Middle-age Butch looks like a celebrity

I’ve been getting sir’d a lot these days.

At Best Buy.  At the pharmacy.  

Pretty much everywhere.

I had been on a ma’am streak for awhile.

What changed?  I haven’t lost or gained weight.  I’ve been wearing the same clothes that I always wear.

I hadn’t been able to figure it out.

Until I was looking in the mirror.  And noticed that my hair is at that in between stage.  Not short and spiky like with a fresh cut.  Not so long that it needs cut.

Here’s what I decided.  I look like this guy: 

Yep, I’ve got Barney Rubble hair.  I guess there are worse looks.  So, I’ll rock what I’ve got.  At least until it’s time for a haircut.

My butch bucket list

A friend’s husband died a few weeks ago.

We are going to the funeral tomorrow.

I’ve read several versions of the eulogy.

Each time, I’ve been struck by one line.

Bucket listThe man who died was puzzled by the concept of the bucket list.  This was a foreign concept to him, because he lived his bucket list.  As a result, he left this world with no regrets.

I wonder how many of us can say that.

I have always been a late bloomer.  I didn’t come out until my 30s and often regret time lost being young and carefree without a pretty girl or two by my side.

I didn’t start writing creatively until I was in my 40s. I think of all of the blogs and books that I could have written.

But still, I am grateful that I did come out. I feel lucky to have written a book that was published.  I am excited about what the immediate future holds for me as I am challenging myself to tackle things out of my comfort zone like public speaking, mentoring, advocacy and activism.

Today, I am thinking about my bucket list differently. Not as a list of goals to be kept in a drawer and checked off over time but a list of things to do now.  When I am able.  When I still have time.

So, in honor of a friend who knew what was truly important and how to get the most out of life, I’d like to share my bucket list:

Bucket List

  • See Fleetwood Mac in concert
  • Tailgate (and otherwise party) with my Penn State friends as often as possible
  • Write
  • Publish
  • See The Book of Mormon
  • Take W to New Orleans
  • Throw out the first pitch at a baseball game
  • Go on an Olivia cruise
  • Perform as a Drag King
  • Take art classes
  • Learn how to make really good meatballs
  • Go to a strip club
  • Learn how to flyfish
  • Go to Phillies spring training in Clearwater, Fla.
  • Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • Get a hot stone massage
  • Get a koi tattoo

* * *

What about you?  What’s on your list?

Angry butch

As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to show anger. When I was angry, I was supposed to express it in some silent way far removed from my parents.  Even a raised voice was considered talking back.


#1 in moping and sulking

I became an excellent moper and sulker.  Like Olympic gold medal moper and sulker.

I learned how to punish people with silence.

It was polite.  It didn’t violate our family’s code of conduct.  And I soon learned that it cut deeper than a string of cross words shouted in anger or a clenched fist.

It just took patience and perseverance, two of my best qualities.

When I got older, I learned that anger turned inward is depression.  That made so much sense as I have suffered from depression for most of my life.


This is what I look like when I’m angry.

When I get angry these days, I don’t know what to do with this strange and foreign emotion.

Last night, I was angry.  I felt it in my body but mostly in my trembling hands.  I wanted to put my fist through a wall.  I thought about it.

I went outside and raked leaves as the sun went down.  The physical activity felt good.

I came inside and still wanted to punch something.

Instead, I used my adrenaline to bake a cake.  A tiny lemon cake with lemon frosting.

W and I split the cake before bed and rinsed it down with hot cups of tea.

I ate too much lemon cake.  I ended up with an upset stomach.


“Do you want some Tums?” W asked.


“How many?  You can have as many as four.  They’re big.”

“Two,” I said.

I chewed them.  They were sweet and chalky.

“One of them was lemon,” I said.

I think W rolled her eyes, but I couldn’t be sure because it was dark in our bedroom.

“This is probably why you shouldn’t eat lemon cake baked with anger and bitterness right before bed,” I said.

So, that’s the moral of the story, folks.  Never eat a slice of angry lemon cake before bedtime.

* * *

What about you? What do you do when you’re angry?  Do you have any tips for mitigating anger?

Here’s what put the “Fest” in OutFest

Philly PrideI think I’ve finally recovered from OutFest.  If you don’t know, OutFest is the national Coming Out Day block party in Philadelphia.  Tens of thousands of people attend every year.

This year, I paid for a table to promote Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender.  I sold books, handed out business cards, talked with anyone who stopped by and raffled off some sweet bowties to people who signed up to follow The Flannel Files.  A big shout out to all of my new followers!

