CENSORED FROM “BUTCH VOICES”
September 27, 2013
GUEST POST by Bev Jo:
CENSORED FROM “BUTCH VOICES”
For the last three sessions of the Butch Voices Conference in Oakland (2009, 2011, and 2013), I have offered to do a Female-Identified Butch Workshop and have been denied, as have all other Radical Feminist Butches I’ve known. (In 2009, one of the organizers who had partially “transitioned” did a Female-Identified Butch workshop, which, from seeing the emotional reaction of the over 100 Butches who showed up, was desperately needed. But it felt like BV co-opted it, diluting the female energy in what was already a very male-identified conference, by choosing someone who had so recently identified as male (she had had her breasts removed, taken testosterone, and had worn a shirt identifying as trans a couple of months earlier at the Dyke March). No Female-Identified Butch workshop was allowed in 2011, even though there were several by men who call themselves “Butch.” This year, however, I was scheduled to participate in a panel of Female-Identified Butches, but then was later told I was no longer allowed to participate.
One of the men who did “transwomen” “Butch” workshops, Tobi Hill-Meyer, had been allowed to be a member of the Butch Voices 2013 Advisory Board. He is part of the reason I was censored/banned — the complaints came from “transwomen” and he was the only one named as objecting to my being on the panel. The Butch Voices statement is: The mission of BUTCH Voices is to enhance and sustain the well-being of all women, female-bodied, and trans-identified individuals who are Masculine of Center. – in spite of the fact that Hill-Meyer, like the other men who pretend to be Lesbians, is very male-identified feminine and clearly male, and exposes his prick online in photos and videos. (Be warned that he is a pornographer, if you don’t want to see his or his fellow pornographers’ penises, or as the trans cult calls them, “lady peens.”)
Can any reasonable women look at him, his videos, or read his statement and not see clearly that he is a man, and certainly not a Butch? He identifies as “Indigenous, colonized mestiza, poly, kinky, trans woman, queerspawn, activist, butch, feminist, pan-dyke, genderqueer…. All my life I’ve had a drive to surround myself with queer people and community. Queerness gets me hot. I’m a major dyke, but there are definitely some hot queer guys that I go for.” Ironically, he has also written “straight women have absolutely no right to tell dykes how to have sex.” – as if he is a “dyke” and not a bisexual man.
This is the genderqueer, female-hating, Lesbian-hating, and Butch-hating mind-fuck/gaslighting that defines us out of existence. Lesbians, Dykes, and Butches do not fuck with men, not to mention that men are simply not women.
For those who insist that Lesbians can raise non-sexist, non-oppressive men, this man is a horrifying example of what happens when males grow up with inside access to Lesbian culture, making them far more dangerous than other men. They are left with a sense of ownership of Lesbians as well as entitlement, and proceed to try to erase us.
If you want to see another aspect of this mindfuck/appropriation of Butches by men, watch Hill-Meyer and other men explaining why they are Butch at Gallus Mag’s GenderTrender.
This looks like a parody and would be funny if they weren’t doing so much damage to Butches. Anyone with any understanding of who Butches are would not identify these men in any way as Butch. They are trying so hard to appropriate us that they don’t seem to realize they are making no sense whatsoever. First, they want to be accepted as women, so they try to look as feminine (in terms of male-identified femininity) as possible, making themselves look like drag queens. But then that is the opposite of Butch, because being Butch is all about refusing male-identified femininity from girlhood, and just looking natural, which of course females are forbidden to do.
Gallus Mag dealt brilliantly with Tobi Hill-Meyer in
Tobias/Toby/Tobi has written repeatedly about how growing up “around but apart” from women’s spaces spurred his obsession with gaining access to female space he felt was unfairly withheld from him:
“When I was a child, my parents would take me to women’s music festivals. As a baby, I was passed around to a dozen different “aunties” at the feminist newspaper where my parents worked. I essentially grew up in women’s space – queer women’s space specifically. And really, I’ve never left.”
“As a trans woman raised in feminist community, I know the value that women-only spaces can hold. Growing up in such close proximity to women-only spaces without having the same kind of access gave me a special appreciation for the power they have to create community, heal misogyny’s wounds, and further female empowerment – all things trans women are often in desperate need of.”
