A couple of months back, I came upon an article on Xtra.ca entitled Winnipeg Pride wants parade to be “family friendly.”
In the article, the then-chair of last year’s Pride parade was quoted as saying “we have to remember that this is a public event, part of the parade is to show people we’re not extremists.”
When pressed to explain just what she meant by extremists, she responded: “Drag queens and butch women.” She then added it was important to show the people of Winnipeg that there are “mainstream” queer community members, too, like “lawyers and doctors.”
I was so mad I seriously considered a stern letter. The subtext of her words stung my eyes and burned in my throat. Apparently, according to this genius, regardless of my politics or attitude or tactics, I was an extremist, by virtue only of my appearance.
Nothing of who I was or what I might contribute to my community mattered because of what I looked like. In order to be acceptable to the good citizens of Winnipeg, we needed to put forward a more “mainstream” face to the general public, liberally laced with professionals.
I wondered how this line of reasoning was going to go over with the many perverted transsexual leatherdyke lawyers from working class backgrounds I am lucky enough to know.
Apparently this woman hadn’t read that part of queer history where drag queens and butches started the whole thing by finally standing up and rioting in response to police persecution and brutality.
And now she didn’t want us at her parade anymore. We weren’t family-friendly enough.
Then I wondered what exactly this meant for those of us with families.
Then, just recently, I heard a rumour that the younger queers don’t like the word butch. This makes me wonder, if I were 20 years old right now instead of 40, what would I call myself?
I grew up without a roadmap to myself. Nobody taught me how to be a butch, I didn’t even hear the word until I was 20 years old. I first became something I had no name for in solitude, and only later discovered the word for what I was and realized there were others like me.
So now I am writing myself down, sketching directions so that I can be found, or followed.
The word for you is butch. Remember this word. It will be used against you.
The word for you is butch. Your history is one of strength, and survival, and largely silent. Do not hide this word under your shirt. Do not whisper it, or sweep it under the basement stairs. Let it fill up your chest and widen your shoulders. Wear it like a sleeve tattoo, like a medal of valour.
Learn to recognize other butches for what they really are: your people. Your brothers or sisters. Both are just words that mean family.
Other butches are not your competition, they are your comrades.
Be there when they need you. Go fishing together. Help each other move. Polish your rims or your chrome or your boots together. See these acts for what they really are: solidarity.
Do not give your butch friend a hard time about having a ponytail, a pomeranian, nail polish, or a smart car. Get over yourself. You are a rare species, not a stereotype.
Trim your nails short enough that you could safely insert your fingers into your own vagina, should you ever want to.
Scars and purple thumbnails are a status symbol. When attempting to operate, maintain or repair anything mechanical, always remember the words of my grandmother: “The vast majority of machines are still designed, built, driven and fixed by men. Therefore, they cannot be that complicated.”
Be exceptionally nice to old ladies. They really need their faith in the youth of today restored. Let them butt in the line at the Safeway. Slow down and walk with them at crosswalks so they’re not the only ones holding up traffic. Drive your grandma to bingo. Shovel her driveway. Let chivalry not be dead.
If you’re going to be the kind of butch who is often read as a man or a boy, then be the kind of man or boy you wish you would have slept with in high school. Be a gentleman. Let her finish her sentence. Share the armrest. Do her laundry without shrinking anything. Buy her her very own cordless drill.
Open doors for men, saying “Let me get that for you.”
Carry a pocketknife, a lighter and a handkerchief on your person at all times. Learn flashy lighter tricks, how to tie a half hitch, a slipknot and a double windsor.
Learn how to start a fire with a flint and some dry moss. Then use lighter fluid or gasoline, and a blowtorch.
Burn most of your eyebrows off lighting the barbecue with a birthday candle, and then tell everybody all about it.
Wear footwear that makes a clomping sound, as opposed to a tick or a swish.
Let the weird hairs on your chin and around your nipples grow unhindered.
Learn how to knit, quilt, crochet or hook rugs: women appreciate a fellow who isn’t afraid of their feminine side.
Practice saying you’re sorry. This is one activity where you should not use your father as a role model. Fonzie was an asshole. If you are too young to remember who the Fonz was, then youtube it.
Locker room talk? A surefire way not to get laid a second time.
Sleep around. Repeat, this time without feeling guilty.