I pretty much broke even after adding up all of my expenses.  But still, it was a beautiful gay day.  And me and W’s anniversary day to boot.

So, here are my top 10 highlights from OutFest:

10. Everyone who stopped by and talked Fun Home the Musical and “Ring of Keys” with me.  You really know how to make a butch’s day.

9. Those people who gave me fist bumps and high fives and said “I respect that” after I gave them the elevator pitch to my book.

8. The woman who wanted her picture taken with me because I had written a book.

7. The mother who wanted to buy her fresh-out-of-the-closet teen daughter the book, but the daughter wanted nothing to do with the book or me. “Buy it for yourself,” I told the mom.  And she did.  God bless you, mom and good luck.

6. All of the butches in all of their ball cap and cargo shorts and spiky hair glory. You are my tribe.  (Silent head nod.)

5. The guy who told me that he liked the cover to my book.  “We should all wear capes,” he said.  Amen, brother.

4. All the bois who read the back of my book, nodding their heads and saying “yep” to growing up tomboy, being called “sir,” etc.

3. Drag queens.

2. Me and W wearing matching “I Love My Wife” buttons and having everyone congratulate us when they learned it was our anniversary. I felt that people were truly happy for us and understood how big a deal it is that we were able to marry.  Marriage is something our community doesn’t take for granted.

1. Dinner out at a Cuban restaurant with family and friends after.  Our friend who married us last Oct. 11 — the “Right Reverend” — toasted us.  And everything came full circle.  And all was right in the world.

T-shirt drama

W and I will be celebrating our first wedding anniversary tomorrow.  You can read about our wedding here.

I will have a table at OutFest in Philly promoting my book.

I was going to surprise her and wear this T-shirt tomorrow.

I Love My Wife T-shirt

Best laid plans of mice and butches.  The T-shirt place never shipped it.  They are sending out a replacement tee, but I won’t have it for tomorrow.

What’s a butch to do when she doesn’t have a special T-shirt for a special occasion?  So, I made this T-shirt today.

Old School Butch T-shirt

I am crafty like that.  Not crazy about the red-gray combination, but I will keep the stencils and make a new shirt sometime.  I’m thinking white on black would look good.  Because every old school butch should have an Old School Butch tee.


What Fun Home taught me about being gay

When I was coming out 10 plus years ago, I was pretty sure I was doing it all wrong. Not so much the coming out part, but the being gay part.

Looking for guidance, I sent letters and e-mails to a variety of “accessible” celebrity lesbians. And Barney Frank. By “accessible,” I mean the rung below the power lesbians. The writers and activists who I thought might actually write me back. I asked everyone to identify the single most important thing that a gay person can do to further empower the community.

Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel

I wrote to cartoonist Alison Bechdel, among other mildly famous lesbians. Back then, she was best known for her Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip. The magic that is Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home wouldn’t happen until 2006.

I can’t find Bechdel’s response, but I remember her sending one.

Everyone pretty much gave the same answer. Be yourself. Be out. It wasn’t the sexy revelation that I was looking for.

W and I often talk about how her experience as a gay person is different than mine. When I walk down the street with my short hair and cargo pants and baseball cap, it’s a political act. I’m out for the world to see in all of my boy/girl glory. Not so much for W. Unless I’m with her.

Flip to last Saturday and W and I are in New York City watching Fun Home the musical on Broadway.

Ring of Keys

Ring of Keys

I’ve heard the butch anthem “Ring of Keys” perhaps a hundred times.

But sitting there in the theater when the luncheonette doorbell rings and Sydney Lucas belts out “Ring of Keys,” I had an epiphany. I had been doing it right all along. With my short hair, dungarees and my lace-up boots.

Because that’s the best thing any of us can do. Be yourself. Be out.

It takes courage. And practice.

But if I can do it, anyone can.

I’ll blog some more on Fun Home, but wanted to get these thoughts down before they left me.

Queen of my heart

Four years ago today, W and I had a commitment ceremony.

Because that’s what gays and lesbians did in 2011 before marriage equality.

I just read the vows that I wrote the morning of our ceremony. Leave it to a writer to sneak in right before deadline.

Queen of heartsI ended my vows with a story that my grandfather used to tell. He said that when he married my grandmother, she told him that she would treat him like a king if he treated her like a queen. After she died, he confessed that he never did live up to his promise.

Those are perhaps impossible standards to place on any relationship.

There’s a saying and a matching bumper sticker: Chivalry isn’t dead … She’s a butch.

