“Butch is a Noun”–a girl’s own story

Bergman, S. Bear. “Butch is a Noun”, Suspect Thoughts Press, 2006.

A Girl’s Own Story

Amos Lassen

“Butch is a Noun” is a surprise of a book that really made me love it in its own special way. It deals with gender in a new way and has a lot to say about gender issues. Everyone should read this book as it has something for everyone.

S. Bear Bergman is a playwright and storyteller and she uses both of those qualities in the construction of this book. For those of us who are unsure of the REAL meaning of the word “butch”, Bergman tells us. Butchness is now an accessible idea to all and in explaining the word “butch” Bergman looks closely as gender in all of its aspects. Some of us may feel that reading this book is like coming home if home is the place where you were understood and accepted, Yet even more than that the book explores living outside of the binary two sex scheme that the world has ascribed to. This book is brave and honest and has so much to say that it will keep you thinking for a long, long time.

Bergman’s theory on gender is unique and so cleverly worded that you cannot help feel good when you read it. In explaining the meaning of the word “butch”, Bergman tells us that it is a misunderstood term in the queer community. It seems that the word has its connotations and its usage has already been somewhat established but Bergman goes on to look at class issues which she claims have not been looked at before in reference to the term. “Butch”, she says, “is messy and scary”. It is even harder to talk about butch sexual desire and she feels that this is an area that needs to be opened up and talked about.  In lesbian circles, people draw assumptions about butches which have not always been based on the reality of the situation. Many feel that lesbians are anti-masculinity when that is far from the truth. Many believe that lesbians regard men as suspect (which many do) but the reality it is the male sex that is not in favor and masculinity is quite acceptable. Butch women are regarded as anomalies by many in the lesbian community and Bergman means to set the record straight and show how in a diverse community there is no place for exclusion of any kind.

The queer mainstream limits inclusion by disregarding those that are the farthest away from the visible spectrum and are thereby cut off. Something must be done about that but Bergman maintains that it is highly unlikely that anything will be done. This is because that whoever is steering the movement has a goal in mind and in order to reach that goal some sacrifice must be made and that sacrifice is usually the non-visible members of the gay community. Also many people of that group have just given up and even though they are angry and afraid, are powerless to do anything.

One of the big fallacies of the queer movement is universal inclusion. This does not exist and its non-existence is a betrayal by those powers that be at any given time. The idea that butches are strong and masculine is not a true picture especially when discussing sexual intercourse in the male gay community. Likewise in the lesbian community, the idea that “butches” are never penetrated sexually is myth. Rationally in Western culture, penetration was a sign of weakness and this must be carefully looked at.

Since Bergman is writing about issues among gay women, I find myself at a loss as to how to react. I, instead, was perfectly satisfied to sit back and learn which I did. Bergman’s book is a wonderful way to look at gender and another way to look at the construction of it in society and of it in the gay community. All in all, the book is a reward for those of us who want to know more.

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