Sinclair’s symposium #1: on butch identity

Not long ago, Sinclair Sexsmith announced on Sugarbutch Chronicles that she was launching a new, as yet unnamed, project centering around masculine of center gender identities… from her mission statement:

to promote a greater understanding of masculine of center gender identities, expressions, and presentations, through encouraging: 1. visibility, because we feel alone; 2. solidarity, because there are many of us out there, but we don’t always communicate with each other; and 3. an elevation of the discussion, because we have a long history and lineage to explore and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
In that post, she invited writers and bloggers to participate in a symposium on butch identity.  Each participant was asked to post a blog entry answering the following:
What is butch? How do you define butch? What do you love about it? What does it mean to you?

Here’s my contribution:

My feelings about the word ‘butch’ have changed over the years.  When I was a high school queer, butch was an identity I chose because the only alternative at that time was ‘femme’, and I knew I wasn’t one of those.  Over the years, my understanding of myself and knowledge of available words to use in describing myself has expanded, but ‘butch’ is still part of my story.  Now when I talk about identity, I say that my sexuality is queer, my gender is genderqueer and my presentation is butch.  I’ve also managed to separate my butch identity from the need for a femme companion.   In the past, I saw butch-femme as a logical combination, one fitting and enabling the definition of the other.  Now I understand that identities can and do stand by themselves.

I love the word butch, it looks and feels exactly the way it should: tough, masculine, a little hard.  For me, ‘butch’ evokes images of blue jeans and leather jackets, sturdy footwear and strong hands.  ‘Butch’ is strong, handsome, capable, ready to help, there to back up a friend or a stranger in need.  And while I realize it’s not true for all who embrace the term, for me, butch is all the great things about being a woman, wrapped in the great things about being a man.  My butchness is about chivalry, bravery, taking care of those I love while appreciating the strength of my partners and knowing that they are also strong enough to take care of me.  My butchness despises sexism and misogyny, recognizing that I sometimes am guilty of those faults, and always looking for ways to eliminate them.  My butchness embraces my masculine and feminine sides, knowing they contribute to a whole that is strong and sensitive, nurturing and protective, playful and serious.



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