Photo credit: Hilary Cellini Cook
Karleen Pendleton Jiménez is a writer, professor, mother, Chicana, butch dyke. A California kid who was swept away years ago by a Canadian femme, she makes her home in Toronto. If you’re interested in reading more or viewing her children’s film Tomboy, visit Karleen’s website. Tightrope Books will publish her memoir, tentatively titled How to Get a Girl Pregnant, in the fall of 2011.
Her piece for Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme is called “A Beautiful Creature.” In it, Karleen “writes about how being pregnant seriously shook up my butch life.”
What’s your perception of the state of femme and butch communities today?
Dances, barbecues, and YouTube videos. Which are all great fun. They’re beautiful places where I don’t have to explain myself, where I flirt, where I smile at all the evidence around me that my kind of queer life is thriving. But we also need more critical discussion within our community, perhaps not as entertaining, though I think potentially just as sexy. For example, what’s with all the sexism in our community (e.g., the butch pastime of ridiculing femmes for being feminine, seemingly unconscious of the fact that their femininity is the very reason we are attracted to them)? That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be part of Persistence, a space where we can be more complicated.
Who are your butch and/or femme role models and why?
I’ve got two butch role models. The first is Leslie Feinberg, for a couple of reasons: 1) I think I slept with Stone Butch Blues under my pillow for two years in the 90s, and 2) I got the chance to meet Leslie once. We spent an hour in a San Diego cafe, talking about politics, life, and activism. Leslie was incredibly generous, listening to my stories, offering advice and encouragement. I thought that was pretty cool because by then Leslie was already a big shot, but still made the time.
My other role model is Rusty Barceló, a charming, handsome, Chicana Butch who is the president of a college. She sits at the table with the powerful, totally out and proud, advocating for those who need it. I see her every year at conferences and we hang out. She plays the guitar and sings to us.
I wish such role models were more often in elementary and high schools, so that little butches and femmes don’t get pushed around, and we have the chance to imagine lives for ourselves at a much earlier age. I wish schools made this possible by being more welcoming to out queer teachers.