Breaking News–Prominent Organizers Break with Butch Voices: Butch Nation is Born

Press Release
For Immediate Release
July 25, 2011
Contacts: see below

Prominent Organizers Break with Butch Voices:
Butch Nation is born

After years of internal strife, four officers of ButchVoices report they have left the West Coast based organization. The four, along with numerous others, announce they will continue their butch advocacy and solidarity work under the name Butch Nation.

The former officers claim they were ousted or forced to resign because the Board of ButchVoices would not address their concerns over issues such as feminism, ageism, misogyny, and internal secrecy. The long-term members include ButchVoices Board member Jeanne Cordova; Program Chair Sasha T. Goldberg; Vendor Chair Yvonne Moore; and Program Committee member Stacy Reed. The four women are long time LBGTQ activists whose experience spans three generations, multiple religions, races, and ethnicities.

Goldberg and Moore were asked to resign last month upon their refusal to sign a newly issued 12 page contract which specifies confidentiality as all “trade secrets, know-how, concepts, processes, ideas, development activities and designs, [and] all information not generally known outside of ButchVoices.” Although the organization lacks legal standing and is not a non-profit, their contract focuses on strict branding requirements, and demands that volunteers relinquish intellectual property rights.

Goldberg and Moore argued that the workings of a volunteer-based organization should be transparent to its constituents, and, given all of the internal struggles over feminism, ageism, and misogyny within the organization, were both unwilling to commit to silence.

Butch Voices is one of a new crop of butch groups organized in recent years. Its self-appointed leadership consists of: Joe LeBlanc, Q Ragsdale, Krys Freeman, and Mary Stockton. Cordova, a fifth member, was asked to join after her keynote in 2009. After last October’s regional ButchVoices L.A. conference, which had unprecedented success, Cordova was suddenly asked to leave the organization.

During its inaugural 2009 Conference in Oakland ButchVoices claimed it wanted to include all butch voices. However, a group of Steering Committee feminists left during the ’09 planning. Internal tension mounted again in 2010 when Cordova insisted upon inserting the words “feminist” and “lesbian” into the official Call-for-Submissions to the upcoming regional conferences. Although invited to serve on the Board as ButchVoice’s “sage elder”, Cordova’s value rapidly decreased when she disagreed with the Board, who proceeded to schedule their retreat during Cordova’s surgery.

Differences culminated when the Board Retreat met, without Cordova, and changed ButchVoice’s mission statement, shifting the original language of “butch women and trans folk” to “masculine of center people.” Cordova and Goldberg argued—unsuccessfully—for equal footing being given to “butch women and masculine of center people.” ButchVoice’s current mission statement says, “BUTCH Voices is a grassroots organization dedicated to all self-identified Masculine of Center people and our Allies.”

Goldberg and Cordova wrote letters to the Board about these concerns on behalf of woman-identified Butches who do not identify as “masculine of center people”–hoping that their own voices might be heard, and taken to heart. The letters remain unanswered.

Cordova, Goldberg, Moore, and Reed, though now unaffiliated with ButchVoices, remain committed to building Butch community. During the Saturday lunchtime slot at ButchVoices, Goldberg will offer her workshop “Bulldagger: For Women-Identified, Female Pronoun using Butches”; during the Sunday lunchtime slot, Cordova will offer her caucus, “Exploring Our Masculinities While Keeping Our Feminisms.” Both workshops will be hosted in a room donated by members of the Oakland Bulldaggers, and will be listed under the name Goldberg. Sessions will be open to conference attendees and non-registrants alike.

The four organizers are joined by members of the Oakland Bulldaggers, The Lesbian Exploratorium/LEX (organizers of the Los Angeles ButchVoices regional conference), veteran LGBTQ activist Ivy Bottini, and others. They plan to continue their activism through Butch Nation. Butch Nation hopes other butch groups around the country will want to affiliate with them to continue work in Butch advocacy, education, and solidarity.

The Nation can be contacted at Info.Butch.Nation@gmail.com.

Additional Contacts:
Jeanne Cordova; Cordova.Butch.Nation@gmail.com 626.791.0665
Sasha T. Goldberg; Goldberg.Butch.Nation@gmail.com 415.689.4712
Yvonne Moore; Moore.Butch.Nation@gmail.com, 310.614.4359
Stacy Reed; Reed.Butch.Nation@gmail.com
LEX/Ivy Bottini; Bottini.Butch.Nation@gmail.com, 323.848.8015

58 Responses to “Breaking News–Prominent Organizers Break with Butch Voices: Butch Nation is Born”

  1. Pati Says:

    I am willing to fund raise and help organize mediation to settle this. Are you open to that?
    Pati McDermott
    pmicd@yahoo.com

  2. sashatgoldberg Says:

    Hi Pati,

    Thanks for your note. I did recommend mediation to the Board in May as a potential resolution to many issues, but specifically about their decisions regarding Jeanne Cordova’s involvement. ButchVoices was not interested.

    We’ve moved forward.

    Sasha.

  3. juneville61 Says:

    There are plenty of examples in our Community of “Leaders” failing to be transparent with their constituents and supporters to their detriment and ultimate failure. Regardless if BV is a 501c3, which it’s not, everyone who contributes financially or with their time has a right to know where every penny of everyone’s hard earned money goes. If it goes to Salaries, Hotel Suites, Food, Tips, Bar Tabs, Travel Expenses, that’s fine, but people need to know that when they are giving so they can make educated choices.

