Butch-femme Dynamics

I’ve always been femme. When I came out in 1979, I didn’t have one clue about the different nuances of lesbians, that took years of experience and then reading lesbian novels, books and magazines.

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femme me in 2014

Meeting My Butch

On April 22, 1986, when my youngest, Aimee, was 2 days old, I went to a La Leche League meeting and among the 20+ women, pregnant and nursing alike, I saw Zack, 7-months pregnant. (Zack was presenting as a het woman at that time.) My first thought when I saw him was, “How the FUCK did this Dyke get pregnant?!”

A tad of backstory. I’d had Aimee in the car and finagled leaving the hospital in 3 hours and Zack heard about me at his childbirth class, wanting to leave the hospital right away as well, so got up from his nap to come to the LLL meeting specifically to meet me.

After the meeting, Zack hightailed it right for me. Damn, he was intense. And so, so Butch.

Just This Side of Being a Man

Once I met Zack, my taste in Dykes was sealed. I was fond of saying I liked women just this side of being a man. (Of course, now knowing Zack was trans all those years, he wasn’t on this side of being a man, but that side.) I really cannot find a Dyke Butch enough for me. Stone Butches make me weak in the knees.

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kd lang – swoon

(The topic of transmen begs to be discussed here, but it has to wait for its own post because it is one of the most convoluted emotions I have whirling around inside at the moment.)

Butch & femme – a Sweet Balance

When Zack and I got together a few months after he had his baby, we barely recognized, much less understood, what the Butch-femme dynamic meant. We knew we balanced each other well. (Yes, I really am going to flaunt stereotypical male and female characteristics.) I was an awesome stay-at-home mom, nursing the babies, reading to them and researching better ways to parent.

reading

Zack, on the other hand, was mechanically inclined, great with spacial relations and was the “fun” parent.

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Delightfully, he also co-nursed the babies. (We always said how great it was having 4 lactating breasts in the house.)

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Then Political Correctness Intrudes

It was a gradual realization that what we were doing wasn’t the most acceptable way to be lesbians. I distinctly recall hearing that Butch-femme relationships were “aping” het marriages. (Could there be any uglier word to describe something?) I was really confused because we weren’t imitating anything; we just Were. I see now, on the periphery, as gender roles are smeared away, hints of Butch-femme acceptance again, but I promise you, there were the lean years when we were mocked and told how disgusting we were for acting like het couples.

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Zack & I with the babies, late 1986.

I find it interesting I never tried to be anything but femme, even when doing so was incredibly looked down upon. And my Beloved Zack, never wavered in his ButchSelf either. I love that we simply ignored the winds of Political Correctness, living our lives in delicious balance.

En femme: Being a femme Dyke

In Mama Learns the Word “Genderqueer,” I say the sentence:

While mama isn’t on the LGBTQ spectrum herself, I am a Dyke, my niece a lesbian and one of my daughters is bi.

On one of my Facebook groups, someone asked what the difference was between a lesbian and a Dyke. I thought it was an awesome question.

This is how I answered:

A lesbian is a woman who has sexual and emotional relationships with other women. A Dyke is the same… but only more so. Dykes tend to be more political, louder, more out there/in your face. Defiantly lesbian. My actual label is femme Dyke, an added descriptor separating me slightly, saying: I pass as heterosexual and it bugs the crap out of me even though I embrace my ultra-femininity fervently.

dykemarchtoronto
Catherine Hernandez is a proud queer woman of colour and single mom.

Definitions in Flux

Through the nearly 40 years of my Dykedom, I have watched the words gay (referring to a woman), lesbian, Dyke, femme, Butch, baby dyke, androgynous, woman, womyn, wimmin and more go through various incarnations. Sometimes it was Politically Correct (PC)… or Socially Correct (SC)… to use a “softer” word like gay or lesbian… terms like Butch and Dyke reserved for inner conversations and brought out in public during Pride Weekend.

As lesbians became more visible in the media, I watched the shift towards using Dyke in the lesbian community more common.

(And I capitalize Dyke and Butch because, to me, if we were to put them in a BDSM – Dominant/submissive – context, those words are distinctly more Dominant to me. And yes, I can hear the screaming now, but it’s how my mind works.)

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(not my writing, but extremely accurate according to my mental imagery if lesbianism was a linear concept, which, of course, it is not)

Flux of Appreciation for a femme

As a femme, I’ve experienced a great deal of prejudice over the years.

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When I came out in 1979, I hung out in gay bars because anytime I went to the lesbian clubs, the women turned their noses up at me because I was in a dress, wearing sequins and glitter. The uniform of the day for lesbians was Levi’s, flannel shirts and desert boots. I so didn’t fit in. Trying my luck several times, I always ended up retreating back to the gay bars where they treated me like royalty.

Being a femme with kids complicated things even more at times. 25 years ago, it was rare for there to be babies/kids in LGBTQ households. Not so much today. I would walk in Homoville, San Diego, unseen as a member of The Family. Even when I wore rainbow necklaces or other gay-identifiers, I was overlooked. Quite frustrating.

Flame

At a Dyke club one night long ago, I was dancing with a woman who was inviting me to go home with her. I was delighted, but told her I had to call the babysitter and ask her to stay longer. The woman gave me this horrified look and say, “You have kids? You’ve had sex with men?!” It was clear I would not be having sex with her that night or any other. I was pissed and asked, “Gee, before we have sex, should I douche?”

How a person identifies (or not!) says so much about how they walk around in the world. As a femme Dyke, I choose to only wear dresses, paint my face when going out and wearing a colorful variety of Birkenstocks (anything but black and brown. And how funny that I wear the stereotypical Dyke shoe?!)

Even though I am still a neophyte in the Gender shifts going on, I find much of the movement an enormous relief because I am now able to stand tall as a femme Dyke, someone I have been for 37 years.

femmevisibility

Rebirth

On Saturday, July 3, 2004 at 2:44 am, I published my first blog post ever. Entitled “Stumbling Along,” it was the beginning of a (so far) 12-year long blog, Navelgazing Midwife. My first line shares an emotion I experienced many times over the years:

… and it is so scary sometimes.

Where I Was

When I was active in birth work, I had to tiptoe through a hundred (thousand?) landmines, withholding my feelings too many times, wanting to write my beliefs years before I finally did in 2008 in the post, “Midwifery Education (Lite),” the version of an incredibly edited “Midwifery Education” that I stupidly deleted because I was terrorized by the higher-ups in the midwifery community and I feared for my license.

Rightly so.

That post came back to haunt me in 2010 when I was unceremoniously ejected from my midwifery community in San Diego, California. It took awhile, but they succeeded in ending my midwifery career (and gads, do I hate even admitting they had control over it!), sending me back into doula and monitrice work, which I did until I left San Diego on December 20, 2014.

Where I Am

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The story on why I left San Diego will be told here, along with what I am doing today. Looking back, it’s shocking how many changes have occurred in such a short time! From midwife to sex worker; married lesbian in San Diego, California to happily single dyke in Orlando, Florida. It’s easy to see there’re a whole lot of words needed to fill in those gaps.

I’m not going to censor as much as I did in my midwifery blog. I have nothing to hide anymore.(Well, except for the privacy of my work clients, but I think you’ll understand that, right?) My kids have been asking me for years to write my stories, that posterity thing and all. Amusingly, I have a lot of them to share, too.

Not Stumbling Anymore

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And so I take my first step here with you today. I am very excited to have changed my name, Navelgazing Midwife, something that is pretty well-known (Google it!), to the Navelgazing Writer. It’s so exciting to be on this adventure… and am thrilled you are here with me as…

…I begin.