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Quarterlife Queer

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Monthly Archives: July 2011

For those of you tuned in to the identity politics and school of thought debate around Butch Voices and it’s board..this is what this entry is about.. if you are not then you’ll have to google it because I don’t feel like linking to everything that is out there ( can still follow along here I promise)

I just have a few thoughts on the identity politics, Butch vs Masculine of Center, gender policing, and the counter productivity of bitching and moaning.

The bottom line to all of this conversation and the reason for the initial split between Butch Voices and Butch Nation is that identity in ANY form is self selected AND that to honor that we should use those identities that people use for them self, however they use them, and not put up resistance to their truth. If this means that in order to represent all of the people you want to represent in a mission statement you have to have two extra sheets of paper to call the names of everyone’s identity..then do it. And when someone comes up to you and says that their identity is not listed just add it. Simple. But there are some other underlining issues that I feel get lost in the debates below:

  1. How I Identify:  I never have and will never identify as Butch..not because I think Butch is a “bad word” or I am scared of what comes with taking on that just doesn’t fit me. I have seen no definition of Butch that has fit who I I carry I live my life. I will never follow “butch rules” or “butch code” and my voice will never match my “butch exterior”. I will always and forever be a grrl/boi..all genders..genderqueer. I DO sometimes use MOC, just like I sometimes use queer, as an umbrella term. But for now..i’m just using genderqueer..all the squabling going on has totally turned me off for using anything else.
  2. Umbrella terms: There are these umbrella terms that people like to use when there are too many individual things to list.. like saying “I have tools in my box” instead of saying “I have a hammer, a screwdriver and a wrench in my box”(not to say that identities are as simple as tools..that’s not true at all) ..we also use these umbrella terms when we talk about racial/ethnic identity.. Latin@ is a good example. We also use “Queer” as an umbrella term. INTERESTING how we pick and choose when umbrella terms are a good idea to simplify and bring together a community that has SOME similar traits but at other times call the use of umbrella terms “erasure”. I don’t know when it is appropriate to use an umbrella term or not..or if umbrella terms should be tossed out all together..But it is something to think about.
  3. Language: The language that we use to define who we are varies by geography, education and economic  background and age. I’m from the midwest. As a 26 year old African American I have never heard anyone in my hometown, St. Louis, or my second home, Nashville, use the word butch who wasn’t white. I definitely never heard anyone call themselves Butch that was under 40. This word “butch” only existed in vocabulary as a adjective.. “You are so butch” or “You need to butch it up”..never as a self identified “I am Butch”..that was for old white lesbians with flannel shirts and buzz cuts or mullets… masculine presenting women of color under 40 = “Studs”. I’m sure I know some Studs that would think it an insult to be called “Butch”. So, sometimes we are all talking about the same identity with different words..which doesn’t make one better than the just has different vocabulary.
  4. Legacy: Let me start this section off by saying that I respect all the work that the people before me had to do to get me and my generation to this point. I appreciate all of the things that civil rights activists had to endure to allow me to live the life I live, I am grateful for all of the feminists that have done great things to allow me to love and respect this body, and I thank all of the queer people that had to go through hell for me to be out today. BUT.. i disagree with all of them at some point because none of them lived in 2011. Civil Rights activists called us “colored” and “negro”…I use African American. Is that disrespectful to their struggle? I hate Gloria Steinem and other feminists who view the entire world through a Caucasian lens.. Does that make me less of a feminist? I openly denounce the word Butch and the Butch Femme dichotomy.. does that mean I am disrespecting those that worked hard to allow people these days to embrace those terms? Are we as a people bound to the ideas of the people that first fought for them or should we be allowed to evolve into terms and ideas that fit our current condition?
I think we all need to take a step back. We all identify in multiple different ways and have the ability to evolve into other identities as our life and circumstance change. YOUR identity may hold deep truth for may hold the scars of everything you had to fight off to claim it, it may hold the trauma of everything you had to go through to find it, it may be so fluid that it changes daily, and it may be painful to be forced to choose at all.
We need to embrace all identities..we need to stop trying to build a hierarchy where there is none..stop trying to impose the seriousness and history of your identity on others..stop brushing other people’s identities off and definitely stop forcing umbrella terms in places that are so controversial and sensitive.. that would all save me from having to watch another PR train wreck or the “great divide” of masculine presenting women and the women who love them.