Thursday, August 18, 2011

International Butch Appreciation Day

I'm not sure who created the theme for today but I have been told that today is International Butch Appreciation Day. In honor of this day I spent some time reading about the word butch and it's history, or herstory.  As I was reading, I couldn't help but wonder, "Who came up with these definitions? Who gave these words the negative connotations that they once had?" Also, "Who has the right to define what butch means to me or to anyone else for that matter?" Who has the right to define who or what I am?

In my humble opinion, no one but you can define who you are. I define myself as Butch. I don't wait for someone to give that definition or title to me. I give it to myself. What you think is 'butch enough' is completely your idea, not mine. I am butch enough for me and that's all that matters.

Reading through my blog from this time last year, I found this excerpt that I wrote after attending the Butch Voices Conference in Portland.

No matter how much I am against putting myself in a box by claiming the title of ‘butch’, I have learned that the title encompasses many things and has so many definitions. For me, the thing about words and titles is that I can take them and define them for myself. I am me. Like I said to one of my friends the other night, I like to think of myself as mostly a guy but I’m not. I’m a woman. I like things that are stereotypically things that guys like and I present as masculine but that’s only a small part of who I am. I am a complicated being filled with thoughts and feelings and likes and dislikes with a little bit of mystery locked in there.

That's a jumping off point for my definition of what butch means for me. From this stem many branches of the complexity of me. Some of which are still growing and I am still discovering.

Define butch for yourself. Don't give anyone the power to define who you are. That power is yours and yours alone.

With that, I will leave you with a couple of my favorite Butch writers and their kick-ass words for Butches.

Unsolicited Advice To A New Butch 
By Sinclair Sexsmith

There is more to you than this identity. It makes everything make more sense, and without it you might be lost, but with it you are only ever on one path. You contain more multitudes than that.

Dance. Cook. Read. Make peace with your body. Look at the stars.

Don’t make everything about you. Willingly admit you are wrong, even if sometimes you know you are right. Eagerly say “I’m sorry.” Easily say “I love you,” but learn to recognize your own worth. Keep the borders of your kingdom well-watched and flexible. Keep your muscles flexible. Climb mountains. Pick wild flowers, even though they wilt. Because they wilt. Don’t let people make you wilt. That’s doesn’t have to have anything do with you. Listen to their stories. Remember that we yell because we do not feel heard.

Make a list of ways you feel heard.

Learn how to partner dance so you can make your partner look beautiful, spinning and open-mouth laughing on the dance floor. Cook. Read. Make peace with your body.

Elevate the discussions over brunch with your buddies and use them to try out your date outfits. Downgrade your tee shirts to workouts and loungewear and upgrade your presentation. Make a list of places you can wear your very best suit that are not weddings or funerals. If you don’t have a suit, invest in a suit. There’s a reason it’s a classic. It’s okay to get it at a thrift store. It’s okay to stop shopping at thrift stores now that you know how to use money. Practice rocking a tie on special occasions. Make a list of special occasions. Thursdays can count as special occasions.

Remember that your lover craves your skin and friction and kisses not despite but because of your masculinity.

Dance. Practice cooking at least one impressive date meal and, if you like watching them put something you made in their mouth, teach yourself more. Read. Make peace with your body.

Get a traffic cop vest, because you are stuck directing and deflecting in the middle of the intersection between male and female, and though the fifty-car pileups have mostly ceased, though they have cleaned the rubble from the ditches, though the seasons have faded the bloodstains on the concrete, you are still there, in the middle, while a pickup truck brushes past close enough to touch the hairs on your calf and a Mazda full of machismo is threatening you from the window.

Know you can survive this. Your body crosses borders most of them never question.

Dance. Cook. Read books like Stone Butch Blues and Dagger and Butch is a Noun and learn where you came from. Learn who else is out there in the world with you. Suspend your own stories and practice seeing another’s perspective. Make peace with your body.

Learn to recognize femmes, even if you don’t date them. They recognize you. When a girl on the subway gives you The Eyes, she’s a femme. When the only straight girl in the dyke bar says she likes your tie, she’s a femme. When your waitress jumps in on your conversation with your buddies to ask “so what’s a good drag king troupe?”, she’s a femme.

But two femmes in bed are not just waiting for a butch to come along (necessarily), so don’t laugh when someone tells misogynistic jokes in bad taste. Be a gentleman. Practice the art of consensual chivalry, always be on time, and remember: it’s better to have a cock and not need it than to need a cock and not have it. Always be prepared.

When the girl you thought you’d spend your life with leaves you, know you can survive this. Pour the whiskey down the drain, keep your stovetop spotless, and delete her number from your phone. Move your best friend up to her speed dial spot and call just to say hi. Cultivate your friendships before your breakups so you are not alone.

You are becoming more like yourself than you’ve ever been. Trust in your own deepest experience. Trust in your own evolutions.

Dance. Cook. Read. Make peace with the supposed conflict between your breasts, your inner folds, your monthly bleeding, and your cufflinks, your swagger, your monthly boy-cut #4 and the razor-shave on your neck. You possess this innate ability to contemplate apparent opposites and hold them both; to dance with two seemingly contradictory things simultaneously—a talent most people can never perfect. But you can. And you are not alone. These mentors, this legacy, this lineage, this heritage, this style—this is where you fit, this is where you are not dismissed, this is where you finally get kissed exactly how you’ve always wished.

This is the process of blooming into whatever multitudes you are at the core of your being.

Look at the stars. Remind yourself how small we all are, how big your life is, how many paths you are exploring. You can do more than survive this—you can thrive in this.

A Butch Roadmap
by Ivan Coyote

Happy International Butch Appreciation Day!


  1. Aaaahhh - love this - really these are words of wisdom for anyone trying to live authentically...

  2. Great post, it is when we let someone else define us that we get in trouble. Staying true to self is where we find the best you that you can and write your own definition..yes live authentically.

    (it seems I forgot how to post a comment the first time

  3. Yes, indeed. Live authentically.