I know I am a few days late to the party here, but last week, on August 18th, was Butch Appreciation Day. I simply could not let the occasion pass without saying something. So dear butches, this one’s for you. (Letter format inspired by Ivan E. Coyote.)
My dear butches,
I’ve always been drawn to you. As a little girl, crushing on my elementary school gym teacher, I knew something about you was special.
I grew up entranced by the songs of the Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, and k.d. lang. Not butches all of them, but even then – before my body was grown enough to know what it craved – even then, I felt your pull.
But I must confess, dear butches, that my attraction to you – to your warmth, your strength, your presence – frightened me. It could not be denied. And though I loved you, I also knew, even in the earliest years of my youth, that there was something “other” about you, too.
My parents would often say, “There’s two of them,” when you walked by with your lover. Them. So I grew to think of you as a foreigner, outside the “us” of my family. I could never be like you, I thought; I could never be a them.
So as I grew, and it pains me to tell you this, I actively othered you. I used “butch” as an adjective, and a derogatory one at that. Fearing that my similarities with you, my attraction to you, could be seen on the surface, I distanced myself. I even had a little phrase I would say, in a deep mocking voice (how ashamed I am now!) when I would try on an article of clothing that felt too masculine for me. I would say, “This is a little much butch,” pronouncing “much” with a long u sound so it rhymed with butch. I merely had to say these words – “too mu(t)ch butch” – and my sister and mother would go into fits of laughter. That laughter was at you. I am so sorry. So very, very sorry.
This is what fear can do to a person. I, a sensitive and loving teenager at the time, wouldn’t have dreamed of hurting anyone, and yet there I was, casually ripping apart an identity that struck too close to home, that made so visible my most intimate and private feelings. Too afraid that the world would see that you and I were not so different after all, and terrified that I would become a them, I attacked you. Fear does ugly things to a person. Again, I can only apologize.
And for the many wrongs I did you in my youth, dear butches, you have only shown me love in return. Thank you for that.
Thank you for teaching me that there are infinite ways of being a woman.
Thank you for proving that all masculinity needn’t be feared, needn’t be male, needn’t be misogynist.
Thank you for wearing your love on your cuff-linked sleeve. Thank you for your bravery, your bruises, your buzz-cuts.
I know the world has not been kind to you, and that for a time in my life, I was a part of that. Thank you for forgiving me, for shattering my us‘s and them‘s, and for welcoming me home.
Most of all, thank you for teaching me that there is no such thing as “too much butch.”
All my love,
- Ivan E. Coyote: A message from a butch to all femmes
- Would you be straight if you could?
- The Androgyny Appeal