When language is inclusive you really don’t give it much thought. But when you can’t find a word or a name that fits, it can make you feel illegitimate and invisible. Sometimes queers can just take on the label that straight people have used…but sometimes they can’t. This need, this void, is where new language is born.
Today, Pride Day, here in San Francisco, just days after the US Supreme Court ended DOMA and (re) legalized same-sex marriage in California, we found ourselves walking along the parade route playing the “What to Call Drake Game.” Some lesbians are going by “bride and bride.” Fine. But when one partner ID’s as butch, or masculine of center, or stud, or aggressive or macha…, being called Bride can be stomach turning. Maybe “groom” will fit for you, but maybe it’s too cis-male and if so, you may find yourself puzzling over what the options are, and coming up with a very short list.
We were proactive about this because as Helen said early on, “there is only one bride and it’s ME!” We sent our invitees to our wedsite and asked that they not call Drake the bride, and suggested they call Drake by his name. We then sent perspective vendors to our wedsite to educate them early on. Nevertheless, every vendor form and contract had Bride and Groom or Bride and Bride. Helen dealt with this deftly by doing cross-outs and correcting the forms to “Bride and Not the Bride” or “Wedding Couple.” We aren’t blaming them exactly, we know gay marriage is a new thing here in California, but hey some sensitivity please. Note to vendors: just ASK. But if they asked, what would we say?
Some are using Bride and Bridegroom. We like this. It’s a new use of an old term, and seems to communicate in a sort of conservative way that this is a “same sex” couple and maybe one is more masculine. Others have suggested broom, wusband and studsband but those terms don’t seem to have gotten much traction yet.
Meanwhile, as we were leaving Pride and ducking onto back streets to move through the crowd of thousands a bit easier, we passed an older man who yelled out as we passed by “Hey Bulldagger!” He wasn’t saying it in a mean way, there was no anger or energy in it, it felt like “I see you and I’m calling you out.” For both of us something clicked inside, bulldagger, after all, has deep cultural roots.
If you’re feeling less conservative and more radical than Bridegroom, may we present you with another option? The Bride and the Bull. Bull. It is masculine, strong, solid, and wild. It’s a bullseye, like cupids arrow, right to the center of her heart. It is a belief in things moving forward, aggressive, assertive. It is carnal, phallic, and penetrating, with strong, powerful imagery. Bull, as part of the word Bulldagger, connects us with the long history of masculine women. According to SDiane Bogus’ essay “The Myth and Tradition of the Black Bulldagger” in Dagger: On Butch Women, bulldagger goes as far back as the 1880s with her most popular years being the 1920s. Bogus gives account of Cora Anderson (1840) who passed as male and married a women and of Annie Lee Grant, a Mississippi bulldagger who lived as a man for 15 years. She speaks about the reverence for the bull in ancient Rome and Egypt, characterizes Bulldaggers as being heavily male-identified and gives them attributes such as rebellious, warrior-like, dangerous, loners and independents, self-defining, proud, possessive, strong and fierce lovers, but most importantly, they loved women.
Certainly, bulldagger was at times crude and pejorative in our history. Bulldagger became bulldyker, bulldyke, even diesel dyke, then simply dyke. The words dyke and later queer, like so much of who we are, have been reclaimed, owned, and presented with pride. How does Bull feel for you? Try playing with it, roll it off your tongue, see how it feels, how it sounds. Have you come up with any words that fit who you are if you’re not identifying as the bride? Let’s expand wedding language to something that suits those of us who are more masculine identified. Whatever name fits you, ENJOY YOUR QUEER WEDDING.
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