Gender Identity: Denied

If you have a Facebook profile and think about gender often enough to be reading this blog, then you’ve probably heard about the shiny new “custom” gender feature that Zuckerberg  ‘n Friends rolled out recently. Much like everything Facebook has ever done, this development is somewhat of a mixed bag. Let’s take a gander.

On one hand, it’s pretty fantastic that words like “cisgender,” “genderqueer,” and “trans*” have been introduced to the whole wide world via such an influential social network. It’s inspired important conversations about the gender spectrum, a whole lot of huffing and puffing on Fox News, and (I imagine) millions of Google searches. At its core, I think Facebook’s move is a good one for queer and trans* visibility. Unfortunately, on the other hand, the Powers that Be (Collecting Your Profile Data to Sell to Advertisers) don’t seem to believe that my gender identity – butch – exists.

Now, I’m not sure which edition of Webster’s Dictionary Facebook consulted for this project, but last time I checked, “custom” did not mean “choose from this pre-determined list of options.” In fact, I’m fairly certain that it means basically the opposite of that. So I was more than a little miffed when I tried to type “butch” into my little gender box and found that it wouldn’t save. I didn’t make the list, folks. And all you wonderful self-identified femmes? Got some bad news for ya: You also do not really exist. But hey, at least you have plenty of company here in Imaginary Gender Land.

Please note that there are at least 10 variations of “cisgender” on Facebook’s official gender list. Thank goodness, because cis folks have for so long suffered from a lack of representation!

Facebook has claimed that it developed its list of 50 gender identities by consulting with LGBT advocacy groups, and I do believe them. I can’t, however, help being disappointed in any such group that would neglect to include butch and femme – two identities with deep roots in queer history and civil rights battles – in that list. It makes me wonder if, as is often sighed across bar room tables and butch-femme message boards, we really are dying breeds. Is it just not hip to be us anymore? Or am I overthinking this whole thing?

(Warning for remainder of post: Here There Be Feels)

I feel like I must mention that my navel-gazing reaction to Facebook Genderpalooza 2014 may be a result of my ongoing funk (in the mood sense; I like to think that I smell rather nice). I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression since, well, before I really allowed myself to claim those words. With the support of some very dear people in my life, I entered therapy back in the fall and have been on anti-depressants since November; both have resulted in some improvements, but nothing close to miraculous. But Rome wasn’t psychoanalyzed in a day, right?

In addition to all that head stuff, my queer community – something that I leaned on perhaps a bit too heavily – has become a lot smaller. Most of the organizations I was once involved with have dispersed since last summer, including ButchBoi Life, the social and support group that I co-founded for masculine queer women. It sounds a bit melodramatic, but the loss of these networks has been really devastating. I feel increasingly isolated from my community and cut off from resources that I once took for granted. I rarely speak with, let alone hang out with, other butches now, and that makes me very lonely. In a way, I’ve returned to the level of desperation I was at before ButchBoi Life existed, when I was so very starved for interactions with people that walked in my same worn boots and reflected back to me my own reality as a butch dyke.

The combination of this queer social isolation and health problems both mental and physical have created the Perfect Storm of moping around, woe-is-me-ing. I’ve been neglecting things I was once passionate about (clearly, blogging being one of those things). And let’s be honest: the Northeast’s transformation into a Jack London-inspired frozen tundra for the past three months hasn’t exactly alleviated my desire to spend every day in bed, rolled up in a blanket burrito and staring at my ceiling.

(End of feels)

Well, that’s about enough head shrinking from me for now. Anywho, if you want to see “butch” and “femme” join Facebook’s list of Genders You Are Allowed to Be, you can let them know what’s up at the Facebook Diversity page. Tell ’em Bren sent you. And if you like processing gender stuff and getting caught in the rain, leave your thoughts on this whole social media hullabaloo in the comments.

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The Impotence of Rage in Post-Post-Racial America

“This is America and I can say what I want.”

I stare intensely down at my salad, as if the perfect retort were hidden somewhere under the leaves and blue cheese dressing. My mother’s voice is stubborn, laced with a proud defiance that one more often hears from the lips of rebellious teenagers. It’s also a bit too loud for the polite restaurant setting, and I shift uncomfortably in my seat, embarrassment seeping in. I think she recognizes it. I think this is why we end up having so many heated conversations in restaurants – she knows it’ll keep me in check.

“You really don’t understand why a white person saying that word is different than a black person saying it?” I ask her, fighting to keep my voice down. My dad watches with interest, but says nothing. “Maybe I should buy you a set of U.S. history books for Christmas this year.”

