Yesterday, or perhaps I should say last night, for it was night when Angelika informed me that she had something for me to watch, I discovered Ivan Coyote.
This 40-something butch is … a wordsmith extraordinaire. When reading aloud, hys (and I use this pronoun since I do not know what Ivan prefers) voice compels you to listen. Hys presentation and timing are immaculate. Hys humour, wisdom, nonchalance and blunt honesty when added to all the above make for something not to be missed.
Ivan is a clean cut, handsome (yes, I called another butch handsome), gentleman. Oh, I know some of you may think I’m wrong and you are entitled to your opinion, just as I am entitled to mine. But I would love to be able to sit and chat with Ivan. Not only as a fellow butch, but from a writer’s perspective. How I wish I could write like that. I wonder if Ivan has Skype *grins*.
Seriously now … I am posting 2 videos of Ivan and the dialogue from both so that should you, like myself have hamsters driving your modem, you can read what Ivan has to say. I laughed out loud at parts, others I sat and just listened to, but still enjoyed immensely. I could identify with a lot of what Ivan had to say. I am glad of that. I hope you enjoy and are touched in some way by what you are about to watch and/or read.
Thank you Ivan, for taking the thoughts and ideals of many other butches and giving them to the world.
A couple of months back, I came upon an article on Xtra.ca entitled Winnipeg Pride wants parade to be “family friendly.”
In the article, the then-chair of last year’s Pride parade was quoted as saying “we have to remember that this is a public event, part of the parade is to show people we’re not extremists.”
When pressed to explain just what she meant by extremists, she responded: “Drag queens and butch women.” She then added it was important to show the people of Winnipeg that there are “mainstream” queer community members, too, like “lawyers and doctors.”
I was so mad I seriously considered a stern letter. The subtext of her words stung my eyes and burned in my throat. Apparently, according to this genius, regardless of my politics or attitude or tactics, I was an extremist, by virtue only of my appearance.
Nothing of who I was or what I might contribute to my community mattered because of what I looked like. In order to be acceptable to the good citizens of Winnipeg, we needed to put forward a more “mainstream” face to the general public, liberally laced with professionals.
I wondered how this line of reasoning was going to go over with the many perverted transsexual leatherdyke lawyers from working class backgrounds I am lucky enough to know.
Apparently this woman hadn’t read that part of queer history where drag queens and butches started the whole thing by finally standing up and rioting in response to police persecution and brutality.
And now she didn’t want us at her parade anymore. We weren’t family-friendly enough.
Then I wondered what exactly this meant for those of us with families.
Then, just recently, I heard a rumour that the younger queers don’t like the word butch. This makes me wonder, if I were 20 years old right now instead of 40, what would I call myself?
I grew up without a roadmap to myself. Nobody taught me how to be a butch, I didn’t even hear the word until I was 20 years old. I first became something I had no name for in solitude, and only later discovered the word for what I was and realized there were others like me.
So now I am writing myself down, sketching directions so that I can be found, or followed.
The word for you is butch. Remember this word. It will be used against you.
The word for you is butch. Your history is one of strength, and survival, and largely silent. Do not hide this word under your shirt. Do not whisper it, or sweep it under the basement stairs. Let it fill up your chest and widen your shoulders. Wear it like a sleeve tattoo, like a medal of valour.
Learn to recognize other butches for what they really are: your people. Your brothers or sisters. Both are just words that mean family.
Other butches are not your competition, they are your comrades.
Be there when they need you. Go fishing together. Help each other move. Polish your rims or your chrome or your boots together. See these acts for what they really are: solidarity.
Do not give your butch friend a hard time about having a ponytail, a pomeranian, nail polish, or a smart car. Get over yourself. You are a rare species, not a stereotype.
Trim your nails short enough that you could safely insert your fingers into your own vagina, should you ever want to.
Scars and purple thumbnails are a status symbol. When attempting to operate, maintain or repair anything mechanical, always remember the words of my grandmother: “The vast majority of machines are still designed, built, driven and fixed by men. Therefore, they cannot be that complicated.”
Be exceptionally nice to old ladies. They really need their faith in the youth of today restored. Let them butt in the line at the Safeway. Slow down and walk with them at crosswalks so they’re not the only ones holding up traffic. Drive your grandma to bingo. Shovel her driveway. Let chivalry not be dead.
If you’re going to be the kind of butch who is often read as a man or a boy, then be the kind of man or boy you wish you would have slept with in high school. Be a gentleman. Let her finish her sentence. Share the armrest. Do her laundry without shrinking anything. Buy her her very own cordless drill.
Open doors for men, saying “Let me get that for you.”
Carry a pocketknife, a lighter and a handkerchief on your person at all times. Learn flashy lighter tricks, how to tie a half hitch, a slipknot and a double windsor.
