This Butch Reviews “Yes Or No”

Well hey there, Queerland! Happy Day After Obama Said He Supports Gay Marriage And The Internet Exploded Into Rainbows And Tumblrs! Yes siree Bob, I’m feeling pretty good ‘n proud of my Prez. Sure, he needs to do more to keep supporting us and sure, we still have a lot of work ahead of us, and sure, words don’t mean as much as actions, but HOLY UNICORN CRAP, you guys – a sitting president just endorsed gay marriage. IN AN ELECTION YEAR. That’s fanfreakintastic enough to keep me positive right now (and to make me want to pull out my old “Obama Said Knock You Out” T-shirt from the ’08 race).

Yup, yesterday was a Gay Old Time, and I celebrated by seeing a Gay Not-So-Old Film. It’s LGBT Film Fest season here in Boston or, as I like to call it, the delicious multicultural appetizer before the ginormous main course of Pride. Mmm. The fest is a perfect opportunity to learn more about queer experiences around the world, and last night’s film was a gem. Yes Or No is the first lesbian movie out of Thailand and has a butch-femme theme to boot!

White tank tops: the universal lesbian language.


The film tells the story of Pie, a rather tightly-wound college student, who is distressed to find that her new roommate, Kim, is a tomboy – the Thai word for butch lesbian. Now, Pie is no stranger to Sapphic sisters, as her previous roommate was “lipstick lesbian” (according to the subtitles) Jane, whose tendencies for melodrama and hurling inanimate objects in fits of passion were a wee bit too much for Pie to handle. But Kim is a whole other kettle of gay fish (this movie is heavy on the fish imagery, BTW, because [“lesbians and fish” joke goes here]). With her Bieber hair and hipster jeans and love of video games, ukulele, botany, soup, and other random things that seem to annoy Pie, Kim is the sort of girl Pie’s mom warned her about, quite literally. As in, her mom is all like, “Yo, Pie, you know those girls who look like boys? They mad freak me out, girl. Better stay away from ’em.” (Note: Not a direct quote.) So Pie and Kim’s initial relationship is strained by the homophobe germs she caught from her mama and she does all kinds of crazy shit like make a red masking tape line down the middle of their room, because everybody knows that masking tape is impervious to gayness.

But not to suave butches wielding ukuleles next to IKEA furniture.

As time goes on, however, the two develop a working relationship, then a friendship, and then – well, here is where things get complicated. See, Pie doesn’t want to be crushing on a girl and also has a kinda-boyfriend named Van who has the exact personality of a slightly damp sack of flour. Kim is afraid to admit that she is a lesbian or a tomboy, even though she’s falling in love with Pie and everyone is like, “Come on, now – you’re wearing flannel and giving your handkerchiefs to pretty femmes in need.” Oh, right – the handkerchief. Kim has apparently been reading up on her Butch Is a Noun, because she offers her plaid hankie to Jane, who’s sobbing in class after a bad breakup. +10 butch points for Kim, but -10000 good idea points, because Jane immediately decides that Kim is the love of her life, despite not actually knowing her name. Thai lesbians: pretty much like lesbians everywhere else.

“Let’s adopt a family of orphaned cats and name them after the cast of Rent, and we can all move into a queer co-op in Jamaica Plain and raise organic arugula. I’m Jane, by the way.”

Oh, what tangled webs of Feelings we weave! Kim loves Pie, Van loves Pie, the fast forward button loves Van, Jane loves Kim, and Pie is shocked/terrified to find herself loving Kim. There’s all kind of grand romantic-if-extremely-cliché scenes involving running in the rain, kissing in the rain, meeting on park benches, candlelight serenades, adorably awkward picnics, and shopping for jellyfish (if I had a dime for every time a movie equated love and jellyfish, I would have a dime). There are also many lovable supporting characters, including Kim’s probably-a-dyke hippie aunt and the gruff butch dorm manager who observes Kim and Pie’s budding romance with an approving look. This movie is just really freaking cute, you guys. You may find yourself squealing with delight at some point, and that’s perfectly natural and nothing to be ashamed of.