That last sarcastic bit was the wrong thing to say, and I know it immediately. Nothing shifts my mother into Defensive Victim Mode Level 10 like suggesting she’s uneducated. It doesn’t matter if it’s true. In this case, it actually is true, as evidenced by the fact that until that meal, she didn’t even know there were any SCOTUS decisions made that week, let alone a decision that took the teeth out of a landmark civil rights act that was born just four years after her.

The only news she had been following was Paula Deen-related, since that’s what her coworkers and the tabloids in the work break room were interested in. I point out that the deep-fried Deen controversy and the VRA decision are two different examples of the same problem: America is racist and super defensive about it. (Sort of like my mother, but I don’t voice that particular comparison out loud). “You need to be aware of what’s going on in this country,” I say. “You need to have at least some knowledge of current events.”

“Oh, well I’m sorry I’m so stupid,” she spits, in a not-at-all-sorry tone. “I’m too busy killing myself at work to read the news.” I catch the eye of my father, who works two jobs, yet still finds time to at least be aware of world events. I launch into a brief explanation of the Voting Rights Act, hoping she’ll find it boring enough to calm her down. When I’m finished, Dad is smiling.

“This is why I like talking about politics whenever you come home,” he says. “You’re informed.” My mother looks like she wants to leap across the table and throttle him.

“Anyway,” I say quickly, “Paula Deen’s career is over, as it should be.” I know this will please/pacify my mother, as she hates Paula Deen. Not because of her horrendous racial slurs and systematic workplace discrimination based on skin color, mind you, but because she finds her voice and makeup choices annoying. Mom straightens up and starts listing all the ways the Barefoot Contessa has a better show anyway (“she doesn’t act crazy and never has her tits out like that Giada”), and I wearily return to my meal, feeling defeated. I’m not sure what winning would have looked like.

***

My mother is a prime specimen of the Northern Racist, a breed that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as its more famous cousin, the Southern Racist. When We the People discuss racial strife in this country, the images that are shown in cable documentaries and American History classes are predictable: crosses burning on Georgia lawns, an Alabama church destroyed by bombs, mobs violently protesting desegregation outside of Ole Miss. When I was a child, I thought that racists lived in the South, and wasn’t I lucky to born an enlightened New Englander? I thought these things in my all-white classrooms, in my all-white school, in my all-white small town, surrounded by my all-white friends. I clearly didn’t think hard enough. It wasn’t until I was 18 and a freshman in college that I met and befriended people whose skin tone didn’t match mine. At least by then, I had an inkling of how fucked up that was.

Northern Racism doesn’t often look the racism that we learn about in school (except for when it really does). Northern Racism looks like the Boston area, where places like Roxbury and Dorchester and Mattapan just happen to have the most people of color and the least access to reliable public resources (see: education, transportation, nutrition, employment, etc.). Northern Racism looks like other places in the Boston area, too, like the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Brookline, and Cambridge, where the vast majority of the population just happens to be white and extremely well off. Funny coincidence, eh?

It’s important to note that Northern Racism, especially in the Boston area, often comes dressed in liberal clothing. The average resident of Newton or Hingham or Concord votes Democrat, and probably proudly sports an Obama/Biden sticker on the back of their Prius. And yet, every time a low-income housing complex is proposed in the midst of these liberal bastions, controversy erupts. Northern Racism isn’t racist at all, you see — as long as “those people” don’t move in next door. It’s sure easy to pretend racism doesn’t exist when there’s nobody around to be racist toward, isn’t it? Northern Racism has it all figured out.

Whenever I drive through Springfield, MA with my parents — which happens a few times a year, as it’s where the Peter Pan bus from Boston arrives and where both my parents work — my mother will inevitably begin to wax nostalgic about her childhood there “in the good old days.” The product of Italian and Irish immigrant families, she was raised in 1960s-1970s Catholic schools alongside the products of other Italian and Irish immigrant families. The streets of her youth were filled with shops and diners run by people who looked like her, talked like her, and had last names like hers. Today, those streets are home to people who don’t, and that makes my mother angry. “This place has sure gone downhill,” she’ll say. “These people ruined it.” I’ll press her to explain who “these people” are, even though I know exactly what she means — the mostly Puerto Rican, mostly Spanish-speaking folks who make up a significant portion of Springfield’s population. “These people,” she’ll repeat, annoyed at the tone of my voice. “They have no respect for anything.” Northern Racism refuses to speak its own name.