    I am not Butch, but if I were, I would want the core leadership of an organization called Butch Voices to actually identify as Butch. Not Trans sometimes when it’s convenient and Butch at other times. While there is a large umbrella under which the Spectrum of Butch resides, much in the same way Femme and Transgender do, If the “President/Founder” of Butch Voices mostly ID’s as Trans, then I can see how that would be confusing to people, not just as participants, but also as volunteers and chairs. (And I am not trying to slam Joe in particular, but seeing him acknowledged as a “Lesbian Leader” of a 501c3 in an article did rankle, because there seemed to be no correction issued — As in Joe does not identify as a Lesbian and BV is not a 501c3). That also is a lack of transparency couched on omission and this community is too small not to notice things like that.

    This feels to me to be an extension of “Lesbian” is less than on the mighty masculine hierarchy many people in our community ascribe to. It’s sad to me that in an organization called Butch Voices that the words Lesbian, Feminism, et al would be given a backseat. And for what? Fear of feminization? Fear of not appearing Macho enough?

    I love and respect many non-cisgendered men in our community. I stand with them in their right to be who they are in the same way I stand with our Butches. But I do not agree with the trampling of or stepping over Butch in order to achieve the “pinnacle” of male or masculinity. It’s just another form of othering and debasing that goes on, and that, I have no respect for whatsoever.

    I want to add, as a sidecar thought that I do believe it is healthy and conducive for Butches and Transmen to gather in order to promote better understanding, friendships and allies. I hope that it will continue to happen in ways that help to bridge the gaps, or perhaps chasms that I see occurring within our community. I just don’t see how we can overcome this if “we” refuse to use our common language and fight for many of the same causes/issues i.e. racism, sexism, classism, agism, sizism, Feminism — And on and on.

    –June

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      June,

      A most stunning and apt reply–thank you. You outline so many of our ongoing concerns, and the concerns of those with whom we share Butch community. I agree with your sentiments whole-heartedly, and appreciate your time, and your thoughtfulness.

      All best,
      Sasha.

    • Krys F. Says:

      http://www.butchvoices.com/about/financials/

      • juneville61 Says:

        Thanks for the link, Krys — I have already been over the financials. I do have a lot of questions about them, actually.

        However, my only financial contribution to BV aside from the Branding was $20 to see Kathleen Keynote here in Portland, and I am not willing to sign a 12 page Non Disclosure form, nor am I Butch or Masculine of Center, so I’m not sure I have a “right” to ask them.

        But if I could, I guess I would like to know (among other things) how an organization that is not Brick and Mortar could have a phone bill of $1,347.00 because that’s a $112.00 per month plan — Did it get divided out amongst the committee as a stipend, or did one persons phone bill for an entire year get paid? Or, who’s airfare was paid and what exactly the “miscellaneous expenses” were, and “non conference year activity” It looks like someone got comped into a lot of other conferences on the BV tab. And those “Hotel Expenses” they seem kind of vague as well. $577 for gas/auto/parking? Who benefitted from that? Like I said, a lot of questions. :^)

        Those financials are very similar to those of another conference, and equally as vague. It leads me to believe that there is a purpose behind that. If someone, and I mean anyone is going to get paid or be paid for, then it’s my very strong and vehement opinion that it needs to be stated very clearly that it WILL happen, and documented fully when it DOES happen.

        –June

    • Mary Says:

      June,

      I have replied to you elsewhere but thought it fair that this was re-posted for those who see the blog here. Once again, thank you for your eye for transparency and I will do all I can to answer questions:

      Here is a start to your questions.

      To start, no one makes any income from BUTCH Voices. Unlike many Boards, the Trustees of BUTCH Voices is a working Board. There is no paid staff. There is a lot of work that goes into all of the events, whether they are regional or national. Outreach to many organizations, Board education, etc are all a part of the work of any typical organization. There is usually a cost to this. In addition, Board Retreats are a very standard practice in order to enhance and sustain a healthy organization. It is nearly impossible to do the core work of a Board when you are spread out geographically. BUTCH Voices Board members reside in Texas, California (Northern and Southern), and Oregon. Traditionally, Boards gather once a month in order to address various issues including but not limited to fundraising efforts, strategic planning, programs, Board structure, organization structure, financials, etc. The BUTCH Voices Board meets face to face once a year to address these issues. Also, regular teleconferences are maintained to stay in touch and keep on course for the organization. There is a cost to getting together to meet and discuss the direction of the organization. We are all volunteers and dedicate many hours per month to these efforts. We do our best to reduce costs as we move through some of the major decisions and look to new and exciting directions for the organization.

      Telephone: whether it is between Board Retreats or during times of Board education, there are times we have had to use our personal phones in order to do Board work. This is a reimbursed expense.

      Hotel: Board members have attended educational seminars in an effort to gain as much knowledge in appropriate and legal Board leadership skills. Board Retreat costs are kept at a minimum but needs to be reimbursed as well.

      Travel: travel expenses for Board retreats are reimbursed as we travel to meet once a year face to face.

      Car: In order to do much of our work on the retreats such as site visits, a vehicle was required.

      Food: There is a food allowance during Board retreats. Anyone going above that allowance pays out of pocket.

