Category Archives: Being Butch

What to bring to a march

A pocket-sized notebook and pen to chronicle the day’s events.

Dr. Martens

These boots are made for marching.

My brown Dr. Martens eight-eyelet lace-up boots. Sneakers would be a bit more comfortable, but years from now I want to be able to point to my feet and say “these are the boots I wore to the march.”

Soft, warm socks.

My outside voice.

My wife. “Remember when,” we’ll say all those years from now when we are slower but wiser and counting our shared adventures on our crooked fingers and toes.

One clenched fist to raise in the air.

Men's underwear

Protest (under)pants

Clean underwear. Aren’t we always supposed to be wearing clean underwear when risk is involved? Just in case. Because what if and what would your mother say? But I wear men’s boxer briefs, which will only embarrass her. I’ll wear clean underwear anyway! Because hygiene. And as a symbol of my individuality! Statement underwear! Protest underwear! No one can make me wear women’s panties! Underwear knows no gender! Power to the boxer brief, people.

Jeans.

A T-shirt emblazoned with an appropriate message.

Cash.

An endless supply of head nods for the other butches in attendance.

iPhone to take pictures.

A copy of my big butch memoir in case I run into Leia Delaria, the world’s most famous butch.

Wonder Woman

Thanks to Wonder Women everywhere!

Thoughts of those whose deeds and words and music have gotten me to where I stand tall and proud today … Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Wonder Woman, Anne Lamott, Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, Ivan Coyote …

Anger, frustration.

Hope.

Possibility.

Pride.

* * *

Did I forget anything? What are you bringing?

Book launch!

leavingnormalNew year.

New book.

New look. (Seriously, how cool is that cover?)

Today’s the big day, folks. The second edition of Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender has launched with my new publisher, Regal Crest.

The book has added content. Count ’em, nine new chapters.

And while I’m bragging, the first edition was a Golden Crown Literary Society award finalist in the category of creative nonfiction.

A big thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way by liking my posts and reminding me that I have a voice and that my words are important. You guys have always made me feel like a big butch rock star.

If you bought a copy of Leaving Normal last time around, thanks! Consider picking up a second copy for the added content or donating to your local high school or LGBT group.

A bunch of you have been patiently waiting for the second edition. You can order a print copy or e-book through most online book vendors. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon and Bella Books.

If you’d like a signed copy and maybe some free butch swag, you can send $16.00 via PayPal to rae.r.theodore@gmail.com. The book costs $12.95, plus $3 for shipping.

Also, reviews are so important. They help with visibility on sites like Amazon. If you’ve read the book, please consider writing a short, honest review. It will only take you a minute or two and this butch will be very grateful.

What to buy a butch

W is easy peasy to buy for. She likes things that sparkle (silver jewelry), things that smell good (handmade soaps) and things that taste good (salted caramel chocolates and Cheerwine cherry soda). Plus, purple things and pretty things and spiritual things and soft things. Also, scarves and bags and really good socks. See what I mean?

She thinks I’m hard to buy for. I tell her that I’m not. Butches are easy. Hey, not like that. But you know what I mean. If you’re struggling to find something to buy your masculine-of-center girl for the holidays, read this handy-dandy list:

Handy-dandy list

imagesCheck out the wristbands and cuffs at Lucky Dog Leather. W bought me wide black and brown leather cuffs on one of our first Christmases together. I loved them. I still do. They are cool and stylish and need I say very, very butch.

Is your girl a sporty butch? Get her tickets to a game. Or a jersey or other team gear. We can never have too much. I tend to like the old-timey vintage stuff. Make sure you know her favorite teams and players.

downloadIf she’s a reader, get her a copy of Ivan Coyote’s Tomboy Survival Guide. If you want to see a butch cry, watch her read this book. Really, any of Coyote’s books are great, but this is their latest. And do I dare say best?

I have to give a shout out to My Booket List, which was created by a friend of mine. Your book loving butch can record all of those books she wants to read in this cool little journal.

If she’s a writer, try a Moleskine notebook and a silver astronaut pen (you can pick up both at Staples). I’ve always got these hiding out in my pockets. Just in case.

If she’s into comics, there’s tons of cool Wonder Woman stuff out this year. Pick her up a copy of Jill Lepore’s Wonder Woman, which details the history of the Amazonian Princess. Wonder Woman’s story follows the rise of feminism in this country. It’s a fascinating read.