***

Rage is an emotion with varying degrees of power. It’s a flame that has the potential to become a forest fire, spreading ferociously and licking at the heels of injustice until the populace has no choice but to notice. Rage can also remain small, manifesting as an exhaustingly slow internal burn, devouring wicks of hope and leaving behind desperate piles of ash where no one can see. Rage can empower, or rage can consume. In either case, rage is born from the realization that something has happened that is deeply, unforgivably, criminally wrong. Rage is George Zimmerman: a free, living, breathing man, reunited with the gun he used to murder a child who had the misfortune of being born the wrong color in the wrong society. Rage is the realization that, as John Oliver put it, “we could get a verdict like this, not because the system is broken down, but because the system worked exactly as it’s designed.” When Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States in 2008, the media crowed that we had entered “post-racial America.” Welcome to post-post-racial America.

My rage feels impotent. I bang the keys violently to post angry manifestos to Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. I rant to my friends, repeating phrases like” I can’t fucking get over it” as if they were incantations. I read every news story and opinion piece on the verdict that I can find. I wish, in my sincerest of hearts, that Zimmerman will never know peace for the rest of his days. I wish that no matter where he goes, he’ll be treated like a pariah, a monster, a murderer. I know that, ultimately, none of this rage amounts to anything more than sound and fury.

I don’t talk to my mother about the verdict. I doubt that she’s even heard about it, or if she did, cared enough to commit it to memory. She doesn’t want to change the way she thinks, because she doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with it. Or, maybe, she knows deep down that it is wrong, but admitting so means bringing something ugly to the surface and confronting it. That’s too frightening a prospect, so she sinks back into the comfort of her life and lets that disturbing thought evaporate into the ether of suburbia. My mother is White America personified.

I know that talking to my mother will just create more internal rage – and worse, shame. Shame that racism is a part of my bloodline. Shame that I, as a white person, have benefited in so many ways from a system that devalues black and brown bodies to the point of genocide – ways that can be so subtle as to go unnoticed, like an undiscovered tumor. Ways that I wasn’t aware of for the majority of my life. After all, one of the classic characteristics of privilege is not knowing you have it.

Less than three weeks ago, the LGBT community celebrated a major victory when the SCOTUS sent DOMA and Prop 8 packing. But for queer people of color – and really, anybody who gives half a damn about injustice – it was a bittersweet moment, arriving coupled with the VRA decision. Can we really cheer a court that uplifts one minority with its right hand, while devastating another with its left? Can we white queer people, in the afterglow of a battle won, rest comfortably on our laurels and still stand to look in the mirror? I hope we cannot.

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” A great man spoke these words 30 years before the birth of Trayvon Martin. I’m sure Dr. King dreamed that the passing decades would give way to a much better nation for all people, but our reality is what we must deal with. Our rage must be harnessed and used to energize ourselves and others, not to foster despair; to build outward, not to destroy inward. How do we do that? I wish I really knew. I wish I could find concrete answers, because the abstract is so frustrating. I spend too much time reading comic books, where doing what’s right is as simple as saving people from burning buildings and punching bad guys in the face. In the real world, it’s harder to know in which direction to punch, or even what the bad guys look like. Because sometimes, they look like you. Sometimes, they look like me.

Here are some things I do know we can do. I can do. Learn how to be a better ally. Hint: this is not accomplished by proudly announcing “I am an ally” to anyone within hearing distance, like a toddler who successfully used the potty and is awaiting a reward. In fact, being an ally is about 90% listening and only 10% talking – and never talking over or instead of a member of the marginalized group you claim to care about. This is something that should be noted by white people, male people, straight people, cis people, affluent people – anybody who has power when somebody else does not. Use your privilege against the very system that creates it. Call out racism, bigotry, and discrimination where you see them. Don’t give a crap if it upsets people. Rock the boat that has carried you over the rough waters, where others cling to life preservers. Make the comfortable uncomfortable. Have awkward phone conversations with your mother.

And, in the most productive ways possible, keep raging.

Pride: Come So Far, Got So Far To Go

Yes, I used a Hairspray quote for the title. I mean, that seems fitting for a Pride post, right? Doesn’t get much gayer than John Waters + musicals. Hark, my queer comrades, for it’s time once again for Gay Christmas, otherwise known as Pride! Over here in the City on a Hill, this upcoming weekend will be stuffed to bursting with parades, festivals, block parties, club nights, and sexxxy LGBTQ folk as far as the glitter-mascaraed eye can see. In fact, some of us may have already started the debauchery a wee bit early and may on this Tuesday at work be seriously regretting those two Mai Tais last night. Perhaps you should save the Spirits of Stonewall for the weekend, friends. Do as I say, not as I do.

As I have helpfully illustrated with my poor decision-making abilities, Pride is a time for celebration. Every June, the queer community comes together to celebrate many things: our perseverance, our beauty, our diversity, our love, and our victories over the powers that hate. In the US of A, we have many victories to celebrate this year, from the death of the repugnant Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to Obama officially announcing that he’s down with the gayest of marriages. Over here in Massachusetts, the (great, but far from perfect) Transgender Rights Bill was finally signed into law. This is all fantastic and awesome and a very legitimate excuse for throwing back a rainbow Jell-O shot or eight.

