Rhea Butcher Opens Up About Their Personal Journey, Softball, and Queer Loneliness

“To me, non-binary is not an identity; it is an existence.”

Courtesy of Rhea Butcher

Rhea Butcher—stand-up comic, actor, writer, producer, and podcast host—is not only just a great comedian but also a contemplative, thoughtful person who juggles many hats! Keeping very busy between new shows, podcasting, and avid baseball-watching, Butcher took the time to speak with GO. We talked about their upcoming goals, social media presence, how to take time for yourself, the surprise of heartthrob status and much more.

Butcher’s podcast “Three Swings” is essential listening for fellow queer baseball/softball fans and for baseball fans in general. (Here’s looking at you, city league softballers. Add it to your practice commute ASAP!) It’s really awesome to be able to have folks in our community who can be honest and candid while also making us laugh—not an easy feat.

Butcher loves to make people laugh, but by sharing their thoughts with us, they offer the opportunity to have a conversation among ourselves and with our community.

As we’ve realized in 2018, there’s a lot of fake news out there (LIKE A LOT) but Rhea Butcher is here for the facts and important feelings!

GO Mag: So tell us, what are your upcoming projects or goals at the moment?

Rhea Butcher: At the moment, I am booking more live dates and spending some time on myself, so that my work is full and real. I haven’t been doing that, and now I am taking some time for my spirit.

GO: What do you most want your listeners and fans to take away from your comedy?

RB: I realized recently that I was spending a lot of time in rage, given the political climate. I think some of us needed that, to express our rage. At a certain point, though, rage is simply a fire burning. A fire can be very restorative; you can put pain and anger in there, but the pain and anger can become the only thing. So what I want my comedy to be about now is joy. There are still joyful moments; there is still happiness. Yes, there is a lot of pain and anger and sadness, but there cannot be those things without pleasure and joy and happiness. Both things exist.

GO: How does it feel to become a queer heartthrob? I feel like we’re living in a pretty cool time for expanding queer visibility.

RB: You’re going to think I’m being coy, but I did not know I was a heartthrob. Despite making a pinup calendar, I just don’t think of myself that way, because I am just me. I am happy to be something for people because as a former queer child, our pinups are so few and far between. I am glad that the internet exists for that reason: for visibility and for crushing on people we finally get to know might return the feeling. However, I think something that is important for the queer community to remember is that the internet isn’t real. It’s a reflection and a projection of life, a carnival mirror. So, as much as we use the internet to not feel alone, we have to actually each spend some time alone, not as isolated queers which we sometimes do not have a choice in, but as people, which we do have a choice in. I think queer people/LGBTQ+ people have a hard time discerning the times that we are alone simply because we are alone, not because we are being ostracized or isolated as a function of living in a highly heteronormative society. This is, at least, something that I am realizing for myself. I have had a very hard time with that.

GO: What was it like breaking into television originally via Last Comic Standing and then expanding your platform? We love your internet presence as much as your stand-up comedy!

RB: Thank you for the love—it’s always wonderful to receive that. Last Comic Standing was a wild ride, and I’ll talk about it in detail at some point, but not right now. Even as many years as it has been, it is still very charged. I am grateful for the experience and what it has brought to my life.

As for my internet presence, I am working to separate out, as I mentioned before, the internet from the real me. It is super easy to put those two things together! I am of a certain age—a cusp millennial, if you will—where I remember the world pre-internet, dawning of internet, and now social media. I feel a certain responsibility, mostly to myself, to keep those eras present. The internet can be an important tool in our lives, but we have to remember that it is exactly that: a tool. It isn’t a result, and it isn’t a feeling. It’s a tool for experience. LeTigre wrote and performed a song way back in 2001 (!) called “Get Off the Internet” and at the time, the internet was so new, I couldn’t understand why I needed to get off of it—I was barely on it! LeTigre was way ahead of their time.

GO: What advice do you have to young queer comedians and what barriers have you had to face? How have you tackled them, in terms of the entertainment industry?

RB: I have no idea. Each person’s experience is so different. I have only been doing this for seven years. That’s not long! Some queer comedians are finding success even faster than that. The only way to survive is to slow down a little, look around, and breathe. If I was 27 and reading this answer, I would probably think: Wow, this person sounds like an out of touch hippie.

Courtesy of Rhea Butcher

GO: We also want to thank you for your continued presence and conversation around the #MeToo movement, along with many other public figures. Your tweets are impactful, and I’ve heard a lot of folks, including myself, be inspired by your words. Especially since, in the queer community, we are often left out of the conversation. What does it mean to you to keep the conversation going?

RB: I think there are a lot of people out there who want the conversation to be over, as though there is some end point. As humans, we want things to be simple, to start and to end. There are many people saying it’s gone too far or it’s time to wrap it up. There’s an impulse to assume those people have something to hide or they have participated in causing pain. In some cases, that might be true, but I actually think for many of those people, they don’t realize just how painful these traumas can be, and they might not ever understand. And that’s what survivors have to realize: We are the only ones who understand our pain. We cannot hope or expect that someone else will get it; because even if they do, there will be another person right behind them saying, ‘No, this isn’t real, it’s not that bad, you should stop talking now.’ This is so very true of the queer/LGBTQ+ experience itself as well.

So I think the most important part is to care for yourself. The internet makes it feel like we each have to keep up, to match a donation of our trauma or experience. But that takes a toll. Be sure to really listen to others but most importantly to yourself.

GO: I also wanted to talk about the milestones and pioneering you’ve done. I know a lot of non-binary people in the community who were really inspired by your coming out. What do you want folks to know about breaking down the binary and advice to younger queers just figuring it out?

RB: I want to take a moment to say that everything I say in regards to this question applies to me and only me. I am happy to have helped people understand themselves, but when it comes to gender expression, there is so much nuance and depth of being that I cannot possibly represent everyone with every word or thought I express. I mean only to bring kindness and joy to this subject—and to the community.

That being said, I did not come out—I came out at 19 as a butch lesbian, which I still am. Many people feel that they come out as trans/ non-binary, and I celebrate that. I, however, did not. I simply found new words to describe a big part of myself that has always been there. To me, non-binary is not an identity; it is an existence. Non-binary is a phrase that describes the indescribable; it doesn’t mean one thing. It is an attempt to explain myself to a society/culture/world which fundamentally does not understand me. However, for me, my most important task at this moment is to understand myself. I spent most of my teen years and twenties trying to get the world to understand me, but what I want now is to understand me, and then be in the world. So, if you are a young queer and just trying to figure it out, know that it lasts forever. Take that in joy—you get to have a very long path, and that path can be wonderful. For a while, we were saying “It Gets Better.” These days I have been realizing that, for me, the more accurate mantra is: “I Get Better At This.”

GO: When you’re not writing comedy or performing comedy, what are your hobbies?

RB: This is probably very well known to anyone reading this but… baseball. I also like to take photographs, and I am trying to get back into playing the guitar and reading, spending time with myself.

You can find links and info for Rhea Butcher’s upcoming projects below.

https://www.rheabutcher.com

Upcoming Tour Dates:

Oct 27: Bentzen Ball, Washington, D.C.

Nov 10-11: Sacramento Comedy Spot, Sacramento, CA

Jan 19: Mississippi Studios, Portland, OR

Jan 20: Crocodile Cafe, Seattle, WA

Podcast:

THREE SWINGS — available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher & RSS