Tag Archives: books

Fun with gender roles and stereotypes

So, you might have noticed that I haven’t been posting much these days.

I’ve been busy with work and kids and wife (she’s a handful). And writing my new book.

That’s right, folks. Sometime in 2018, you’ll be cracking the spine of my new book and breathing in that new book smell. Can’t wait, can ya?

You can read all about it over on my publisher’s website. As per usual, I’ll be writing about gender, butchness and how I never knew I was a lesbian. I swear, it’s true.

Which brings up this photo of Middle Age Butch back in the day.

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I’m three years old. It’s Christmas Day. Apparently, I’ve gotten a gold wristwatch as a present. See how it sparkles. That baby with the big bowling ball head is my brother. He got a sleek silver train and a Fisher-Price pop-up toy for Christmas.

That other baby is not real and is sitting inside a baby stroller that I’m posing behind. I’m wearing a shiny dress and shiny black Mary Janes. Do you see my shiny smile?

The only thing missing is a husband. A boy in a three-piece suit, his tiny hand clutching a leather briefcase. And off we’d go into the sunset. Me, Husband and Baby.

I wonder if there was ever a chance for my story to turn out differently than it did. This photo makes me think that the answer to that question is no.

But still, I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if I had been dressed in bright red pajamas that Christmas morning and had a silver train to scoot along the floor.

* * *

Who is this little girl? Where is she going? Why does she need a watch?

Feel free to offer a caption.

 

 

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On words and sexy beasts

Upon her approach, I recognize the uniform of my tribe: jeans, T-shirt, flannel shirt, bandanna.

She has curly brown hair that sits on top of her head like a sculpture. The glint from her silver lip piercing makes her look like she is grinning, always grinning.

She holds out a copy of my book, eyes aimed at the ground.

“I’ve been wanting to ask you to sign this,” she says.

“Sure,” I reply.

I look at the conference badge around her neck to find her name.

“I read the dedication of your book to my girlfriend last night. She thought it was so cool!”

Her face lights up.

I smile real big.

“Oh, yeah?” I say. “I hope you enjoy the book.”

And then she’s gone.

But in her wake, I’m reminded of the importance of words.

All words.

Even the ones we choose for our book dedications.

Here are the ones I used in my book, Leaving Normal:

To my wife, who thinks me a Sexy Beast.

I’d marry you a third time.

I wonder which words caught her eye.

wife

sexy beast

marry

Or maybe all of them.

Telling a short but sweet story of butch love and possibility.

Pretty

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Me and Dorothy.

“Hi, Pretty,” Dorothy Allison says to me in a southern lilt that could melt three-feet of snow in Philadelphia in February.

I have my book opened to the title page of her memoir and hand it to her to sign.

“You’re another tall one,” she says. Her eyes sparkle.

Allison has just headlined the “Literary Adventures at Sea” program on our Olivia cruise to Alaska where she talked about feminism and lesbian literature and liking the tall butches because they’re fun to climb.

“It’s an honor to meet you,” I say. “I’m a writer, too.” I try to play it cool–Dorothy Allison … no biggie–as butches often do.

When I catch up with W back in our room, she asks how the signing went.

“It’s a good day when Dorothy Allison flirts with you,” I say.

Later, I can’t stop thinking about the word “pretty.” Allison hadn’t used it as an adjective but as a noun.

“Hi, Pretty,” she had said.

I’ve never liked being described as pretty. It always carries with it a feminine connotation.

pretty: “pleasing by delicacy or grace,” the Merriam-Webster definition reads.

I like the concept of pretty as a person or object, especially when the word glides from the lips of Dorothy Allison.

Pretty.

A sunset.

A tree-covered mountaintop.

An eagle soaring in the ice blue Alaskan sky.

A butch still trying to come to terms with her appearance in this pink/blue world of ours.

 

 

 

Pride and reading diverse books

IMG_1250 (1)On Saturday morning, W and I were up early packing her SUV and getting ready to head to our local Pride festival.

“Why do we do this?” I asked as I rubbed sleep from my eyes and loaded another heavy object into the car.

It rained during set up but then the sun came out. We all started looking for rainbows.

My best friend came and spent the day with me. And there we sat on a beautiful Saturday afternoon watching waves of people clad in whatever makes them happy–high heels, rainbow flags worn as capes, trans colors, combat boots, preferred pronoun stickers. I started remembering why we do this year after year.

One miscue: I wore my “I Love My Awesome Wife” tee. “Is this your wife?” everyone asked, looking at my friend. Everything does come full circle. When I came out, everyone thought my friend and I were a couple because we were so close. (In case you were wondering, W, my awesome wife, was manning a different table.)

IMG_1247I was promoting a local book group that I head, as well as my big butch memoir, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender. We handed out lists of recommended LGBT books and rainbow bookmarks with affirming statements like “Believe in Yourself” and “Be Unique.” We asked people to share a book that inspired them or made them feel not so alone by writing the title on faux library cards.