      External conference expenses that are not explained as to who benefited from them: If you have specific questions about these line items please let me know what they are and I will do my best to explain them.

      Conversely, they say over and over again that they grant scholarships to students and lower income folks, there is no line item about $xxx.xx in scholarship funds being disbursed: 2011 is the first year that grant scholarships have been requested so you will see a line item for this at year end.

      It should also be noted that I am a financial planner and a big believer in liquidity. I feel strongly that maintaining a certain portion of our resources to advance the efforts of our organization is important. There are issues for butches, studs, aggressives, etc around healthcare, social justice, and advocacy that the organization has targeted as initiatives. All of these are stressed on our website… Please take a look for more information: http://www.butchvoices.com

      • Jaime Says:

        Wow. That’s a really long non-answer. I’m pretty sure June and everyone else reading this know that sometimes people drive cars to get places. That’s not the question. The question is how there got to be over $500 for gas/car/parking expenses? Were people reimbursed for use of personal vehicles? Did you all travel in limos?

        I’m sure we’re also all aware that people stay in hotels when they go places, and sometimes events are held at hotels. I think what many of us would like to know is how that expense got to be over $8000. I’ve spent many years working for non-profits, and responsible for the accounting in several of those positions. If I’d ever seen $8000+ in hotel expenses when the budget was $1500, somebody would have had some explaining to do.

        Likewise, I’m sure we’re all aware that sometimes people make business phone calls. Why was the phone expense so far over budget? How many people were reimbursed for phone expenses? How much was expensed by each person? Was there any verification that the calls being expensed were actually business calls?

        I won’t presume to speak for June, but those are the questions I’d like to see some answers for. I’m fairly certain no one who is capable of reading a blog needs anyone to explain the existence of cars and hotels to them.

      • Mary Says:

        I cannot spend time on the internet going over each line item, however, given the response of this person I will merely say, as the line item clearly says the $8,000 was for Conference expenses…. and was for catering and hotel. We had to reserve a block of rooms, that’s a cost; we had food for the attendees at various sites, that’s an expense. The income on various line atems appears in different areas. It is reasonable and expected.

  4. Jules Wright Says:

    I am happy to see maybe there will be an alternative. I was an original Steering Committee Member and designed and maintained the Butch Voice website through their 1st conference. I tried to raise these concerns from the very beginning to no avail.

  5. sashatgoldberg Says:

    Jules,

    Thank you so much for being willing to speak out about your experience. We hoped others would speak out–and we stand stronger because you have. We stand in solidarity with you, and hope for a bigger, brighter Butch future together. I look forward to crossing paths in person.

    All best,
    Sasha.

  6. Corey Alexander Says:

    Can you share more about Butch Nation and its intentions, philosophy and focus?

    Particularly, there seems to be an implication that it will be only for woman identified butches. Is that the case, or am I misreading?

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      Hi Corey,

      So nice to see you here! Butch Nation is in the process of putting together an official statement with regard to intentions, philosophy, and focus–and I look forward to sharing this with you shortly. In the meantime–Butch Nation welcomes all who identify as Butch, and all who identify as Butch Allies.

      All best,
      Sasha.

  7. Jules Wright Says:

    Thank you so much Sasha. I look forward to what the future will bring. If you do need help with anything please let me know.

    I do remember hearing about your very successful workshop for butch women/female id butches and also read Jeanne Cordova’s keynote speech which meant a great deal to me from that first conference.

    I do also want to make it clear that I do fully support my transgender/male identified butch as well as transmen brothers.

    What I oppose is the continued attempts to erase or minimize female, woman and lesbian from Butch just because for some it doesn’t fit or makes them uncomfortable. No one has to claim it for themselves, but it turns into a butch/masculine hierarchy. I also don’t support organizations that are “top-down” with a self-appointed President and select few calling all the shots. That really goes against the principles of feminism and feminist organizations

  8. sashatgoldberg Says:

    Jules,

    Thank you for the continued dialogue, with which I absolutely agree. Thank you also for your kind words, and for your offer to help–I know I can speak for all of us when I express my appreciation, and we’ll definitely be in touch!

    Looking forward–
    Sasha.

  9. Tee Azul Says:

    This is not a new conversation or a surprise to me. I am sad that BV changed its defintion to MoC for these reason.The eraser of folks who are not masculine indentified Butches is very problematic for me. second the language that we use is important. for example, when it is said, “those who built the foundation or those that came before us” from the lens of current conversations for me that erases those who are Butch and female identified today. These are complicated times as the identifiers change for some and are reassertad for others. I also know gay men who id as Butch, as well as trans-men none who use the term MoC. I know many Butches who use the id MoC. Butches like myself have a herstory in relationship to masculinity. Today I hold a far different understanding of my Butch id, which is niether female or male. not to included ids, such as butch, lesbian, Butch lesbian female id butch in a conference called Butch voices for me is not about building new legacies of MoC folks it is about erasing and reducing. For me not including different voices and expression of both Butch and MoC folks is limiting. I strongly support folks organizing and defining for themselves the rules of said organiztions, but I would not feel welcome at a event where the language, staff, volenteers did not reflect nor represent the spectrum of MoC and Butch.

  10. sashatgoldberg Says:

    Tee,

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful post. For all of these reasons and more, many are starting to suggest that ButchVoices change its name to MOCVoices, rather than try and claim “Butch” in such a limited (and some would say inauthentic) way.

