Beyond flannel

Posted on 02 Jun 2010 at 3:16pm
By RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Butch Voices conference explores issues of stereotypes in sexual identity

BUTCH VOICES
Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan St. 
June 5 from  9 a.m.–6 p.m. $20.
ButchVoices.com

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Every butch lesbian has her "restroom story." Whether it’s the jokey brush-off or a not-so-nice tale of bias, it’s an ordeal most butches suffer through: Skeptical looks from adults and the "Are you a boy or girl?" question from kids aren’t much fun.
But on Saturday, the tables are turned, if just for a day.
"This is a celebration of ourselves," says Q Ragsdale.

BUTCHING IT UP | Jessica Pettitt puts her experience as a diversity trainer to use as keynote speaker for Saturday’s Butch Voices conference.

Ragsdale handles media for the upcoming Butch Voices 2010 Regional Conference and is a founding board member. The one-day event takes on issues of community and identity and builds momentum toward a national conference to be held in California next year. Butch Voices itself is a national grassroots organization that held its first national conference last year — a need discovered at a femme conference.

"The femme conference started some years ago," Ragsdale says. "Some people thought, ‘We need something like this for butches.’  Later, it was about eight people that planned the conference from all over the country via e-mails and conference calls."

The conference will host sessions and panel discussions touching on youth, leather lifestyles, Greek life and trans topics, among others, and diversity trainer Jessica Pettitt will be the keynote speaker.  But ultimately, Ragsdale digs the broad spectrum Voices will cover in one day. She also sees this as a day of fellowship for the butch community and the people who love them.

"Butch Voices is open to everyone — people who don’t identify as butch, gay men, our allies," she says. "I feel like there is a disconnect between groups within the community. There is a separate set of challenges because of our gender identity.

The conference makes it good to be around so many people of the same. One of the main things we’re really proud of is the diversity of the issues and the inclusiveness of it all."

Ragsdale anticipates attendees will mostly be from Texas, but she hopes those from Oklahoma and beyond might make the trip to get a taste of the butch community and garner interest in the national conference. This should shatter many stereotypes people have of women who identify with a more masculine perspective.

According to Ragsdale, some of the more obvious misconceptions of butch lesbians based on looks are so far from the truth. She knows that the flannel shirts, mullets and trucks are in the scene, but they have their own place just as much as mani-pedis.

"I really think people think how we look, we’re inaccessible, emotionally hard or instantly macho," she says. "We all get this hard, bad boy image attached to us.

But so many are parents, homemakers. I know some butches who’ve never played a sport or they get manicures. And some of us are big teddy bears."                

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 04, 2010.

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