fixing things – that’s why our wedding/civil union/commitment ceremony registries are at Home Depot. And you know what’s really hard to fix? A person! I mean, an immature emotionally unstable Child-Woman is just such a challenge, right?

I think the allure here is the notion that you and only you alone can turn this hot mess into a functional human being, as if the power of your love is enough to inspire some magic Beast-into-Prince(ss) Disney transformation. The thought process goes like this: Sure, she’s never worked a day in her life, but she’ll get a 9-5 for me. Sure, she’s cheated on her other 65 girlfriends, but she’ll be loyal to me. Sure, she likes to get wasted on a Tuesday night and get into bar room brawls, but she won’t do that if I ask her not to. You get the idea.

I’m going to propose something radical here. How about we, dykes and non-dykes alike, agree to start dating people who – get ready for it – already have their lives in working order? Instead of thinking, “I can make this person awesome if I date her,” we start thinking, “This person is awesome, and that’s why I want to date her.” Relationships shouldn’t be about giving your partner a makeover, and we all need to be the masters of our own destinies (that’s a fancy way of saying, “Only we can make our lives not suck”). If the person you’re crushing on doesn’t have her proverbial shit together now, take a step back and give her the chance to improve her life without your charity. If nothing changes, well, there are plenty of other gay fish in the sea.

Maddie: HOO BOY. Well, first off, I’m just gonna put this out there: if we limited ourselves to only dating people who had their shit fully together, we’d cut out a pretty good chunk of the eligible lesbian dating population. I mean, there’s that. While I most certainly advocate charting a nice, firm, bold line in between what you can healthily manage with a SO and what is going to make it too hard for you to navigate your own shit, let’s recognize that we’re all works in progress and that “having one’s shit together” is a pretty subjective designation. And a process more than a destination. Also, I’ve been the shit-not-together person in relationships and agonized over it, only to find out after an overdue breakup that…it wasn’t me, it was the relationship, and no sooner had we parted ways that my shit began to magically coalesce into something much more closely resembling a state of togetherness. I’m not trying to say that the only worthwhile relationship is the effortless one, but I think there’s something to looking for the people in whose presence our stable, functional selves just kind of naturally come out to play.

And now I’m gonna put all that conciliatory business to one side, and talk about the kind of person that you are very possibly talking about: the kind of person who approaches relationships as a victim. It’s a tactic. So. Those of us who were socialized as women were socialized to make the most of our weakness and vulnerability. And sometimes that’s the only way we know how to get things from other people: play the Hot Mess card. And the kicker is…it works. Because being needed is so effing alluring. Because messiness is relatable. Because it is really easy to mistake someone dropping an armload of exploding baggage on your doorstep for some kind of intimacy. And you know why else? Because it can be exhausting to always feel like the mess in the relationship, and it might feel a whole lot easier and safer to be the (comparatively) stable one for a while.

My radical suggestion towards a solution is this: start by loving, valuing, respecting, and trusting ourselves. If we don’t see ourselves as card-carrying members of Club Hot Mess we’re just not gonna feel the same pull. We’re also gonna recognize that we are perfectly capable of sustaining relationships with other stable, healthy, functional people.

This approach won’t solve that annoying piece of the equation, that sometimes the people we want to go for us are gonna go for someone on #teamhotmess instead. That sucks, but eventually they’ll learn. Or you could link them to this wise, wise column here, of course, and speed up the process.

What defines someone as being butch? Can I always expect a butch to open doors for me?

Bren: There are two things that define someone as a butch: Hirself and hir actions. If a person says, “I identify as butch,” well, then that person is butch. It’s really as simple as that. I don’t believe in the policing of identities; even if someone has butt-length long hair, a French manicure, and 6-inch stiletto heels, that person is still free to say “I’m a butch.” They might not look like my flavor of butch, but nobody has crowned me King of the Butches (yet), so who am I to say “you’re doing it wrong; my way is the right way”?

