Gender, Butch, and My Van

As a budding gender guru, Angie’s Young Lover has asked about my partner Van, specifically 

how does Van identify? or, rather, how do YOU gender up your Van?

AYL asks because the discussion following my Lucky Girl post turned to gender, as it always seems to here.  So, for inquiring minds, Van identifies as a butch lesbian.  I know I make it sound like we disagree on everything, but Van and I actually agree on that.   To put my twist on it, I would describe her as a button-down butch who is not transmasculine.  Aside from the button-down reference (which is really about style), what I’m trying to convey in my description is that Van sees herself as gender variant but not trans.  Let’s double check on that, though.  “Is that right, honey?”  I ask.   Yes, she’s says, that’s it.

But gender is complicated, isn’t it?  Van just told me that at a business meeting a few days ago she was read as male.  She knows because the greeter, who appeared to be about 75 years old, announced her as “Mr. Van is here” and kept referring to her with male pronouns.   I didn’t realize that this ever happened to her because when we go out together, we’re always seen as women, as in “what can I get you ladies today?”   To clarify, Van says she’s usually read as female and if she is called sir, it’s almost always a situation in which someone sees her from the side or back, and then quickly apologizes when she turns and they realize she’s a woman.  

Van is a pretty private person, which is why after blogging for almost a year I still have said very little about her, but describing her as a butch lesbian doesn’t really do her justice because she’s so much more than her gender, as I think we all are.  So here’s a little snaphot of my Van.  She’s funny.  In fact, her entire family is funny (unlike my relatively humorless clan).  I was first attracted to her not only because of her sense of humor but also because of her strength, which made me feel safe during a difficult time in my life.  She moved 2000 miles to support me in my career.  She calls me honeybun when no one else is around to hear.  (Shhh…don’t tell!)  She’s the kind of person you can always count on to do the right thing.   We just celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary! 

PS  For you twentysomethings out there, here’s something that will blow your mind.  Van & I met through the personals (I answered her ad), back when they were in newspapers. In those days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, after checking out someone’s ad you would call and listen to the person’s prerecorded voicemail and, if you were interested, you’d leave a message for them.  I was definitely interested. I thought Van’s voice was hot.  Still do, as a matter of fact.

Butch Voices Conference

2009 Butch Voices Conference – Let Your Voice Be Heard

August 20-23, 2009     Oakland, CA

We are woman-identified Butches. We are trans-masculine Studs. We are faggot-identified Aggressives. We are noun Butches, adjective Studs and pronoun-shunning Aggressives. We are she, he, hy, ze, zie and hir. We are you, and we are me. The point is, we don’t decide who is Butch, Stud or Aggressive. You get to decide for yourself.

Butch Voices is a grassroots organization dedicated to all self identified Butches, Studs, Aggressives, other similar identities, and their Allies. We, at Butch Voices, feel it is important to bring together our diverse communities, build bridges, make connections, and use our collective voices to gain better understanding of each other and promote positive visibility. We are holding the first Butch Voices Conference on August 20th – 23rd, 2009 in Oakland, California. The conference will be held at the Marriott City Center Hotel Complex in downtown Oakland.

Keynote speakers for the event include:

* Jeanne Cordova, Feminist Butch/Activist,/Publisher & Author
* S. Bear Bergman, Author/Theatre Artist/Gender-Jammer
* Malkia “Mac” Amala Cyril, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Media Justice

Scheduled workshops include a panel discussion on Stud/Butch images in the media moderated by filmmaker Cheryl Dunye (Stranger Inside, The Watermelon Woman). Other conference events will include a meet and greet, networking dinners, evening entertainment, a spoken word performance, and a night of karaoke fun.

Registration is currently $100 for regular attendees, $85 for volunteers (4 volunteer hours required). Applications for scholarships and financial aid are still being accepted until July 20th. Volunteers can register online and are needed in all areas of the conference.

To register and find more information on the conference including workshops and presenters, vist the Butch Voices website.

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

I seem to be seduced by all things silvery lately.  First it was Grace Jones’s silver hat, now it’s Alice Eve’s silver platforms. Really, nothing says “life is good” like silver platforms.  Unless it’s the adorable older gentleman in line behind me at the post office today who flirted with me and said I have a Hollywood smile.  What a charmer!  Mae West was right when she observed that flattery will get you everywhere.  Now you know, it does with me!alice eve_vanities0705

Lucky Girl

So I lost $40 playing blackjack last night.  I’m still a lucky girl, right?  Next time I just need to figure out when to double down….  Let me know if you have any tips for me!


Sublimefemme Tells All, No. 24

Not everyone can be this seductive, but you can try.


Femme Chat, 3 PM

“Hello, my sweet.  Your homemade limoncello is ready?   100 proof?   How divine.   I’ll be right over, darling!”alexa davalos_vanities0705

On Your Knees! It’s Miss Grace Jones


Who else could pull off gold eyebrows with so much ferocity but the incomparable Grace Jones?  I know, I know.  She scares you, right?  Frankly, I hope so. 

While I have not been blessed with Miss Jones’s gift for provocation, l have nothing but admiration for her willingness to embody extremity of all kinds.  To me, her sculptural beauty and edgy visual style–a collision of tribal and techno, masculine and feminine–will always be her greatest creation.

Here’s an excerpt from photographer Jean-Paul Goude’s interview with the legendary Lady Grace in V Magazine (Spring 2009):

JPG Would you say that your rebellion towards your family’s authority extended to your relationship with the men in your life?
GJ I think so, yes. And I think that is what contributed to my masculinization. I deliberately challenged men’s roles. In fact, I survived by taking on both roles. By the way, I also think that all men need to be penetrated.
JPG I beg your pardon?
GJ At least once in their lifetime.
JPG Why?
GJ Because then they would understand what it is like to receive. It’s my own theory, which I think could help take some of the aggression out of the world.
JPG But isn’t the nature of man to give, or should I say to provide?
GJ Of course not. It’s the nature of man to give and receive—to be man and woman, all in one.
JPG But you’re not about to become a man, are you?
GJ No, but some men think I’m a man…
JPG What men?
GJ [Laughs] Look, I’m not your average woman. I know that! I try to live with myself and figure myself out. I have terrible relationships because of my temper and some men actually want to kill me because they think I have more balls than they do….



grace_jones by jean-paul goude

Grace Jones & Azzedine Alaïa

grace jones

grace jones by andrea klarin

What Is Freedom?


Happy Independence Day, darlings.

I like fireworks as much as the next girl, but I’ve never been the flag-waving type and I don’t do parades unless they have leathermen in them.  (You have to draw the line somewhere.)   So sorry kids, there will be no patriotic pinups of girl-next-door beauties here today.  Instead, I’m commemorating the holiday with a little bohemian flair!  

Although an unlikely 4th of July pinup, Janis Joplin for me embodies an iconoclastic spirit that is truly revolutionary.   As she sang, “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”  It’s a compelling political philosophy if you think about it.  We don’t need to become free, she seems to imply, but rather to remove the obstacles that keep us from realizing the freedom we already possess.  

OK, maybe Janis is not saying that exactly, but I like to think it’s an extension of her message. 😉  What does freedom mean to you?  How are you celebrating it?