When W and I first started dating, she made it very clear that she doesn’t like labels.
On one of our first dates, we met at a local gay bar and discussed 50 shades of gay with the bartender. Does it really matter what we call ourselves and how we identify? Gay, bi, queer, all or none of the above or something in between. Isn’t it all about the person? What’s on the inside? To hell with restrictive, pigeonholing labels.
Of course, I agreed. I mean, it was early in our relationship and I wanted the girl. Besides, being anti-label seemed to be the politically correct stance at the time.
I was reminded of all of this stuff about labels this morning. W was getting ready to go to a music festival with her son. As she was putting in her earrings, I commented about how girlish she is. She finished getting dressed — jeans, sneakers and a V-neck T-shirt, wallet in the back pocket — and reminded me about how she doesn’t fit neatly in a square box labeled “femme.”
And, it’s true. She’s got some fantastic “femme” parts and tendencies, which drive this butch wild, but she can’t be contained by boxes or categories or labels.
Case in point, her hands. I find W’s hands incredibly sexy. Her fingers are always decked out in silver rings. I like how the silver sparkles when it catches the light and how feminine her hands look all bedazzled like that. But I’m also smitten by how capable her hands look. Strong, agile and adept. Hands that can sew a pair of drapes, darn a sock, plunge a toilet or fix a pair of glasses with a tiny screwdriver and a pair of pliers.
I certainly love W because of who she is and not because of any label that she wears.
On the other sparsely ringed hand, I’m quite a different story. I like labels. I need labels. I desire labels. If I could, I’d sew this label on the back of my neck:
Just like a Hanes T-shirt or a pair of underwear going to summer camp, I feel the need to wear a tag. To let everyone know who I am. To remind myself of who I am.
I have an insatiable need to fit in, to belong, to be a part of something greater than myself.
I’ve had times in my life when people have caught me off guard and referred to me as a “butch” or a “baby dyke.” Usually, I do that thing where you turn your head looking for the person being talked about and then slowly nod like oh yeah, of course, you were talking about me, I was just momentarily distracted by that shiny thing in the corner over there.
Having a label makes me feel safe. It makes me feel like I’m someone. That I’m not alone.
Me and k.d. belong to the same club
I’m a butch lesbian like all of the other butch lesbians. Me and k.d. Me and Shane kickin’ it at The Planet. For butches only. Just us butches. With our super-secret handshake and members-only clubhouse.
I’ve never been much of a leader. I’ve never really understood the benefit of going first or paving the way, blazing the trail or setting the pace.
I find it much more desirable and advantageous to bring up the rear. To follow. To fall in line. To go with the flow.
I like to keep things organized and manageable. I don’t like cross-over or spill-over or messiness. I like things neat. Like a white ribbed tank with a pair of jeans. Or a crisp, freshly pressed white button down with a colorful paisley necktie.
I could never be a Chinese menu. I’m not in favor of picking and choosing from columns A, B and C.
It’s column B or bust. B or nothing for this butch.
I wear the label “Butch” proudly, with a capital “B,” even though it might not be politically correct. For isn’t it all about the woman underneath the Arrow dress shirt and the pinstripe pants?
Of course, but this woman has only really felt like herself when she started wearing a label the reads “butch.”