Video: Growing up butch

This is a video by the excellent vlogger Mainely Butch!

This made me think about whether I could describe what it’s like growing up femme. I think that would be hard to do though. Women describe what it was like growing up butch by naming the reasons they were different from other girls. So how do you describe growing up the same as other girls?

I was pretty typical when I was a kid. I enjoyed lots of the activities and clothing that was assigned to girls. I played a hell of a lot of Barbies. However, I wasn’t a total princess. I liked playing outside, and I generally wore pants, not skirts. As a teen I didn’t understand makeup or underwire bras and I didn’t want them anywhere near me. (I do wear underwire bras now, but still no makeup.) No one ever mistook me for a boy though. Even if I put on men’s clothing, which I sometimes do, I still look like a woman. Clothing can’t hide my obviously female shape.

I didn’t suspect I was a lesbian when I was a kid even though I did have noticeable “warm and fuzzy feelings” toward other girls, followed by explicitly sexual feelings as I approached puberty. I was taught to believe that everyone is heterosexual and so I assumed I would be, until the truth finally made itself undeniable.

I would say that every point that I could make about what’s it’s like being a femme is something that comes from my adulthood.

For example, I remember being at my first party for lesbian and bi women. I wore a tight pair of jeans and a pink sweater. At that particular party, there was a lipstick lesbian couple and a few androgynous-looking women and one masculine lesbian. The lipsticks were pretty to look at, but there was one woman in that group who made me totally nervous, and that was the masculine one. She saw the fear in my eyes and she knew something about me even before I did. Not long after that day I realized I was attracted to her in a way I wasn’t to the others. She knew it, too. I found out weeks later that she still remembered the outfit I wore at that party, and that detail lit a fire inside me. She was already involved so we didn’t do anything, and I don’t know her anymore. But later on another butch lit me on fire, and we are still together now.

I am happy with my feminine body and I love when my partner calls me pretty. Although the idea of being a wife to a man makes me nauseous, I love being my partner’s wife. Being a butch’s girl is the absolute best thing in life.

Being a femme means feeling different on the inside even though you don’t look any different to other people. Straight women will often assume I’m one of them, but I always know I’m not. Sometimes a coworker will say something to me about a man being handsome, and I just feel surprised and confused. How do they know? It seems arbitrary to me, deciding which men are handsome. To me, they just look like men. But show me a photo of k.d.lang and I’ll need a fainting couch to swoon onto.

I’m still exploring what it means to be femme, and it really helps when other lesbians talk about their experience.

Thanks for the video, Mainely Butch!

Olive Yang, butch hero

I was very pleased to come across this article about an Asian butch lesbian named Olive Yang, who spend her life as a cross-dressing warlord.

From the New York Times:

“MUSE, Myanmar — She was born to royalty in British colonial Burma, but rejected that life to become a cross-dressing warlord whose C.I.A.-supplied army established opium trade routes across the Golden Triangle. By the time of her death, last week at 90, she had led hundreds of men, endured prison and torture, generated gossip for her relationship with a film actress and, finally, helped forge a truce between ethnic rebels and the government.

Olive Yang grew up as one of 11 children in an ethnic Chinese family of hereditary rulers of what was then the semiautonomous Shan state of Kokang. According to relatives, she wore boys’ clothes, refused to bind her feet and frequently fell in love with her brothers’ romantic interests.

Concerned about their unconventional daughter, her parents arranged for her to marry a younger cousin. Shortly after she became pregnant, archives show, she left her husband to pursue a life among opium-trafficking bandits. Her son, Duan Jipu — named for the American jeeps Ms. Yang had seen in the Chinese city of Kunming during World War II — was raised by other family members.

Ms. Yang’s pursuit of a career as a militia leader and opium smuggler grew in part out of her desperation to escape traditional gender roles, her relatives said.”

Now, I’m not trying to say that leading the illegal drug trade is heroic, but defying traditional gender roles is. I am proud of this woman for escaping from a marriage she didn’t want and dressing how she wanted and pursuing relationships with women. Her bravery reminds me of Joan of Arc. Long live gender rebels!

More appropriation of lesbian identity

Although a lesbian is a female homosexual, it’s also a fashionable label for people who aren’t female or homosexual to steal for their own use. This is not okay. When non-lesbians call themselves lesbians, not only is it lying, but I’d say it’s homophobic too—it’s blatant disrespect and erasure of actual lesbians.

Today’s example is celebrity opposite-sex couple Nico Tortorella and Bethany Meyers. 

Both of them are bisexual, but for some reason, Meyers identifies as gay.

It’s interesting that the queer/trans movement makes it compulsory for all women to be bisexual and outlaws homosexuality, and yet at the same time it’s fashionable for bisexuals to take “lesbian” on as an identity. They’re okay with a “lesbian” identity as long as it doesn’t mean being actually lesbian. If you’re actually a lesbian, then you’re a bigoted exclusionary TERF. (Words don’t mean anything, unless women attempt to use words to set a boundary that excludes men, and then her words are committing literal violence.)

