Category Archives: Civil rights

Burn It All Down

I have been out and visible since I was 18. I came out through the fire of a fanatical Christian cult (still hard to admit). I have been an out lesbian, dyke, butch, in all its glorious splendor for almost 30 years. I have fought first for gay rights, then lesbian and gay rights, then LGBT rights, and, most recently, queer rights. I have participated in civil rights rallies for Latinos and African Americans. I have protested attempts to restrict a woman’s right to choose. I have fought for change in the legal and corporate world. On the one hand, I am a liberal feminist, bordering on fanatical, adamant for equal rights for all. Since I’ve never been arrested protesting, I don’t think I get to be “radical.”

On the other hand, I am a daughter, a wife, a mother, a neighbor, a friend, and an employee. And the thought that someone might harm my mother and father, wife, kids, neighbors, friends, or coworkers makes me want to burn that person’s village to the ground. I want to climb to the top of something very high and pick off those who would harm me or mine with methodical precision. And doing so would most likely require one of these “military grade” “semi-automatic” weapons. Who am I kidding? I would want a weapon that rivals anything Dead Pool or Batman might have access to. 

That is how I feel right now. I want to find a way to identify everyone that wants to harm my many-layered community and unceremoniously remove them from existence. Punish them for their hatred by taking out anyone “they” love and then them. The anger is blinding. I want to burn it all down. 

But here is the thing. I will never burn it all down. I will never climb to the top of anything high and pick off anyone. Unless of course, social media counts as a high point and my words can be considered the weapon.

The irony, the absolutely ridiculous and beautiful irony of America is that “they” have the right to hate me. “They” have the right to try and change the laws to make my life uncomfortable. “They” have the right to shout at the top of their lungs in a public square, “I hate you, Butch. I despise you and your equality, your gayness, your lack of conformity!” Yes, “they” get to say whatever the hell “they” want. And to think whatever “they” want. And so do I.

Maybe the paradox of our free-speech, free-religion society is that the more rights we have individually, the more important it is that we not have guns. Or rather, if you will, that “they” not have guns. Fair enough. Now, if we could just figure out who “they” are.

Imagine this (tortured) example…I am standing in a public square eloquently shouting my beliefs of equality and fairness to an LGBT crowd. On the other side of the square, “they” stand shouting that a woman’s place is in the home, homosexuality is a sin, and extolling the virtues of white pride. Everyone in the square has a gun – of any type. How does this rally end?

When Mateen walked into Pulse, he used weapons of mass destruction on a micro scale. He did not use freedom of religion. He was not exercising his constitutional right to hate. He brought down a permanent and unappealable sentence on hundreds of people based on his hatred. He should not be able to do that. It should be very, very hard to do that. Or impossible even. 

Since he (and all of us) has the right to hate, we must remove the awful temptation to turn that hate into violent action. Without a gun, he’s just a homophobic asshole. With one, he is a homicidal maniac. No one should be allowed to burn it all down.

We suck at this. America needs to get better. Right now. The rest of the world already thinks we are idiots. We have such resolve, such strength. Why can’t we work together to change this landscape once and for all?

It’s Butch to fight the urge to burn it all down. Be Butch.


Butch’s Adventures with TSA: Forbidden Words

It’s time for another episode of Butch’s Adventures with TSA. In today’s tale, we learn about those forbidden words.

After smooth sailing through the millimeter wave image monster (no doubt because I sing-songed my hello to the agent staffing the magic pink and blue buttons), I collected my stuff from the belt. 

The benches were full of travelers getting dressed, so I moved over to the table where they do they bomb swipey thing. As I was grabbing the only liquid I had removed from my batchel – a tiny travel cologne flask – I noticed an agent I like.

Me: How’s my favorite TSA agent today?

Agent: Good! It’s my Friday. 

Me: (sprays cologne) Mine too!

Agent: That smells good… What is it?

Me: Spicebomb. Oh. Can I say that here?

Agent: (laughs)

Me: You should see the bottle. 

Agent: Do you carry it? (Eyes my bag)

Me: I stopped after I got pulled for search the second time.

