Beyond Butch

Posted on 22 Jun 2010 at 5:06pm


Keynote speaker Jessica Pettitt

By Renee Baker, GenderPower.com

If there’s one thing I’ve discovered in life, it is that I don’t have to take many steps forward before I stick another foot in my mouth.

This time, it happened just after I attended the Butch Voices Conference June 5 at Resource Center Dallas.

I was posting a note to my Facebook friends about the conference, and since I don’t identify as a butch, I made a “pre-emptive” statement saying, “And NO, I am not a butch!”

A friend called me to the carpet, “You said that as though it’s a bad thing to be butch.” I had to launch “Butch Appreciation Week” as my FB status to save myself!

Truly, I just didn’t want to be identified as butch, because I identify more as feminine. And truly, I do appreciate butches and we should start an appreciation week.

But being a transgender woman, I never felt an identity such as butch or femme applied to me. It is even a stretch for me to say I am a lesbian, though I’m in a relationship with another gal.

All these labels are still perplexing and complex. It takes about two seconds for the arguing to begin on what they all mean, what the implications are and who takes rightful ownership.

But a beautiful thing happened — there was none of this ego/identity arguing at the BV Conference. As Alpha Thomas said, it was all about honoring and respecting one another. Everyone had a chance to speak.

A major mission point of the BV Conference was and is to explore identities and embrace an entire spectrum of those who identify as Masculine of Center (a term coined by B. Cole of the Brown BOI Project).

It was not about “you have to be and do this,” in order “to qualify that you are this.”

Or as the conference organizers put it, “The point is, we don’t decide who is Butch, Stud or Aggressive. You get to decide for yourself.”

Thomas, an elder in the community, was happy to hear keynote speaker Jessica Pettitt urging everyone to relax about what a butch identity is. She had been waiting to hear this message for years.

She said, “God, am I hearing this? … I can’t believe this.”

Thomas said, “All these lines and labels separate us, they cause us to not work together, and it is time for the division to stop.”

She says we are an oppressed LGBT people and are oppressing each other with all these labels.

BV was a multi-cultural, age-diverse, mom and daughter, butch and butch-ally attended conference. And Thomas said, “The diversity made me feel so good.”

About 50 people were in attendance — including two men.

Wan-Lin Tsou felt the relaxed “define yourself” atmosphere to be very welcoming as well. She said the conference and keynote speaker really helped her to be proud of being a soft-butch that is attracted to other butches.

She said she had an “aha moment” when she realized she did “not need to feel weird or less-than just because I don’t necessarily match others’ … definition of being a part of the butch/femme dichotomy.”

Tsou also added, “It was also really enlightening to really look at labels as so limiting to not only myself but how I relate to others. Who is to say I can’t fall for a femme, too? And just because she ‘looks’ femme doesn’t mean that the way she carries herself isn’t butcher than me!”

For more about the Butch Voice National and Regional Conferences, go online to ButchVoices.com.

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