The article about them in The Advocate claims that this couple is “reinventing what it means to be family.” It also claims that Tortorella is “defying the gender binary.” You heard it right, folks—an opposite-sex couple who both look typical for their sex are reinventing the family and defying the gender binary.

Quoted from People magazine:

“Even though Meyers identifies as gay, she embraces the queer label and shared that Tortorella is the only man she can imagine having a relationship with.”

Women who are gay can’t imagine being with ANY man. I have never been able to picture myself marrying a man or living with a man and the mere idea of it makes me uncomfortable. If a woman is happily in love with a man, even if he’s the only man in the world for her, she’s not a lesbian. She’s either straight or bisexual.

I wish people would just be honest. If you’re bisexual, that’s totally fine, but please don’t call yourself “gay.” If you’re in an opposite-sex relationship, you’re not reinventing the family. Opposite-sex relationships are the default.

Everybody wants to be fuckin’ special these days.

Lesbian exclusion from Pride

I was excited to see an article on Feminist Current called On actual exclusivity at Pride because we need to talk about how lesbians have been effectively banned from Pride festivals everywhere. However, this article missed the main reason lesbians are banned from Pride and instead appeared to blame female transitioners for making other women feel unwelcome.

The main reason that lesbians are excluded from Pride is that Pride festivals have been taken over by queer theory and Dyke Marches now cater specifically to queer theorists rather than to lesbians. Dyke Marches everywhere explicitly state they are for “queer women,” not lesbians, and the designation “queer women” can include people of either sex and of any sexual orientation, as long as they feel they identify as “queer women.” According to queer theory, the most oppressed “lesbians” are men who identify as lesbians.

In reality, men who identify as “lesbians” are homophobic heterosexual men with no respect for women’s boundaries. Not only should they not be centered in Dyke Marches, they should be actively excluded and condemned for lesbophobia. Now that Dyke Marches primarily exist to validate the bullshit identities of homophobic men, it would be difficult for any lesbian to feel comfortable marching in one. Signs held up by marchers saying things like “No TERFs” and “We love dick” reinforce the message that this is not a place for lesbians.

The article on Feminist Current linked above didn’t talk about this; instead the author talked about feeling that lesbians are unwelcome at Pride simply by seeing a trans man dancing:

“The misogyny of trans politics is not new to me, but I had a moment of sickening clarity at Pride last year. After a long day and night of festivities, my partner and I were leaning on a table in a bar. There was a young lad dancing alone; when I looked closer I could see the tightly bound chest and the beginnings of a beard. This was a kid of about 18, who had been told that altering her body in this extreme way would somehow resolve the discomfort and self-hatred she experienced under patriarchy. This image was a visceral reminder that lesbians, as they are — as women with diverse female bodies, who love other women with diverse female bodies — were no longer welcome at Pride.”

I’m surprised that this was the example she chose to use as proof that lesbians have become unwelcome. It sounds as though she thinks that either the presence of female transitioners creates a hostile environment for women or that women are transitioning due to feeling unwelcome coming to Pride as lesbians. I’m guessing her intention was that the existence of lesbians who transition is a sign that lesbians don’t feel comfortable being lesbians, but this isn’t what I think comes across in what she wrote.

If I were to choose an image as a visceral reminder that lesbians are not welcome at Pride, I’d choose an image of a fully-intact male holding a sign saying “some dykes have dicks” or a man wearing a T-shirt that says “I punch TERFs.” I definitely wouldn’t choose an image of a female transitioner for this. I do not think that the presence of female transitioners at Pride is making lesbians unwelcome.

There are a couple of words in this article that indicate a feeling of scorn toward female transitioners. One of those words is “sickening” in the above paragraph. The other is her phrase “the mutilated and bound bodies of women.” I don’t think this is an appropriate way to talk about women who are suffering from a real condition (dysphoria) and who are attempting to deal with that in a way that makes sense to them. Although I don’t believe that body modification is an effective strategy to achieve good mental health, I also don’t agree with being scornful toward those who do. We need to be very clear as feminists that we are against systems of oppression but not the individuals who are caught in those systems.

I’d like to talk about the changes I would make to Pride festivals in order to make them more inclusive to lesbians. The primary change I would make if I were in charge is that I’d move away from the promotion of queer theory and capitalist advertising and toward a return to Pride marches as commemorations of the Stonewall riots. Pride marches these days are at least 50% advertising. All sorts of companies want to put their float in the parade, complete with corporate logos, mass-produced branded giveaway items, and hired models to dance for them. Many liberal institutions, such as political parties and unions, create professionally-printed signs with slogans bearing the latest politically-correct “queer” slogans, which sometimes don’t reflect what lesbians would actually want to say.