    All best,
    Sasha.

  11. Heart Says:

    Is there a Butch Nation facebook page yet? I’d very much like to keep abreast of your activities. Thanks.

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      Hi Heart,

      There is a Facebook page: Butchnation Losangeles. Thank you for your interest!

      All best,
      Sasha.

      • Jaime Says:

        What about Google+? I can send an invite if you need one and would like to have a presence there, as well.

  12. Heart Says:

    So, they replaced “butch,” a historically lesbian/female identity, with “masculine.” I see this over and over. Being inclusive results in foregrounding masculine/male and back-grounding references to women/female.

    Keeping “woman/female” central to organizing efforts is a very good way to assert an anti-oppression, anti-patriarchy, anti-homophobia mission. Too many queer organizers do not understand this.

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      Hello again Heart,

      Your observation about ButchVoices choosing to replace Butch with “masculine…”–as if they are interchangeable, even–is such a great, clear insight. Thank you.

      All best,
      Sasha.

  13. Chris Says:

    I was approached for dialogue and opinion on trans-inclusiveness during the BV’s infancy. Upon reflection of that brief dialogue with the founder, I feel that he was looking for a pat on the back, and unwavering support without honest debate or reflection.

    None of the events this week surprises me, sadly. The founder was warned of this long before the first conference was ever held, and he did not take heed. What a shame really.

    Many of our paths and journeys crisscross various experiences and identities over the years. Some of us have remained entrenched within the greater lesbian (and queer) community, others have chosen to move on, others have a completely different experience altogether. I am one of those that transitioned from within a lesbian, women identified butch experience, and later away from. While I personally could see a benefit in attending ‘MoC’ conferences for my own reasons and pathways, I also see very clearly how it wouldn’t work in my very humble opinion for the majority of butches out there.

    I will never be a supporter of any event that is clearly trying to erase the voices of butch, butch women and feminists.

    Best of luck to your new organization Sasha. I’m very proud to have friends in the lesbian butch community that chose to share this press release the moment it came out.

    I liked what June said: “But I do not agree with the trampling of or stepping over Butch in order to achieve the “pinnacle” of male or masculinity. It’s just another form of othering and debasing that goes on, and that, I have no respect for whatsoever.” In my not-so-humble opinion, I would like to add that trampling over any butch experience to reach that masculine ‘pinnacle’ will ultimately fail as it’s a fallacy to begin with.

    Respectfully,

    Chris

  14. T (Toughy) Says:

    I was also on the original steering committee for BV and left the committee because of the de-emphasis on butch as a female, woman, and lesbian identity and herstory. I felt Butch needed to be the emphasis and could see that trans-masculinity was going to be the direction of the founder. Focusing on masculinity certainly leaves out many butch voices.

    Thanks for all your work and I look forward to seeing Butch Nation grow as an all-inclusive butch voice.

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      T!

      I had no idea that you were on the original steering committee; I also had no idea that so *many* women had left–and am so glad that you are speaking out, now.

      Look forward to seeing you around town, and at Butch Nation.

      All best,
      Sasha.

  15. Adrienne J Davis Says:

    Sasha:

    Thank you for doing this. I was involved–but did not attend–the first national conference due to work and school constraints. The Portland conference, on the other hand, I was involved in and did attend. The lack of a sensibility or ethic that one could call feminist deeply bothered me (and, in some ways, prompted the piece I wrote for the BV web site “Ain’t I a Butch”). Like others who have commented here, I felt that butches who identify as women were a sort of also-ran. The way I expressed it to my lovely wife was that I felt that butches were children of a lesser goddess.

    The idea behind BV is fantastic. I was there when the idea was initially conceived at a bar in Oakland, sitting around in the largest group of butches I’d ever been in the same room with. It was a powerful moment. The idea behind it, butches getting together, celebrating the ways we are butch, the ways we have constructed or reconstructed ourselves, is powerful and something I support and find uplifting. But for me, feminism is non-optional in any queer space I’m going to be involved in. Whenever feminism is manifestly not present–and it is manifestly not present in BV–I think it is problematic. It is not enough to just say–as is now rote in our community–that we are feminist and inclusive. Those are words. Actions, the choices we make, are a more telling indicator.

    A fundraiser for the upcoming conference had a date auction (not my favorite thing but okay) and some women from Slut Walk were auctioned off. This I found *deeply* problematic. If there were room for discussion then I would still not have done the fundraiser but I would not have had the visceral “what am I doing being involved with this organization” response that I did. However, there was no room for discussion. A brief statement, posted on the FB wall for BV by my partner was scrubbed almost immediately. I can only presume because dissension would hurt the BV ‘brand’. Organizations have a right to protect their brand and that is fine as far as it goes but it doesn’t take us very far down the road.

    I have been reticent to speak out about what I perceive to be the marginalization of butch women in favor of MoC persons within the queer community. I have been reluctant to do so because I’ve been around the block, I know how enthusiastically we can be to launch ourselves into righteous indignation and start throwing about accusations of bigotry where it may not actually exist. I have also been reluctant to speak out because of the ritualistic eating of our own. Yet, the feminist in me compels me to speak out because I did not come out, risk and lose so much, rebuild my life from the ground up and adopt the queer community as my home just to sit silently by while sexism is perpetrated in the name of queer liberation.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, for doing this. Your courage inspires me.

