“I hated that essay, “ he says to me, “about femmes who care for you when you travel; I really hated it.” And when I ask why he tells me that he thinks it sounds like all butches should be soothed by femmes, and vica versa; he says, “Why would those femmes have assumed that you were a butch who liked femme?” He says, “Maybe you’re a faggot butch, did they even consider that?” He says, “I know you’re not just for femmes.”
That’s what he says, but I know what he’s thinking. And even though I know how dangerous it is to assume I know what someone is thinking, I know this butch maybe as well as I know myself, and he’s thinking, “Fuck you, for having it easy even in being queer. Fuck you for going along on your happy little way to San Francisco and finding a bunch of femmes who see you as a big stud-duck butch and just want to pour themselves through your fingers. It’s just as hard to be a faggot butch as it is to be any kind of fag.”
There’s all that masculinity to consider when you want to rub up against someone, like that old joke about porcupines:
How do porcupines mate?
He’s saying, “ I want to show up at brunch someplace and assume that anyone who I want to flirt with will want to flirt back, and will do it, will want to, without fear of recrimination from hir community. I want you to put something in that book of yours for me. I am a butch whose identity, sexual or otherwise, has nothing to do with femmes. They are not my natural partners in this gender crime the way they are yours.I wake up and sleep in the arms of butches like me, butches who understand the whole host of things about my life, my world, the way I see things, the way things affect me that no one else could understand. Write about us. Write about that we have sweet hot sex in which no one has to put on a pair of panties, or take them off; write about how good it feels when ze fucks me hard, so hard. Write about ho it feels to fall asleep with the weight of a butch on you, tattooed arm and one furry leg pinning you down and grounding you in your sleep.
“Write about all the ways in which butches are for each other, comfort each other. Write about how we understand all the shit that comes in the world for our partners and salve it as best we can, about how I have all the more respect for hir because of all I know it takes to survive as a butch.
“Write about how, as soon as butches were no longer the scourge of dykedom for aping masculinity, or whatever that baloney was, it became faggot butches who were scorned and derided. Everyone understands butch/femme because it seems familiar, like Ozzie and Harriet but with better hair and more pussy. Everyone understands femme on femme, even though you don’t see it often because it doesn’t read queer, you know, but it’s in the first images of ‘lesbian love’ most of us see, in porn or on television. Two long haired pretty girls smooching in a daring fashion wherever they happen to be. No one’s threatened by that, not the dykes, not the men, nobody, but if I want to kiss my butch anywhere, I’d be damned sure of my audience, or better yet, better be sure we don’t have one.
“I can be a butch without opening doors for girls,” He’s saying. “I can do it even if I follow while dancing, I can do it without spending mu Saturday afternoons as a femmes shopping bottom at the mall and I do. I am. I am honorable, I take good care of the people I love, as well as I possibly can; I watch out for my community. I have a butch heart full of love that I can express when I feel safe enough; I walk in the world resisting gender norms and transgressing gender rules, transcending them. I am fixing whatever I can, whenever I can, and I laugh, and play, and let the spaces in my masculinity show, just like you, just like every butch. I get all slicked up in a suit and tie and I pick up my date, also in a suit and tie, and we just open the door if we get to it first and we take turns paying, and it doesn’t make me less butch. It doesn’t make me less anything. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think femmes are swell, I surely do, but they are not my salvation when I travel, they are not the North of my heart’s compass. That’s butches for me, and I will always go a little weak when I see someone scared and hardened and delighted and ashamed and proud – proud like me.
“You’re writing a book? Of course, I’m glad, but don’t chicken out. Don’t write a book that speaks so many volumes about your adoration for femmes that it leaves out the ways in which I know you cherish butches too. Yes, not the same was as you cherish femmes, entirely differently, butches and femmes are different creatures, sure, but I don’t just mean how glad you are and will always be to have butch brothers, a butch tribe. I mean, make sure you don’t forget to mention that you put butches on their knees in front of you from and enjoy them, that you kneel down too, that you sit sometimes stunned by how much you want to lick a buzz cut or a hot tattoo, that you know what a great grace it is to fall asleep next to a butch’s heart nad muscle and skin and ink and fur, that you understand how wonderful it can be to feel butch arms around you. Make sure you mention me, make sure you give me and my lovers and my life the same benefit of some of your words, make sure you don’t write another book that leaves us on the cutting-room floor. Give us a place on the landscape, help us become visible. Say this: Say that when butches love butches they hold lightning between them, that it burns as much as it illuminates. That it’s the sweetest burn I’ve ever known in my life of searing pain, that keeps me from feeling the flames of the world’s hate licking the soles of my boots, that I hold it in my heart and it fuels me every day. Say that it shows me things I could never see in any other way, that without it I would grow cold and die. Say there is nothing else I’d rather be.”
- S. Bear Bergman, Faggot Butch, Butch is a Noun, 2006
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