Beer her. If she’s a beer fan or fanatic, pick out some new craft brews for her to try. The staff at most beer shops are knowledgeable and can steer you in the right direction. Create a custom six-pack just for her. Nothing says I love you like beer.

download-1Buy her a new necktie or bowtie. One that matches her eyes or your new dress. One in her favorite color. One that you think she’d look particularly handsome in. We love it when our ladies buy us ties. It makes us feel special and sexy.

Make it personal. There are tons of sites that let you create personal merchandise. Think mugs and tees and hats. How about a T-shirt that says “World’s Best Butch” or a mug that just says HANDSOME? I’ve had good luck with Zazzle and Shutterfly.

Make her something. We like it when you use your hands. Get crafty and make her a Sharpie mug (look for instructions on the Internet) or knit her a scarf. Bake her favorite cake or pie or whip up a batch of your famous tomato sauce.

download-2Socks. A good pair makes us feel warm and fuzzy on the inside, too. You can buy those butch socks here.

How about a fun pair of fleece PJ pants? Find a design that matches her passion. Star Wars, Harry Potter, beer, football … You name it, they make it. Or a fleece blanket.

Flannel. Need I say more?

Oh, and you. You know that’s all she really wants, right?

* * *

What do you like to gift your butch? If you’re a butch, what do you like to get?

 

Boots

img_0139I buy my first pair of Dr. Marten’s before I come out. Before I know I’m a lesbian.

I buy them at a teen-oriented store in the mall that I’m too old to be shopping at.

Brown boots. Seven eyelet lace-ups. With the yellow stitching at the bottom, circling like the moons of Jupiter.

In many ways, my coming out is fluid. A smooth continuation of who I am. An ocean wave that sweeps over me and keeps going.

After I come out, the boots seem to have purpose. I stand taller in them. I stomp harder in them, the AirWair rubber soles bouncing off the pavement like basketballs.

I wear them on dates.

I wear them to piss my mother off.

I wear them when I’m angry.

I wear them when I’m not.

I wear them as a calling card. Rae Theodore, Lesbian, they say with each step.

Friends of mine are planning on attending the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration. It’s not a protest against Trump or the election results but a march to shed light on women’s issues, including sexual assault and workplace discrimination. You can read more about it here.

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I ask W if she wants to go.

“You want to change the world with me?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say.

I look at the route of the march. Two miles from the Lincoln Memorial to the White House.

I need to break in my boots before January.

* * *

Do you have something you wear that makes you feel powerful?

Politics and parents

My parents came by yesterday to pick up my son for a few hours.

They were supposed to be at the house at 4:00.

I was downstairs working in my pjs. I hadn’t bothered to shower. Because what was the point after Tuesday night.

A few minutes before 4:00, I had planned on going upstairs. Hiding in my bedroom.

“Tell your grandparents I have a headache,” I was going to have my son tell them.

I should mention they are Republicans. I assume they voted for Donald Trump.

I didn’t want to see them gloat. I didn’t want to talk about the election.

A few minutes after 3:00, I heard a knock on the door and then my mother’s voice.

Shit.

My mom and dad came into the house. Sat down in the living room while they waited for my son.

We made small talk. We are experts at small talk. The smaller the better. We have advanced degrees in small talk. Olympic medals in small talk. My middle name is Small Talk. We talked about watch batteries and apple crisp. I told you we have the small talk thing down.

“How late did you stay up last night?” my mother asked, dipping a toe into that territory.

I said my community is heart broken over the election results.

“I’m sure they are,” my mother said.

Her response seemed genuine.

I said I’m afraid of losing the civil rights  my community has worked so hard to obtain over the past few years.

imagesQ8TUA5UX.jpg“That won’t happen,” my father said in that fatherly Ward Cleaver way. In that serious voice with that serious tone. That voice that said there is no monster under the bed. That voice that explained that the noise coming from outside isn’t a bad guy but something blowing in the wind.

For the record, my parents weren’t smug. They didn’t gloat.

But right now, I can’t separate politics from what I’m feeling inside.

As I sit here and write this, there are tears in my eyes. (I know, I know, no one wants to see a butch cry.) I feel an emptiness in my chest. There’s a gaping hole inside me.