Agent: (laughs) Have a great trip!

There you go. A nice TSA agent who has a sense of humor.

It’s Butch to be nice to the TSA even when they’ve not always been nice to you. Be Butch. 

  


Notes from 18C

Hi BOTs.

A few random thoughts for you as I sit in my seat on the plane. 

1. Couldn’t find a parking spot this morning. Being late and having to park closer to the airport isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Also, no one is leaving the airport at 6:30 am. 

2. Been called “sir” twice already. Yes, I am a big Butch wearing a bow tie, but it’s only inches above a giant chest (of boobs).

3. TSA was in full effect, making me pass through the imaging machine twice. I don’t have male parts and they can’t seem to get this.

4. The days of empty seats beside you on planes are gone. Unless you are a big Butch in a bow tie. Then, you frequently get an empty seat. Hahaha. 

5. People who need coffee are in a bit of a club. You can seriously bond over your latte. Especially when you had time to get one and 19C didn’t.

6. Carrying your wife’s license and credit card so she can forgo a bag for the day is gallant, but you should check your wallet before you leave for a few days. I’m sorry, Gorgeous.

7. Selena Gomez’s Hands to Myself is a really good song. “I mean I could, but why would I want to?”

8. I’m finding writing to be a bit of a challenge right now. I keep thinking of things to write about and then dismissing them. So, that means not much creativity making it to the page. 

Bear with me while I try to press through it?

It’s Butch to press on. Be Butch. 


Why Today Matters

 By now, you have heard that the US Supreme Court has ruled that marriage is a fundamental right and that gay and lesbian people are as deserving of that right as their straight neighbors and friends. As such, no state may restrict a gay or lesbian person’s right to get married. Well, despite the obvious Snoopy dance that I have been literally and figuratively dancing all day, I realize that maybe not everyone gets it.

I have seen a lot of celebration today from both my community and from allies. I have also seen a fair number of what I like to call now-can-we-focus-on-what-really-matters? comments. I agree that there is much work to be done. We need protection from being fired. We need protection from being kicked out of our homes, including the big home of the United States. We need protection in the adoption process, health care, and basically every government service you can think of. We still don’t have those national protections. There is much to be done. But today is a day for celebrating. Here’s why – from my perspective.

In 1993, I had a commitment ceremony with my partner at the time. It was a big deal and looked a lot like a wedding. I had friends back then who did not understand why we would want to do anything that looked like a wedding. That is for straights, they said. You aren’t straight, so why do you want to pretend to be a part of a system that rejects you? We did our best to explain it – over and over. In 2000, we registered officially in California as domestic partners. This was a huge step for many gays and lesbians because it was some sort of official recognition, albeit separate and unequal. Many people took advantage of this registration. In 2004, we rushed off to San Francisco to be legally wed. It was an incredibly exciting time because there was a feeling that all of the people involved were making history. We did make history, but not as legitimately married couples. All of the weddings performed were declared void (which held its own kind of pain), and the whole Proposition 8 nightmare began. Several years later, we separated and experienced the tremendous unfairness of not being married, but still having to go through a divorce, and all of the inequities dealt to both of us by the system.

In 2013, I met my wife. We fell madly in love. We knew that our relationship would be a challenge since she was not a US citizen. But, then that summer, the Supreme Court invalidated DOMA and Prop 8. That meant all Californians were free to marry.  The striking down of DOMA meant once married, we would be able to apply for immigration status. We got legally married late that year, and this time none of my friends asked why we would want to marry. Everyone understood. People fall in love, and some of those people want to get married. In early 2014, she became a legal green card holder. All thanks to the changes in the law – largely brought on by the marriage debate.

The tide has shifted so completely in the last 20+ years people of all walks of life now know how important marriage is. Not because it is the end-all and be-all of civil rights, but because it is an indication of normalcy, acceptance and finality. “They are married, just like we are, so that’s that.” “Of course they are a family, they are married with kids.” No longer can the question, “Is she a lesbian?” be answered with, “No, she’s married.”