That said, there were a couple news stories that popped up this week that bring to mind the sage words of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman: “There’s a dream/In the future/There’s a struggle/That we have yet to win.” Now, the last thing I want to do is Debbie Downer all over anyone’s parade, but I think it’s important to be aware of how much messed-up stuff is still happening to our community. I’m sure many of you have been following the CeCe McDonald case closely, and like I, were saddened to learn that she has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for the stabbing of Dean Schmitz – a stabbing which many have argued was in self-defense. Schmitz and his friends reportedly shouted racist, homophobic, and transphobic threats at McDonald at her friends that night. McDonald is a young trans woman of color (don’t even get me started on the number of rags that have gleefully made her gender identity into all-caps, screaming front page sensationalist bullshit) – a part of the queer community that is victimized by a horrifyingly disproportionate level of violence. According to a new report on LGBTQ hate crimes – and the second sobering story I read this week – hate crimes against queer people are at a 14-year high. The report reads:

This year’s report shows that LGBTQH youth and young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 years old were 2.41 times as likely to experience physical violence compared to LGBTQH people age 30 and older.

As in the case of the murder statistics, transgender people and people of color were more likely to experience physical injury in a hate violence incident. The report found that transgender people were 28% as likely to experience physical violence compared to non-transgender people, and that LGBTQ people of color were two times as likely to experience physical violence compared to those who were not LGBTQ people of color.

Is this rise in violence towards queer people a direct result of all those victories we’ve been celebrating? Are violent bigots made even more violent when they realize that they’re losing? Maybe. Probably. Does it matter? Ask the family and friends of Brandy Martell, one of so many trans women of color – usually the young, usually the disenfranchised – murdered this year (although her family insisted on burying her under her “given” name, thereby adding to the tragedy of it all). When I attended the Trans Day of Remembrance last November, nearly every name read from the list of victims was a trans woman of color. That isn’t a statistic; that is an epidemic.

In the story I read about McDonald’s sentencing, the icing on the awful injustice cake was the fact that she is being sent to a men’s prison. People, this is fucking unacceptable. I nearly Hulksmashed my computer when I came across this little gem of cissexist patronizing fuckery:

Then the state will make its own determination of McDonald’s gender, an assessment that will involve reviewing “any and all collateral documentation and a physical and psychological evaluation,” said Russell.

Oh, will it? Will the state make that determination, regardless of what McDonald’s actual gender identity is? Is a human being’s entire sense of self subject to the whims of some shadowy collective of bureaucrats and physicians? This is 2012, is it? This is progress, is it? This is victory? Because it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.

Look, I am the first person to throw on Mardi Gras beads and get totally wasty-pants while dancing it up to Gaga in a sea of dykes. I love that, and I look forward to that every June. But this year, I’m going to do so while remembering that yes, we have come so far, but we have so, so far to go. We cannot afford to become complacent or to rest on our laurels. Not when our family – not when people like CeCe and Brandy – need us to keep the fight alive. It’s a matter of community. It’s a matter of justice. It’s a matter of pride.

The ButchFemmeinist: Not Creeping On Straight Women Edition

Bren: Hey there, Maddie! Have you heard about that thing that happened, that all the dykes are talking about?

Maddie: Oh hey, Bren! Well, let’s see.

Dykes in my world are mostly talking about wedding season and Rachel Maddow’s book tour… could that be what you mean?

Bren: Oh, how I wish. No, I mean this thing that happened and is not nearly so adorable.

Have you read it? I mean, whatisthisIdon’teven.

Maddie: Oh, yes, there’s been some buzz about that as well.

I have read it.

Bren: That screeching sound we’re hearing is lesbians being set back about 50 years.

Maddie: I was in denial about it being as terrible as they all were saying, because Staceyann Chin is a known BAMF whose writing and performances have moved me a lot in the past. But after the first half of the piece when it turned into a manual for How to Exploit Your Good-Looking Friends into Having Sex with You that They Might Not Want Except in the Midst of Severe Emotional Turmoil, I couldn’t really maintain the denial any longer. Sad face.

Bren: I thought/hoped that this was actually a parody, and she would be all “PSYCH! Gotcha. Don’t actually do anything of this, y’all, ‘cuz it’s awful,” but that didn’t happen.

I mean, I guess maybe I would expect this from a newly-minuted 16-year-old babydyke with something to prove in the swagger department, but Staceyann has been in the scene for quite a while now, correct?

Maddie: Wikipedia has confirmed that she is not 16 years old, correct.