It’s that feeling of not being good enough.

imageshchwj0s6It’s that black sheep feeling.

Feeling like a second-class citizen.

Unimportant.

Flawed.

Wrong.

Bad.

I remind myself that I’m almost 50 years old. Grow up already. But I’m forever searching for that pat on the head. These two words: “good girl.”

I don’t think that hole inside will ever go away. It’s been almost half a century.

imagesZBKZUV9O.jpgSometimes I don’t notice it. I fill it with other things like friends or work or my writing until it is stuffed full like a Hefty Flex bag.

But when I am still and quiet, I can feel the hollowness. The void. And I wait for my body to collapse around that empty space.

It never has. I am stronger than that. Made of steel and wire. Cinder blocks and rebar.

I wish I didn’t have to be.

 

 

 

Costumes

images6

I was this guy. Cool, I know.

My favorite Halloween costume was a sea monster. Actually, I was Sigmund from the TV show Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. It was a costume that came in a box, probably from Kmart or some other discount store. My mom taped crepe paper streamers in different shades of green to the body of the costume to give it an authentic sea monster feel.

I was in second or third grade and really into the show. I even had a Sigmund and the Sea Monsters lunch pail. I know. I was so cool.

I don’t remember many other Halloween costumes.

I think my first costume was a lamb. Not too far from the black sheep I turned out to be.

I was a witch one year with a black wig with streaks of white and long black plastic fingernails.

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Just when you thought I couldn’t get any cooler. And yes, that is a mullet.

In college, I was usually some weird androgynous superhero. I always started with a cape because who doesn’t want to rock a cape. And added face paint. Colored hairspray. Suspenders. I was like the love child of Superman and Elton John and the members of Kiss. With some Phantom of the Opera thrown in for good luck.

One year, I bought a blue and gray fedora in a thrift shop in town and designed some weird old man costume around it. The costume was a dud, but I liked wearing the hat.

These days, I’m not so big on dressing up. When you feel like you’ve been wearing a costume for the better part of three decades, Halloween dress-up loses its luster. If I had to dress up, I’d probably toss on a Phillies jersey and cap and call it a day. Maybe add some eyeblack if I was really trying.

Most mornings, I smile when I get dressed. I slip on a pair of jeans or cargo shorts, a pair of boxer briefs, a T-shirt with or without another shirt underneath depending on the weather. I don’t worry about “appropriate” or the difference between boy clothes and girl clothes. Instead, I focus on wearing clothes that make me feel good. Happy. Clothes that make me feel like me.

And I say a quick thanks to the person who runs the joint. Thanks for getting me here to this place where I can finally wear the clothes I want all day, every day. It was worth the wait.

Other fun Halloween facts:

  • I don’t have a favorite candy, although I usually eat everyone’s Whoppers and Almond Joys. (No one here likes coconut or malt flavoring. Losers.)
  • We used to live in Battle Creek, Michigan, which is the home of Kellogg’s cereal. Many of our neighbors handed out mini boxes of cereal instead of candy, which my brother would refuse with a polite “no thank you.”

* * *

Your turn. Favorite Halloween costume? Favorite candy?

 

Happy trails

W and I are going away for the weekend.

It’s our anniversary month. We celebrate the entire month of October because we have an October 1st commitment ceremony to celebrate and an October 11th wedding ceremony to celebrate. We figure we are owed that much for not being able to legally wed when we wanted to.

Early tomorrow morning, we are headed to Philadelphia, which is less than an hour away. It’s not a big trip or a far trip or a long trip, but still being away from home overnight is usually enough to make me feel anxious and out of sorts.

Plus, we are taking a train into the city and then busing and Ubering from there to wherever we need to go.

bustedtees-af0f4eb2-6db8-4738-91c3-b7e5c88f1

Just added to my T-shirt collection.

