BUTCH Voices is an organization for “masculine of center” individuals to come together in community to support and educate one another. BUTCH Voices holds a national conference every two years in Oakland and offers smaller regional gatherings and events in other places around the country. We interviewed Joe LeBlanc, founder and board chair about what it means to be butch-identified and how that has an impact on one’s dating life. Joe identifies as queer and as a genderqueer poly butch.
Tell me about Butch Voices and why you started it.
BUTCH Voices is a social justice organization dedicated to enhancing and sustaining the well-being of all individuals who are butch, stud, tomboi, Masculine of Center, aggressive, macha, etc. We have three areas of focus with our programming: community building, economic/social justice and mental/physical health. After attending the Femme Conference in 2006 and various transgender conferences, I intended to create spaces that talked about topics that the butch, stud, masculine of center community faced. I wanted to build community across areas of divide such as race, gender identity, age, class and ability, and to have solid connections with other butches and studs to discuss a variety of issues that we face, yet there was not an organization or space that really focused on this. I started BUTCH Voices in 2008, and added a handful of people on the Board who were all invested in creating such a space.
What has the response been from people who attend?
The response has been amazing! So many people within the community have said that the space has been life-changing for them. For many of us it is the largest number of butches, studs, and masculine of center folks in one space. People have appreciated having an inclusive and welcoming space that doesn’t dictate who is butch, and allows people to make that decision themselves. Attendees have also said that they really enjoy the diversity of folks (race, age, identity) involved with the organization from the board through our steering committee to attendees. Folks have loved not having to choose between various pieces of their identity to feel a part of something bigger. People have wanted to have similar spaces where they live, and have formed butch, stud, and transmasculine groups in various cities across the country after attending our conferences also.
At your conference do you have any workshops on dating? If so, what kinds of topics are of interest to butch lesbians and queer-identified butches when it comes to dating?
We’ve had two national conferences in Oakland (2009 and 2011) and four regional conferences in 2010 (Dallas, NYC, Portland, OR and Los Angeles). Over those conferences we have had lots of topics relating to dating and sexuality for butches of all identities. Our sessions have all been presented by members of the community and have covered a wide array of topics from flirting, butch on butch dating and cruising, butches of leather, stone sexuality, butch/femme relationships, chivalry, picking out the right cock, strap on play, boundary negotiation, talking about sex, butch porn, and butches having babies.
There is a subsection of the lesbian community who is into butch femme dating. If one is a butch or femme interested in dating where are good places to start?
I think a lot of people start with the internet. Dating sites like OK Cupid usually have areas where folks can talk about how they identify (poly, queer, pansexual, bisexual, lesbian, etc) and what they are looking for. There are a variety of forum websites that are specific to butch-femme identities, dating, and personals, as well as groups on FetLife and Facebook. In some cities there are even butch-femme social groups or events, as well as butch community groups or femme community groups. In Portland, we have Butch Crew PDX, and the butches there often talk about the latest dance parties and events, and very often about where they can find dates.
I have a friend who says butch on butch dating is a “crime.” What do you think of that? Can butches have successful relationships with each other?
Butch-butch relationships are equally valid, romantic, and authentic as any other type of pairing between couples or multiple partnered arrangements, though there is still a lot of stigma in these communities, as evidenced by your friend who called butch on butch dating a “crime.” I applaud people who can connect, find romance, fulfilling relationships, hot sex and/or love – no matter their gender identity. It may not be someone’s preference, but it does not make it any less real, or sustainable as a relationship.
Tell me about the butch voices conference and organization. Where can people find out more information?
BUTCH Voices is offering up a series of Community Conversations and fundraiser events from this Fall through early Spring 2013. We are planning events in a variety of cities across the US and Canada such as San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, Atlanta, Portland, and many others where we can promote connection, elevation of conversation, and community building for masculine of center folks and our allies. These events are more grassroots oriented and smaller than regional conferences. Topics will be generated by individuals who attend, and we expect regional differences to be reflected within each city. We expect 20-50 people to attend each Community Conversation as we gear up for the next BUTCH Voices national conference in Oakland in August 2013. Each Community Conversation will also have a fundraiser event – performance/dance party that will generate funds for the national organization, and also help to send folks from the various cities to the national conference in 2013. Our first event is set to take place on September 15th in San Francisco, with more information and upcoming dates about these events on our website. Advanced tickets can be purchased for San Francisco online here. If folks are interested in hosting, fundraising, or being involved with a Community Conversation in your city, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about BUTCH Voices you can visit our website www.BUTCHVoices.com, find us on Facebook or find us on Twitter.