Q-A with Whitney, the YouTube Butch Talker

Stubble: How and why did you first start recording Butch Talk?
Whitney: In short, I didn’t see much representation of women who present like I do in the media or on YouTube, so I decided to add my voice. The longer version is that although I don’t do music, I decided to take a lesson from Riot GRRRLand do it myself. I don’t have a fancy camera or editing software.

I don’t have the time to sit down and write out scripts and make things super succinct and professional, but I do have a voice and things to say and luckily a laptop with a camera, so I said, “Why can’t I make content for YouTube?” There was nothing stopping me, so I did it for myself and for others who might relate and want to see someone close to themselves represented online.

Stubble: How do you decide the topics of each episode? The subjects seem to be pretty diverse: your experiences, thoughts, advice on how to correct someone if they mistake you for a guy.
Whitney: At first it was topics I wanted to talk about. Sometimes I would have an experience I wanted to share. Other times it was something I had been thinking about for awhile. My Boxers or Briefs? video is my most popular and one of the first videos I made. I just wanted to talk about my favorite underwear and say it’s ok, more than just ok, for women to wear and enjoy them. Now I get video suggestions from subscribers but I also like to do my own thing as well.

Stubble: What is female masculinity? Where does it differ from cis male masculinity, which I guess I’m still trying to figure out myself.
Whitney: I’ll answer for myself as I’m sure everyone could give a different definition of what female masculinity is. To me it’s a way to identify and also acknowledge that sex and gender are different things. I strongly identify as female and a woman and I present in a stereotypically masculine way (all my clothes are from the men’s department, my hair has a masculine look to it, etc.).

The way I see it differing from cis male masculinity is largely the privilege cis male masculinity holds in our society. As a gender nonconforming individual, I am seen as “other” or “ugly” by many. When I pass as male (which I’m not trying to do) I gain the privilege that cis males possess every day. I get better service, I don’t have to deal with street harassment, I’m taken more seriously overall.

Stubble: How does the meaning of pride differ for GLBTQ who come from supportive and un-supportive environments? I heard you mention this urban vs. rural gap a bit in your recent “PRIDE” episode.
Whitney: I have been super lucky to live in large cities who are very accepting of LGBTQ. So for me, after I came out and I was comfortable with myself, Pride evolved into a time when I wanted to remember what struggles the people who came before me had to go through. This has meant I do reading, research of my own, and talk with elders and respect where they’ve been and how far we’ve come.

I also think it’s extremely important to not forget that there are still groups out there that are fighting for basic rights right now within our own community. Trans and especially trans women of color have more acts of violence committed against them than any other group in the LGBTQ community. Pride for me today means the work isn’t over. Marriage equality in Minnesota doesn’t mean equality for all. For those that come from un-supportive environments, I can see and understand how Pride is a time to be out and proud of who they are because maybe they don’t get to do that the rest of the 363 days of the year.

Stubble: How do you think the internet — social networks, forums, YouTube channels like yours, etc. — help build that community if it doesn’t immediately in a person’s community?
Whitney: Social networks are huge influencers on people. If they weren’t, you would never see companies spending money on ads alongside videos, pages, feeds, etc. Thankfully, YouTube (although still corporate and ad heavy) allows anyone with a camera to create content. This means people like me can reach others all over the world. Looking at my analytics, I’ve got viewers from Australia, UK, Germany, etc. and I’m a teeny, tiny channel! When people are able to be heard across the world, it’s an empowering thing. I’ve asked my subscribers to create content of their own because of this. People feel less alone and heard and I feel like that’s a basic human desire. The community may be online, but that’s where people are these days.

Stubble: Have you had many interactions with your Butch Talk audience, either face to face or online?
Whitney: I have. I have met a few in person, either from them calling out, “Butch Talk!” while I’m walking down the street or becoming friends over time. I also have a rad group I talk with a few times a month via video chat. We connected initially from my YouTube channel and decided we all liked the idea of catching up with one another as often as we can even though we’re spread out throughout the country. Shout out to Wes, Shannon, Callie, and Dom! Although I haven’t met them in person, these people know me even better than some of my in person friends do!

Stubble: Who do you look up to in the queer community? (Any other bloggers, activists, etc. doing great work?)
Whitney: The writers, contributors, editors, etc. at Autostraddle are definitely people I look up to. If you haven’t checked out their site yet, please do! Minneapolis has a Twin Cities Autostraddler FB group as well. I look up to so many of the people there as they are constantly coming up with ways to create a welcoming community while educating and helping others.

Stubble: What are ways that Minneapolis does a good job in being a supportive community and what are ways that we could do better?
Whitney: I have actually felt more welcome and supported here in Minneapolis than anywhere else I’ve lived. And I’ve lived in Chicago and San Francisco, so I think that’s saying something. There are a lot of LGBTQ events always happening, our sports teams (especially the Lynx) are outwardly supportive, independent bookstores/cafes/other rad local businesses support and aid the community without it feeling like they are trying to buy us (us being queers/LGBTQ folk).

I would say the ways in which the community could do better would be to educate ourselves. Learn about trans rights and the fight that is still happening. Things need to be changed at a policy level BUT we can all do better at a human level. I know I still have a lot to learn and continue to have conversations that educate myself on people who are different from me. Being open to hearing about others difficult experiences without the “BUT I’M NOT LIKE THAT!” commentary is HUGE.

Whitney is the host of Butch Talk, a YouTube series founded to address the lack of female masculinity on the Internet. Follow Butch Talk on Twitter and Instagram, and watch Butch Talk on YouTube.

This post was written by Tom Johnson and originally published on Stubble. Follow Stubble on Twitter: @stubblemag.

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