#ButchQueen: A Brief Memoir

“#Butchqueen.” It’s a comment someone left on my Instagram not too long ago. A friend of a friend (whom I’ve yet had the pleasure of meeting in person) plastered it under a picture I took of Yankee Stadium’s baseball field. I had been out with some coworkers on the company dollar that day and thought I’d snap a cool shot to post. Some time later I found the hashtag sitting under the photo serving as a brand of sorts, from this point on and for all of time, Yankee Stadium’s baseball field would belong to #Butchqueen. In front of the public, a fellow user had taken it upon themselves to categorize my photo – and perha

ps by association myself – as “butch queen”. Unaccustomed to such candor on my otherwise mellow social media page my mind raced with questions, such as why was this picture classifiable as ‘butch queen’? What were the motives of the individual who posted it? Why was this important and what did it mean for me? How would I respond? Something had to be done. After all, my own street cred as well as the fate of all future queer shutterbugs at Yankee Stadium were at risk lest they too be deemed butch queens for attending a baseball game.

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            To better understand why a white baseball diamond on a green field is deserving of a butch queen association we should first explore the term ‘butch queen’. Out of my own experience and through context, I’ve always understood the term to mean a man who acts in a masculine manner but is ultimately classifiable as effeminate. This is sustained by the fact that the word itself is juxtaposing: contrasting the masculine association of the word ‘butch’ with the effeminacy of the word ‘queen’. Even the sequence of the words contributes to this interpretation. For example, if the term were “Queen Butch” the definition might change to mean an individual who is effeminate but is ultimately classifiable as masculine: as denoted by the placement of the word ‘butch’ at the end of the phrase. Further, I’ve understood the term to have an ironic connotation. That’s to say someone might joke “Oh she (actually referring to a gay man) is a butch queen. Butch? Sure! But a Queen nonetheless. (laughter ensues).” This usage indicates a mocking nature to the usage of the term. It relays a lack of genuineness in the ‘butch’ qualities of the individual in question. This is due to the contrast of the words. As ‘butch’ or masculine as an individual may act, under the label “butch queen” they will always be a ‘queen’ or effeminate; unlike Juliet’s commentary on roses and their names. Within this context, applying “#Butchqueen” to a picture of a baseball field on an openly queer individual’s public page could be interpreted as the following:

  1. There’s something masculine about a being at a baseball game
  2. There’s an irony about a queer being at a baseball game
  3. A queer at a baseball game is still a queer at a baseball game and it’s important to note that.
  4. It’s important to note that because there’s something ironic about a queer being at a stereotypically masculine event such as a baseball game.

Was this understanding correct or misinterpreted the motives and intents of the individual who posted the comment? I needed more! I looked to our mutual friend, Mario, for insight. I took a screenshot of the post and send it with a single question: “Butch queen?”

Mario replied “Are you asking what a butch queen is? Or is this a ‘girl, I ain’t no butch queen’ moment?”

“It reads as shade (a slight or snub). I was just confirming with you before I decide whether or not to verbally obliterate her,” I responded.

          An amused Mario reiterated that the comment was not in fact shade but instead a “Yassss” comment or an affirmation to my presence at a baseball game. Mario is a gentle and peacekeeping soul so I had still had my doubts but decided not to press him on it. Instead, we followed up with a flurry of gifs representing how I would’ve reacted had Mario indeed confirmed otherwise. Included on this list were gifs of Iron Man’s armor coming together and the pink and yellow rangers from the original Mighty Morphing Power Rangers series morphing into their power ranger outfits. Mario is the pink ranger because her moves are more “dance-y” and Mario dances wherever he is. I was the yellow ranger because her moves are more precise and “martial artsy” and apparently I’m always ready for combat. After Mario and I chatted I still had questions.

            Though I still had my doubts, without having enough context I had to take Mario’s lead and operate under the assumption that there was no ill intent. My analysis then turned inward. I wanted to explore what exactly had triggered my reaction. Was it the word itself, the fact that a stranger had tagged it or was it the categorization as whole? Ultimately, I concluded it was all these things which triggered my reaction. I wasn’t a fan of the word itself because of my own interpretation of the word as implicit of irony and disingenuousness. The perceived notion that there was something not true of me about being at a baseball game was offensive. Even more so was the gall of stranger for making such a bold assumption without having sufficient context as a base. But most offensive of all was simply the act of being placed in a box to begin with. I wondered how some stranger thought they could easily categorize me or my actions under the label ‘butch queen’ when I myself had been unsuccessful at fitting into any one facet of gay culture my entire adult life. What about me being at a baseball game provided the right groundwork for there to be a call out about masculinity? Would that not just perpetuate the already existing stereotype that gay men can’t and don’t enjoy sports like straight guys do? Had I been straight would there have been any mention of masculinity? Can an openly queer individual attend any function without it somehow relating back to gender politics? For the record, watching a baseball game is as exciting for me as watching paint dry. I’ve always been more of a contact sports guy like football, MMA, high end sample sales, and a good old battle of wits…but that’s beside the point. As long as I’m identified as a man there would be a gender call out. It’s just the nature of the illusion of gender: men do this, women do that, queers often blur the line.

          Ultimately I opted to do nothing. Primarily because I could’ve deleted it at any point but opted not to. Doing so might draw more attention than it’s worth, but also because I realized that some more exploration of my own feelings on gender politics may be necessary before the verbal destruction of any one. What I struggled with was not necessarily being called a ‘butch queen’ but the fact that there was a gender call out at all and that is a result of a much larger social system that affects everyone. In order for queers anywhere to be free of the existing gender construct the current system which sustains it would have to be changed for everyone queer and non-queer alike. As for me, I’ll opt not to contend the external perception of my regality because a monarch by any other name is still a monarch. Long live the royals!

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