We expect men to invade our rare Lesbian/women’s spaces. They always have, in various guises, from openly perving on us or assaulting us, to pretending to be “exceptional” non-sexist “feminist” men. But when it comes to pretending to be Lesbians, it’s other women who betray us by enabling those men to have the support to go inside and co-opt and destroy our communities.
If Hill-Meyer grew up with the unique opportunity to see how desperately Lesbians need women only space, why is he so determined to destroy it?
How and why is a man allowed to be on the board of a “Butch” organization? How and why are men allowed to censor a real Butch from a rare Butch conference?
Butches are the most marginalized, objectified, and misrepresented of Lesbians. We are the most out of Lesbians and so get the most direct hatred and attacks. We are ridiculed in the mainstream media, yet almost completely banned from actually being shown, and we are also not represented in most of the Lesbian media. What better way to promote lies about a group of people than forbid them from being seen and heard? ((One of the only Butches that I’ve seen in film was Hilary Swank’s excellent portrayal of Teena Brandon in “Boys Don’t Cry,” but her tragic story was in the classic Lesbian-hating tradition of the Lesbian dying at the end, which serves as a warning to girls and women to not consider being Lesbians.) It’s bad enough that Butches grow up as little girls feeling different from everyone around us, with absolutely no support and being continuously harassed and pressured and disapproved of. Most other oppressed people, no matter how much they suffer, at least have their own families and neighborhoods mirroring them back to themselves so they are not alone during their most vulnerable years growing up. Most other oppressed people also see themselves represented in the media. As a result of Butches not being seen, many people, including Lesbians, have no idea who Butches are, and, so, many believe that any Lesbian who doesn’t look like a drag queen/Hard Fem must be Butch. As such a marginalized, misrepresented people, it is so important that there be some positive information and images about us. That has been part of my activist work from when I first realized I was Butch and what that means (similar to realizing that being Lesbian does not mean being the pornographic, Lesbian-hating images presented of us.) I am one of the few Butches who has identified as Radical Lesbian Feminist since 1970, and have written in support of Butches in articles, in Chapter Four of our book, “Dykes-Loving-Dykes,” and at my blog, and also have given talks and workshops about Butch existence and oppression. It’s been part of my life’s work to support Butches. So many of us have died too young already, way out of proportion to other women and Lesbians I’ve known. I don’t want one more Butch to die as a result of a lifetime of oppression and hatred, from men, het women, and even other Lesbians. Yet my life, political work and existence as a Lifelong Lesbian and Butch meant nothing compared to what a young pornographic, sado-masochistic man demanded for that conference. But, as far as I know, the entire Butch Voices group backed him and possibly other men claiming to be Butch. After all, women count for little, Lesbians even less, and Butches not at all. Men have so much privilege.
BV posted this publicly, to explain why I was banned/censored:
“We had a conversation with the panelist in question, and we were not convinced that the panelist could remain respectful while expressing their viewpoint….speech that blatantly disregards the emotional safety and gender identities of our community will not be tolerated or condoned in any way.….We have not and do not censor presenters based on their individual opinions, perspectives, or politics. However, we draw the line when a presenter’s expressed views directly cause harm to members of our community….The willingness to cause psychological harm and fear is taken as seriously as an expressed intent to cause physical harm, and BUTCH Voices will not allow such language to permeate the safer spaces we seek to create.
Respect others gender identity and pronouns
Don’t make assumptions based on someone’s presentation—none of us get to determine someone else’s identity, politics, or pronouns. It is respectful to ask someone their pronoun before referring to them in the third person. If this information is not known to you, use their name or no pronoun at all. Deliberate misgendering or unwillingness to respect another’s identity and personhood will not be tolerated.”
So while we are all lectured that “none of us get to determine someone else’s identity, politics, or pronouns. It is respectful to ask someone their pronoun before referring to them in the third person. If this information is not known to you, use their name or no pronoun at all…” Butch Voices did exactly what they forbid others to do as being “disrespectful,” in their statement slandering me, by referring to my politics as “their viewpoint,” rather than “her” viewpoint. They know I identify as female, and that was also asked on the form about being on the panel. (Saying “viewpoint” trivializes my politics as well.):
“We had a conversation with the panelist in question, and we were not convinced that the panelist could remain respectful while expressing their viewpoint….”