My ideal Pride parade would not allow corporate logos at all, and would discourage the throwing around of promotional products and other garbage, and the hiring of models to dance on floats. I think a pride parade should consist of a group of gays and lesbians who wish to commemorate the Stonewall Riots with homemade signs that represent their gratitude for those who fought for our rights. There should always be signs with the names of gays and lesbians who fought back against gay oppression and who died of homophobic violence. There should also be grassroots organizations for gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the parade to advertise their community services. Bisexuals who wish to march in pride parades should do so for the purpose of supporting same-sex attraction rather than emphasizing their opposite-sex relationships. I don’t think that bisexuals should be categorically excluded, but I think when they emphasize their opposite-sex relationships in Pride parades, they are being obnoxious and ignoring the purpose of the parade. I don’t think that the trans community as a distinct group belongs in Pride parades, because being trans is not a sexual orientation. There will naturally be butch women, effeminate men, and cross-dressing at a Pride march because that is the nature of some gays and lesbians. This is totally okay and welcome. Gays and lesbians who make body modifications but still identify as their birth sex and have a homosexual orientation should be welcome too, since they are gays and lesbians. However, inviting the trans community as a whole means inviting heterosexuals who identify into “queerness” by being “kinky” in bed or having green hair, and heterosexual men who disrespect lesbians by appropriating our name for themselves, and I don’t think such people belong in a Pride parade.

All that being said, I have no interest in either performing “genital checks” on anyone or demanding anyone “prove” their sexual orientation before marching. I just think it should be understood that a Pride parade is for gays and lesbians to commemorate the Stonewall riots and not an opportunity for everyone under the sun to celebrate whatever they think is cool about themselves.

Finally, in addition to banning corporate logos I would also ban the use of the word “TERF.” This word should be considered lesbophobic hate speech and therefore not welcome at a march that purports to include lesbians.

What Pride parades have turned into is a giant corporate-sponsored party celebrating watered-down liberal politics that is open to anyone except lesbians. As a Marxist-leaning lesbian, Pride is not for me at all. What Pride has turned into is a disgrace and an insult to lesbians.

I normally agree with everything posted on Feminist Current, but unfortunately this article fell short.

For a woman with internalized homophobia

The Independent published a “Dear Mary” column in which a woman in love with her female friend asked for advice. Mary gave her very poor advice, which is why I am stepping in.

The reader asked the following:

“I think that I am in love with my best friend who is also a girl. I do not know if the term is really in love at all, because up until now I’ve never ever had a romantic relationship. My status is NBSB – no boyfriend since birth. I just really believe that true love waits, so am not in a rush. I’m a 24-year-old professional whose career is going strong, I have a wonderful family, I serve the Lord every Sunday and I only have very selected friends.

My friend and I went to the same university and took the same degree course. During our college years, I developed this likeness of her being around me because I was attracted to her simplicity and humour. She was a very good friend to me during college.

After we graduated my interest and our friendship got deeper. I used to visit her most of the time since we live in the same village. I slept over at her house many times, I did favours for her and I honestly admit that I care for her a lot. I also think that she’s trying her best to return any favour that I’ve asked for. We feel at home with each other’s presence.

Of course, my mind is battling against my feelings. My intellect says the reason why I am like this is because she’s the only person I can cling to after my family. But my feelings tell me differently.

We have a lot in common. We share the same NBSB status, we are both religious, conservative, and also share other life ideologies.

I did not have this sort of confusion before but I am now wondering if I have a lesbian orientation. I even introduced her as my “girlfriend” which she just laughed at, and I understand. If I were a boy I would marry her. If I will be with one person for the rest of my life, I want it to be a male version of her.

So am I in love with my best friend considering these things? Or is it that just because she is available to me that I am into her?

Or could it be that I can’t find a man who is up to my own standards and so I settle for her companionship? Do I have to consider myself as a lesbian?

As of now, my plan is to distance myself from her because the more time that I am with her the more I want to be with her. I don’t hate those who are lesbian but I do not like this orientation either.

Sorry to say, but I even thought of having a “boyfriend” just to alleviate my attention from her and to see if it feels good to have one.

I grew up in a God-fearing environment so I know what is supposed to be done. Yes, the Church never condemns the LGBT community but I do not want to be one in any case.”

This is how Mary answered her reader:

“I really don’t think that you have had enough life experience to honestly be able to answer yourself as to what your sexual orientation is.

You haven’t ever had a boyfriend, you have a small selection of friends who share your values, and one girl in particular means an awful lot to you.

Women have best friends all through their lives. They may not see each other regularly, or they may meet up a couple of times a week, but they are always there for each other and can be counted on through the best and worst of times.

So far this is what you have with this girl, and as a result you have become very comfortable when you are with her. The big question is would you like to wake up next to her every morning?

We love lots of people in our lives. Our family, our friends, our hairdresser, our doctor, and each one is a different sort of love, but love nonetheless.