    Cheers
    Adrienne (Aj)

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      Oh, Adrienne.

      Thank you so much for telling your stories. I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit in your words, and in your experience. I am so profoundly grateful that you felt moved to speak out. It’s now been made audibly, visibly true: We are not alone, this is not a one-time experience, this is not imagined, and this cannot be erased.

      We by now know that silence equals death–but sometimes we forget. And in the living we sometimes sell parts of ourselves off, bargaining; hoping. And when you say, “I did not come out, risk and lose so much, rebuild my life from the ground up and adopt the queer community as my home just to sit silently by while sexism is perpetrated in the name of queer liberation”–I feel you right down to my bones. As a Jew, and as a queer, and as a proud Butch who has fought tooth and nail to exist–I am yours in this struggle.

      HERE WE STAND–
      Sasha.

  16. sashatgoldberg Says:

    Chris,

    Thank you for this. I have wondered, aloud even, when we might see the first allied comment (here, on FB, by private message, by phone, etc.) from someone who identifies as an FTM.

    A trend that I often see (here, on FB, by private message, by phone, etc.) are Butches affirming our own space, and, at the same time, feeling the need to say (or even just feeling pressured to say) that they believe in standing by our trans brothers–but I rarely read that sentiment from the FTM-perspective about standing by Butches. I am grateful for your perspective, and grateful for the beloved FTMs in my own life who remain invested in Butch solidarity, even while living a number of significant steps removed.

    These are the bridges we need to be building; solidarity cannot be built on goldfish memories–we need to be able to access and stand by our histories, even as territories shift, expand, and, as you note–sometimes build anew.

    I also appreciate your reflections about “unwavering support without honest debate or reflection”–that phrase does indeed sum up what has transpired on many counts.

    All my best to you,
    Sasha.

  17. juneville61 Says:

    I wanted to say a couple more things. First of all, I really appreciate that you have set this up in such a way that people HAVE to sign in and have to use their names. I think it will create a much more thoughtful and productive conversation because people have to own what they say.

    As I am fond of saying “We’re all interconnected, act accordingly”, and it’s true. Things cannot happen in a vacuum, even if you try to wrap it up in a tidy 12 page Non Disclosure. What on earth can BV have that is so valuable (other than the people) that would require signing a document like that?

    These events/committees/functions do not happen because of one person, they happen because there is a collective of like-minded folks working towards a common goal. If you are unable or unwilling to create and maintain good working and interpersonal relationships with others, including listening to diverse points of view and even (wait for it) working towards consensus, then the core will break down. Charisma and riding on the coattails of others will only get you so far in this world before you have to show your true mettle.

    I know I sound like a big old harpy because I talk about this to anyone who will listen. But I’m going to say it again: One person or even a handful of people cannot benefit more financially than anyone else in volunteer organizations/communities like this unless it is clearly stated and everyone gets to choose consensually. When that happens, no matter how hard you try to hide it in layers of financials or justify it, eventually it will come back and bite you in the ass and people will feel resentful and even cheated whether on their own behalf, or that of others. By and large, many members of our community have to plan, save and sacrifice to attend these conferences and events. Registration, Airfare, Hotel, Food. All of that costs money for EVERYONE. Being an organizer of an event should not give you license to dip your hand in the pockets of the organization without disclosure. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

    A good friend said to me yesterday “I’m afraid if I speak up, I will lose a lot of friends”. Yes, that can happen, and I have had it happen on a small scale, but by and large, I have found that when you speak the truth, even if people do not want to believe it, they will hear you, and the people who know you, know.

    –June

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      Hi June,

      I can’t personally speak to the financials as I am not (and have not been) on the BV Board, but I appreciate your questions, which I do think are valid.

      As for this: “What on earth can BV have that is so valuable (other than the people) that would require signing a document like that?”–well, yes. Thank you. This is worth paying attention too, as well.

      All best,
      Sasha.

  18. Angie Says:

    I appreciate you speaking up, Sasha.

    I wanted to add my full support and respect for the amazing project that ButchNation will be. My Butch partner was also asked to participate in the first BV steering committee and declined based on multiple factors but at the top of her list was her issue with a person who was not Butch-identified naming themselves as the founder and “President” of this organizaton that was supposed to consist of volunteers and collective steering. She was pretty familiar with my own experience with being a founding member of the Femme Collective and how that “collective” experience often meant that one or two people had all of the financial, directive, and “political” power while the other folks in the collective merely served as “accessories”.
    Needless to say, we have both watched over the years as BV has evolved and have been both celebratory at its incredible gains and deeply saddened by its shortcomings. The erasure of “Feminist” and “Lesbian” from the defining doctrine (and mindset?) of BV signifies that the growth of the patriarchal wysteria vine has once again began to choke out the strong, proud, and DEEPLY NECESSARY voices of Butch Women. Whether that is capitalisim taking over, complacency, or a good ole’ dose of internalised homophobia, it is disturbing to see it happen to an organization like BV and on such a level.

    I do not think anyone who remains on the BV board is a bad person at all. I do, however, think that the board needs to reexamine their motivations behind erasing such defining words from their direction and their motivations behind the “branding” of a community effort.