Bren: Well then, I can’t for the life of me figure out her motivation here. Is she trying to be funny? Edgy? Or is she trying to be like, “dykes can be sexual predators, too?” That’s really what I got out of it.

For example, this sentence when she talks about how seducing straight women makes her feel: “you are the chosen one, the messiah, the mandate that pulls her, magnetic, toward her most hidden desires.”

Um, am I crazy or does that sound like a dude describing going out with a virgin?

Maddie: I hear that, and it’s a disturbing tone in her article.

If we’re looking for an answer to the WHY, STACEYANN, WHY, though, I’m checking this paragraph, talking about the only-in-the-dark-of-night relationships she had with college classmates in intensely homophobic Jamaica: “I spent many evenings and many cracks of dawn in the narrow beds jammed against the white walls of the tiny dorm rooms, listening to Sarah McLachlan with some girl I hoped would be moved enough to actually become my girlfriend. None of them was moved enough, or had courage enough. It was definitely a bit of a trip to lie naked with these women by night and be ignored by them in the light of day. Even now, I still get a little excited about the memories before the anger and shame and angst come rushing back.”

So, you know, maybe there’s an element of reliving the excitement and exorcising the anger and shame.

Maybe she has some kind of grudge against straight women.

Bren: Could this be a revenge post, then? A “look how much power I have over these straights” when she was the one feeling powerless back then?

Because if so, then OK, that sounds like a sucky experience, but this is not the most mature way of dealing with that.

Maddie: I mean, I’m wondering if that’s part of what motivates her to seek out similar relationships—not just what motivated her to publish a piece about it in the Guardian.

But I think “revenge” is well-put, because… well, because the second half of the piece sounds like a way to take revenge on someone who has hurt you.

Bren: I’m not sure if it’s a great excuse, if it is her excuse. I mean, I’m pretty sure 99% of us have crushed on a straight girl at some point in our queer lives, by mere virtue of them BEING EVERYWHERE.

And it’s very calculated, emotionally-manipulative, super-mega-creepster revenge.

I mean: “You should laugh when she confides in having a crush on some boy. Offer advice on what she should wear when she goes to see him. Be supportive of her relationship. Become her friend, first. Work very hard at being her very best friend. Always remember, you’re only her friend. You are not allowed to bend that rule for at least three months.” WHAT?!

Maddie: Let me be clear that I’m not offering her an excuse. Am I trying to reconcile the artist I admire with the person who wrote this piece? Absolutely. But without qualification, I think the behavior she describes here is reprehensible.

Bren: Right.

Maddie: I do think, though, that oppression breeds oppression.

We’re still personally and individually accountable for our own actions, but they do not take place in a vacuum.

Bren: Yes, and here we have a great example of an oppressed group trying to oppress another oppressed group.

Oppression within oppression. OPRESSCEPTION.

Maddie: …And if that doesn’t blow your mind enough already, it’s also an example of an oppressed group reenacting oppression on an oppressed group that does at times take part in the oppression of the first oppressed group.

Bren: *Mindplosion*

Well put, Keanu.

Ya know, this reminds me of how absofuckinlutely bezerk I go when I see a young butch saying things like “femmes should do the cooking and cleaning, I wanna watch the big game, femmes are too emotional, Ugg make fire cook meat,” etc.

Taking on the worst behavior of your oppressor doesn’t make you any cooler or any less oppressed.

As Cady Heron once said, “Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier.”

STOP RUINING REGINA GEORGE’S LIFE, STACEYANN.

Maddie: Well, it sure doesn’t make you any cooler, and, you’re right, it doesn’t have much of an impact on the forces that are already pushing you down, but when we’re short on power in society and interpersonal relationships, I think we tend to look for it where we can get it. And sometimes do bad things to get it.

Bren: Well said, my friend.

Maddie: And sometimes enact oppressions on others to get it.

I think it’s also worth accounting for the ways we contribute to the disempowerment of others—sometimes innocently, sometimes stupidly, sometimes out of self-preservation—and how that can turn into a cycle of retaliation.

Bren: So basically, this is Staceyann’s Guide To Making Straight Women Hurt As Much As You Do. That’s cute.

Maddie: I’m not comfortable claiming I actually know her mentality and motivations, but that’s how I read it, I guess.

Bren: What do you think about people’s comments on the article saying that if it were written by a straight dude about seducing dykes, it wouldn’t have been published?

Maddie: So, I can’t help but resent those comments just a little.

Straight men have a social license to operate in bordering-on-(if-not-fully-)predatory ways.

Lesbians are widely seen as available for sex with men under the right circumstances…and are constantly having to defend against that myth.

Bren: Gross, yes.

Maddie: The power relationships involved change dramatically when you swap “Staceyann Chin” for “some straight dude” and “straight-identified women” for “lesbians.”