As cheesy as it may sound, butch is something in one’s heart. It’s a way of seeing and existing in this world that is deeply personal, and isn’t dependent on the presence of a pocketknife or biker boots. It’s a masculinity that isn’t misogynistic, a bravado that isn’t regressive. Of course there are physical traits that are shared by many butches – short hair, masculine attire, an affinity for showing up on Tumblr holding cute things – but none of these are required for entry into Butch Club. (First rule of Butch Club: bring brownies.)

That said, I do think there is a correct way to “act butch.” This has nothing to do with fixing truck engines, chopping down trees, bench pressing 200 lbs., or other stuff that I can’t do. It has to do with being a gentleman. It’s knowing how to be good to people – not just femmes, but everyone. It’s being an upstanding citizen, volunteering to help someone in need, and taking care of the ones you love. It’s all the good in masculinity and none of the bad.

This is a good segue into your second question, the answer to which is yes. Any butch worth hir weight in leather wrist cuffs understands the significance of holding doors. It’s a very simple but oh-so-gallant gesture that shows 1.) that the butch is being respectful and 2.) that the butch values chivalry. This is of the utmost importance. Butch 101-level stuff, really. Someone recently pointed out to me a bumper sticker that said, “Chivalry isn’t dead – she’s a butch!” Allow me to give that a ‘hell yeah.’ HELL YEAH. Thank you.

Maddie: Alright, it’s not for me to step on anyone’s dapper, spit-shined-boot-clad butch toesies, but I have to disagree here with Point #2: No, you cannot always expect a butch person to open doors for you. Maybe that butch recently dated me, and knows that if I get to the door first, there’s no way in hell I’m gonna step to the side, give an expectant look, and wait for her open it for me. I’m gonna open it, and politely provide her the chance to walk through first, which she is free to accept or reject. Perhaps she learned that if we’re walking to her car and we reach the passenger side first, I’ll smile sweetly and thank her for opening the car door for me, but if she walks the whole way around the car to my side NO MATTER WHAT to open the door for me EVERY SINGLE TIME she’ll start getting a “BUTCH, PLEASE; I GOT THIS” look. And I understand, I do, that for the chivalry-minded set, it’s not about viewing one’s partner as incapable, it’s about doing something nice for her – but there’s a point where it becomes uncomfortable for me, and I would posit that a butch is very much worth her ID if she understands that some of us butch-daters have, you know, Feelings about the assumption that chivalry will always be well-received. The corollary here, though: if you want a butch partner who will permanently fill the door-opening role, they certainly exist. It just doesn’t automatically follow from the title.

And about that title, “butch:” that’s what it is. A title, a label, an identification, an identity. It’s not a simple descriptor. Thus, I will wholeheartedly second Bren’s answer to Part One of your question: a butch person defines a butch person as butch. That’s it. Period. Now, are there latent butches who haven’t come around to that identification yet? Ask anyone currently IDing as butch and you’ll hear that yes, this is a common experience. But it’s still not anyone else’s call to make.

Do ‘old school butches’ exist close to my generation (under 30)? If so, where do I find one?

Bren: Yup, they do. I’m right here. Next question?

Oh, wait, you mean you want to date one? Hmm, well that’s an entirely different matter (I’m not on the market; sorry, ladies). I guess the first thing to do here is to clarify what “old school butch” means. To me, it means “chivalrous, protective, and knows how to treat a femme like a lady.” Think of all the olden tales of gallant knights riding into battle to defend the honor of a fair maiden; now replace “knights” with “butches,” “riding into battle” with “hopping on the subway,” and “to defend the honor of a fair maiden” with “to go shovel a femme’s car out of three feet of snow at 11:00 at night.” That’s what kickin’ it old school is all about.

I’m going to make a bit of a detour here. I don’t think there’s really a shortage of masculine-of-center queers in our generation; what I do see are fewer young queers who self-ID as butch. This is a trend that I’ve been fretting over and trying to figure out for a while now. What is it about the word “butch” that makes it unappealing to new genergaytions? Do people think “butch” is synonymous with “middle-aged white woman with a crew cut and an L.L. Bean flannel?” Is the term too dated, or perhaps, too racially-loaded? Can queer POC relate to “butch?”