Isn’t that double standard revealing? — Butch Voices organizers playing games with real Butches as victims.
It was Joe LeBlanc who called to tell me that I’d been banned because some “transwomen” (men claiming to be women) did not feel safe with me being on the panel because of my “violent and transphobic statements.” Joe read an out of context comment that I’d made years ago on a friend’s blog, which referred to the trans cult’s ongoing charges that feminists are somehow responsible for men attacking the men who pretend to be women, while ignoring the many more girls and women and Lesbians who are assaulted and killed by men (including by some of the men who identify as women) — and that all of us who defend women only space get sent rape, mutilation, and death threats by the men claiming to be women and Lesbians. Just saying no to any of the trans cult line brings serious retaliation, which is why so many women and Lesbians are afraid to not obey these men. But none of that is “violent” or Lesbian-hating/lesbophobic? The real “violence” is in these threats, as well as the harm of banning Radical Lesbian Feminist politics from the conference.
I told Joe that I did not recommend violence against anyone, but do say it’s not women’s fault if men attack men and that we are not “transphobic” — we are oppressed by men saying they are women. Since Joe referred to the men as feeling in danger from me speaking on a panel at the conference (but why was I not prevented from attending workshops if I was that terrifying), I said, “You’ve met me, Joe. Am I that scary? Do I frighten you?” Joe just laughed, but then repeated the accusations. I told Joe that it was simply censorship over my politics. Then BV posted a statement saying that it was not censorship, and accused me of “trans-misogyny.” As if there is such a thing. (It’s men who are misogynistic towards women who refuse to be bullied into calling them women.) “Trans-misogyny” is as mythological as “transwomen” or “trans-paraplegic.”
Joe also referred to my calling Tobi Hill-Meyer a man as further proof of how dangerous I am, which is revealing about what was the real motive for my being censored.
The irony is that I have never felt safe at the BV conferences because I’ve been yelled at and insulted, while watching the men welcomed. The intensely sado-masochistic atmosphere doesn’t help either. No one else I know with Butch-loving feminist politics feels safe there. Not one of the Female-Identified Butches I know went to the conference this year. I also wonder who else has been denied being able to present a workshop over the years, and can imagine. I agree with what Pippa Fleming posted online and in her letter to Butch Voices, which is that there is a lot of money involved with the Butch Voices conference. Finding out that Tobi is a pornographer explains even more.
I know the conference was already horribly male-identified and sado-masochistic in posted and printed statements, and there also were many Fems and even some bisexuals posing as Butches. I had hoped this was an opportunity (though very brief) to speak against men appropriating Butch identity and to support Butches and other Lesbians who do not feel comfortable with the male-loving genderqueer propaganda, but who don’t have the words to answer the lies. But I think it’s exactly these politics that they did not want said. For all the pretense of the conference being so open and inclusive, they keep it very controlled and restricted.
I did go to two workshops, but couldn’t bear to do more. What could have been revolutionary was a workshop about Butches attracted to Butches, but it was called “Faggot Desire.” This is how much the entire conference seemed like a parody of reality. Butches are about as far away from gay men as a female can be. Gay men have not been generally supportive to Lesbians, but it still does not seem right to take a term that has been used politically by gay men. The workshop leader also described herself as a “homosexual homosexual.” This reflected how extremely male-worshipping and genderqueer the conference was. Most of the workshop avoided the actual topic and focused on other bizarre terms. Once again, we were appropriated and made to disappear. This makes me wonder yet again, was another truly Butch-identified workshop co-opted by this travesty?
