Tag Archives: lesbian

Stud Magazine Rewriting Gender Norms

Stud Magazine is “an online based magazine founded in Toronto with an aim to redefine the term stud and introduce non gender conforming people to mainstream media.”  The magazine challenges female gender norms and tackles everything from education and health to art and fashion.  While you may not be the magazine’s target audience, it’s content should undoubtedly expand your definitions of femininity.

The magazine, as well as its website and blog, offer enlightening perspectives from non-gender conforming women.  For example, has your femininity ever been questioned when you used a public bathroom?  Probably not, but this is a daily source of frustration for many women who don’t or don’t want to conform to the essentialist female figure on the bathroom door.

Using the woman’s washroom when I was younger was an easy task that I took for granted. I’d walk in without a problem, do my business, wash my hands and walk out. Of course there would be whispers in the background and lengthy stares from other females for obvious reasons. My appearance and the way I carried myself.

The little juvenile Tomboy who would eventually grow out of “the phase” sooner or later… Well, I’m 22 years old now and that “phase” that many thought I would outgrow is who I am NATURALLY.

Nowadays going to the washroom for me is a daily challenge when out in public – I pass as male 85% of the time in a crowd of strangers; ( I consider myself a TG Butch/Gender-queer) so walking into the woman’s washroom would certainly cause problems and confusion that I rather not put myself into – so to avoid such I plan my day out accordingly.

Use the bathroom before leaving my house, limit my drink intake throughout the day, and look for places that have unisex or single bathroom stalls.

For butches/studs/doms it’s hard to go into the woman’s washroom or change room without having a bunch of other females hush in silence whenever you walk in, the stares you receive and the whispers you have to listen to.

Then you have that one female who feels bold and brave enough to confront you and say “Excuse me sir, this is the woman’s washroom…” Women who do this need to understand that NOT EVERY female is going to conform to society’s thought of how a female should look and act.

I personally have took it upon myself to NOT use the women’s washroom unless its last resort situation just to avoid the constant bullshit that one has to go through when your physical appearance doesn’t match the little sign on the washroom door.

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Re-envisioning Hair

What should a female look like?  How should a female style her hair?  Does a woman’s short hair mean she is a lesbian?  Does a young boy liking pink mean he’s gay?  My cousin sure thinks so.

We need to better explore the relationship between gender and sexuality.  One’s clothes and hairstyle do not equate a certain sexuality.

DIS Magazine created this poster advertising the possibilities of its new razor, W4W Buzz, (at bottom of poster) in redefining women’s hair:

In “A Hair Piece” DIS Magazine, Katerina Llanes writes:

More than any other stylistic signifier, hair has become our window into lesbian visibility. The shorter the hair, the more visibly identifiable one becomes as a lesbian. While these assumptions can prove useful within queer communities as shorthand for lesbian cruising, we should be careful not to ground them in the world at large as they are often ill-founded and politically misaligned—re-asserting a gendered binary based on heteronormative codes, butch for masculine / femme for feminine.

These gendered polarities often mimic heterosexual partnerships dismissing the existence of any gender in-between. Worse yet is the way in which the “femme” is rendered invisible by her lack of stylistic transition—context being her only mark as a lesbian—while the butch is propped up as the face of lesbianism worldwide. Both, in turn, exploited by the branding machines of late capitalist enterprise.

Even drag, Judith Butler argues in her follow-up book, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, cannot always be deemed subversive. “Although many readers understood Gender Trouble to be arguing for the proliferation of drag performances as a way of subverting dominant gender norms, I want to underscore that there is no necessary relation between drag and subversion, and that drag may well be used in the service of both denaturalization and reidealization of hyperbolic heterosexual gender norms.”

DIS is a dissection of fashion, art and commerce which seeks to dissolve conventions, distort realities, disturb ideologies and disrupt the dismal dissemination of fashion discourse.

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Where are the butch intellectuals?

Adrienne ‘AJ’ Davis illuminates the intersectionality of gender, sexual orientation, and class in butch stereotypes.  The limiting perceptions that butch women only mimic ‘real’ non-emotional, hard-working men reveals our continual struggles with sexism and classism.

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Re-post from The Scavenger.

Predominant stereotypes of butch women are that we work with our hands, have callouses, and wear steel-toe boots. But there’s an image of butchness that is rarely seen or even recognized: the butch intellectual, writes Adrienne ‘Aj’ Davis.

It took me a long time to decide what to say about being a black butch woman. A great deal has already been said, rivers of ink have flowed and countless electrons sent whizzing around the internet, in the name of defining and illustrating what it is to be butch.

However, there’s an image of butchness that is rarely seen or even recognized: What of the butch intellectual?

The TV host, Rachel Maddow, is really the first acknowledged butch intellectual I’ve ever seen. Leslie Feinberg, whatever other appellations might crown her [sic] in glory, isn’t referred to as an intellectual.