To me, “butch” is a word that is full of history and pride. It stands for those who bravely left the house in a men’s suit when it was the law to wear at least three pieces of women’s clothing. It stands for those who kicked ass at Stonewall. It stands for those who lived and loved in smoky underground bars long before Ellen was a household name. But I get to approach “butch” with the privilege of my light skin; I need to remember that. For others, this word may never have spoken to them and their experiences. New words like “stud,” “dom,” “boi,” and “AG” have been added to our lexicon since the summer of 1969; for many non-Caucasian queers, these are the words that fit. Blogger LishOus recently wrote about growing up as an MOC POC and how “butch” was viewed in her community; it’s a great read, and I certainly learned something from it.

Ok, so that was less of a detour and more of a summer vacation. Sorry! I just have so many Feelings sometimes. I’m going to offer my standard dating advice, which is helpful for finding butches – old school, new school, middle school (don’t look for that one unless you want to meet Chris Hansen) – or dykes in general. Check out profiles for all the tell-tale signs of chivalry (see the previous question), then schedule a date with a promising fella. You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if this person “gets it.” Does she pay for your drink? Does she hold the door for you? Does she walk you to your car? Take notes and then, take her arm. You’re golden.

Maddie: Yep, they exist. Unfortunately, my butch homing technology is still in the earliest stages of development, and I can’t track any available ones for you. Here’s the thing: large gay populations tend to form when lots of gay people migrate to the same area. Sure, gays come from everywhere in the world, but sizable, identifiable, critical-mass communities of gay people depend on migration. It’s my theory that this creates that much more self-selecting and locally unique populations: certain types tend to dominate in certain areas. Maybe you truly don’t live in an especially butch-dense area. It happens.

If you do live in a fairly big, urban place, though, I recommend browsing different scenes. Those tend to be self-selecting, too. Where I live there are a few different bars and monthly parties: the crunchy hipster queers have one or two, the yuppie-preppy gays have one, the more old-school lesbians have their haunt, the glitz-glammy femme4femme types have theirs. These are crude generalizations, but just like with straight bars and parties and neighborhoods, birds of a feather do tend to flock.

And here’s another thing to keep in mind: butchiness can present in some surprising ways. Masculine-of-center people (cis and trans men as well as masculine dykes) are reshaping and questioning the parameters of masculinity in ways that my feminist self considers very productive. I’d encourage open-mindedness before concluding that a person isn’t masculine enough, butch enough, old-school enough – there are a lot of different ways to “do” masculinity. See if someone surprises you when you get to know hir.

Ask Your BFFs: Monogamy, Femme Invisibility, and Butch Protective Energy

Wow, people. We asked for questions for the first ever Ask Your BFFs (Butch-Femme Friends), and man, did you ever deliver. Thanks for having so many problems! (I keed.) Without further ado, here are this week’s Qs and As:

I have a rhetorical (cough cough right) question for you.

How is it that all the couples I know are monogamous, but all the people I date are poly (as a lifestyle). How’d all the monogamous people find each other?

Bren: Ah, the whole poly queers vs. monogamists (or, as Maddie calls them, “mate-for-life lobsters”) issue. I’m monogamous myself, but I believe that anyone can find love on the great equalizer known as THE INTERNET. While some people still think online dating is weird and creepy (I call these people “old”), every lez I know has met at least one, if not all, their past and present GFs on a dating site. The awesome thing about online dating (besides the fact that you can do it on the couch, in your PJs, with your cat) is that you can be super-duper clear about what you want in a partner (i.e. sense of humor, loyalty, love of old movies) and don’t want in a partner (i.e. other people besides you). So if you’re into monogamy, you can be like, “Yo, no disrespect to my poly peeps, but there are only two seats on this ride.” And if you’re into polyamory, you can be like, “Yo, no disrespect to my mate-for-life lobsters, but I like to spread the love.” If your potential matches are literate, they’ll know what you’re looking for and if it matches up with their style before they even send that first awkward “hey u look kool wanna chat” message.

The most important thing is to be VERY CLEAR about how you roll right from the get go, so as to avoid hurting anybody’s feelings or adding another bar/café/thrift store to your list of “avoid-because-ex-goes-there” places (don’t pretend you don’t have one). There’s nothing worse than being really into someone and then hearing on the third date, “Is it ok if I bring my other girlfriend along to Dyke Night next Friday?”