That’s always been my ideal. Not just because I think all women should be treated like queens. But because I derive pleasure from being the knight in shining armor, the butch in a pair of blue jeans and tie, opening doors, pumping gas, sending flowers, tucking love notes in her lunch.

These are the vows that I made to W four years ago:

  • I promise to be your friend, to stand by your side in good times and in bad. To always listen and be your soft place to fall. And, to giggle with you at night, when no one else can hear.
  • I promise to love you just the way you are right at this very minute. To love all the things that make you special — the good, the not-so-good and everything in between.
  • I promise to encourage you to reach for your dreams.
  • I promise to always be caring, understanding and forgiving. To never judge you but to just love you with my whole heart.
  • And, last but not least, I promise to be your partner as we navigate life’s challenges together. Kids, work, bi-focals, the Phillies play-off tension …

I don’t know if I’ve made good on all of these over the past four years.

But I do know that we are best friends. That we both look forward to the end of the work day when we can share our days with each other. That we giggle a lot. Ok, ok, it’s mostly me. (If a butch giggles and no one hears her except her wife, does she really giggle?) That we love each other not despite our foibles and faults but because of them. I love that W is bold and impatient and that the window glass shakes a little bit when she sneezes.

Like when the Grinch's small heart grew three times that day.

Like when the Grinch’s small heart grew three times that day.

Sometimes I love her so much that I feel like my heart will burst. This usually happens when she doesn’t know that I am looking at her like when she is falling asleep on my shoulder or preoccupied with some task.  But then I remember that I pass out when I see blood and reign it all in.

Other times, I get so caught up in my own stuff that I forget she might need care and understanding at this very moment, too. But that is that nature of relationships. When we are loved, we learn how to love.  When we are forgiven, we learn how to forgive.

Winner, winner, YOU are the biggest lesbian ever

TrophyYou know you’re a humongous lesbian when you get engaged to your lady friend. And you happen to be a lady, too.  Plus, foam trucker caps.

Congrats to Family Values Lesbian!  You, my friend, are the biggest lesbian ever and the winner of The Flannel Files’ latest contest!  You can read about FVL’s engagement and other adventures here.  Tell her Middle-age butch sent ya.

Thanks to everyone who participated.  If it makes you feel better, you’re all giant lesbians!  You can read the other entries in the comments section this post.

FVL, send me your mailing address, and I’ll send you out a copy of my book.  Or, e-mail you an e-book, if you prefer.  You can find my contact information on my homepage.


Like this guy.

Or like this guy.

I’ve been feeling really small these days. Not small in a good way. Like, hey, I lost 12 pounds and these cargo shorts are hanging off of me. But small in an all-balled-up way. Like a fist.

I have a slew of things I need to do. One of those things is write a presentation for a corporate event slated for early November. This company has an LGBT group, and I’ve been asked to speak about my book. I’m planning on talking about the power of story — the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we share with others.

I have it all mapped out. A notebook filled with thoughts and quotes. I don’t even need the notebook. Everything is floating around in my head.

But I’ve yet to sit down and type it all up. I was going to do it last weekend. Now, it’s on my to-do list for this weekend.

Writing it out makes it real.

It’s not that I don’t think that I can do it.

It’s that I’m scared.

Even butches get scared sometimes. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

I’m not sure what I’m scared of.

“I need to get that Marianne Williamson quote tattooed on me,” W tells me.

She’s talking about this:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

It would be a very large tattoo.

So, I will sit and write. Write through the fear.

Biggest lesbian ever contest

Last weekend, I did, perhaps, the lez-iest thing ever.

I went to the vet with my lesbian wife and two of our cats.  Bodhi and Sammy.  We are a walking, talking stereotype.

We had brought them in for their annual exam.  They passed with flying colors.

However, we had to bring one of the cats back today.  He had a cut on his paw that had gotten infected.  I didn’t feel like a giant lesbian today.  It was just me, my lesbian wife and ONE cat.  Totally different.

Here's Bodhi after his vet appointment.

Here’s Bodhi after his vet appointment.

They wrapped his paw in pink leopard print.

They wrapped his paw in a pink leopard print bandage.  He doesn’t seem to mind.  He is not a very butch cat.

All this got me thinking.  What about you?  What have you done recently that left you feeling like the world’s biggest lesbian?  Organized a potluck after your softball game?  Went on a shopping spree and only purchased cargo shorts?

I’ll pick the best answer and send out a copy of my book as a prize.  Or if you already have the book, I’ll send you out some other butch swag.  A bow tie or beer opener or something butch.

So, what are you waiting for?  Leave a comment now!