We talked about books. I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear young people chat excitedly about their favorite reads.

Here are some of my memorable moments from the day:

IMG_1260A 13-year girl so excited about books that she jumped up and down. She told me her favorite book is Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On. “About the worst chosen one ever and how he finds out he’s gay,” she wrote on her library card. I don’t know about you, but that’s a book I want to read. When I told her I was a writer, she jumped up and down some more. “Me, too!” she said.

A woman who recommended the book Annie on My Mind by Nancy Gardner. She told me that she discovered the book when she was a kid at her local library. She checked it out and took it home. When her mother found it, she burned it in the backyard. She couldn’t go back to the library because she was unable to return the book. My heart broke for that little girl.

Everyone who picked a “You Are Amazing” bookmark and said, yes, I am amazing and will take this one.

The fact that one of our son’s friend who identifies as trans was forbidden by his parents to go to the Pride festival with us. I saw so many parents walking around with their kids. But it’s important to remember all of the kids who have parents who are not accepting or supportive.

IMG_1252Here are the book recommendations we received from young and old, in no particular order:

  1. Carry on by Rainbow Rowell
  2. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer — I’m not the only one who wants to live in a bus in the wilderness.
  3. When Women Were Warriors by Catherine M. Wilson — Gay ladies who are bad ass warriors.
  4. Kase-san and … by Canno — Manga series with two cute lesbians.
  5. My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger — When I was trying to find myself in 8th and 9th grade.
  6. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  7. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz
  8. The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
  9. She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
  10. Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard
  11. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
  12. Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  13. Shark School by Davy Ocean
  14. Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf
  15. The Plucker and The Child Thief by Brom
  16. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Gardner
  17. Steven Universe comic books by Jeremy Sorese
  18. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
  19. The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron
  20. Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz
  21. Echo of the Boom by Maxwell Neely-Cohen
  22. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
  23. The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell
  24. Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
  25. Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl by Satoru Akahori
  26. Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamilo
  27. The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon by Susan Stevens Crummel
  28. The Longest Mile by Christine Meyer

What about you? What book made you feel not so alone?

Butch’s best day ever!

Guys, yesterday might have been my best day ever. It was like seeing a rainbow, getting the perfect haircut and winning free flannel for a year all in one day.

IMG_1137It started off with a delivery of boxer briefs that I had ordered from Groupon a few weeks ago and then promptly forgot.

I mean, who doesn’t like new underwear, especially when it’s delivered right to your house.

Then we went to a bowling fundraiser for my nephew, who has cystic fibrosis. There was bowling and all the pizza a butch could eat.

And just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, I won a bucket of booze in a raffle.

IMG_1132The big price was a bottle of Jagermeister Spice. I’ve never tried the spice version, but this butch runs on Jager.

We headed for home, and then I ran out to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day at my local bookstore, which was hosting a release of a fiction anthology created by local authors. I bought a copy of the anthology that all of the authors so kindly signed and got to pick out a free book courtesy of the store.

When I got home, high from an evening of talking about books and smelling fresh ink on the page, I found another delivery waiting for me.

IMG_1138Two pair of new sneakers.

I’ve never owned a pair of Brooks before, but they seem super comfortable and good for walking.

And a butch can never have too many pairs of Chucks.

So, to recap.

One. New underwear.

Two. Booze.

Three. Books.

Four. Sneakers.

* * *

What four things would be included in your perfect day?

 

Assorted butch news and other stuff

“And this gentleman is?”

He arched one eyebrow so it pointed directly at me.

I found myself crafting this response in my head: I’m not a gentleman.

But then I couldn’t say those words, because I pride myself on being a gentleman.

“My name is Rae,” I said, leaving him to figure out the rest.

IMG_0745It’s the hair. I haven’t been misgendered for a long time. Then blam. My hair becomes too long to spike up and sits on top of my head like a lid. There’s a bit of an overhang. It’s like having a little roof over the front portion of my head. It’s the Barney Rubble look that I wrote about here.

What’s a butch to do. Keep calm and Barney Rubble on. Someone make me a T-shirt, please.

In other news, I finally saw The Lego Batman Movie. Now, W and I pew-pew each other and the cats with our invisible laser guns after she gets home from work.

In more other news, check out this cool new documentary called Gender Troubles: The Butches. You can view it for free through March 28, sir.

Oh, one more thing, I’m giving away copies of my book, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender, on Goodreads. You can enter to win here. You know you want to. Hurry, time’s almost up.

* * *

What’s new with you?

 

Leaving the center empty for God

 

downloadI’m still reading Maggie Nelson’s memoir The Argonauts. This story about Nelson’s relationship with her “fluidly gendered partner” Harry takes a look at the hot button topics of sexuality, gender and what it means to be a family.