Maddie: I think Bren’s advice is sound, but I also want to point out: you know a lot of monogamous couples because monogamous people tend to couple up. You date a lot of poly people because poly people… tend to date. If you’re on the younger side, this phenomenon will be further compounded by two truths: you belong to a generation that’s becoming used to polyamorous as an ID so more people are coming out about it, and you belong to a cohort of fun-lovin’ youth who might not be poly for life but aren’t into commitment at the moment.

Granted: it’s tough to keep running into people who don’t meet basic compatibility requirements. And the exclusivity/non-exclusivity thing can be especially tricky, because it’s so easy to rationalize yourself into a compromise that screws you in the long-term. But you just gotta train yourself to toss back the ones that aren’t what you’re looking for. There are more people out there than you think; don’t waste your time on some Hottie McOMG who doesn’t want what you want. How’d all the monogamous people find each other, you ask? By keepin’ it moving when they ran into the poly people.

How do butches tell femmes are queer? Are we really that invisible? I mean, I have dyke hair now obvs, but I don’t think it makes me look any queerer…just wondering.

Maddie: I am so with you on the dykey haircut. That is a definite asset, and I’m glad you’re on it. But you’re right, it neither begins nor ends there (especially when all them hipster straight girls are running around jacking our hairstyle swag. AHEM). Here are some key weapons in a femme’s arsenal:

1. THE INTERNET. Nope, Bren and I do not get any kickbacks from internet dating sites. It’s just a legitimately helpful tool. More specifically to your concern, the internet is this magical place where it is 100% acceptable to declare, before anything else, HI I AM A LESBIAN! That doesn’t happen in a lot of other places, so take advantage!

2. DYKE BARS. I am just so fucking in love with any space where you are gay until proven straight. It’s such a relief. Just go, meet your community, hang out, be presumed – BEFORE A WORD IS SPOKEN – to be a muff-diver, feel awesome. And by patronizing queer-female-oriented spaces, you are helping your own community survive. There is just nothing wrong with that equation.

BUT, in the event, of course, that you’re underage or live in a town without a dyke bar ( 😦 x10000000 ) or would really like to just BE SEEN by fellow queers, out in the world, not just on Friday nights in a tiny closed room, we’re gonna have to move on to the big guns:

3. YOUR EYEBALLS. USE THEM. The femme glare: worth a bazillion haircuts. Don’t be shy. Seriously. Stare away. DO IT. Dykes have a much higher tolerance for gaze-withstanding than the average person. We’re used to it. It’s seriously how we find our own, how we affirm our existence. And, I mean, even if you stumble across one of the 0.005% of easily-visually-identified lesbians so unused to the EYE-DAGGERS-OF-LOVE approach that she hasn’t learned to flash a devious, flattered, conspiratorial grin in response, and instead gets shy and awkward… so what? What’s the worst case scenario? I will describe to you the worst-case scenario: she blushes, maybe looks down and scuffs her feet, and then she does that backwards hair-ruffle thing and you melt and squee and are suffused with tingles and BAM, there, you just got your money’s worth right there. Win-win-win-win. Actually, the worst-case scenario is she’s totally oblivious and somehow doesn’t even notice that she’s walking right through trillion-watt laser beams, and then you pout a little and feel invisible/sad, and THEN you look around to see if anyone noticed the eyes you were giving that girl, and if someone did, go on, train the laser beams on her instead; she’s probably a ‘mo, too.

Oh, but, important note: don’t forget to smile along with the fervent gazing. It IS possible to stare creepily. I’ve heard.

There is one last all-important thing in your arsenal, but it takes some time and effort.