“Wait, you got Melissa Ferrick lyrics tattooed here?

Yes Or No isn’t just a giant squeefest, though – there are some parts that are downright painful. When Kim overhears Pie’s mom telling Pie how disgusting she thinks tomboys are – “It’s a good thing you don’t look like that, or I would be dead” – I was reminded of my own mother and that wasn’t fun. And the heartbreak on screen when Pie couldn’t bring herself to admit her feelings out loud wasn’t fun either. But the movie is roughly 75% Adorable Babydyke Fun Times, so I promise I smiled far more than I cringed.

“I think I’ve finally perfected my fisting technique.”

All in all, I give Yes Or No two Buzz Cuts and Bustiers thumbs up. If this awesome movie comes to a film fest near you, see it – and if you can tell me where the heck I can buy this on DVD, please, help a brother out! Happy squeeing, dear readers.


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.
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.
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.
Bren: Aaaaand, let us not forget those other vessels for queer reaffirmation.
Um, the paper things. With words. Kinda rectangular?
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!
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.
(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!

The ButchFemmeinist: Out and Proud Edition

Bren: Hey Maddie, have you picked out your purple outfit for Spirit Day yet?
Maddie: ACK WAIT what? Can I wear lavender? Will that count?
Bren: I think so! I mean, it’s purple…right? I’m too butch to understand nuanced colors like “lavender.”
Maddie: Well, great. I’m all set, then.
Bren: Well, just to recap, Spirit Day is to show support for LGBT youth, many of whom are struggling with something that we recently had another theme day about: National Coming Out Day.
Maddie: Right. That’s a tricky one.
Bren: Tell me about it. It seems like just yesterday that I was peering through my glass closet door.
Maddie: Just yesterday? But you’ve come so far in making an Out, Loud, Proud gay life for yourself!
Bren: Well, it’s been about 9 years now, so I guess it wasn’t exactly yesterday. But then again, coming out isn’t really an event – it’s a continuous process, isn’t it? Every time somebody new enters our lives, the process starts all over again.
Maddie: Truest words ever spoken.
Bren: Sometimes I wonder how the coming out process works for butches vs. femmes. It’s been said that femmes come out everyday of their lives, because they don’t always set off the Gay Alarms that us butches usually do. Would you agree with that?
Maddie: Well, yes and no. I’d agree that we come out every day of our lives that we want to come out.
We also have the option of ‘being out” in the sense that we’re not deceiving anyone or hiding anything, yet without coming out – just not disclosing aspects of our sexuality and romantic relationships unless the subject is put very clearly on the table. Coming out, for us, is usually a deliberate decision and we often are in the position of choosing the where/when/to whom. That brings certain privileges and also certain disadvantages.
Bren: I get the privilege part – passing can certainly be useful in certain sitches – but what are the disadvantages?
Maddie: Well, to give one example: imagine you work in a straight-dominated but not outright homophobic workplace.
Bren: I do, actually, work in such a place!
Maddie: A very visibly queer person may be clocked as such by coworkers without ever having to say anything. Since we’re assuming these coworkers aren’t hostile towards the queers but may have that straight person problem of not knowing a lot of queer folks, they might just accept this queerness without further discussion, without a word ever having been spoken on the subject.
Brenda: I think that’s the case in my workplace.
Maddie: But if you are not so visibly queer, making a point of your (possibly quite surprising) sexuality around someone who isn’t used to queer people can seem like all of a sudden you’re talking about your sex life in an inappropriate context. Queerness is about so much more than having sex, but when you surprise people with it, they don’t always make that connection.
Bren: TOO TRUE. And all the right-wingers always make the queer=constant depraved sex, in public, with animals and children association.
Maddie: Either I have to make an announcement about my personal life, or deal with the fact that people who see me every day most likely have misread me in this rather fundamental way.
Bren: Does it bother you if everyone around you – here, I guess, meaning coworkers – doesn’t know you’re queer?