Butches are known to be many things; we all carry an image of a butch in all her glory but among those images, I’d wager that very few of them are of a woman sitting at a desk eagerly figuring out some arcana of Linux or Apple Script or lying on a couch, some copious tome on evolutionary biology or string theory in her hands. Yet, we do exist.

I know we do because I am one.

(A quick note on pronouns: I am a woman-identified butch and so will use the pronouns I feel comfortable with. These should not be taken as any commentary on how others identify).

I am black, I am butch, and I am an intellectual. I use the latter term in the classical sense of one who lives for the life of the mind and for ideas. I am happiest when I am either reading something that makes my brain hurt or engaging in a fast-paced discussion about politics or some arcane subject.

It took me a long time – over a decade – to become truly comfortable with this fact about myself. In part this is because there were (and still are) precious few depictions of butch intellectuals in lesbian literature or film.

We work with our hands, we shower after work, we have callouses and steel-toe boots. What we don’t have are jobs where we sit and do mental work all day. For some odd reason, that is supposed to be the province of femmes.

Yet, here I sit, at a desk where I don’t ever touch anything other than my keyboard and mouse. My tools are all electronic. The muscles I use are mostly in my head and hands. That I am a black butch means that I am even more of a strange attractor.

Regardless of what we might think of it, much of being ‘butch’ gets framed within the context of embracing masculinity.

Unfortunately for some of us, this embrace comes along with the baggage ‘real men’ aren’t thinkers. For whatever reasons, we have internalized the idea that to be a ‘real butch’ means that one is a body-person not a head-person.

Yet, here is something we embrace for no good reason that I see. Since we butches already transgress gender rules, we have purchased the freedom to embrace or reject whatever typical gender traits we wish. Why, then, should we reject one of the more pernicious myths of masculinity – namely that to be strong is to be a doer not a thinker.

Now, some of this is obviously class-based and, of course, class is a mine-field at least as fraught with peril as race.

I am not working-class nor do I come from a working-class background. The times I have been poor in my life, it has been because of youth or bad decision-making, not because it was the way I grew up.

The image of butchness that most lesbians would recognize as such is working-class. One could make a fair argument that being an intellectual or an academic is a luxury for the middle-class and that’s okay as far as it goes.

However, the truth of the statement does not change, in any substantive way, that middle-class butches do exist. We are doctors, professors, lawyers, accountants and so on. I cannot make an even half-decent approximation of a working-class butch and I would not insult my sisters and brothers who genuinely are from the working class by trying to appropriate something that does not belong to me.

This leaves me with the task of being my own role model, carving out my own space. That task can be difficult and frustrating at times but I have also experienced it as liberating.

The frustration has come from the friction of other lesbians’ expectations of me as a black butch and my own; I am not supposed to be from where I am from, not supposed to love the things I do nor am I supposed to aspire to be a black, butch, Carl Sagan.

Yet, here I am, with a background that I not only cannot change but wouldn’t change. Here I stand, wanting to fill the void left when Sagan shuffled off this mortal coil.

In writing this, I am reminded of Sojourner Truth’s speech ‘Ain’t I a woman?’ In closing, and with apologies to the sister’s memory, my question isn’t ‘Ain’t I a woman?. Bathroom incidents notwithstanding, that question is settled.

Rather, the question is ‘Ain’t I a butch?’

Ain’t I a butch? I can get out there and work with the best of them. Work myself until my bones hurt. Yet, in my work-a-day life all of my heavy lifting is done with my brain. My hands are for typing or gesturing or fidgeting while I digest the contours of whatever knotty problem I am hacking on. Ain’t I a butch?

I can put on my butch cock and give my lady exactly what she needs to sing for me. Yet I don’t identify as a guy, a Daddy, or a fella. Ain’t I a butch?

My cycle is pedal powered, not motorized. Ain’t I a butch?

You’re more likely to find me in the library than on the softball field. Ain’t I a butch?

I cry whenever I see The Color Purple and it gets to the point where Shug reconciles with her father. I weep during that scene. Ain’t I a butch?

I live for the life of the mind. Ain’t I a butch?

I’m as comfortable in a Brooks Brothers suit as I am in jeans and a tee-shirt. Ain’t I a butch?

Adrienne ‘Aj’ Davis is a middle-aged, African-American butch living in the great Pacific Northwest. In her two decades out of the closet, she has been an HIV/AIDS educator, a science reporter, a system administrator and a technology educator. She is now pursuing a degree in bioinformatics/computational biology with aspirations of a life spent in academia.
Davis is the co-chair and board member of the Butch Voices conference held annually in the US. Regional conferences will be held in New York (25 September), Portland, Oregon (2 October), and Los Angeles (8-10 October). Visit the website for details or check them out on Facebook.

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