Monday, August 15, 2011

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