Maddie: The balance that I’ve struck at this point in my “out” life is that once people get to know me at a certain personal level, I feel they should know I’m queer pretty quickly. But if I have a relationship with someone, even if it is a long, ongoing one, wherein we never discuss anything personal ever, it feels out of place to mention it. Still, I feel strongly about not hiding my queerness, even if I don’t proactively disclose to everyone who has ever met me.
Bren: Right there with ya, bud. Though in my case, my queerness is pretty terrible at hiding.
Maddie: You know, that makes me think of something that happened not too long ago.
Bren: Do tell!
Maddie: My girlfriend met me at my workplace for lunch. I get a short lunch and we don’t really have a break room, so she parked in the area and I met her outside for a sidewalk bench picnic. I should mention that I only work with a few rather stiffly decorous people with whom I never, ever discuss personal things. So, they fall into that category of Probably Have No Idea. Anyway, after we ate, she walked me back to my building and gave me a sendoff kiss. Or she waited respectfully for me to kiss her. I can’t remember.
Bren: Sounds like a true gentleman/butch!
Maddie: Either way, we kissed right in plain view of the security guard – no one I work directly with, but someone in that “work world” sphere in which I am used to having my queerness be invisible. And, the shameful truth? It was kind of terrifying for me.
Bren: What did you think would come of it?
Maddie: Nothing. I knew nothing would come of it. I just felt exposed. And it gave me some food for thought about that inadvertent visibility that I sometimes envy.
Bren: And what did that food taste like, I ask awkwardly?
Maddie: It tasted like privileged naiveté!
Bren: I can’t imagine that tasted good.
Maddie: It was a complex flavor, full of subtlety and needing to listen more to the experiences of others. Which I’d like to do now, if you don’t mind.
Bren: Not at all! Well, I guess in some ways, being visibly queer and out takes a lot of the “work” off my hands. All I have to do is step outside and, most of the time, there’s my coming out. I don’t really worry about the “should I or shouldn’t I tell?” question, because I assume everybody already guessed and, if not, they’re too clueless to be worth my time. As gay-snobby as that sounds. But, let me tell you, there are certainly times when I wish my queerness wasn’t so glaring neon-sign obvious. When I’m walking by a group of strangers at night in an unfamiliar part of town, I wish I weren’t so visibly queer. Or when I have to pick up the (TMI alert) birth control I use to, well, control my awful unwanted monthly visitor, I wish the pharmacist didn’t look so confused. Or when I walk into a public restroom, I wish I didn’t worry about whether somebody was going to scream at me this time.
Maddie: Right.
Bren: And there are people out there – also known as “assholes” – who would consider my very bold act of walking down the street looking the way I do to be “flaunting my lifestyle.” Pretty sure they want people like me to disappear.
Maddie: Ah, the old “Being yourself is making a grand show of your perversity!” argument. Well, have you learned any particular tricks for navigating this always-out-ness?
Bren: Look people in the eye and smile. Sort of like staring down an angry grizzly bear. You have to show you’re not afraid – even if you’re secretly soiling your boxer briefs.
Maddie: That sounds pretty effective: call the bluffers’ bluffs, and be ready and alert to see right away if they aren’t actually bluffing.
Bren: Indeed. Stay alert, stay aware, and stay queer ‘n proud. Keep in mind that this didn’t happen overnight. This takes years of practice, being out and a giant gaymo, to perfect. So any babydykes out there shouldn’t feel guilty if they feel the need to duck their heads back in the closet in certain situations.
Maddie: Absolutely. And also remember that your presentation is something you can experiment with – for me, it is a negotiation. There are certain presentations that feel false and uncomfortable, but even after chucking those out there’s a pretty big universe of THIS PRESENTATION FEELS LIKE ME! out there. So in recent years, I’ve definitely figured out a thing or two about how to walk down the street with a certain This-Is-For-The-Gaydies strut that turns an Alternative Lifestyle Haircut head or two, but without feeling like I’m playing at something I’m not just for the sake of visibility.
