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Butch Voices Conference Forges Community Bonds

The Butch Voices NYC Regional Conference, at the Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ) and Audre Lorde Project Conference and Performance space last weekend, saw more than 150 butch, stud, AG, genderqueer and gender-fluid queers and allies gather for workshops, discussion and camaraderie around these masculine identities.

The day-long event consisted of 16 workshops focusing on the core initiatives of Butch Voices: community building, economic and social justice, and physical and mental health. A separate do-it-yourself meeting space was available for attendees to host their own impromptu discussions when the mood struck. Topics ranged from health and body to religion; from butch visibility in the media to sex, kink and relationships.

The Core Committee of the New York conference concluded the day with a participatory community building ritual, rather than a speech by a keynote speaker. Attendees were invited to speak about their commitment to their butch voices and to butch voices as a whole. Jay Toole (also known as SuperButch), Director of the Shelter Project at QEJ, kicked off the session and participants came up one at a time to speak. The room stayed quiet as participants made their promises to themselves and each other. Many women cried or teared up, and at the end, some broke out briefly into song.

Afterwards, attendees agreed that the conference was “seriously moving.” It combined community building, activism, and queer support within a queer space, supported radical queer activist organizations, and included people with a plethora of identities.

The NYC event built upon the first national Butch Voices conference, held in Oakland, Calif. in 2009. Attendees harnessed the inspiration and took it home to sponsor localized conferences, continuing the commitment to Butch Voices’ core initiatives. The regional conferences began earlier in 2010 in Dallas, Texas; conferences in Portland, Ore. and Los Angeles, Calif. take place in October.

In two weeks, attendees and friends can meet for a post-conference “Butch Brunch.” East Village bistro Café Orlin hosts at 11am on Saturday, October 16. Moreover, planning for the next Butch Voices regional conference in New York City, scheduled for 2012, is already underway.

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