4. THIS FEMME JE NE SAIS QUOI THAT YOU ACTUALLY MAYBE ARE STILL CULTIVATING. Once upon a time, like not even a year ago, I was complaining to my wise femme mentor-type about never being spotted – specifically, about the time I was at the dyke bar and NOBODY TALKED TO ME except for both (BOTH!) awkward, old-as-my-dad men who were inexplicably floating around in there. She said, very wisely, that I would figure out how to radiate queerness, and visibly. Unmistakably. One day. She said I would figure it out and it would be fabulous. And guess what! I really think I’ve proven her right. It’s maybe not automatic or genetically encoded, and I don’t think it’s something that can necessarily be taught, but it’s real and it happens with time and you will totally get there. I can feel your dubiousness pulsating through the screen – trust me, though! Give it time, time ideally spent hanging out with your people and fully developing your queer identity, and the telepathy will follow.

Bren: I’m going to second what Maddie suggested and say EYE CONTACT. If you see one of us out and about, look at us in that way that only femmes can look. You will instinctually know how to do this, as it is in your femme DNA. (Ivan E. Coyote put it so eloquently: “Please don’t stop looking at me the way you do.”) If we smile at you, smile back. Or smile first. Actually, yes, smile first – we like boldness. We also like to be flirted with, even if we pretend to be embarrassed or aloof. And, really, is there a better way to spend your morning commute than making some butch on the subway blush? I didn’t think so.

Keep in mind, however, that the burden of butch-femme connection does not fall solely on your ladylike shoulders. No, it’s also up to us butches to learn how to spot a femme. You might feel invisible (and if you do, I’m very sorry to hear that), but know this: you are not invisible. Queerness cannot be disguised by even the most straight-looking of outfits/hair/makeup/whatever. There’s a very unique spark behind the eyes of every femme – made up of equal parts rebellion, courage, and mischief – that is born from years of being a gender ninja, deftly slipping behind hetero lines and working to make the world a safer place for big clumping Obvious Queers like me. We butches see that spark and we see you, and damn, you look good.

From Christine Smith, creator of the awesome webcomics The Princess and Eve’s Apple:

My question is about femmes ‘leaning on’ butches for their protective energy.

My situation is as a 6’2″ trans woman and a femme. I currently have no local butch friends in my life, whether male or female, cis or trans, gay or straight. I’m married to another femme whom I love, but is bad at confrontation, and am a caregiver for a developmentally disabled man. There’s a lot of demand on me to be protective, but nobody to supply that energy to me. Consequently, I have a permanent hard shell around me. I find this stifles my self-expression. I trend to dress androgynously in order to stay under the radar of those who threaten me when I am more noticeable, and live my life outside my home very defensively, which leaves my back taut and achey most of the time.

I remember when a friend… Cis, straight, masculine,.and male… Lived out here, I felt I had a little more freedom hanging out with him, because I knew if someone messed with me, he wouldn’t let it pass but would confront them right back. He had that masculine protectiveness. I miss that.

I worry, though, that in missing that and hoping to find similar friends, I am somehow being anti-feminist, being too reliant on a masculine-type-person. At the same time, the reality of my life is that I DON’T have that and need to be able to express myself as a femme, don’t know how to get an ounce more energy to protect myself, when I’m giving so much energy to protecting the people in my life. Is it wrong to want some of that back? Am I a bad femme? Is it at least understandable to tone things down? And having no protective energy from a friend to lend me strength and being tense and exhausted most of the time, but navigating public spaces, where do I find the energy to be true to my femme needs of self-expression?

Bren: The first thing that needs to be said here is: There is no such thing as a ‘bad femme.’ You can only be you, and you are femme, and it’s impossible to be bad at being yourself (who else could be a better you? No one).

If you’re looking for butch friends/connections in your area, and can afford a trip to Oakland (I am poor and cannot), I would suggest attending the Butch Voices conference. I hear it’s amazing and a smörgåsbord of masculine-of-center people from all over the place, so chances are good you’ll meet people from your area.