    No matter what happens, ButchNation will be a beacon of light for many Butches and Allies in a dark see of erasure. Huge props to all of you who are putting forth the effort and raising your BUTCH VOICE.

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      Hi Angie,

      Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful reflection. It has been harrowing to see just how many women have left BV over feminist concerns–and heartening to receive all for your letters, notes, calls, and comments.

      Indeed we are a Butch Nation standing at the ready…and thank G-d! So glad to have you with us.

      All best,
      Sasha.

  19. D'Loco Kid Says:

    I’m sad to hear about this, everyone. If there is anything I can do to facilitate in a healing process, please please please tell me. I know that differences cannot be reconciled all the time, but the work for healing is always needed and not always done. So much love to all of you who have been hurting over this.

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      Hi D’Loco,

      Thank you for writing, and thank you so much for letting us know that you are willing to be called upon. I also appreciate your acknowledgment of the hurt–this has indeed been a long and painful process.

      For now, I remain in awe at how stepping out of the pain has brought in so much light.

      Hope to cross paths again soon, and all best,
      Sasha.

  20. Ursula Zandt Says:

    This is why I basically turned my back on the whole b/f “community.”
    I am a woman, who is a lesbian. I have always liked more “culturally male” type things, and am attracted to more “femme” women.
    I absolutely do not like the heterosexual binary male/female roles as I experienced in the butch/femme community.

    I prefer to be called queer. I still drive a motorcycle, like more androgynous clothes, and I grew my hair out– long. At first because I was sick of being called trans phobic because I guess I had short had, and looked “butch”, but absolutely DO NOT want to be referred to in the male pronoun. Now I really love my long because girls love my long hair!!

    I am also so turned off with the continued separatism in our community, and believe it is hurting us in the long run.

    So many factions and special interests divide and conquer us. I kind feel the radical right is just sitting around smirking at the queer community as a whole, because we are so divided.

    • Adrienne J Davis Says:

      Ursula, with your kind permission I would like to use your last sentence as the epigraph for a blog post I want to do.

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      Hi Ursula,

      Thank you for your reflections. I agree that divisions can often hurt us–divisions that come from bending until one breaks, for instance, is always painful. But on the other hand, there is something to be said for breaking the mold when the mold itself is painful, and ill-suited. I think this particular experience of Butch Nation forming speaks to both sides of that pain–and of that liberation.

      I look forward to continuing the dialogue.

      All best,
      Sasha.

  21. Deborah Isadora Says:

    Sasha,

    This has been my heartache since forever. Remember the conference in D.C? I actually spoke and walked out of a workshop that bashed lesbians and butch women.

    Integrity is listening. Integrity is earned and bestowed. Integrity speaks in truth (even if it is just its own). Integrity does not forget roots while encourage flowering, one needs the other. Integrity is not oppressing or erasing your history, your allies or women, it is honouring those who fought in the streets in the 70’s so that women and men can live more authentic lives. Authentic does not dismiss the very roots of its political life.

    You know I respect you and your integrity. I do not say this lightly but with heartfelt joy that we move from “branding” to celebration of indomitable spirits of queer feminist history and political action.

    Deb

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      Oh, Deb–thank you. I do indeed remember those discussions (my G-d, we really have known one another a long while), and also the discussions at the Femme Conference about age, and aging–at, at the root of both: Dismissal, surely the opposite of authenticity. I keep expecting (hope against hope) for queers to remember this, I keep thinking that we will remember it, like old muscles and scars of survival.

      I agree that it is time to celebrate indomitable spirits of queer feminist history and political action–and may we know how to celebrate together.

      All best,
      Sasha.

  22. Lex Says:

    I am very sorry to hear about this.

    While the process of developing our identities can be a liberating experience, too often we mistake the sight of a window for the entirety of the outdoors. Identities are inhumane. As we create definitions to legitimize and validate our experiences, we also create out group qualifications.

    The truth is, Butch changes. It is an internal call, who is to say who gets to keep it and who doesn’t? A movement like this should not be identity based, it should be value based. What are our values? Certainly these recurring struggles cannot be our values in action.

    If we do not loosen our grip on who gets to define butch, who is in and who is out, butch will soon become obsolete. We can stay and have this conversation, this fight, this struggle to hold on to this flag until the blood leaves our veins, but without a thorough commitment to inclusion, integrity, and collaboration, our youth will quickly and peacefully define themselves with words that better fit their mouths and ultimately their souls.

    With love, we are poking holes in an already ailing ship. With so much at stake, I certainly hope the commitment is to the values that terms like Butch embody. Without a recitation of our core qualities, we secede the power to redefine strength, power, beauty, etc. to classic understandings of male and female. Masculinity and Femininity, Male and Female are not to be dismissed nor to be chastised, they are to be reconciled. This is the magic of trans and queer bodies, they are places of alchemic potential for a revolutionary way of being in the world.

    I hope there is enough love, integrity, and humility among us to heal this rift and to understand that the divides are merely superficial and ironically reinforcing that which we are claiming to be overcoming. I wish the best for all and would very much ask that the community not be asked to divide it’s support along the lines of our personal transformations and ultimate resurrections into words that we finally fit in. Our inability to close this divide will help none of us and greatly support those that seek to do anything in their power to keep from supporting us. This is no longer about sides, this is about the vitality of our community and the strength of our character. Surely, resolution and healing in the service of working for the safety, support, and vitality of all (not limited even to queer identities) can be born from the same tongues that have created such a violent war of words. Many could argue that our inability to see one another is more violent than anything that has been done to us by those that have not known to do better. We must do better. We must be better. To ourselves, our families, our communities, and our greater humanity, if we are to live free in this lifetime.

