Friday, November 11, 2011

My Winery Adventure

I went to a winery about 40 minutes from home today to meet some work friends. It was a small family operation, out in a place not known for wine since before Prohibition. It's also not known for diversity or as a queer center of the universe like, say, San Francisco. So imagine my surprise when I saw what appeared to be a butch/femme couple walking the property.

First I spied them through the trees, then I decided it would be ludicrous not to ask. It's part of the performance of the art, to approach, even in unlikely circumstances. Besides which, I hadn't done it earlier (twice) at the grocery store when I was picking up Guacamole Garden of Eatin' chips for the winery picnic (in the rain and cold). And I felt a bit guilty about that. Guilt or perhaps gutless or even lazy really, seeing as how I was in a hurry, the store was packed with humanity and its children off for Veteran's Day, and I just didn't respond quick enough to the note in my mind that said, twice, "there's a butch, ask."

So yes, I stepped quickly over the wet gravel from the picnic area to where the couple was walking, on their way out after having toured the winery. I yelled, not subtlely but necessarily given the distance between us and their pace, "Are you a butch and femme couple?" They looked at me, but didn't answer (perhaps they thought I was speaking to someone else, I was sort of far away for such an out of the ordinary question, and kept walking, possibly faster, or I might have imagined that.

I asked it again, this time closer on account of my quickened pace, and they sort of stopped, hestitantly, perhaps slowly backing away from me. "Are you a butch and femme couple?" I repeated. Confusion. "Are you a butch?" I then asked the masculine of the two, since they hadn't exactly answered but instead looked at each other and me as if this couldn't possibly be happening out in the middle of nowhere after a lovely fall tour of the vineyards.

"I'm a femme and I have this sight called Butch Sightings. Are you a butch? I'd love to take your picture." The feminine of the two spoke up, "More of a man than a butch."

"Oh," I said. Realization and self-consciousness dawning.You're trans?

"Yes, I guess so. Trans. I guess if that makes me butch, but I think of that as a derogatory term."

"Would you like your picture taken?"

"Will I get paid for it?"

"No, this is just my personal project. Sorry to bother you. Here's a card." I think he thought the card was something other than it was, beause he seemed hesitant to take it. I think, in retrospect, they thought they weren't recognizable as queers. I'm not sure, and the whole thing was very awkward. I really wanted to know more about the perception of the term "butch" as derogatory, but they didn't want to talk and I had clearly overstepped my bounds.

But, that's part of the project. If it were always simple or easy, it wouldn't be worth it. I just hope I didn't upset them too much.

My coworkers were highly amused when I explained myself upon my return. "Jenny and her hijinks," they must've been thinking. They say I have big balls for a woman. Or perhaps I'm simply an overbearing social klutz.

5 comments:

  1. My favorite part of this great anecdote is when you yelled to them from far away. lol. They probably thought they were passing as straight. Are you sure he wasn't a bio-man? I've approached what I've thought was a butch in a plaid-flannel shirt only to discover as I walked towards the person, camera poised, smiling, that it was a young teenaged boy.

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  2. Definitely not a bio man. Not sure "trans" is a word he actually used either. They may have thought they were passing for straight, they weren't. Still, can you imagine being in that illusion and having a funky bohemian loud-mouth fat femme yelling across the wet gravel at you? Wait, I know *you* can. Nevermind.

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  3. I so Love this. Makes my own awkward experiences feel a little better. I to asked someone if they were Butch, he told me he had a penis. yep that was his response. Now I must say as a Butch coinsure I felt very certain this person was Butch appearing and female........I of course felt so conflicted embarrassed and just really baffled and dumb only to be compounded by his GF later approaching me and chewing me out for not approaching her first before talking to her fiance....What a day....

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  4. "Butch" isn't an insult!

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  5. After living 16 years in this city, Houston, with its own Roller Derby teams (many queer players, B & F), a growing FTM, boi, genderqueer, all-over-the-map (including reemerging B-F) culture, plus the southern "niceness", your first question would best be, "Excuse me, may I speak with you if you have a minute (handing card ahead of you)? Why- THANK you (slight drawl)!"
    We're NOT A-List Dallas, nor are we all about the rodeo, and we've got plenty of butch women here. One group for women over age fifty is packed with them!
    Kyley (Femme)

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