I don’t think your problem is really a lack of butch friends, however, but a lack of what you call butch “protective energy,” which in reality is not a butch thing at all. Let me tell you a secret, one that may get my Bulldagger Card revoked – we butches are not always steadfast pillars of strength. In fact, we often feel weak, helpless, and burdened, too. You see, many butches (like me) get much of – if not all of – their strength FROM FEMMES. You’re the truly strong ones. You’re the ones who march beside us into restrooms when we’re too nervous to go in alone. You’re the ones who stand up to the asshole salespeople who give us a hard time when we try to buy a mens’ suit. You’re the ones who squeeze our hands when drunken frat boys on the street hurl insults at us. You’re the ones who let us cry in your arms when the weight of the world is too much and you’re the ones who promise not to tell a soul about it. What I’m trying to say is, you already possess all the strength and protective energy you think you need to get from a butch. Femmes are like the windmills of this kind of natural energy; you create it at every turn, whether you know it or not.

You are what you think you need and what you think you’re missing. You go out everyday into a world that tells you that you’re wrong, that your identity and your love and your existence are invalid, and you kick ass. You create. You inspire. You LIVE. If that isn’t strength, then I sure as hell don’t know what is.

The people who threaten you and try to stifle you, they’re just afraid of this strength, a strength that they don’t possess. They’re cowards. Don’t waste your time on cowards. Don’t listen to the words of cowards. Don’t alter your life for cowards. In the end, it’s warriors like you that the world will remember. “Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”

Maddie: So, you ask a few direct questions that I can answer right away: no, it is not wrong to want some of that protective energy back; no, you are most definitely not a bad femme; yes, wanting to tone things down is entirely understandable. The question after that, though – where to find the energy to be everyone’s source of strength and still maintain your identity – that one’s tough.

I agree with Bren that even the most femme-identified among us has the same capacity for strength and protectiveness, but that doesn’t mean it’s always comfortable to stay in that persona day in and day out, and it really doesn’t mean that we can just take care of ourselves with no help from others.

For queer folks, the world at large is not always a safe space. It just isn’t. We don’t only create close-knit communities to find partners or to congregate with like-minded individuals, but also to heal the damage that the rest of the world does to us, to pool our strength, to finally, finally feel vulnerable without feeling endangered. The issue is not that you lack the capacity to be strong and protective – sounds like you disprove that, on the daily – the issue is that you need spaces and relationships to replenish your reserves.

Is therapy an option in your life? If there is an LGBT health services center in your area, they may offer sliding-scale group therapy – an opportunity to get mutual support and healing from people who could both have an understanding of your experience as well as a variety of different backgrounds and strengths of their own to complement yours.

Additionally, is there any way you can address this within your marriage? You say your wife is “bad at confrontation,” but can you come up with some specific, maybe smaller ways she can give you more backup out in the world, or help you dress your daily wounds back at home? Even if she does not have a lot of the butch-brand protection to give, she might be able to ease some of your burden if you communicate your need to be taken care of or stood up for some of the time.

And if those options are not available or not enough – there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that you are missing a certain kind of energy in your life, and going out looking specifically for local friendships that can provide it. We populate our lives with other people to gain, among other things, balance. It doesn’t mean you are failing or disparaging femmes, it just means that you crave a diverse community.

Ask Your BFFs (Butch-Femme Friends): A Good Idea, Or the Best Idea?

Happy Tuesday, AKA Gleeseasonfinaleday, queerborhood! I come bearing Earth-shaking news. Nope, it’s not the Rapture (that party got rescheduled). It’s a BRAND NEW feature on Buzz Cuts and Bustiers! So much better than the world blowing up, amirite?

This is a little thing we like to call Ask Your BFFs (Butch-Femme Friends). (Maddie is the champion of Naming Things, hands down). It’s like Dear Abby, except so much gayer. Here’s how it works:

  1. You’re all like, “Man, I don’t understand/have always wondered about/am confused by/need help with/am totally turned on by this thing related to butch/femme/butch-femme life. IF ONLY SOMEONE COULD GIVE ME ADVICE/ANSWER MY QUESTIONS/GO ON A DATE WITH ME*!”
  2. You post your quandary in the comment section here, tweet it at us or, if you want some more anonymity, email it to me at prufrock1019@gmail.com.
  3. We come to your rescue with our Lesbian Sensei wisdom/humor/sex appeal.

Sound good? Sound GREAT? That’s what we thought! So ask away, dear readers – we can’t wait to be your queeroes!

*We won’t actually do this one – OR WILL WE?