Bren: This is excellent, because I hear about so many young femmes who feel like, if they don’t butch things up, nobody will take them serious as Actual Queer Folk. Which hurts my femme-lovin’ heart to think about.
Maddie: I will concede that since my earliest days as a drama-camp-goin’ kiddo, I’ve been rather fond of outrageous, attention-grabbing outfits and performances, so my solution of shave half your head and wear frayed denim whenever you can get away with it might not work for everyone who inhabits the femmey side of the queerverse. But I do believe the point holds, that experimentation on your own personal horizons can be your friend – find your range, and make the most of it.
Bren: Also true for butches! I’ve experimented with many clothing styles, haircuts, and general presentations over the years. I’ve really only quite recently found a place where I feel comfortable enough to say, “Yeah, this one’s a keeper.” It’s difficult to navigate masculine expression when you were raised with and constantly fed only feminine options growing up.
Maddie:  A fine point!
Bren: Along those lines, something that always warms my heart – and hurts it, just a little – is when I see a super-awkward newly-hatched baby butch, trying and struggling to figure shit out. And I’m so grateful that we have the internet as a resource, because the olden days of old butches taking babydykes under their flannel-covered wings in smoky lesbian bars, they’re way over, sadly.
Maddie: Well, just think of all the people who have access to the internet who wouldn’t have found their beflanneled butch mentor in the Olden Dayes.
Bren: Very true. Still, all the technology in the world can’t make up for real, human contact.
Maddie: But it’s not always a replacement for contact that would have happened otherwise. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it fills what would have been a complete void. Sometimes it enables real human contact.
Bren: Yes, yes indeed. That’s why I would strongly urge anybody who’s new to the coming out process to use these interwebs to find local queer groups.
Maddie: Absolutely! Community, community.
Bren: These can be support groups, student groups, social hours, sports teams, whatever. Just get out there and meet and greet real live queer folk. When you’re in high school, especially in small town (or, as Sarah Palin would call it, “real”) America, it’s easy to feel like the only gay in the world. That sense of isolation can be overpowering.
Maddie: True! Or even like if nobody can see the queer, maybe it’s not actually real. It’s not just that I’m so hushed about my queerness in more heteronormative contexts, it’s that being around other queers is so affirming and enriching for my little queer soul. I’m more out because I’m MORE.
Bren: I love that. Love. It. Is there anything you wish you could go back in time and tell babygay you about coming out?
Maddie: Oh, my. It’s harder than you think. It’s not as big a deal as you think. You will discover that the most rewarding, critical part of “being out” is realizing the full potential of your queerness in your everyday life, not about making announcements to everyone in your life, one after the other. That said, starting with an open declaration of self-identification is hardly the worst place to start your journey towards Fully Realized Queer Potential. So. You know. Go on, take that plunge, and then get to exploring the unspeakably cool world you will subsequently find yourself in. ….But don’t be fooled into thinking that your place in that world is anything you could have seen from the outside. There’s so much more to it than you realize.
Bren: Beautifully said, my friend.
Maddie: AND YOU?
Bren: Once you’ve figured out the truth of your life, start living it ASAP. Go out and get the clothes, the hair, the peer group you always wanted. Be the master and commander of your own ship, but also be aware that many other will try to highjack your ship throughout the course of your life. Don’t let them. Remain in control. Be you, boldly and unabashedly. Don’t change a damn thing to satisfy your family, neighbors, colleagues, friends, roommates, congregation, dog, whatever. Once you start living an authentic life, you’ll see how much more vibrant the world is. And always remember this: Anybody who can’t accept, handle, embrace, appreciate, love you for the amazing queer person you are is a waste of time, energy, and tears. Don’t give them that. There are so many people out there who want you, all of you, exactly how you are – go find them.
Maddie: HEAR HEAR, QUEER. Beautifully put.
Bren: Why, thank you. Happy Spirit Day to you, Maddie, and to all our readers! Wear that purple with pride! Werq!