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.


10 Responses

  1. I. Love. This.

    I would do both your taxes for free, had I the skills.
    This is the bestest thing I’ve read all week. Thank you.

    Thx Lemur, this made me smile. And how did you know I was just thinking about you (I swear) and wondering how the wedding plans are going? xo SF

  2. thank thank thank you so much. that’s funny that you said you havent really magnified any aspect of Van in the time that you’ve had the site because, though ive only been reading it for a few months now, everytime you talk about her, I always wonder what she looks like. Is it wrong to assume that since you are femme (a sublime femme, at that) that I assumed she was butch? i should know better as i am femme and so is my girlfriend (though she says shes somewhere in the middle). but i think thats just because i am a very interested person – whether it be someone’s ethnicity, religious background, or in your case, partner. anyway, she sounds lovely and 14 years! amazing!!!

    and newspaper ads? i met my girl online like all the kids my age do. 🙂

    No, *thank you* because your comments have inspired some of my favorite posts. I think curiosity is a fantastic quality and in your case, always charming. I knew you’d get a kick out of the newspaper personals, even though telling that story makes me feel like a senior lesbian. Lordy.

    And hey when are you going to write about your girl and the gender dynamic in your own relationship? Personally I love to read about femmes who partner with other femmes because butch/femme gets so much more attention in the blogosphere. So that’s your mission should you choose to accept it! xo SF

  3. oh and wait! i didnt just assume that she was butch because you were femme. context clues told me so! all the butch & tomboy posts! i know what kind of steak you like, SF! i got your number!

    You most certainly do, Miss Smartypants. xo SF

  4. oh, y’all are so cute; i just love happy couples! and congratulations on 14 years, how exciting. sorry i’m such a sap 😉

    also, with regard to dinosaurs, apparently when i was wee tiny i referred in conversation to “back with mommy and the dinosaurs.” i don’t even remember it, but i will *never* live that down.

  5. p.s. i adore it when people use possessives when describing friends and lovers.


    Love the insider-y details. When dinosaurs roamed the earth! You’re too much. Congrats on 14 years, sugar. That’s something to be very proud of.

  7. well..
    i ve been reading yr words on & off for a few months, its one of d things that drew me to visit here in d states….
    i d just love to meet both of u, i mean me & my girlfriend will 😀
    we r together 13.5 years, & personally dont know ANYone who have made it.. 😉
    & since gender hasnt been an issue for me till recently, im not sure how to tackle it.. i know im a femme.. but not yr obvious one! & my gf is.. soft butch? & how come gender issues interest me so much lately???..
    but anyways, hope u r enjoying yr vacation together! waiting to hear more when u r back 🙂

    Welcome queerwater! Congrats on your 13 1/2 years with your gf. Remember, as I’ve said many times, there is no “right” way to be a femme (or a butch for that matter). Gender is complex and fluid. Enjoy playing with yours!

    Who knows, perhaps we’ll met one day. Until then, hope you’ll continue to visit me here. -SF

  8. Yes, I’m just getting around to commenting on many blogs, so please be prepared for a rash of nonsensical thoughts from me over the weekend!

    Fourteen years? That is amazing and commendable. And I can see why you’ve been together that long; the tenderness in which you speak of Van is enviable, for sure. I love that she is private, and I love that you gave us some insight into your dynamic. Thanks! Now, if I could just find my own femme, dammit.

    Thx G That’s so sweet. We’re very lucky but we have our ups and downs just like all married couples do. We work to be there for each other even when it’s difficult, uncomfortable, or we just plain disagree. Maybe I should write a post about this, what do you think?

    As for you, my friend, I’m sure Ms. Right is out there just waiting for you to sweep her off her perfectly manicured femme feet. Have you tried internet dating/ personals? 😉 xo SF

    • Of course, I’d love to see a post like that! I think relationships often find their lifeblood in the little details, not in the grandiose and sweeping declarations of love – but that’s me. I’m a student of human nature and always like to hear what does and doesn’t work for different individuals and couples.

      OK, I’ll do my best to deliver on the details, G! xo SF

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