But with a partner there is a sexual component as well, and although I realise that you have zero sexual experience, would you like to be sexual with her? Only you can answer that question. What matters is that you stop worrying and get things sorted out in your head.

Your idea of having a boyfriend is a very good one, because until you try it you don’t know if it is for you.

Naturally you will adhere to whatever teachings your Church lays down, and I’m not advocating that you do anything that is forbidden, but dating, kissing and all the fun stuff that is part of the dating process should be experienced by you with a guy before you can in any way definitively say that you are lesbian.”

This is terrible advice, for the following reasons: she didn’t address her internalized homophobia, she minimized the importance of this relationship, and she suggested that a woman must try dating a man in order to find out if she’s a lesbian. That last point is particularly offensive. Here’s some real advice:

Dear writer,

I am delighted to hear about this wonderful friendship you have. It is truly a blessing to find people who you can connect with on such a level and who make you feel good just by being themselves. You seem to know already that you love your friend, and I know you haven’t decided yet what kind of love it is, but it is definitely love, and that is something to cherish.

There are some clues in what you’ve written here that tell me that what you feel for her is romantic love. You say that if you were a boy you’d marry her, and that you’d like to spend your life with a male version of her. What I’m hearing from you is that you already know that you’d like to marry her. This sounds different from the platonic love we feel for our friends. For example, you have surely had other friends before, but didn’t want to marry them: what is the difference? Try to name how your feelings for your current friend are different from your feelings from other friends who you haven’t wanted to marry. That will give you a clue as to what “kind” of love you are feeling.

You are reluctant to believe that you could be a lesbian and that is because you don’t think that having a lesbian orientation is okay. I hope you will take some time to ask yourself why loving another woman would be wrong. I understand you have a religious faith and this is informing your beliefs. Why do you think your church opposes homosexuality?

Here are some questions to consider regarding religion and sexuality. If God made you the way you are, and if you are naturally inclined to love women, then doesn’t it follow that God made you that way? Do you believe it is necessary or possible to change the way God created you? Do you think the teachings of the church are absolute and always correct? Has the church ever changed the way it functions or the message it teaches before? Do you think that people’s interpretation of the Bible is absolutely correct and cannot be open to any other interpretations? Some religious people suggest that the reason homosexuality is wrong is because it’s based on lust or fornication or because it doesn’t produce children. Do you think the love you feel for your friend is based on lust? Do you think that all relationships need to produce children to be valid?

To me, it doesn’t sound like the way you feel for your friend is based on a sinful desire to satisfy your flesh. It sounds like a deep respect and appreciation for her as a person and a feeling of warmth and happiness when you are with her. Do you think that a deep love and appreciation for another woman can be considered sinful? Does that sound like something that comes from evil? It sure doesn’t sound like it to me!

I think what you have here is a blessing in disguise. You are apprehensive about accepting something that you never thought you would accept before, and that’s totally understandable. But you are in love with a woman who shares your values and beliefs and that could turn out to be a really good thing. There is a perception that gays and lesbians are all urban liberals who live a lifestyle full of partying and dancing, and although there certainly are people like that, there are all sorts of other types too. There are even gay conservatives! You are in the lucky position of already having found someone who is your “type,” and if you find out that she loves you back, you have an excellent foundation for a long-term relationship.

I know you haven’t decided to tell her how you feel yet, but that is an option for you that I hope you will consider. If you just “stop being friends” with her, she may feel hurt and confused, wondering why you suddenly stopped being her friend. That might cause you both a lot of pain. You could decide to go on as you are, not declaring your feelings and continuing as friends. That could potentially be enjoyable, but I’m sensing that something is pushing you to make a change. Because you have written this letter asking for advice, it sounds like this situation is no longer working for you. What you decide to do is ultimately up to you, but consider this: telling her how you feel doesn’t automatically mean that the two of you will be in a romantic relationship, or that you are already a sinner, or that you will lose your faith or her friendship. You may just discuss with her how you are feeling but also that you aren’t sure yet what to do about it. It’s okay not to be sure. It’s good to go one step at a time when you are dealing with something that feels like such a big deal.

There is really no need to try having a boyfriend just to see what it’s like. It’s not fair to you or to the man you might date to just try it for the sake of experiment. If you ever meet a man you are attracted to, then the two of you will naturally begin seeing each other when the sparks start flying. Of course there is nothing wrong with going out and meeting people, but don’t pressure yourself to date a man just for the sake of dating a man if he’s not the one who makes you happy. If you needed a man in your life, you’d probably have found yourself naturally attracted to one by now. If you haven’t, it could be that they aren’t what you need. You wouldn’t be the first woman to feel that way.

I hope that whatever you decide to do, you can come to appreciate the beautiful gift your friend is in your life, and consider what you have with her a treasure, whether you choose to define it as homosexual or not. It’s not the label that’s important, it’s the joy you experience with her that matters.

