Taking my cue from my blogging idol, Dan Savage, I confess to you, my readers, that this column is written under the influence of a beautiful wheat beer consumed while sitting at the open window of the Rainbow Village Cafe in the heart of queer Toronto. That is the setting for this exciting edition of what I would like to call Dick, Dyke, or Queen: Your Field Guide to the Queer and Fabulous.
The Field Guide (if you will) is not just about identifying specifies of wild queers, but identifying yourself. Now here’s where my slightly-inebriated analogy loses cohesion, so bear with me. Also, if there is anyone who is offended by political incorrectness, turn back now. This is your only warning.
Gay men come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and birth sexes. Gender identity is a completely different kettle of fish (to quote RuPaul: “And honey, it ain’t trout!”), and now isn’t the time for it. These are how people appear and how I refer to them in my articles. I am a font of information, yes, but a selfish font of information nonetheless!
Twink: Generally refers to the young, slim boys fond of taking off their shirts on dancefloors and act as candy for older men. The term comes from the sponge cakes that are, like them, delicious and full of cream.
Bear: I’ll give my short answer: Big, gay, and hairy. These large men are big and proud of it, often part of the leather community. Bears are such a presence that they have their own flag and you can find bear paraphernalia at any Pride event. Coincidentally, both of Geek’s Dream Girl’s new gay staff writers are bears – what are the odds?
Cub: The partner of a bear who doesn’t fit the physical description of a bear himself.
Otter/Wolf: A subset of bear that follows the ‘gay and hairy’ but may leave out the ‘big’ part of the descriptor.
Queen: Ah, queens. I love queens. I spent a lot of time around queens. This is a fairly broad term, it can be modified to refer to gym queens, dance floor queens, bar queens, anyone who is the fabulous ruler of his domain. It can also refer to drag queens, whether in or out of drag. Queens can be in full drag, such as for a performance, or in a minimalist drag for running errands, or no drag at all when they aren’t on stage. Queens own whatever space they’re in. They’re here, they’re queer, you’d better get used to it, honey.
And then there’s the gay women. Lesbians come in many flavours and types, ranging from harmless to terrifying. All variants have their own sets of preferred terms and never assume that one word or phrase will adequately describe all lesbians without offense.
Femme: Basic split is between butch and femme. Femmes cover the range of feminine women.
Lipstick: Can mean high femme or, in the derogatory manner, a poseur in the manner of a BUG or LUG (bi/lesbian-until-graduation).
Butch: Butches are the plaid-wearing, crew-cutted, boot-blacking, leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding masculine female-bodied gay women who more often than not form the stereotype of the “lesbian”.
Dyke: A butch by any other name is just as sexy: dyke, beardyke, bulldyke, butchdyke. I, personally, prefer to call myself a dyke over a lesbian. It more adequate describes me as a butch gay woman.
Beardyke: While bulldyke and dyke are sometimes used interchangeably (the former being an older usage and the latter still offensive in some quarters), beardyke is an discrete identity which is growing in usage. Bears are an established part of the male gay community, but there are female bears too – big, gay, and hairy.
Stereotypes and labels such as I’ve laid out can be damaging to blossoming identities, but not only when adhered to. Denying oneself a label or trying to counteract a stereotype can be just as damaging. What I’m trying to say is that a young lesbian who is taught that the stereotype of a plaid-wearing butchdyke is ridiculous, untrue, and counter to the “cause” of “gay rights” or something stupid like that, is going to try her utmost to deny her own desire be a plaid-wearing butch. And that is Not Cool.
The best dating advice one can give is To Thine Own Self Be True. And if that Own Self is a dyke who likes riding motorcycles and has a closet full of white wifebeaters, then so be it. But if that Own Self looks like none of these, then so be it as well. Don’t be limited by these labels, but don’t reject them if they fit, either.