Photo credit: Bill Pusztai
S. Bear Bergman is a writer, a theatre artist, an instigator, a gender-jammer, and a good example of what happens when you overeducate a contrarian. Bear is the author of Butch Is a Noun and The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, and co-editor (with Kate Bornstein) of Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation. A seasoned performer, Bear has created and toured four solo performances. A longtime activist, Bear continues to work at the points of intersection between and among gender, sexuality, and culture, and spends a lot of time trying to discourage people from installing traffic signals there.Ze lives in Toronto with hir husband and son (a.k.a. the cutest baby ever!).
Bear describes hir piece for Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme as “a love letter, really, to my boyfriend, and a meditation of sorts on how satisfying it is to be lovers with someone whose butch values so closely match mine.”
What made you want to be part of this anthology?
I am so glad that conversations about butch and femme are continuing, and that room is being made in them for so many more embodiments and relationships and ways of butch-ness and femme-ness. There’s such richness in butch and femme culture(s). Even as it has complexified, I have continued to be glad to keep talking about it and keep trying to make sense of each new (to me) bit, and it’s exciting to be invited to be part of the conversation.
What’s one of your favourite lines from your piece?
“I find that I recognize the whiff of it across lines of race or class, that butch heart, that big and battered tool of so many unexpected reconciliations, unlikely forgivenesses, full-bore love affairs.”
If you could give your younger self one book to read, what would it be?
Though it’s not especially butch or femme related on the surface, I’d probably choose a book called Sabbath by Wayne Muller, which is mostly one long very persuasive argument for why it’s so important to give yourself a break. Yes, even if you do important work, even if people insist that you’re indispensable. It allowed me to eventually figure out that most of my insistent inner need to make everything okay for everyone (or collapse trying), which I had identified as a butch trait, was actually my gigantic ego. Oops.
Kate Bornstein sent it to me - very kindly, with a little note - as a way of helping me to become less annoying and more actually helpful to other people. It really, really helped. It remains one of the greatest kindnesses anyone has ever done me, and very femme of method to boot.