School won’t let lesbian student change identities again

From the New York Post:

“School to student: Enough with the gender flip-flopping”

“Administrators at a Long Island high school forced a student to sign a contract barring her from changing her gender identity because she had switched it twice already, sources told The Post.”

Okay, it’s slightly odd to make a student sign a contract not to change her gender identity. Adolescents normally go through many stages of identity formation, you can’t really stop that process nor do you need to. And this student only changed her identity twice, which is not that much. However, adolescents these days don’t just get a strange piercing or dye their hair, or go around being goth for a while, now they force everyone around them to acknowledge their identities for them by changing the way they speak to them. The one thing I will agree with here is that the school should not be forced to change their school records and retrain all staff on new pronouns every time an adolescent discovers new feelings about her- or him-self. That would be an administrative nightmare and a waste of time. People are allowed to have a gender identity and change it whenever they want, but as has always been customary among humans, we refer to each other by our sex, which does not change, rather than our subjective internal feelings, which are subject to change any time, possibly several times a day.

Although trans activists claim that trans people were born inherently trans, and can’t be any other way, and will die of either murder or suicide if not allowed to transition, this adolescent girl identified as a boy for a while and then all of a sudden desisted just so that grandma and grandpa wouldn’t find out. Did she go back into the closet so that her grandparents wouldn’t find out, and continue to think of herself as male, while planning to come out again later on when it was safer? No, she just stopped thinking of herself as male.

“Now a gay female again with her original name, the student said she is likely to remain a woman for the foreseeable future.”

“I just came to the realization that gender is not a big deal either way,” she said. “People can think of me however they want. It’s not important.”

I agree with that last statement of hers. Your “gender” isn’t that important. It basically amounts to your taste in fashion, your choice of hairstyle, and your feelings about yourself. These can change any time and it’s no big deal and it doesn’t change who you are.

The fact that this student now identifies as gay was tucked away in there casually near the bottom like no big thing. This happens so often with articles about women who identify as men. The fact that they are lesbian is mentioned in passing like it’s no big deal, and no journalist, (aside from TERF bloggers) ever reports that this phenomenon is something largely affecting lesbians.

Lesbians are not born inherently male, folks. We’re born female and we remain female. We often feel different from other girls, which is normal. This doesn’t mean we’re male, it means we’re lesbian.

I hope this young woman finds happiness in the lesbian community.

Book Review: ‘Bishop’s Run’ by B.D. Gates

I didn’t realize how hungry I was for a good lesbian novel until I read Bishop’s Run by B.D. Gates. Reading this novel made me realize how unsatisfying other novels I’ve read have been. I have to admit I haven’t spent much time looking for lesbian novels, and there may be good novels out there already that I just haven’t read yet. (Don’t worry, I will get to reading them eventually!) Mostly what I’ve read before is works of literature with “queer” themes by professional fiction writers. Although they are technically great pieces of writing, they aren’t as satisfying to my lesbian heart as a novel written by an ordinary lesbian for the entertainment of a purely lesbian audience.

Bishop’s Run is the story of Bishop, a woman who wakes up after a near-death experience and finds herself being nursed back to health and taken care of by the Witness Protection Program. She has to take on a new identity as a woman named “Lisa Baxter” and start her life all over in a new place. The novel takes us through her journey to recovery, starting a new job, meeting new people, and trying to hide and forget the life she left behind. Her new identity is provided by Witness Protection, and it’s quite different from her real life story, so it’s a process for her to learn to live convincingly as “Lisa Baxter” when her real self keeps threatening to reveal itself.

Bishop, now renamed Baxter, lands in a small town called Tenley in the southern United States. Although she is living in the Bible Belt, the story doesn’t focus on homophobia or intolerance—instead it paints a charming picture of rural life and friendly neighbors. The people of Tenley are very kind to her and make sure she gets everything she needs. The first part of the book is very positive—it’s all about her finding a job she enjoys, making friends, joining a softball team, and finding the other members of her local lesbian “tribe.” There is a long history of novels with lesbian characters who either die, go crazy, end up with a man, or lead a miserable life, and this novel does the opposite. It’s a refreshing story of lesbian success, health and happiness.

That’s not to say that it’s overly or unrealistically positive. It does contain the normal frustrations of lesbian life—like when you get your heart broken, or when you go through rough patches with your friends, or when your softball team isn’t playing well because of the dyke drama occurring among the players! And there is an occasional mention of homophobia, but it’s not the focus of the book.

There is a subtle butch/femme flavor among the characters, and I love the way it’s presented. Gates doesn’t try to categorize anyone using superficial markers or stereotypes. She rarely calls anyone by any label, and only uses the word “butch” once in the whole novel. She just describes their personalities and it comes through. The narrator, Bishop, is a “full-on dyke” and “not the frilly type,” who loves to crack jokes, play cards with the guys, and flirt with women. She is given the name of “Lisa” for her new life, but she finds it too feminine, and prefers to be called by her new last name, “Baxter.” Her butch personality is visible in a whole lot of subtle behaviors, like the way she flirts and carries herself. The women Bishop finds interesting are pretty women who are also strong people who can stand up for themselves, drive fast and shoot a gun. They come across as authentic and endearing lesbian personalities.