I like to pack a big duffle bag for a weekend away. I like options. I like my Wonder Woman chucks and my Dr. Martens. I like a T-shirt worn over a thermal shirt for walking around on a fall day. I’ll need a sweatshirt for the morning. I hate being cold. Plus, I’ll need a change of clothes for dinner. A crisp, button-down dress shirt to wear over a clean tee. At night, I can’t sleep without my fleece pajama bottoms and a fresh T-shirt. On Sunday, we’ll be attending a pride event. Do I want to go with traditional rainbow or something more cheeky? My new Hooters T-shirt or the I Love My Awesome Wife tee that makes W smile? Gosh, I need so many T-shirts. We haven’t even gotten to books–I always bring at least two–or writing paraphernalia. And ball caps. Penn State for Saturday, Steelers for Sunday and Phillies for just in case.

 

But that’s too much stuff to take as we traipse across the city. Saturday morning, I will wear the versatile combo of jeans and Dr. Martens (also known as standard butch uniform). I will bring a small messenger bag. I will pack lightly: underwear, socks and a T-shirt for Sunday; a toothbrush, one book, one small Moleskine notebook, one pen that fits in my pocket. I will sleep in my boxers.

I will be glad for the small load, the light burden as we go places and see things and remember what it felt like to fall in love all those years ago.

* * *

What about you? Are you a light packer or not? And yes, I am aware of how that sounds. What can you not live without, even for one night?  

 

Lawnmower lingo

IMG_0647When W came home from work yesterday, I was assembling my new electric lawnmower on the front porch.

“It’s so cute!” she said.

“Really?” I said.

She knows how I feel about the word “cute.”

“Oh. Right. Handsome.”

“No,” I said.

Neckties and squared off sideburns are handsome. Me? I’m a handsome devil. But a handsome lawnmower?

“I have no clue,” she said.

Once again, my wife was flummoxed by my rules.

I looked at the sleek neon green, lawn-cutting machine.

“Try sporty.”

“Your new lawnmower is sporty,” she said.

We went inside for dinner exhausted by our exchange.

 

 

 

Ahem. Announcements and stuff

Guys, here I am. It’s been way too long. I think I was still wearing flannel the last time I posted. We’re stuck in what they’re calling a “heat dome” here in the Philly burbs, so no summer flannel for this butch. 

I’ve been busy, folks. I haven’t been ignoring you because you think Cindy was the best Brady ever. Everyone knows it was Jan. Or because you’re a Yankees fan.

imagesM0U3CD1M

Maybe a crown AND a cape like professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler wore back in the day.

You’re looking at one of the newest authors to sign with Regal Crest, a powerhouse in the world of lesbian literature. I’m sure I’ll get a crown or velvet cape any day now, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

I just finished the manuscript for the new book.  

Remember when you were a kid and you were playing outside and the whiffle ball got stuck in the gutter or the kickball landed in the creek? You always got a do-over.

This book is a lot like that. I had a chance to go through the current version of Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender and make edits. Tighten it up. Really, that’s every writer’s dream–one more chance to edit. I know, we’re weird creatures. 

Plus, the second edition, which is being billed as an author’s cut, has added content. New stories I wrote this past year specifically for this project. You’ll get to learn more about Middle-age Butch when she was big butch on her college campus and didn’t even know it. And of course, the book will include more of the those butch-tastic tales everyone loves like the hunt for the perfect buzz cut and the time-honored tradition of the clandestine butch nod. If you turned your head just now, you missed it.

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My trophy looked like this except it was invisible.

Also, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender was short listed for an award in creative nonfiction by the Golden Crown Literary Society. It didn’t win, but I still feel like a winner.

While I’m making announcements, I should mention that I’ve started my next book. The working title is Love Is Like Tiny Cheeseburgers: Essays from a Butch Romantic. Basically, it’s about me and W sitting in a tree and other stuff that makes your heart beat faster.

Hope you all feel like winners these days. Because you are. Big, beautiful winners. Now go hoist your invisible trophy over your head and shout out that you’re number 1!

* * *

Ok, I told you what’s new with me. What’s new with you? Share one new thing. A new movie, a new book, a new place you visited. Anything. Go.

Dads and daughters

images[2]Growing up as a tomboy (or mini-butch), my dad taught me how to do the important things in life:

  • Fish.

Keep score at a baseball game.

Throw a split finger fastball.

Shoot pool.

Tie a necktie.

Shoot a layup.

Cook breakfast.

Be loyal.

Be patient.

Never force things.

Work hard.

Keep calm (before it was even a thing).

And always listen to your wife.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

* * *

What did your dad teach you?