I’m a gal who loves labels. Be it butch or femme, Chanel or Chloe, a label tells you what you’re getting. If I walk into a store and buy a Gucci tie, I know it’ll be masculine with an undertone of feminine style, and if I find a butch to put it on, I want to know she’ll be the same.
I understand people’s fears of labels. Everyone is afraid of being stereotyped and fenced in. But as queer women, aren’t we supposed to like boxes?
Sexual innuendos aside, we are a community that wants to know what we’re getting ourselves in to. Dating sites have questionnaires allowing for top, bottom or switch type categorizations for a reason. People don’t want to spend hours flirting just to end up with two quarterbacks and no wide receiver. I’m more of a softball kind of a gal, but even I know that’s not going to make for an interesting game.
As a law student, I understand the power of a label. Certain labels bring with them rights, responsibilities and regulations that others don’t, both politically and socially. The gay marriage issue is a multi-million dollar fight for a label that is way more than just words.
But as an author, I need labels to describe somewhat universal thoughts and ideas. When I talk about diving into a femme, I want my readers to have images of me lifting up a skirt and going headlong in between two smooth shaved legs. Not that all femmes wear skirts and shave their legs, but it’s the idea of the image that’s important.
It is precisely because I know the importance of labels that I get so frustrated with people who mislabel, either themselves or others. With so many wonderful words out there, there is no point using a label simply because it’s easy or the first that comes to your mind.
While dancing burlesque last weekend I came across two perfect examples of this. The first was this delightful gal wearing a white tie and silver vest. Very fashionable, very friendly and very much not a hardcore butch.
Yet the poor thing thought that because others called her butch she had to wear a beard to get onstage. For that reason, she’s never performed. I quickly informed her of terms such as boi, andro and soft butch and told her of the marvelous boilesque movement (burlesque for those of the masculine persuasion).
By the end of the conversation she was no longer using the term butch and was convinced the world would love to see her perky not-so-little breasts fall out of her vest, tie strewn across them.
We start practice next month for our duet performance.
The second was a “no.” I had never heard of this term, but I was so proud of the person who came up with it. A “no” is someone who is neither female nor male, top nor bottom, femme nor butch, here nor there. A “no” is someone who has no label.
The author in me almost peed myself at the thought of there being a label for no label at all. The epitome of labels.
I never got to meet the “no”, as I only heard of the person at the end of the night, but if you’re out there reading this, know you have a not-so-secret admirer in me.
I’ve chosen December to rant about labels precisely because of people like the two I met. By misusing your words, you can cause horrible drama like convincing a gal in a tie she has to cover her beautiful face with a beard. But, if you can get creative, open your mind, and use your words, even ones like “no”, you can prevent so much drama.
So, in December, bust out the thesaurus, embrace labels, and experience the power of words. And if you need help finding one, come find me. I’ll gladly help you explore yourself.