If people are married, then of course they can visit each other in the hospital. If two parents are married, then of course they can both come to the parent-teacher conference. Married couples rent apartments and buy cars. They open savings accounts, and go to the doctor. Marriage was never an end, it was a means to an end. And that end is equality. Lesbians and gays who are married get to be treated the same way as straights who are married. Of course she gets to inherit that house, they were married! Do you see what I mean?

To those of you in the LGBT community who don’t want to get married, great! No need for you to do so. Be excited, though, that you can. You are no longer excluded from an institution and the multitude of rights that are automatically bestowed on people who are part of that institution.

To those of you who are offended that my wife and I are now legally married in every state in the union, I feel sorry for you. You are on the wrong side of history. And if you cannot see that, take comfort in the fact that no one will ever force you to marry someone of the same-sex. Nor will anyone force your church to perform such marriages. Don’t worry; the same constitution that grants me the fundamental right to marry, also protects your fundamental right to hate me for it. I hope that you won’t, but I will defend your right to think and speak how you wish.

It’s Butch to support equality. Be Butch.


Is ButchOnTap one of the 25 Most Powerful Butches in America?

What does it mean to be one of the most powerful Butches in America?

Does it mean that women won’t freak out when I walk in the correct restroom? Does it mean that my friends will stop wondering why I don’t just dress a little more feminine if it’s so irritating? Does it mean that people at restaurants, coffee shops, drug stores, service counters, auto shops, and on planes will stop calling me “Sir”? Does it mean that I will magically have tons of customized clothing options when I walk into any of the shops I frequent? Does it mean that I will stop frustrating the occasional gay man who thought I was a man to hit on? Does it mean that I will have all of the book publishing world and Hollywood open to me to do some creating on a big scale?

Does it mean my amazing and stunning wife will love me more? Does it mean my kids will think I am any cooler? Does it mean my puppy will stop having accidents in the house? Does it mean my cat allergies will suddenly vanish? Will it reduce my cable guy service window?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding and huge No. But, it would be hella cool.

When ButchWonders posted the poll this morning and invited the world to vote for the 25 Most Powerful Butches in America, I was excited. What a cool thing to see all those Butches (and in some cases, perceived Butches) listed. I mean, there are lots of us! Butches aren’t disappearing! And even better, we are starting to achieve more visibility. More visibility means more mental health. More comfort in daily life. More acceptance. It means kids can figure out they are Butch younger. Less stress. Less anxiety. Less why don’t I fit? Less badly dressed lesbians! (You are a Butch, feel free to shop in either the men’s or women’s department.)

I was also excited to be listed. Heh. But I got tripped up on whether I could ask y’all to vote for me. If I was powerful, wouldn’t everyone vote without being asked? Doesn’t it diminish it if I run around asking for votes?

Again, I think the answer is No.

I’ve done pretty well in life by asking for what I want. After all, I want to be powerful. With power comes the ability to change things. To get things done. With power, people are more likely to take your calls, listen to you. Isn’t it my responsibility to claim that power then? To take steps towards what I want? To help carry the banner for Butches everywhere?

I hope so. Please vote for me. You can vote for 10 of the people listed, so it’s not like I have to be the most powerful Butch you know… Just in your top 10. The poll closes Friday, so vote quickly.

I’ll still Be Butch regardless of the outcome of the poll. Making it won’t make me more Butch, nor will not making it mean I am less Butch. But, it’s Butch to ask for what you want. Vote for me and Be Butch with me.


What Can I Do?

On the BOT Facebook page, we’ve been having a very sincere discussion about the unintentionally prejudiced and hurtful things whites and Otherthan’s say. One reader posted the following comment and I answered as below. I share this because I know this reader is not alone. As an ally, it is very important to allow whites and otherthans the leeway to say the “wrong thing” without attacking (which hopefully I did not do) when they are clearly struggling. If we only talk to people who agree with us, we are not affecting change.

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Friend,

I wish we could sit and have a meal together. I hear you trying to work through this – just like me. I hear you frustrated because you don’t feel like part of the problem – just like me. Read some more of Dr. King’s words. He laid out what you and I can do.

