August 22

Dear Leslie,

I’m not butch. I guess I have to share that. No one catching me scampering would ever mistake me for butch. No one who sees me joyously twirling or shaking my shoulders in a silly shimmy. I’ve been called a pixie and fairy more times than I can count. All my life, whether I welcome it or not. If someone did call me butch, my friends would raise their eyebrows or laugh if I told them. I know from experience. Luckily, I don’t claim butch identity for myself, although I’ve been wistful at times. But I do know stone* and I know the blues.

Just to put it out there, I don’t mean to presume my interpretation of and lived experience with stoniness is the same as Jess’ or yours. I need to respect that we have different stone experiences, Leslie. I have the fortune of never having been being sexually assaulted (yet/hopefully ever). Yet even without those kinds of oppressions, I feel myself as stone. I rarely welcome touch. It seems I have forgotten how to melt into hugs even with those I love, afraid of getting too close and afraid of sharing too much. And I’m just skeptical of contact. I bristle at being mistaken for soft sometimes, afraid someone will confuse that joy or warmth for weakness. Like a peach, at the core I am a stone. Maybe not all the time, and of course pits grow into trees if the circumstances are ripe, but I do often shut down and lie dormant in wait for rain or simply dormant, forgetting rain ever existed.

*In your 1996 interview with Julie Peters, you shared that stone means “very” in African-American vernacular. In the context of “stone butch,” it mean “very butch.” I never knew. You also wrote, “The second colloquial usage here in the states is that *stone butch* means a person who has been so wounded sexually that it is difficult to allow oneself to be touched. I chose to bring to life a *stone* character so that people could see how this particular form of oppression–like incest or rape–sometimes forces people to *shut down* sexually for a period of time, or for a long time. I don’t think of it as a strategy so much as a reflex.”

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