This is the first time I’ve read a novel with a happy butch narrator. The only other novel I’ve read starring a butch lesbian is Stone Butch Blues, which, although it’s an excellent book for many reasons, is characterized by almost never-ending misery. Bishop’s Run is the story of a happy butch, who lives her life the way she wants to as an out lesbian, who overcomes her obstacles and thrives in life no matter where she is planted. Although she has experienced some violence, it’s not related to her being a masculine lesbian. Despite having masculine mannerisms and being an obvious dyke, she feels no discomfort with her female body. She is the butch hero that the lesbian community has always needed.

One of the first things I want to know when I pick up a lesbian novel, after “Does anyone die or go crazy?” is whether there is a sex scene and whether it’s good (because sometimes they aren’t!) Let me tell you, there are several, and they are stunning. Gates describes sex between women in full detail in a way that is realistic and exquisitely satisfying both physically and emotionally. They are beautiful to behold and you may have to go back and read them twice.

This novel was refreshing both for its positive portrayal of lesbians and also its exclusive focus on lesbians. It’s not about “queer” people or any kind of special snowflake – it’s about a real lesbian community rather than an alphabet soup that includes the whole world. The way the lesbians in Tenley take care of each other is touching and beautiful. They don’t allow any dykes to go homeless, to be left out or alone, they befriend each other and watch out for each other. Older lesbians serve as role models for the younger ones to look up to. It’s a beautiful portrayal of the community we are longing for.

Here are a few words about the author. She is a butch lesbian living in a small Southern U.S. town. She’s old enough to remember what the lesbian community used to be like but “doesn’t feel any older than 28.” She started writing this novel just for fun but became more determined to publish it as it came along. Here are some words of hers from a short interview:

“When I started writing this around June 2015, I was writing out of boredom, and creating an alternate reality was a great escape. I “went to Tenley” every day and visited with the lesbian characters I’d imagined, I thought about them when I wasn’t writing and, quite suddenly, they were real and they were driving the story, telling me what was happening, what they were thinking, I just had to type fast enough to keep up with them. Then came the “Purge of 2016,” when all the lesbian and bisexual women were killed off on multiple TV shows in a matter of months and it broke my heart. All across my social media platforms, women were just shattered. I didn’t grow up seeing myself reflected on any screen that didn’t end with tragedy or death for any character remotely like me, so you’d think I’d be used to it, but I wasn’t. It hurt like hell. I hadn’t intended to publish “Bishop’s Run,” but when I looked at what I had been writing for myself and realized that damned few people, if any, were writing for real, honest-to-god butches, and that butches deserved our lives represented as much as anyone, I decided that my story wasn’t just for me anymore. So, “Bishop’s Run” is for the butches, and the women who love them.”

I was surprised to hear that she didn’t originally intend to publish it, because I think it’s the Lesbian Novel of the Year. It’s my all-time favorite one. Great things happen when we create our own materials and represent ourselves. This is a fantastic contribution to the lesbian community.

You can purchase the book on Amazon at this link.

Hannah Hart is the loveliest person

I read Hannah Hart’s memoir called Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded and the main thing I learned about her was that she is the loveliest person ever! I was skeptical at first about the idea of a 30-year-old writing a memoir, because what does someone so young have to reminisce about? Well in Hannah Hart’s case, it turns out, a lot!

She wrote about her childhood, which was difficult on account of her mother being schizophrenic. She wrote about the way her career took shape—with both struggles and triumphs. She wrote about coming out as a lesbian, which involved a period of denial at first, which she told in a most adorable way.

I had mixed feelings about the book itself. Some of the content is very interesting and engaging, and some of it I found not interesting or important enough to include in a memoir. The parts I liked the most were the parts about growing up with a mother who is ill and the parts about coming out.

Hannah told poignant stories about growing up in a neglectful and dirty home. Her mother was still able to work when she was young but her illness grew worse and worse. Hannah ended up being the primary caretaker for her little sister when she was still a kid herself, because her mother was no longer able to care for her. As a teenager and finally old enough to fully understand her home situation, she made the difficult decision of telling the authorities about her mother’s illness so that her little sister would get taken away and adopted. I cried several times over the hard things she had to do while still very young. I’m not sure if I would have been strong enough to handle it. Even as a young adult, one of her first tasks was to financially support her mother, since she could not work anymore and would have been on the street otherwise. Hannah’s family very much illustrates the need for better mental health services. It’s a crime that there isn’t better help for people with mental illnesses.