    In Solidarity With Us All,

    Lex

  23. Goddessboi Planetlove Says:

    Right on Lex!!!!! So powerful so beautiful!

  24. sashatgoldberg Says:

    Hi Lex,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and important contribution to the conversation.

    I must say that I very much agree with what you’ve said about value. I do believe that any successful, cohesive movement ought to be value based–which is exactly why so many of us have left ButchVoices. Because our values do not align.

    For me, values mean both what we claim to value, and, just as importantly–what actions enact value, in the verb form. For me, and for so many others now speaking out, we are talking about values and words like respect, integrity, transparency, feminism, women, inclusiveness, history, and the wisdom and experience that comes with age–and the actions that enact these values.

    And when so many women report the same experience–the experience of not being listened to, not being heard, not feeling respected, not feeling included, and being downright dismissed (whether in the literal sense, or in the act of not receiving responses to our many concerns about feminism, ageism, misogyny, and transparency over many years)–the verb form of how and what we value is clearly missing.

    Because none of us at Butch Nation are new at organizing, we all know strife, and we all know struggle. Because all of us are women, and many of us Butch women, we all know strife, and we all know struggle. Because some of us are women of color, and because some of us are Jews, and because we have different levels of ability, and because we span fifty years between our youngest and our eldest, and because we have walked in this world fighting for justice–we ask that you (and others) trust us when we say: The divides are not merely superficial.

    We do not ask that you (or any in the community) divide support; we invite you to an important and long-overdue dialogue. We also believe in abundance, and that each of us are able to spend our time and energy in communities that feel like home–that echo our values–in word, and in deed.

    For what it’s worth, I, too, believe that we can do better, and tried to create that “better” for years within the framework of ButchVoices. For what it’s worth, I also hope the commitment is to the values that terms like Butch embody. And, for what it’s worth, because embody is a verb–we are building a nation.

    Thank you again for the care that is so present in your words–I hope to cross paths along the way.

    All my best to you,
    Sasha.

  25. Heart Says:

    I’ve witnessed butch women at the table supporting the journeys of their trans-male brothers, (women are so often conditioned to support the needs of family), feeling increasingly alienated as their history and struggles are appropriated and their core issues (feminism, misogyny) are minimized, getting up from the table where male/masculine identities dominate, and re-establishing their own space.

    In short order, butch women will be accused of acting like victims, of being separatists, of being transphobic, etc.

    It is past time for dialogue between queer woman and trans-masculine folks about marginalization, oppression, allyship and leadership. Not sure how/where this can happen in the midst of what looks like division and conflict, but it needs to happen.

  26. Gender is a landscape not a line ** « Butch Enough Says:

    http://butchenough.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/gender-is-a-landscape-not-a-line/

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      Butch Enough,

      Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I invite you to post the entirety of your letter here, if you wish. It would be my honor to direct people to your most insightful perspective.

      All my best,
      Sasha.

      • Butch Enough Says:

        You’re welcome. Honestly I didn’t even know this link got posted here. WordPress must have done it automatically.

        I think you and Heart are correct that some of these issues are arising out of reluctance to have difficult and long-overdue discussions, as well as an insistence on conflating identities and experiences that may have overlap but are not the same.

  27. staci Says:

    I am late in learning about all this but it breaks my heart. I am not butch but I am an ally and more importantly, I am family. My partner is a proud butch and has been struggling lately with feeling isolated in her identity. She says she’s been feeling like an endangered species and it pains me to see her without community.

    Thank you for standing up for Butch. I stand with you.

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      Staci,

      Thank you for standing with us as we stand up for Butch; we are bolstered by good company and support. And tell your partner to come on over…

      All best,
      Sasha.

  28. romham Says:

    It’s sad to see this happening, and i don’t claim to have a great understanding of the inside scoop on any of it, and acknowledge & own the fact that some of what’s come up around this is really hard to hear. i wonder if it’s at all useful to weigh in as a non female-or-woman identified butch, as a post “transition”, genderqueer identified butch bear, here or elsewhere? In what ways might folks such as myself speak in support of and lend our support to woman and/or female identified butches as they relate to BV and beyond? If taking up space in this format here isn’t cool, i’ll kindly back off, i simply want to let you know i and others who are not necessarily woman and/or female identified support dialogue, recognize the issues, and are here to listen as well as hold space if that’s desired (which for me includes taking personal responsibility for the physical and emotional space we take up –including noting my reply here is long and i’ll step back).

    For transparency’s sake: i considered attending BV PDX & decided against it. i wondered how my presence as a fat, hairy, gay-bear-presenting but completely non male/masculine identified butch identified person who also lived the bulk of my life as a woman-identified butch, how might that affect woman/female identified trans and cis (non-trans) butches’ ability to really be in the space? Would i fit anywhere, and would that fitting cause others who so desperately needed the space to be squeezed out? Would i feel like an intruder? Would it break my heart? i came up with enough reason not to go, primarily based on the impact my presence may have had on woman and/or female identified butches (trans, cis and otherwise), and on my own ability to navigate whatever emotions arose, i’m glad that’s what i decided.