So I think in some ways making that switch confuses the issues more than it illuminates them.

Bren: It operates on the notion that all parties in this Mad Lib are of equal social power.

Maddie: That said, the article DOES describe a predatory approach to sexual relationships reminiscent of things we despise in dominant, misogynist narratives.

Bren: Yes, yes it does.

“If you really want a shot at getting close to this woman, you have to wait until there is a crack in the lack of respect her boyfriend has for her. Watch for when he is late, or disrespectful, or inconsiderate. Casually mention that you would never treat a woman like that. Reinforce how she deserves so much better. Store the details.”

The narrative has now, apparently, become about how to steal someone’s GF by pretending to give a fuck about her emotions, when you’re actually storing up her intimate, trusting revelations to you in some “To Fuck Later” database.

COOL STORY, BRO.

I’m sure that emotionally-fragile individual will not suffer at all when she realizes her supposed friend was only there for her for the sake of winning a tumble in the hay. Nope, not at all. Never mind how much the anti-gay powers-to-be will appreciate one of our own delivering “recruitment” propoganda to the masses. Oh, what a clusterfuck.

Maddie: I’m also interested in addressing the “recruitment” criticism of the piece, actually.

Bren: Please do!

Maddie: Because in reading it, it actually makes something of an argument against the possibility of recruitment.

She doesn’t make it sound like she’s out there minting new lesbians.

Rather, she’s going in with the assumption that it’ll be short-lived. In her own words, “maybe you will teach her something new about gender-bending and multiple orgasms. Maybe the experience will teach you something about loss. But you must remember that most straight-not-so-straight girls are often unwilling to make the dive into lesbian sexuality permanent. Sure, some are moved enough to dip a hand all the way in, but most of them are only experimenting with the tide.”

Not that there isn’t plenty in there a homophobe could run with, but the whole thing reads as a contemplation of relationship fatalism, not a recruitment manual.

Bren: That’s a good point. Maybe less recruitment propos than “how to taint nice heterosexual women with your icky homo germs” or something. I’m sure Focus on the Family could work something out.

Am I alone is really hoping she’ll do some sort of follow-up or clarification piece? I mean she has to know how many waves this has made.

Maddie: You are not alone!

I have been hoping the same thing, that she’ll give some recognition of how it came off and how that wasn’t the piece she meant to write after all, or something.

I do think you can read a lot of sadness into the piece. I just wish it weren’t so creepy at the same time.

She’s not known for shyness about controversy, though, so I’m not sure we’ll get that from her.

Bren: Welp, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I guess at the least, she’s sparked some interesting conversations.

Maddie: …WHICH WE HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED READING!

Bren: ‘Til next time, readers, keep over-processing!

Maddie: Keep over-processing, and avoid manipulating people into sexual contact with you.

When possible.

Which means all the time.

Because it is always possible to not manipulate someone into having sex with you.

RULES TO LIVE BY.

Bren: Knowledge is power.

Proof That I Am Not Dead, Just Bad At Time Management

Hark! The Prodigal Butch has returned! Dear readers (if I still have any left), I am all kinds of sorry for not updating in two whole weeks (though, maybe, we could just say this post is very fashionably late?), but life just kind of exploded – not in the bad, IED way, but in the holy-moley-so-much-to-do way. I’ve been busy! Just, you know, not busy writing for my own blog. That will change! I pinky swear it, and I don’t take pinky swears lightly. You’ll get a real, bona fide post – in which I’ll tell of my trials and tribulations in suit shopping – real soon. In the meanwhile, here’s some evidence that I haven’t actually been spending the past two weeks on a beach in Cancun with tiny umbrella-adorned beverages and a team of dedicated Cabana girls:

The first ever meeting of ButchBoi Life was this past Sunday and guys, it was a great success! We had over 20 attendees, which was like three times the amount I had thought would show up (low expectations = the secret to success). BBL really is the only group of its kind in this area, which definitely helped boost the numbers; the second nearest butch social group I know of is in NYC. Our discussions covered a wide range of topics, including coming out to your family as a butch/stud/boi, butch-femme relations, haircuts, dealing with street harassment, and how to be a gentleman. Timeless stuff.

I was stoked to meet so many new people and engage in some good ol’-fashioned lesbian over-analyzing, and I loved how enthusiastic everybody was. But the best part, I think, was how diverse our group was. There were so many races, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and ages present, which never friggin’ happens in the absurdly segregated Boston queer scene. Afterwards, we all went out to dinner at the delicious Redbones, because that’s just how we roll (covered in BBQ sauce). If you’re in the Boston area and like being surrounded by awesome butches (you know you do), I hope to see you at our next meeting! We even have an official Facebook page now, for “liking” purposes. Check it out for details on upcoming meetings/dinners/events/general debauchery.

