Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Happened in Oakland

To All Butches and our Allies
from Jeanne Cordova

Yes, it was a hard weekend--a tough experience, both sad and joyful. Bittersweet.
Many have written and asked, "What happened?"
Bottom line first -- a big group, led by woman-identified Butches, formally left Butch Voices and formed Butch Nation.

To start at the beginning of the weekend:
What appeared to be about 250 people (butches, femmes, transmasculine, genderqueer, everyone) came to Oakland. Many expressed their disappointment that they couldn’t find any workshops at the BV conference that were relevant to their lives. Others appeared satisfied. Butch Nation members did three workshops not included by BV. On Saturday Sasha Goldberg led “Bulldaggers: For Women-identified, Female Pronoun Using Butches,” sponsored by the Oakland Bulldaggers who played a leading role in Butch Nation, and the topic was discussed by a packed room of some 60 such dykes. The energy was high, tight with butch camaraderie and everyone spoke. On Sunday at the 12 noon lunchtime, I presented my workshop from prior butch conferences, “Exploring Our Masculinities While Keeping our Feminism” –with panelists Angie Evans (the Butch Revival musician) Staci Reed from Bulldaggers (and a co-founder of Butch Nation), and Sky Kral also of Bulldaggers. The room was filled with eager female-identified butches and we spoke about how and why feminism & womanism was important to butch identity. At the same time Butch Nation allies Lynn Harris Ballen & Yvonne Moore called a caucus for Feminist Femmes & Allies who wanted to know what was going on, show their support and air their feelings. About 25 femmes attended this “Femme Couch” in the lobby and were grateful to be together.
After an afternoon of BV workshops about 200 folk went to a BV sponsored variety show Saturday night called, coincidentally, “Butch Nation.” D’Lo the comic emceed, we laughed, talked, ‘shopping’ took place! Some politics didn’t go over so well from the stage but generally we all had a good time. It felt good to laugh!
Then came Sunday’s “Town Hall” sort of awkwardly placed in the middle of BV’s closing plenary. Butch Voices had invited Butch Nation women, so we came. Unfortunately, only about 125 people were still around to attend this. BV chose a not-affiliated with either faction moderator, named Raj Neogy. I thought this was a good idea and said yes to it when asked earlier by BV. Raj had a tough crowd with a lot of tension and intense feelings. Many walked in possibly hoping for reconciliation. The key issues were: the word “butch” being removed from BV’s mission statement and replaced by “masculine of center people.” The 2nd big issue was the Confidentiality Agreement issued by BV in April to all of its organizers and workshop presenters. Pages of this lengthy document were passed around by Butch Nation so people could read it. (on BV’s website, last two pages).
In this Townhall session about 35 people got up to speak. Charges about everything from “the Microsoft tone” of the confidentiality statement to everything but the kitchen sink were hurled about. Lots of tension, sadness, tears, pride, anger, confusion.
But part way through it became clear to people that these were core differences. There was no offer of reconciliation from Butch Voices to Butch Nation. Toward the end B. Cole, and a few other cooler heads, said stuff like, “It’s clear that there are now going to be two organizations. How can our community best support both of them?”
Suggestions were made as everyone tried to calm down and get a grip and look to the future. D’Lo asked, “How we can cooperate? Like the Brown Boi Project sponsors workshops at BV conferences, maybe Butch Nation could do the same at future Butch Voices conferences.” Sasha Goldberg of Butch Nation suggested that we go our separate ways in peace. I agree.

Did the split have to happen? Why couldn't we talk it thru and reconcile?
Please believe that those of us in Butch Nation spent 18 months and hundreds of emails and hours of Board Conference Call Meetings pleading with the Board of BV not to change their mission statement, not to cast off our feminist/womanist and lesbian heritage. BV and BN leaders still have dozens of emails about these talks.

Butch Nation is now in the process of writing its Mission Statement. We will soon pull that together and put it out for feedback. We have begun to pull together a Steering Committee for our Weekend of Butch Culture on the weekend before Halloween 2012. We are writing by-laws. We are recovering from the weekend. Butch Nation avows feminism as a cornerstone of butch identity. But that does not mean only one kind of big "F" feminism, and that does not mean we will exclude butches who may not be feminists. Our welcome card is to; “All who identify as butch and our allies." To me the "B" word includes all those who were welcomed on the main post-card of the Los Angeles butch conference of 2010. That is, "all who identify as butch, boi, genderqueer, tomboy, stud, aggressive, butcha, macha, drag king, jock, dyke, two-spirit, FtM, androgynous-with-a-butch twist, and transmasculine.”
Butch Nation wants also to reach out beyond conferences and be involved in grass roots activism and the world politics of gender discrimination, with particular focus on the oppression of butches.

Was there a generational, or racial, or class split?
Fuck no, not from Butch Nation! Dozens of youth are working in both Butch Nation and Butch Voices. Indeed, youth and women/people of color, and all classes are founders of both.
I see my job as an elder as supporting our daughters (and sons) to continue the social justice work we began with the civil rights movements of the 1960s… to women's liberation… then, gay liberation… then, lesbian nation, then queer nation, now Butch Nation.



2 comments:

MasterAmazon said...

Thank you for all your hard painstaking work on behalf of us Female Proud Butches with a Feminist orientation, and Butch Dykes proud to be Female....I heard your speech at the closing plenary, and spoke myself, and I know what you had to say was very, very difficult, and was glad that you could finish all you got up there to say. I also appreciate the free Butch Nation workshops as well so I could come to the event and partake. I went to the Bulldagger one, the plenary afterwards with Sharon, and the closing Townhall Meeting. It indeed was an intense couple of days for me and I still feel unsettled about much of it.

I hope Butch Nation CAN be fully supportive of all Female Proud/Identified Butches, not just feminist oriented but grassroots and member led as well, not just from the top down, as Butch Voices attempted to do. Thanks again for your bravery and hard work.

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