What I liked learning the most about her career is about the charity work she did on her Hello Harto tour. When her YouTube channel My Drunk Kitchen became wildly successful, she went on a crowd-funded tour doing shows in cities all around North America, Europe and Australia. The tour involved filming episodes of My Drunk Kitchen and meeting up with fans at local food banks. Instead of just greeting her fans while standing around in a room, she had them volunteer their time to help the local community.

In Buffering, she says:

“Visiting food banks while on the road gave us a bird’s-eye view of the different food resources available in each of the twenty-two cities. For instance, Second Harvest Food Bank in Oregon makes its own almond butter for distribution. Whereas at the food bank in Detroit, volunteers spent the day chipping frozen meat out of giant blocks of ice. It was a fascinating (and sometimes devastating) view of America. Or rather, a view of the many different “Americas” that exist in our shared land. (p56)”

You can watch a short documentary about her tour here:

When she talked about coming out, the first thing to explain was that her father is a Jehovah’s Witness, and due to his religion he does not accept her being gay. Like any gay kid with homophobic parents, she had to work through the idea that her desires were sinful before she could accept them. Now that I’ve read a few lesbian memoirs I’ve noticed that periods of denial are very common for us. There is a time period where we sort of know we are gay but don’t know it know it yet. Hannah had a huge crush on one of her female friends in college, and the girl liked her back, and they dated for quite some time while still thinking of themselves as straight. They had lots of sex while still thinking of themselves as straight. Hannah wrote a hilarious comment about how she imagined the two of them getting married “as two straight women.” Finally, she was able to admit that she was a lesbian. Her coming out video part one has over a million views:

The first time I heard of Hannah Hart was years ago when she was an unknown funny girl who had made a few videos of herself getting drunk and cooking very badly in a hilarious way. That first video she ever made, Butter Yo Shit, just recorded to cheer up a friend who was in a different city, now has over 4 million views:

I have to admit I haven’t been following her career very closely, because I’m not much of a YouTuber, I much prefer reading and writing over videos. I adore her first ten videos when she is still relatively unknown and hasn’t become a YouTube star yet, and I’ve watched them many times, but I haven’t watched much beyond the first ten. However, I’m still going to recommend that everybody subscribe to her channel and get to know this wonderful woman. She is cheerful, friendly, funny and caring, and she is going to spend her life doing great things. I can see her having her own talk show like Ellen Degeneres because she is just as sunny and inspiring. So many millenials are obsessed with themselves and their appearance and their identities, but Hannah Hart knows what’s important: creating community, thinking about others, and helping people who are struggling. I am truly in awe over what a fantastic person she is. If she can accomplish so much by 30, despite such difficult beginnings, imagine what she will accomplish with the rest of her life!

Whether you read her book or watch her channel, definitely get to know Hannah Hart—you’ll be glad you did!

Leslie Feinberg on why she transitioned

The following is a quote from Transgender Warriors by Leslie Feinberg, page 12–13

“When factories were humming with production during the war years – and many young men were being shipped to Vietnam – everyone was considered employable. But as the boom economy receded during the early 1970s, we stood in block-long lines just to get a job application. If I forgot for a moment just how “different” I was, the recession reminded me. I was considered far too masculine a woman to get a job in a store, or a restaurant, or an office.

I couldn’t survive without working. So one day I put on a femme friend’s wig and earrings and tried to apply for a job as a salesperson at a downtown retail store. On the bus ride to the interview, people stood rather than sit next to me. They whispered and pointed and stared. “Is that a man?” one woman asked her friend, loud enough for us all to hear.

The experience taught me an important lesson. The more I tried to wear clothing or styles considered appropriate for women, the more people believed I was a man trying to pass as a woman. I began to understand that I couldn’t conceal my gender expression.

So I tried another experiment. I called one of the older butches who I knew passed as a man on a construction gang. She lent me a pair of paste-on theatrical sideburns. After gluing them on, I drove to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. As I walked around, nobody seemed to stare. That was an unusual experience and a relief. I allowed my voice to drop to a comfortably low register and chatted with one of the guards about the job situation. He told me there was an opening for a guard and suggested I apply. An hour later, the supervisor who interviewed me told me I seemed like a “good man” and hired me on the spot. I was suddenly acceptable as a human being. The same gender expression that made me hated as a woman, made me seem like a good man.

My life changed dramatically the moment I began working as a man. I was free of the day-in, day-out harassment that had pursued me. But I also lived in constant terror as a gender outlaw. What punishments would I face when I was discovered? The fear moved me to make a complex decision: I decided to begin taking male hormones, prescribed to me by a local sex-reassignment program. Through this program, I also located a surgeon who would do a breast reduction. Shaping my body was something I had long wanted to do and I’ve never had any regrets. But I started taking hormones in order to pass. A year after beginning hormone shots, I sprouted a full, colorful beard that provided me with a greater sense of safety – on the job and off. With these changes, I explored yet another facet of my trans identity.”