Also, I did a guest post! It’s for the fantastic Butchlesque blog. If you’re in Florida and want to see a bunch of butches on stage, this is the place to be. Apparently they have a Single Femmes table, which I really wish would become a thing at every queer venue. Anywho, I Twittersourced questions from femmes about the mysterious Ways of the Butch and posted my sage responses. If any of you lovely ladies out there have a butch-related inquiry that I didn’t cover yet, send it my way – I’ll be doing a part two.

Oh, and ALSO also? FOUND THAT STRAW FEDORA.

See how productive I’ve been? You can’t even be mad.

Queer Family Means Nobody Gets Left Behind

The concept of family has been on my mind a lot lately. As some of you already know, I had a pretty rough visit with my parents a couple of weekends back. I’ve been out to them for quite some time now, but I still never really know if or when the We-Don’t-Approve-Of-Your-Lifestyle beast will rear its ugly head. That weekend, it was on a full-blown rampage.

Though I’m in my mid-twenties and I know logically that they can’t actually do a damn thing to me, the wrath of my parental units – especially my mother – is still something I dread. The topic of this blowout? My hair. My oh-so-butch hair. It seems that my parents hate my hair even more than they hate my gayness (which they also hate a whole lot), because to them, it means I’m “trying to be a man.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Hetero World, it’s that failing to conform to your societal gender expectations – being a “manly” woman or a “girly” man – is a dire sin, even if it didn’t make the official Top Ten.

When mainstream society is feeling charitable and decides to allow dykes some space in which to exist, this space is always reserved for the “hot” lesbians. You know exactly what that means: the ones who look like straight women (or, if this is porn or pop music we’re talking about, actually are straight women). There is absolutely no room for butch or genderqueer dykes in this teensy little space, because like most things in our society, human value is determined by The Male Gaze. Basically, if straight cis men don’t want to fuck you and you don’t want to fuck them, you don’t even exist; when you do somehow manage to exist, you’re a punchline, the subject of ridicule, disgust, or violence. This is not to suggest that my femme sisters don’t experience their own version of cultural erasure, because they sure as hell do. I mean, nobody’s ever accused me of not being a “real” lesbian, or assumed I’d be up for a threesome with some douchebag and his girlfriend, or said I was just waiting for the right dick to come around. From where I’m standing, the Male Gaze views femmes as something to conquer, while viewing butches as something to destroy.

So, back to my family. It’s become very clear to me that my greatest failings as a daughter revolve around my uterus. My uterus will never produce grandbabies the way that my parents believe grandbabies should be produced. My uterus will never be draped in a wedding dress (or any dress, for that matter) and walk down the aisle next to a pair of testicles, on the way to produce grandbabies. My uterus will grow old inside a body that doesn’t have a use for it, a body that has no interest in all the things my mother’s Cosmo magazines think it should care about. Don’t talk to my parents about adoption. Don’t talk to them surrogates. Don’t talk to them about artificial insemination. None of this fits into their grand-grandbaby-making scheme of things. Nope, all they see is a daughter who wants to be a son (except, I don’t actually) and is too embarrassing to bring around their coworkers or elderly family who “would have a heart attack” at the sight of my uncompromising butchness. So it is.

Needless to say, I was feeling pretty craptastic after such an emotionally combative weekend. So what did I, the modern, socially-networked lesbian, do to cheer myself up? I tweeted, naturally. I sent out a few “FML”-style tweets, mostly to distract myself from the crazy around me. I never expected what happened next. My email lit up with tweets and messages from so many of my followers, offering support, solidarity, anecdotes about their own homophobic relatives, and even personal phone numbers to call.

I was completely floored. I never could have anticipated such an outpouring of kindness from people I’ve never even met before. Full disclosure: I got a little weepy (I’m secure enough in my masculinity to admit that). It was just…incredible.

All this brought to mind a line from one of my favorite Disney movies (I’m also secure enough to admit this), Lilo & Stitch. In it, a little Hawaiian girl named Lilo explains the meaning of family to her furry talking space alien buddy (makes perfect sense). “Ohana means family,” says Lilo. “Family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten.”

LGBT people often find shelter in their chosen family – the friends and community we create in the vacuum of biological family support. We lift each other up, calm each other down, and generally do all the things that a family is meant to do. And so to my queer ohana, I’d just like to say: thank you.

