You have to make a lot of choices about names when you’re setting up a (pseudonymous) blog. In fact those choices made me delay the start of this one—the first time through I froze at the box marked, Name.
Yes, ok, so that works on both levels. But this isn’t meant to be an extended metaphor of a post. Instead I want to put a bit of explanation out there about the names I did choose and where they come from.
Leo MacCool is mostly just for fun. I don’t mind my real name but I’ve never quite connected with it. (How about that.) But I’m a Leo, astrologically, and MacCool, aside from being, you know, cool, is also a nod to the legendary Finn MacCool. I’ve got some Irish connections, by heritage, by inclination, and by profession.
Butch. Now there’s the tough one. I’ve been living in a cave, it’s true, but even in the cave I’ve heard that there’s a lot of controversy about butch lesbians (are they a dying breed? Are they becoming all boidykes or transitioning to men?) and about the butch/femme dynamic. I don’t have too much to say about that yet, except that I think that Judith Butler rocks and gender is discursively produced. I’ve actually just finished Judith Halberstam’s Female Masculinity (like any grad student, I turn to Theory when In Crisis) and so have been thinking about these things plenty. But I didn’t choose to put ‘butch’ in the title because I think I am one, not right now anyway. I’m wearing a men’s dress shirt and ragged women’s jeans at the moment, pondering the future of my androgynous ponytail haircut and knocking back some appallingly cheap brandy just to feel it burn my throat. You tell me if that’s butch or not.
No, I chose ‘butch’ because it was my maternal grandfather’s nickname for me when I was a baby. Honest to god. Now, I don’t think he was boldly prophesying my future status in the lesbian community. But maybe he saw some core of raw masculinity in my infant soul. Or maybe he was just delighted in the subversive irony of that nickname applied to a little girl with floppy curls and a rosebud mouth. I don’t know if he could say himself, now. But for me the word butch has always echoed with his warmth, his laughter, his love. It’s not hard for me to claim it as my own, at least in this very personal way.
And girlcat? Well, that was his other nickname for me, so it lends a certain symmetry. I like the way the ‘girl’ part challenges and modifies the ‘butch’, and ‘cat’ lines up neatly with Leo the Lion, don’t you think? Yes, I felt very clever, too.