It’s been taking me longer than usual to get through this slim book of less than 150 pages. It’s a heavy read, packed with thoughts and insights that seem best suited for slow, meditative pondering.

In the pages I read last night, Nelson writes about a lecture she attended given by poet and professor Anne Carson in which Carson spoke about the concept of leaving a space empty so God can rush in.

imagesNelson said she had heard about this concept from a boyfriend who was into bonsai. In bonsai, people often plant a tree off-center in the pot to allow space for the divine.

“But that night Carson made the concept literary,” Nelson writes. “I went home fastened to the concept of leaving the center empty for God. It was like stumbling into a tarot reading or AA meeting and hearing the one thing that will keep you going, in heart or art, for years.”

That’s what I’m thinking about these days. Leaving the center empty for God in my writing and in my life.

The Argonauts is a terrific read. Dense and intense but worth the effort.

P.S. I’ve been sleeping better.

I find that when I’m focused on social media and the news, I have a bad day,” I told W yesterday at dinner.

“And when I stay away from social media and the news, I have a better day,” I told her.

“Then stay away from social media and the news,” she said like a Sapphic sage.

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Night, night, you big butch.

That’s been helping, plus W has been rubbing my face with lavender butter before bedtime. She rubs the thick cream on her hands and then smooths it on my forehead, my temples, the back of my neck and a little under my nose.

It smooths over the jagged edges of the day. I have been sleeping like a baby these days.

Plus, it makes me feel like I’m being taken care of, which is a nice feeling right before bed.

We just ordered a new batch of butter. Check out Renaissance Lavender on etsy if you are in need of a magic sleeping potion.

Telling the truth

Yesterday was not a good day for your favorite butch blogger. I pretty much sat around in my pajamas clicking the refresh button on my Twitter feed. It was not pretty or handsome.

downloadBut then W came home and I vented. I started Maggie Smith’s The Argonauts before I went to bed. And I was like hell yeah, because words and ideas and poetry and unapologetic truth telling. The world needs more of that right now, if you ask me.

And then I started thinking about #PressOn, which is a campaign to support facts by paying for journalism. It’s critical right now. So, pubs like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian … and Teen Vogue, they need our support.

That’s right, Teen Vogue. They’re kicking ass these days in the world of journalism. With a bold lip, but kicking ass no less with in-your-face articles like “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America.”

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Teen Vogue, Vogue, Vogue

So here’s my offer. Are you the parent of a young feminist? Do you know a young feminist in the making? Teen Vogue says the magazine is appropriate for those 14 years of age and older. Keep in mind it is a fashion magazine but does a good job with politics, LGBT issues and self-identity. Drop me an e-mail at rae.r.theodore@gmail.com and I’ll pay for a gift subscription to Teen Vogue for your fierce, fresh youngster.

Because words matter. And the truth matters.

Resist.

* * *

What are you reading these days?

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.

Carrie Fisher

My dad took me and my brother to an old theater in Reading, Pennsylvania, to see Star Wars. We sat in the balcony. I was ten years old.

I remember being captivated from the beginning when those now-famous words scrolled across the screen. I liked the scene in the cantina with those crazy aliens and that funny, tinny music playing in the background.

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Cream Magazine

I’m not sure how many times I’ve watched Star Wars since 1977. My favorite scene became the one with the garbage compactor. “Into the garbage chute, Flyboy,” Princess Leia says to Luke as she shoots her laser gun at the Stormtroopers, transforming from rescuee to rescuer, from damsel in distress to take-charge badass.

I replayed that scene over and over in my head. “Into the garbage chute, Flyboy.” That was the kind of girl I was when I played with the guys. That was the kind of woman I wanted to be.

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naplesherald.com

When I got older, I idolized Carrie Fisher the author. She was a brilliant writer. If you want to learn how to write memoir, read Carrie Fisher. Her words were sharp and cutting, vulnerable and honest. The humor was so dark, you never knew whether to laugh or cry. I always did both. She wrote with the bravery and balls of Princess Leia. “Into the garbage chute, Flyboy.”

I read a lot of books. Most I recycle, handing off to friends or family, or donating to Goodwill. I keep some of Fisher’s books in a small, neat stack on my bookcase mixed with books written by a few other authors. My stack of weird books. They are the books that told me it was okay to think the way I did. That it was okay to be different. They are the books that gave me permission to be myself.

It’s been a tough year for losses. I lost two of my heroes earlier this year when the wrestler Chyna and the musician Prince died on back-to-back days in April.

And now Carrie Fisher.

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themarysue.com

I like to think they left me a little of their magic when they departed this world. A little of their bravery and in your face badassery. That it fell like stardust and caught on the inside of my sleeve or the back of my pants and clung like specks of glitter.

And that when I need to be bold and courageous, it will be there, giving me a needed push.

“Into the garbage chute, Flyboy.”

* * *

What about you? Who will you miss most from 2016?