I Solemnly Swear That I Am a Real Live Dyke

Trendwatchers! Have you heard about the latest cool thing to do? Nope, I’m not talking about naked hiking (which sounds like a great way to get mosquito bites in really hard to explain places); I’m talking about Straight White Cismen Blogging As Fake Lesbians. It’s like Dungeons & Dragons, except instead of pretending you’re a level 32 Paladin fighting Orcs in your mom’s basement, you deceive an entire marginalized community into believing you’re one of them, when you’re actually part of the most privileged community on the planet! LOLz, amirite??

FUCK. THIS. SHIT.

If you’re a sentient queer with access to the internet, television, or printed media, then you’ve probably already heard about the big reveal this week that Amina Arraf, the Syrian lesbian author of the popular blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus” is actually some random straight white American dude living in Scotland. Tom MacMaster, this hetero cisman in dyke clothing, was so very apologetic when he was caught in his unbelievable lie a pompous, defensive asshat, writing:

I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voice may have been fictional, the facts on this blog are true and not misleading as to the situation on the ground. I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.

I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in this year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.

Oooh, I get it now! He wasn’t trying to co-opt the voice of an oppressed minority whose struggles he could never even begin to understand. He wasn’t trying to create a completely fictional person that thousands of people felt solidarity with and admired. He wasn’t trying to steal the private photos of a stranger in London, nor was he trying to carry on a deceptive online relationship with an actual lesbian in Canada. And certainly, he wasn’t trying to waste the time, money, and concern of all the people who tried to find Amina after her “cousin” (spoiler alert: also MacMaster) posted that she was kidnapped by government security forces. No harm intended, people! MacMaster just loves Middle Eastern dykes so much that he needed to mansplain the “issues” of a group that he is in no way a member of or associated with. We little women just can’t handle the stress of blogging about our own lives, you see, so we need Mr. White Man’s Burden to come to our rescue and make shit up. What a prince.

In a new Guardian article, MacMaster admitted that he “liked the challenge” of writing from a queer WOC voice (hey buddy – for a real challenge, try living as one!) and also gave the absolute worst excuse ever for making up a fake kidnapping:

His post last Monday, in which he posed as a cousin of the blogger claiming she had been kidnapped by Syrian security services, “was, stupidly, my sort of ‘away message'”, written as he and his wife left for a holiday in Istanbul, he said.

BRB SMASHING STUFF HULK-STYLE.

At first, we all thought that this was just some isolated incident of douchebaggery, but it seems now that we have a FULL BLOWN LESBIAN E-CRISIS on our hands. Yesterday, it was revealed that all the digging around “A Gay Girl in Damascus” unearthed another turd: Paula Brooks, the editor of news site Lez Get Real since 2008, is actually Bill Graber, a 58-year-old married guy in Ohio who looks like someone I once saw on To Catch A Predator. THIS IS THE STUFF THAT MY NIGHTMARES ARE MADE OF. This newest outing is somehow even more disturbing, since Lez Gets Real has (or had, as the site appears to now be down) a whole section of user-submitted lesbian erotica and the thought of Billy Boy reading through those stories and doing whatever manner of unholy things makes me want to vomit up my Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Graber, like MacMaster, just wanted to write about gay girl stuff so badly that he had to pretend to be one, as he explained: “I thought people wouldn’t take it seriously, me being a straight man.” (Cue Sad Trombone.) My heart goes out to this guy, because we all know how hard it is for the oft-silenced voice of the straight white male to be heard above the powerful din of the ruling queer female voices of the world. OH WAIT ACTUALLY FUCK HIM. Fuck this married-with-all-legal-benefits dude who posed as someone who can’t get married at all because of who she loves. Fuck this ex-military douchecopter who wrote about DADT as if it had ever threatened his Air Force career in the least. Fuck this clown who betrayed the trust of so many lonely and afraid women who came to his site looking for support from others like them. I think Autostraddle’s Riese put it best when she wrote: “CHECK YOUR MOTHERFUCKING PRIVILEGE.”

In case you haven’t noticed, all this nonsense has got me pretty riled up. It’s (understandably) bringing into question the authenticity of other lesbian sites and bloggers (if Heather Hogan turns out to be a 50-year-old father of three in Michigan, I will go on a rampage). Deciding what to share and what to keep private is the eternal struggle of every online writer and blogger, and I’m no exception. I like to think that I’m pretty open with you all – you get to know my real first name, age, and location, and even get to see the occasional devastatingly handsome photo. But there are some things – my last name, my (paid) profession/employer, the names of my loved ones – that I just don’t feel comfortable posting here. Is that dishonest of me? In the wake of these scandals, should we be demanding more transparency from bloggers, especially those purporting to represent minority communities? I just don’t know.

I can, however, promise you all this: I am – cross my queer little heart and hope to die – a real, honest-to-gosh, lady-lovin’, masculine-of-center, butch dyke lesbian outlaw. For life.