What Feinberg is revealing through this quote is that she did not transition out of an authentic desire to transition on her part—she transitioned due to social coercion. The actual reasons for her transition are that she was having a hard time finding a job because people didn’t want to hire a masculine woman, and passing as a man made it easier to get hired and it made life easier in general because people treated her better.

Feinberg experienced oppression as a working class person, as a woman, as a gender nonconforming woman, and as a lesbian. The social institutions that oppressed her–capitalism, patriarchy, sexism–oppress all women.

In her activism she argued that transgender people have the right to choose a gender and to modify their bodies as they see fit. But I don’t think that what she needed was the right to “choose a gender” nor the right to modify her body. I think that what she needed was a stable job, to be treated well, to be respected for her differences, to be allowed to be herself with no negative repercussions. If she had always had a steady living and people didn’t harass her for being different (for being a masculine woman, for being a lesbian) then the reasons she states for transition wouldn’t have been there and I hypothesize that she wouldn’t have transitioned.

The problems with trans activism are the same as the problems with third wave “feminism.” People are looking at individuals instead of looking at society as a whole, they’re seeing people’s individual feelings and decisions but they’re not looking at the wider picture and the reason the individual starts feeling the way they do and the social forces that lead to them making certain decisions. People with these sorts of politics end up fighting for people’s right to engage in the defense mechanisms and strategies that people use to navigate oppressive systems without ever naming the oppressive system or challenging it.

I believe that what Leslie Feinberg’s story proves is that capitalism is a failed system that fails to provide for people and destroys lives, that patriarchy and sexism are very harmful to women, and that the path to liberation has to involve fighting sexism, homophobia, and the system of capitalist patriarchy. When we fight for women’s rights to modify their bodies in order to “fit in” to an oppressive system, we agree that the oppressive system is inevitable and that we just have to join it. This is a politics of defeat. I want better than this. I want the masculine women and feminine men of the world to be able to live safely as they are without having to conform.

Another lesbian feels like a guy

A reader sent me this video and asked for a post about it. It’s a short documentary-style video about a lesbian who identifies as a man and has no plans to transition. Here’s the video:

She says the same thing I’ve heard 100,000 times now from women who identify as men: “Ever since I was small, I always identified more with boys, I always kind of felt more like a boy.”

As is very common in stories of women who identify as men, they turn out to be attracted to women. Gender dysphoria doesn’t just randomly strike random women. A large majority of the women who “feel like a boy” are lesbian or bisexual. This makes it really freakin’ obvious that gender dysphoria in women is often related to the difficulties of being a same-sex-attracted woman in a sexist and heteronormative society.

This particular lesbian who identifies as a man doesn’t plan to transition. This means what she is experiencing is not discomfort with her female body, it’s discomfort with the feminine gender role. She’s okay with being female, she just “isn’t a woman.”

Dear readers, please raise your hand if you feel discomfort regarding the feminine gender role.

When dressing as a woman, Lauren feels like she is in drag and like she is putting on a character. She feels this way as an actress, but she seems to be implying that that’s the way she feels about being a woman all the time. This is also a comment I’ve heard before. Some people think that “being a woman” is an act that has to be performed, involving specific dress, appearance, mannerisms, speech patterns, and behaviors. This is not true. A woman is an adult human female, and the only way to be a woman is to be born female and to grow into an adult. Anyone who is existing in a female body is “being a woman.” It turns out that women can have any kind of mannerisms, appearance, and behavior. We can have any kind of personality and thoughts and feelings. Everyone with a female body is a woman, no matter how she feels or what she wears. There is no acting involved at all.

In the video, Lauren is shown on a bus “manspreading” across her seat. This is probably supposed to display her masculine mannerisms, although she looks like a typical woman and no one would mistake her for a man.

So why does Lauren “feel like a man”? I can tell you right now. Lesbians often grow up feeling different from other women. We are often baffled at straight women’s behavior, and we often identify with the cultural stereotypes assigned to men. These days there is no on-the-ground lesbian community, so there is no way for lesbians to share their feelings with other lesbians and find out that we have similar feelings. Instead there is a “queer” community that is all too eager to label women who aren’t feminine and who vaguely and subjectively “feel different” as not-women. They can be nonbinary, or trans men, or genderqueer, or any other bloody thing. The message is clear: real women are feminine, therefore unfeminine women aren’t women. It’s the same old-school sexism that caused the last two waves of feminism, repackaged as “progressive.”

Here’s the thing: a lesbian is a female homosexual. If you are female, and you are exclusively attracted to females, you are a lesbian. Whatever feelings you have toward yourself are lesbian feelings. If you feel like hot stuff, you walk with a swagger, you like looking at the ladies, you want women to think you’re a stud, you like wearing comfortable clothes, you don’t fit into the same culture as straight women, but identify with men, you’ve always felt “different,” and you don’t meet the dominant cultural idea about what women are, then congratulations! You are a perfectly normal dyke. Your membership card’s in the mail. Welcome to the club.