The Importance of Being Earnest, or Accurate, or Both

A reviewer recently misquoted me as having written that I was called a “dyke” when I was a kid, when in fact the word I used was “butch.”

That mistake, while minor on the surface, has got me thinking.

The difference between the words is that essential difference between sexual orientation and gender presentation, which are often conflated in the first place, but which I tried to dissect in She’s Not the Man I Married. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t issues like this that cause some of the rift between the gay/lesbian community and the trans community; I’d imagine, for many masculine-leaning lesbians, “butch” and “dyke” are pretty much the same slur. But the thing is, “butch” bothered me – because it was true. I was butch. Being called a dyke never had the same effect, exactly because I knew myself to be heterosexual.

Of course reading that kind of error made me wonder about how much the critic could have actually gotten out of my book, or how much she might have been willing to get out of it. I’m fascinated by the ways gender variance is allocated to gay & lesbian people but not to heterosexuals; it’s a big theme of the book. For someone for whom the words “dyke” and “butch” are the same thing, I must seem like I’m splitting hairs. But the review, alas, did end:

(I)t’s an earnest book that might appeal to those questioning the nature of gender identity, marriage, and social attitudes about both.

& I did learn, quite a long time ago, the vital importance of being earnest.

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