The first, and most important thing is to acknowledge that we have a race problem in America. We have people of color with less access to education, health care and opportunities. That’s a fact. We have a judicial system (that I used to be a part of) that systematically finds, convicts, and jails POC for more crimes and less significant crimes. The police kill a black person every 28 hours – black people are about 10% of our population. How can this be right?

We have a media (which I am now part of) that portrays things in a way to keep the peace/status quo. That benefits white people. It’s wrong for someone to call you a racist. But it’s also wrong, I gently suggest, for you to say there is no problem because you have black friends.

What can you do? Please keep reading and listening. Thank you for being open enough to read my words.

I see I missed the use of “preference” but let’s just focus on one thing at a time. What else would you add?

It’s Butch to help others see when they cannot. Be Butch.


I’m Otherthan White & My Feelings About the Murder of Mike Brown

Originally posted on December 4, 2014 at Huffington Post Gay Voices. If you like this post, please hop over there and tell them by clicking the like button.

I haven’t written much about race issues, mostly out of respect for the black community. Even this term sounds wrong as I type it out. Is there a single “black community”? Is there just one “gay community”? Sure, if you are talking about the Castro in San Francisco, Chelsea in New York City, or Hillcrest in San Diego. But are all LGBT people in America one community? No. Neither, I suspect, is there a single “black community,” unless we are talking about a particular area, like, say, Ferguson, Missouri. So out of respect for black Americans, then? After all, what the hell do I know about being black in America?

On the one hand, zero. I am not black. I am one of those Americans who tell people they’re Irish because it sounds more interesting than “white.” I knew I would go to college. I can reasonably believe that if I work hard enough, I will be successful and can support a family. I don’t have to live in fear of the police stopping me as I drive home to my nice, predominantly white neighborhood. When I go into a shop, I don’t have to worry that the employees will follow me around on the suspicion that I will steal something. Even with my mohawk. Zero.

On the other hand, I experience being “otherthan” each and every day of my life. Otherthan being married to a man, because I am a lesbian. Otherthan being like “every other lesbian.” (Do all lesbians look alike except for me?) Otherthan looking like a “regular, normal” woman, because I am too tall, too big, too masculine, too butch. Otherthan identifying as a Christian, Jew, or Muslim, because I am an atheist.

Is any of this like being black? No. No. No. A hundred times no. I offer these otherthans only to say that, within my white privilege, I experience daily “otherness” that might give me some hint of what black Americans face each and every day, at least as far as being otherthan white. I don’t feel like I’m part of the big, white, oppressive system — and yet I am. I’ve had amazing friends in the past few years who have helped me see this better; while it might not be my fault, I definitely experience the privileges that come with being white, middle-class, and educated.

But in my privileged, albeit otherthan, place, I have been profoundly affected by the killing of Michael Brown, the grand jury’s decision not to charge Officer Darren Wilson with any crime for the death, and the reaction afterwards. As a lawyer and a former prosecutor, I am trying to understand why the process worked so differently for Wilson, a white police officer, than for otherthans accused of similar crimes. As an intelligent person who understands the system, I cannot fathom how the prosecutor could have handled the case in the manner that he did, nor why he did not recuse himself. If ever there was a time for the process to be fair and as impartial as our system will allow, this was it. But it wasn’t.

As an otherthan white person, I am trying to understand. Trying to process. Trying to synthesize my feelings. I hope this does not make me sound ignorant about race in America. I do not believe that I am; that education started for me many years ago. I distinctly remember an accomplished black lawyer telling me he got hassled by the cops, routinely, in his Brooks Brothers suit. Upper-class black girlfriends of mine share stories of being profiled as potential shoplifters by retail employes, and of the repulsive comments they receive from strangers at a shockingly high frequency. I know about the way my friends whose families are not all-white or all-black are treated. There are so many of these stories that anyone who listens to them gives up the naïveté (“That still happens in America?” asks the wide-eyed white child) immediately.

