Butch is a Noun

27 Jun

 

‘Butch is a Noun’ is a collection of personal essays that discuss S. Bear Bergman’s understanding and experience of butch as an identity. I mainly accessed the book as a reference point for my life and my own identity. I read the essays discontinuously; each one standing by itself to help guide me and provide insight into how I act and interact with the world. Some of the essays triggered awkward feelings of recognition, others the same emotional reaction as being called out by a close friend, and others just pissed me off.


I also find queer theory texts almost impossible to read—I’m not well versed in the appropriate vocabulary, and don’t understand the theoretical comparisons at all—so, with this in mind, I found this book refreshingly easy to access. The language was simple, and made up of poetry-prose stories, which I found easy to relate to; because this is how I initially came to queer—from stories and experiences.


While reading this collection of essays; it was really important for me to consistently remind myself that this was one butch’s stories and experiences—and that it wasn’t trying or pretending to be anything more. Bergman is simply relating hir experience-sometimes, revealing hir vulnerabilities (drawbridge, faggy butches, getting fucked), maybe in the hopes that this will help us feel more empowered to begin similar conversations within our own communities.


Though I was frustrated by some of the content, such as assumptions that more cops=more safety; and the general lack of stories about butches who maybe resist the institution of marriage; or butches of colour negotiating a white queer community; I reminded myself that it was not Bergmen’s place to tell these stories. And that if these are the stories I want to hear; if these are the hirstories I want to learn to inform my own identity, then I need to be working harder at seeking and making space for these stories.


 In some ways, this book also feels as if it is Bergman’s contribution to passing information forward and onwards, to provide for like the mentors ze found online, when ze was first figuring out what kind of queer ze would become. Not an instruction manual, but a collection of experiences, to (hopefully) help and mentor other folks who would be trying on pieces of butch to see what fits them, what can be molded to individual use, and what is better left behind.

Though I am no closer to understanding what butch is and what it isn’t and where I fit in; I don’t believe that helping me figure this out is the intention of the book. However, this collection of stories became the starting point of conversation with the queermos and genderfuckers in my life; what we agree and disagree about, what we don’t understand; and how we relate elements of butch (n.) to our anarchist (v., n.) identities.  

cc.

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