The other workshop I went to was “inter-generational,” and half the panel appeared Fem to me. It mostly seemed to be a criticism of our Lesbian Feminist past, with the focus on how the old Lesbians who created our movement and culture were somehow oppressing the female-hating, male-worshipping genderqueer younger women. Of course there was no one speaking who are like the many young Radical Lesbian Feminists I know around the world. An older sado-masochist Lesbian ex-Separatist who recently reverses her separatist politics to publicly support the men who claim to be Lesbians and get them into our local Dyke March, did a public apology for how we older Lesbian Feminists had not made our work more available to the younger women, ignoring that she herself had participated in censoring some of the more radical work by Lesbian Separatists. Her lover was instrumental in Old Lesbians Organizing for Change reversing their women only policy to allow in men claiming to be Lesbians, thereby killing yet one more of our last spaces and causing loss of membership.
The entire theme of the BV conference seems to be to destroy real Butch identity on behalf of those who hate us. And each year, there are more Butch Feminists boycotting it. This year was significantly smaller, using only four rooms on the first floor, compared to the four floors and the entire downstairs used previously.
Most of what I was going to read on the panel is in the book I co-wrote and also at my blog (with links below.) But the most important part is that I believe that Butches are closer to what all females would be if it wasn’t for patriarchy. Butches (not Fems posing as a stereotype), are the opposite of male. We get punished for saying it, but it’s true.
Butches are the females who most reject male rules for girls and women. We are given only two choices of who to be – feminine or masculine – yet both are defined/originated by men and are therefore male and masculine. Butches, like at the conference, are called “masculine” and most women don’t think past the con to realize it’s not true at all.
We hear of “soft Butches,” with Hard Butches implied: scary, bad, often class-oppressed, too Butch, too non-feminine, too very Lesbian. But we don’t hear of Hard Fems, the women who learn how to be cold and cruel through their extensive contact with men and following male rules and values. We don’t see male-identified femininity In our sister animals. We see other Butch beings – females who do not obey the rules to be uncentered, ungrounded, uncomfortable. Our natural state is strong, dignified, and just who females naturally are. Patriarchy is about living with so many reversals and mind-fucks. Butches saying no threatens patriarchy at its female-hating, life-hating core. Butch is also about saying yes to females, Lesbians, and ourselves.
Here is Pippa’s brilliant post, which she also sent to the conference organizers:
“Calling out” the Butch Voices conference for co-opting butch female identity
By: Pippa Fleming
August 8, 2013 at 12:53am
Whenever I present the argument concerning the erasure, co-opting and silencing of female Butch identity, I always draw parallels to race identity. For some reason, people are able to “get their heads” around the concept of racial and cultural genocide, analyze it and demand it’s eradication…but when it comes to the co-opting of female butch identity, all of a sudden folks lose their historical knowledge of who butches were and the dog fight we are in to preserve our culture and female identity.
If I looked at a dog and called it a cat, or said two plus two is one…I most likely would be called uneducated or down right stupid! So when the LGBT community attempts to tell me that butch identity is inclusive of “everything but the kitchen sink”… this is ignorant, misogynist and sexist. If the Black Panther’s history was revised as being founded by white men and women, there would be an uproar, riot and a serious confrontation of this racist and blatant attempt at rewriting Black history.
So why in 2013, is butch identity still being willfully turned upside down, lied about and co-opted to fill a conference venue? Why is money being made at a corporate venue in our name? When attempts are made by butch women to say “hey wait a minute…we are women” all of a sudden, we’re the bad guys for challenging misguided attempts to co-opt butch identity and we are blamed for not being inclusive. This is exactly what has happened to the Black experience in America. Master really wasn’t master, he was “just” the president… met any white Jefferson’s recently?
When Butch Voices and the LGBT community redefines who butches are to suit their agenda, you are asking me/us to collude in misogyny and dumb ourselves down. The other issue I have with “Butch Voices” is an obvious lack of awareness around what diversity “truly” looks like. The meat of a conference is all about its workshops. If you check out the ratio of white presenters, to overall people of color, the majority of the presenters are white. I’m so tired of this shit. White folks are the minority on this planet, yet even in the LGBT community a tone of racism and white privilege still exists. We as people of color, need to challenge this racism and white privilege. We need to stop “skinnin and grinnin” in the face of white priviledge and tell the truth about racism.
Butches are women…stop rewriting herstory!
http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/Guest Post — A Black Butch Speaks: Addressing Female Oppression by Pippa Fleming