I note that my black friends and family are not speaking out much on social media. They are silent. I imagine the pain is too much. I haven’t reached out because I don’t especially like it when straight people reach out to me after a gay hate crime or injustice. It is not my friends’ job to help me understand. It is my job to gain understanding. So here I am, part of the problem, I know, but not feeling quite like that.

I want to be part of the solution.

What can I do to help? What can I do to combat racism? How can I make a difference? I’m not stupid; I know that the civil-rights movement needed white Americans to see and abhor what was happening to add weight to the fight. A minority cannot win rights from the majority without some help from the majority (basic math). So it was in the ’60s, and so it has been the past decade with gay rights. We wouldn’t have gay marriage in 35 states and D.C. if it weren’t for the support of our straight friends. (Thank you, by the way.)

But as one person, what can I do to help? This is my struggle. I realize I have a tiny podium to share things and try to impact others. I have done that. But what about as I move through the world? As I handle my daily life? How do I say to the black and white Americans I come across that I abhor what is happening and want to be part of the solution?

Last week I read the “Other America” speech that Martin Luther King Jr. gave at Gross Pointe High School in 1968. This is the speech where he says riots are bad but he could not condemn them without also “condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society.” It has been cited a lot in the last few days. In it King calls for an acknowledgement from all Americans that we have a race problem in America.

Well, we have a race problem in America.

We do. We have a system that is skewed. The cards are stacked against black Americans, and the statistical proof of this is sickening. But many people do not (cannot? will not?) see it. This was never more apparent to me than in the past few months. I have spoken to otherwise intelligent, wonderful people who did not hesitate to disparage an entire race. I have moved through work afraid to say anything about Michael Brown for fear that my colleagues might say something to make me respect them a little less. I scroll through Facebook nervous of what I might see.

But how does an otherthan effect change? We can’t wait for voting; besides, basic human rights are not to be voted on. We need “the people” to agree that the system and the rules of the system are geared toward protecting whites, ensconcing them in privilege, supporting them, and helping them flourish. We need the people who don’t see the problem to read and see, to listen and hear.

The laws need to change to provide protections. We need race training for all law enforcement, though I’m not sure how we teach someone that all life has equal value when that idea should be innate; an end to racial profiling; the demilitarization of our police; and lapel cameras on all law enforcement officers.

All these things need to happen, but before they do, the opinions of the majority must change. Right or wrong, it works this way.

So what will I do? I will keep using my podium. I will continue to teach my children about equality, that all stereotypes are bad, that they should question a system that benefits them solely because of their race, and that they should choose friends based on the quality of their character rather than the color of their skin. I will share with the people in my life. I will do so gently with people I like or love, and respectfully with the rest. I will not stop loving or liking them just because they might need help to understand. If we only talk with people who agree with us, we are preaching to the choir. When I pass black and white Americans on the street, I will look them in the eye and smile. I will continue to look for biases inside me. I will keep reading. I will listen to anyone who tells me I am missing something and read things that people suggest I read.

If you have any suggestions for what else I can do, share in the comments. I am listening, as are a lot of white Americans today (and, hopefully, tomorrow and always).

It is butch to stand up and say, “Enough! This otherthan wants to be part of the solution rather than the problem!” Be butch.


Suck It, Biggots!

Biggots in 5 states are looking at Fox News today and shaking their heads. What the …? Equality is contagious, you see. You can’t start treating people equally – as they deserve – with dignity in one, two, three, four, five, six states and expect everyone else to just lump it.

What did you think? Did you really think that you could just throw enough money at the issue, keep trying to scare people and We would forget? Go away? Accept less?

You see, I demand to be treated equally. I demand that for me, my love, my kids, my family, my friends, my neighbors. But…

I also demand that for you, your love, your kids, your family, your friends, your neighbors. Even though I don’t know you. I may not even like you. But still I demand this. For all of us. Even the biggots.

I want equality for you, too. That’s what America is all about. If you don’t like it, suck it.

http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2014/10/u-s-supreme-court-denies-marriage-appeals-from-five-states/

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