Learn how to start a fire with a flint and some dry moss. Then use lighter fluid or gasoline, and a blowtorch.
Burn most of your eyebrows off lighting the barbecue with a birthday candle, and then tell everybody all about it.
Wear footwear that makes a clomping sound, as opposed to a tick or a swish.
Let the weird hairs on your chin and around your nipples grow unhindered.
Learn how to knit, quilt, crochet or hook rugs: women appreciate a fellow who isn’t afraid of their feminine side.
Practice saying you’re sorry. This is one activity where you should not use your father as a role model. Fonzie was an asshole. If you are too young to remember who the Fonz was, then youtube it.
Locker room talk? A surefire way not to get laid a second time.
Sleep around. Repeat, this time without feeling guilty.
To all the beautiful, kick ass, fierce and full-bodied femmes out there, I would like to extend my thanks to you.
It is for you that I press my shirts and carefully iron my ties. It is for you that I make sure my underwear and socks match. It is to you that I tip my cowboy hat. It is for you that I polish my big black boots.
I know that sometimes you feel like nobody truly sees you. I want you to know that I see you. I see you on the street, on the bus, in the gym, in the park.
I don’t know why I can tell that you are not straight, but I can. Maybe it is the way you look at me. Please don’t stop looking at me the way you do.
All of my life I have been told that I am ugly, I am less than, I am not a man, I am unwanted. Until you came along, I believed them. Please do not ever stop looking at me the way you do.
I would never say that the world is harder on me than it is you. Sometimes you are invisible. I have no idea what this must feel like, to pass right by your people and not be recognized. To not be seen. I cannot hide, unless I am seen as something I am not. This is not more difficult, it is just different.
I know those shoes are fucking killing your feet. I want you to know how much I appreciate that you are still wearing them. You look hot. I love you in them. They look great with that dress.
If it makes you feel any better at all, the boots I have on right now weigh approximately 12 pounds apiece and they make the soles of my feet burn like diaper rash in a heat wave and it feels like I’m wearing ski boots when I have to walk up stairs. But I wear them for you.
Even still, my new boots are velvet slippers compared to your knee-high five-inch heels. I notice, and I salute you.
I promise, I am not just staring at your tits. I am trying to look you directly in the eyes, but you are almost eight inches taller than me, please see above note regarding your five-inch heels. At the same time, I would like to mention that while I was trying to look you in the eyes, I couldn’t help but notice your lovely new pendant. I am sure it really brings out the colour of your eyes, if I could see them.
I want to thank you for coming out of the closet. Again and again, over and over, for the rest of your life. At school, at work, at your kid’s daycare, at your brother’s wedding, at the doctor’s office. Thank you for sideswiping their stereotypes.
I never get the chance to come out of the closet, because my closet was always made of glass. But you do it for me. You fight homophobia in a way that I never could. Some of them think I am queer because I am undesirable. You prove to them that being queer is your desire.
Thank you for loving me because of who I am and what I look like, not in spite of who I am and what I look like.
Thank you for smelling so good.
Thank you for holding my hand on the sidewalk during the hockey playoffs. I know it is probably small-minded of me to smile wicked at all the drunken dudes in jerseys smoking outside the sports bar in between periods because you are so fucking hot, and you are with me and not them, but I can’t help it. That’s right fellas. You want her but she wants me. How do you like them apples?
Thank you for wearing matching bra and panties. I don’t know why this makes my life seem so perfect, but it really does.
Thank you for being the daughter my mother always wanted. You are so smart and successful and you dress so fine that you almost make up for her having me and my sister for her real children.
Thank you for reaching out in the dark at the movie theatre to grab my hand in the scary parts. It makes me feel like I am strong, that I can take care of you. Even if there is no such thing as vampires, and you do so much yoga that you could probably easily kick my ass.
I want you to know I love your crooked tooth, your stretch marks, the missing part of your finger, your short leg, your third nipple, your lazy eye, your cowlick, your birthmark shaped like Texas. I love it all.
I want you to know that I know it is not always easy to love me. That sometimes my chest is a field full of landmines and where you went last night you can’t go tomorrow. There is no manual, no roadmap, no helpline you can call. My body does not come with instructions, and sometimes even I don’t know what to do with it. This cannot be easy, but still, you touch me anyway.
Thank you for escorting me into the women’s washroom because the floor of the men’s was covered in something unmentionable. Thank you for asking me if I had a tampon in my purse really loud so the lady in the turquoise sweatshirt did a double take before gathering up her daughter and hitting me with a pool noodle. I can’t say for sure whether that is what actually would have happened, but thanks to you I didn’t have to find out.
Thank you for wearing that dress just because you knew it would match my shirt. Together, we are unstoppable. When seen through your eyes, I am beautiful. Turns out I was a swan the whole time.
*Note* Transcripts obtained from Xtra.ca