How To Start A Butch-Femme Group

I have friends in Chicago, Philadelphia, and South Jersey who complain that there isn’t a Butch-Femme community in their area or, when there is, that it’s a close knit group that doesn’t make them feel welcomed.

My approach to this is the well-known: “if you want something done, you need to do it yourself.” If you don’t like the way a certain Butch-Femme group is being run or there’s not such a thing in your area, you can always start one yourself.

Here is how:

1. Pick a name for your group.

2. Decide what you want to do (meetings, drinks, workshops, potlucks, etc) and how often (weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, yearly).

3. If you decide to organize some type of meeting or workshop, check out local LGBT non-profits renting space and compare prices before you commit to booking one of them regularly. Make sure the place is easily accessible by public transportation.

4. If you are opting for restaurant outings or even a book club instead – keep in mind that not everyone’s budget is the same. When picking a restaurant, make sure that they have fixed price menus and/or a good selection of appetizers so that no one stays home because they can’t afford a full meal. Same goes for drinks and socializing at bars, coffee shops or tearooms.

5. Speaking of book clubs: sadly, not too many libraries carry butch-femme related books and, when they do, they may not have enough copies for all the members of your book club. You may have to sacrifice butch-femme reads so that your group members can get cheap paperback copies of the book of the month.

6. Decide who you want to open your meeting/event to. One would think that creating a Butch-Femme group is kind of self-explanatory but there are Butch-Femme groups that are open to “lesbians who don’t believe in labels” while others aren’t.

7. Create a separate email account to handle all group-related emails.

8. Write down a blurb or two with basic info like what the group is about, members’ age, activities, day and time of the meetings, etc. The idea is being able to use those blurbs on your profiles (see #9) and to promote your group/activity.

9. Create a fan page or group on Facebook and a profile on MySpace (feels weird to talk about MySpace, right? well, MySpace or whatever replaces Facebook in a couple of years). Invite your friends to like/join your page/group and ask them to help you spread the word. Learn how to create events on both sites and invite your friends.

10. Advertise your event online – (a) cross-post your event on different mailing lists, (b) use Craigslist or any other classifieds/boards you see fit, and (c) use Evite for friends and acquaintances that aren’t on Facebook/MySpace.

11. If you need flyers but have no money to hire a designer, use Microsoft Templates or Vistaprint and save your flyers in jpeg format.

12.  Upload your flyers to Photobucket. This will allow you to get a separate HTML code for each flyer. You can use these codes to leave comments on MySpace and post ads on Craigslist and similar sites.

13.  If you want to print your flyers, see if you can get away with doing it at your workplace or find a friend who has access to a photocopier at work. If that’s not an option – avoid Kinko’s and use a local printing shop instead (they are faster and much cheaper).

14.  If possible, get some business cards or postcard sized flyers and always carry them with you because you never know when you are going to run into a luscious butch or femme and, believe me, you’ll regret not having something to handout with you.

15.  Learn how to delegate. If you are co-hosting the events, talk to your co-host not only to check if s/he approves of the decisions and changes you are making but also to make sure s/he is pulling her/his own weight.

16.   Reach out to other Butch-Femme groups in your area to help you spread the word about your group/event. Ask them if they need any help at any of their events and offer to do cross-promotion. My evil twin says: “Make a list of who’s helping you and who’s not.” Yes, DO make a list. Not everyone in our community is embracing and supportive. If they won’t help you get your group off the ground by firing a simple email or posting a link on their Facebook wall, why would you promote their next party or outing?

17.  Network. Attend other Butch-Femme events in your area, talk to their organizers, talk to their people, etc but don’t be tacky. Don’t hand out flyers about your event/group the first time you go to one of their events and never hand out your flyers without running it by the organizers first.

18.   Take a chill pill. You can’t expect to please everyone. There will always be someone complaining about something – someone who doesn’t even bother going to the event/meeting you organize but will give you their 2 cents regardless.

19.   Take a chill pill. You can’t expect people to follow directions. No matter how clearly and how many times you have written the time and meeting place, there’ll always be someone who doesn’t write down those things, needs directions, or needs to call you every 5 minutes in between leaving her house and getting to the place where you are meeting.

20.   Take a chill pill. You can’t expect people who RSVPed to show up. Try not to dwell on who has a valid excuse, who spaced out and who simply doesn’t give a shit.

21.  Take a chill pill. You can’t expect people to be on time. It’s nerve-wracking but you can expect people to call or text you 10 minutes before your event is scheduled to finish telling you they are on their way.

22.  Did I mention that you need to take a chill pill? Most people are inconsiderate and they do what they want. So take a chill pill and don’t let their lack of common sense affect you. I wouldn’t even bother in bringing their lateness, rudeness or bitchyness up because they will keep complaining, being late or not showing up PLUS they will also tell you something in the line of “why are you so mean?”

23.   Stay away from drama. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t want to be around her ex, two femmes who aren’t talking to each other or two butches who have the hots for the same femme who will be at an event. You can’t be everyone’s babysitter. Make it clear that you won’t be running around emailing, texting or calling people to let them know in advance who’s coming or who’s already there so that they choose if they’re going or not going to your event.

24.  Don’t take things personally. That someone asks you for info about your event ad nauseam, is always late, doesn’t show up or complains about everything doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not doing a good job or they don’t like you. Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks with substance abuse problems or brain damage in our community – their thought processes are different and they may come across as mean or bitchy when that’s not their intention at all.

25.  Be nice to people but don’t fall in the Nice Girl Trap. Often when we start a group we feel we need to be everyone’s friend and bite our tongue because a nasty come back can alienate people. Well, that’s wrong. If you don’t like someone, be polite when they show up and then ask your co-host to talk to them (another option is sitting that person with someone else who has similar interests or is also wacky). If someone says or does something that you don’t like, you can choose to ignore her once, but, if she keeps doing the same thing, take her aside and explain to her that what she’s doing is not ok. She may keep doing it, but at least you’ve spoken your mind instead of bottling it inside.

26.  Don’t put pressure on yourself. Besides not having to put up with people that you don’t like, always remember that you are doing this for fun. You don’t need to stay late because someone got to the event/meeting 10 minutes before it ended – that’s their fault for not leaving their house on time. You don’t need to apologize to someone you hardly know because her ex came with her new girlfriend. Again, you are not a babysitter.

27.   Have fun. Seriously, relax. Starting and getting a Butch-Femme group going can be a lot of work but it’s also very rewarding. Meeting new people is always fun and all the eye candy doesn’t hurt.

28.  Leaving. You may have to step down as the facilitator or host of your meeting/event for a number of reasons. Make sure to pass the torch graciously. Have a list of websites, user IDs and passwords ready to hand it to the person who’s replacing you. Ask the new wrangler to change the password so that you no longer have administrator capabilities – this is to avoid the temptation of sending emails that you are not supposed to be sending to the entire group. Keep going to the events/meetings. Just because you are no longer a host doesn’t mean that no one wants you there.

Useful links
(samples of what your group could look like online)

NYC Butch Femme Socials on Facebook
NYC Butch Femme Socials on MySpace
NYC Butch Femme Socials – mailing list
NYC Butch Femme Socials – promo materials

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