    As has been mentioned, the notion of needing to spell out “including” woman and/or female identified butches in a butch conference simply baffles and ultimately pisses me off. It seems something has gone seriously awry when butch women and/or female identified butch voices are so marginalized within a butch space as to need active “inclusion”. If folks were talking about inclusion of butch trans women, that would be something else altogether, because butch trans women have been actively, systemically excluded for decades from butch community. It requires active efforts on the part of organizers to ensure a wider range of woman and/or female identified butches are present for sure; but to simplify it to needing to “include woman and/or female butches seems incredibly … off somehow, and i feel certain that the inclusion of butch trans women is actually not what was being discussed.

    i’m saddened to hear about the misogyny, sexism, a lack of basic feminist principles, a breakdown of the collective understanding of how BV is run, and a shift towards MoC as a standard replacing butch rather than complimenting one another. In terms of who is at the helm of any group, not just BV, the reality is that men, including trans men who believe they are entitled to enter or dominate a space based on their history, will tend to dominate an organization, a collective, a gathering, etc. It’s called sexism and it is as real for trans men as it is for cis men. A basic recognition of that and how it can play out in organizations is key to navigating this kind of stuff, and that seems to be missing here. If women and/or female identified butches are saying “we are not being heard” in a butch organization/ gathering, shit clearly needs to change.

    Seems to me there’s room enough in Butch to contain all of this, all of these different identities and experiences, but when it comes to organizing it’ll take butches who hold certain privileges (be it gender, class, ability, size, race, cis status, orientation, psych status, and so on) stepping back to allow space and time for those who are consistently marginalized within this hugely diverse community. Then we move together, create spaces where we can come together, and spaces where we don’t, and ultimately grow this kickass community in a way that honours all our places in it. i truly hope this is what happens here. And again, i wonder what more i and others can do to support that endeavour or stay the fuck out of the way while woman and/or female identified butches (trans, cis and otherwise) take care of it themselves.

    Still many questions, but offering solidarity, albeit long-winded lol,

    a trans butch bear.

  29. romham Says:

    re: “A basic recognition of that and how it can play out in organizations is key to navigating this kind of stuff, and that seems to be missing here. ”
    “missing here” meaning missing from the analysis of the men in position to dominate a space, etc. Sorry, i realize i didnt make that clear.

  30. sashatgoldberg Says:

    Romham,

    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis, for your on-point indignation, and for your very real questions about where and how you (and me, and others) fit into Butch space.

    For what it’s worth, I certainly think that these answers are not set in stone, so to speak–and that certain functions, organizations, communities, etc. are geared to be allied communities, and that some spaces, discussions, and gatherings are geared to hold the Butch line–and I am referring here to woman-identified, female pronoun using Butches.

    Where we get into trouble, I think, is when we start insisting that our “ands” are one and the same, or that they ought to be–that a Butch lesbian, woman, or dyke has the same reality as someone who chooses to use male pronouns (if the realities, perceptions, feelings, or treatment were the same, what would be the point of the choice, after all)–or that a transitioned (still, or newly) Butch identified person would have the same reality as a passing Butch (which speaks to lines of identity, perception, and choice); I could go on, but the point is: Butch can be allied with trans realities, and trans realities can be allied with Butch identities, and yes–for many people there is overlap–but none of this means that Butch suddenly and conveniently sits on a trans spectrum.

    And there, then, is the recognition, respect, and reality that is missing when an identity is claimed underneath an “umbrella”; an umbrella is a shape with a curved ceiling that keeps everyone crowded, contained; standing in solidarity leaves some room to see one other, to stretch, and to grow.

    Your acknowledgment of the layers and the multiplicities are a comfort, and your dedication to the cause palpable. I hope you’ll continue to have this important conversation with me, and with others, as we all figure out the best way to stand together, the important ways to stand with some distance, and how to support each other in all of these configurations.

    All my best,
    Sasha.

  31. Family Solidarity « Owning My Truth Says:

    http://owningmytruth.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/family-solidarity/

  32. sashatgoldberg Says:

    Staci,

    Thank you for your solidarity, for your investment, and for this:

    “Obviously, I am not butch. But I still have a stake in this, not because I can’t exist as a femme without butches but because butches are family to me. And I fight for my family.”

    So very appreciated.

    All best,
    Sasha.

  33. dirt Says:

    Pretty sad when those who left/were removed from BV still insist on the nonsense of calling Butches “masculine”.

    dirt

    • sashatgoldberg Says:

      Dirt,

      It sounds as if we likely assign different values and gender coding to the word “masculine”–thanks for reading, and participating.

      Best,
      Sasha.

  34. Big Tent Blues: what did I miss? | Butchtastic Says:

    http://www.butchtastic.net/2011/08/big-tent-blues-what-did-i-miss/

  35. sashatgoldberg Says:

    Hi Kyle,

    Thank you posting the link to this on my blog. I appreciate your thoughts, your concerns, and your investment; incidentally, I am also one of the people who approved your workshop for BV before deciding to to end my 2+ years of investment.

    At any rate, I am not sure if you have had a chance to read the now-extensive dialogue and commentary on my posts, or the posts of Butch Nation, but I invite you to read the reply that I gave to Lex, above, who also voiced some of your concerns.

    All best,
    Sasha.

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